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Rethinking Resurgent Christianity in Singapore

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In the past two decades, the dramatic growth of Protestant Christianity in Singapore, fuelled by the worldwide Christian Charismatic Renewal, has attracted sociological attention. This paper discusses the historical development of Singaporean modernity and the concomitant rise of the existential self. The argument is that increasing distantiation of individuals from rationalizing societal and cultural institutions in modernity leads to increasing self-consciousness and simultaneously, the transcendentalization of the individual's phenomenological consciousness. This condition threatens to reveal the constructed nature of erstwhile-reified social objects and categories, allowing individuals to realize freedom while posing anguish. The latter is postulated as driving individuals to resolve their existential selves using transcendent or transient cultural resources. Based on ethnographic data from six months of fieldwork, this paper argues that Protestant Charismatic fundamentalism, the most popular option for Christian converts, is particularly suited to resolve the existential self in Singaporean modernity. This is because it offers both resolutions in an intense and balanced combination, while situating these resolutions in relationships of the self with others; and provides a worldview that helps the existential self make sense of everyday life in global modernity.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Sociology National University of Singapore


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