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Religious Heterogamy in Xiamen: The Social and Ritual Boundaries of Chinese Protestantism

Issue: Vol 1 No. 2 (2017)

Journal: Interreligious Studies and Intercultural Theology

Subject Areas:

DOI: 10.1558/isit.33595


Many young Protestants in the Chinese city of Xiamen marry a non-Christian spouse. How does religious heterogamy illuminate the social and ritual boundaries created by Protestants in Xiamen? Considering the function and permeability of these metaphoric boundaries, how should we visualize them? This article draws on data collected between August 2014 and February 2016. Intermarriage with non-Christians is condemned by most ministers in Xiamen, but it is an essential option for young women who far outnumber marriageable men in most church communities. The resulting weddings are marked by a search for compromises among the bride and groom, their parents, and the social communities for whom their parents host the wedding. It is argued that in terms of function and permeability, the social and ritual boundaries of Protestantism in Xiamen are less like barbed-wire fences than like the gates of a subway system, or the emergency exit of a shopping mall. Since a central aim of Chinese Protestants is to recruit more people to the faith, there is room for women to briefly exit the community and to re-enter with a converted husband. This focus on boundaries as metaphors may contribute to the field of interreligious studies, where boundaries are a key concept.

Author: Bram Colijn

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