The Dutch civil servants, missionaries, business people, and others living and working in the Dutch East Indies during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries looked homeward to a society in process of being ‘pillarized’ into socio-religious blocks. Some scholars have observed how the new nation that arose from that colony, Indonesia, developed a similar kind of structure called aliran (literally, currents or streams) best known to scholars, perhaps, through Geertz's classic ethnography, Religion of Java. There is surely some ontogenetic relationship between Dutch ‘pillarization’ and Indonesian aliranisation. Drawing on ideals about a public church embedded organically in a particular society and culture, a volkskerk, Protestant missionaries brought a different theological version of Christianity compared to their Catholic competitor, but also like that competitor, church-affiliated schools, hospitals and social services. Modernist Muslim organisations such as Muhammadiya copied these religiously based services and institutions, thus ‘pillarizing’ Islam in response to the Christian presence. It is not surprising, then, that when Indonesians were first able to form political parties, some of these were also defined along sectarian lines – Catholic, Protestant, traditionalist and modernist Muslim.