Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: https://scholarbank.nus.edu.sg/handle/10635/177920
Title: WORDS MADE FLESH : CHARISMATISM AND THE EXISTENTIAL SELF IN SINGAPORE MODERNITY
Authors: DANIEL GOH PEI SIONG
Issue Date: 1998
Citation: DANIEL GOH PEI SIONG (1998). WORDS MADE FLESH : CHARISMATISM AND THE EXISTENTIAL SELF IN SINGAPORE MODERNITY. ScholarBank@NUS Repository.
Abstract: ln the past two decades, the dramatic growth of Protestant Christianity in Singapore fueled by the world-wide Christian Charismatic Renewal has attracted a number of sociological attention. Tong (1989, 1997) and Clammer (1990) stand out in particular because they raise important theoretical issues for the study of religion in contemporary society. But their failure to situate the phenomenal growth in the wider historical context of globalization as experienced in Singapore and to consider the symbolization processes involved in religious practices lead them to conclude mistakenly that Christianity is a foreign religious adaptation to modernity only superficially relevant to Chinese Singaporeans. This thesis offers an alternative explanation by using the concepts of self and modernity. It discusses the historical development of Singaporean modernity heuristically divided into colonial, national and global modernity and the concomitant rise of the existential se(f: This is similar to Giddens' approach (1990, 1991) but it is also a critical dialogue with Giddens employing Robertson's (1992) globalization theory coupled with a sociological application of Sartre's existential philosophy. The argument is that increasing transcendentalization of the individual's life-world due to globalizing processes leads to the increasing salience of the category of self in phenomenological consciousness. This threatens to reveal the constructed nature of erstwhile reified social objects and categories, allowing the individual to realize Satrean freedom while posing angst-laden existential problems. The latter is postulated as driving the the individual to resolve his/her existential self using transcendent or transient cultural resources. It is in this historical context that Protestant Charismatic fundamentalism (Charismatism) thrives. Based on ethnographic data from six months of field-work in three fast-growing independent Charismatic churches and operating from a Wittgensteinian perspective that sees religious ideology, experiences and the individual's form of life as intricately linked, I argue that Charismatism is particularly suited to resolve the existential self in Singaporean modernity. This is because Charismatism offers both transcendent and transient resolutions in a highly intense and balanced combination while situating these resolutions in relationships of the self with others - the believed other who is God, the church, Christians and non-Christians. Apart from the reflexive concerns of the existential self, Charismatism provides a world-view that helps the existential self make sense of everyday life in global modernity where the micro-local, national and global manifest themselves conspicuously in the individual's life-world. But Charismatism does this in a colonizing process that draws individuals deeper into itself while driving them to colonize their environs through evangelism. Charismatism is thus an inherently modem cultural-ideological formation as it sustains the existential self by resolving it continuously without dissolving it while driving him/her to transform modernity into a Christian one. The conclusion is that words, representing the rational aspects of Christianity, are turned into flesh as the existential self makes use of them to constantly construct himself and commune with subjective reality. It is also words made flesh because abstracted transcendental entities and categories are made tangible and intimate. From a Satrean perspective, this is a denial of freedom that constitutes bad faith though this thesis is not a critique of Charismatism but an understanding of it to critique modernity.
URI: https://scholarbank.nus.edu.sg/handle/10635/177920
Appears in Collections:Bachelor's Theses

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