State and Social Christianity in Post-colonial Singapore
- Sojourn: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia
- ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute
- Volume 25, Number 1, April 2010
- pp. 54-89
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In the context of Christianity's rapid growth in post-colonial Singapore, why has Pentecostalism replaced liberal Christianity as the dominant form in the last few decades? Going beyond existing cultural explanations of Pentecostal affinity with Asian folk religions and the modernization thesis, I look at the Church as social movement, as social Christianity engaging, specifically in Singapore, the post-colonial developmental state. Pentecostalism became popular after the state consolidated its rule in the 1980s and suppressed nascent liberal Christian movements. This is because, compared to its fundamentalist evangelical competitor, the Pentecostal development of Asian contextual theologies of spiritual warfare and blessings provided young Singaporeans with practical ideologies to make sense of the spiritual telos of the post-colonial nation and engage the developmental ethos of the state. Singaporean Pentecostalists are at the crossroads today, faced with a decision between the social justice emphasis of liberal Christianity and fundamentalist moral activism.