Published online by Cambridge University Press: 11 August 2011
The five cases of Protestant Christian practice in Indonesia and Thailand presented in this symposium are used to develop a sociology of Protestantism in Southeast Asia. A review is first undertaken of the history of Protestant missionary activity in Southeast Asia. Protestantism, it is observed, insists on the ultimate authority of the Bible. This authority has not been accepted by Southeast Asians until they have access to the Christian message in their own languages and they are motivated to adopt Christian practices as a means to confront deep crises in their lives. The establishment of Protestant Christianity has entailed the interpreting of the Christian message with reference to the non-Christian contexts in which Protestants in Southeast Asia live.
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3 Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1992. See, especially, Hefner's introductory essay, “World Building and the Rationality of Conversion”, pp. 3–44.
4 For some references see Anderson, Gerald H., Christianity in Southeast Asia: A Bibliographical Guide — An Annotated Bibliography of Selected References in Western Languages (New York: The Missionary Research Library and New Haven: Yale University, Southeast Asia Studies, 1966)Google Scholar.
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13 Charles F. Keyes, “Why the Thai are Not Christians: Buddhist and Christian Conversion in Thailand”, in Conversion to Christianity, ed. Hefner, pp. 259–84.
14 In 1986 in collaboration with Jean-Paul Dumont I organized under the auspices of the Joint Social Science Research Council and American Council of Learned Societies Committee on Southeast Asia a conference on Christianity in Southeast Asia. While the conference was successful in bringing together for the first time researchers engaged in the study of Christianity in different parts of the region, it did not generate a coherent theoretical approach for a sociology of Christianity. Part of the difficulty derived from the significant differences between the sociology of Catholicism and the sociology of Protestantism. For a brief report on the conference, see my “Christianity as an Indigenous Religion in Southeast Asia”, Social Compass 38,2 (1991): 177–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar. The sociology of Catholicism is best developed for the Philippines; see, especially, Ileto, Reynaldo Clemena, Pasyon and Revolution: Popular Movements in the Philippines, 1840–1910 (Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1979Google Scholar) and Rafael, Vicente L., Contracting Colonialism: Translation and Christian Conversion in Tagalog Society under Early Spanish Rule (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988)Google Scholar.
15 Hasselt, F.J.F. Van, in The Netherlands Indies by Joh. Rauws, H. Karemer, Hasselt, F.J.F. Van, and Bruine, N.A.C. Slotemaker de (London and New York: World Dominion Press, 1935)Google Scholar, dates the beginning of Protestant missionary work in the Indonesian archipelago to 1599 when the Dutch Reformed Church declared “that Christians coming and going to the Indies should not be left without instruction and ‘that it was hoped to get an opportunity to teach the people living there in darkness the true Christian religion’”. A small number of people, mainly living on islands in the Moluccas, were converted during the eighteenth century. A decline in the fortunes of the Dutch East India Company during the eighteenth century was associated with reduced support for missions and the few churches which had been begun lost members (ibid., p. 38). A new missionary movement in the Dutch East Indies began in the early nineteenth century, a consequence of the Dutch government's takeover of the colonial role played by the Dutch East India Company and of the establishment of missionary societies in both Holland and elsewhere in Europe (Joh. Rauws in Rauws, et al, The Netherlands Indies, ch. 3).
16 Brumberg, Joan Jacobs, in Mission for Life: The Story of the Family of Adoniram Judson, the Dramatic Events of the First American Foreign Mission, and the Course of Evangelical Religion in the Nineteenth Century (New York: The Free Press and London: Collier Macmillan, 1980)Google Scholar, traces the roots of the first American foreign missions to the “Second Awakening” of the early nineteenth century. This biography is excellent both for its study of the American social context which supported the foreign missions of the period and for its critique of missionary hagiography.
17 I use the name Burma in preference to Myanmar, the current official name of the country, because my references are to the country at a period when it was known by the former name.
18 One would like to see a study of translation by Protestants comparable to Rafael's Contracting Colonialism, which examines the consequences of translation (and mis-translation) of Catholic liturgies into Tagalog by Spanish friars.
19 See Keyes, “Why the Thai Are Not Christians”.
20 See Bentley, G. Carter, “Implicit Evangelism: American Education among the Muslim Maranao”, Filipinos 12 (1989): 73–96Google Scholar.
21 See, in this regard, Watson, Keith, “The Contribution of Mission Schools to Educational Development in Southeast Asia”, in Education in the Third World, ed. Watson, Keith (London and Canberra: Croom Helm, 1982), pp. 71–87Google Scholar, and Keyes, Charles F., “State Schools in Rural Communities: Reflections on Rural Education and Cultural Change in Southeast Asia”, in Reshaping Local Worlds: Formal Education and Cultural Change in Rural Southeast Asia, ed. Keyes, Charles F. (New Haven: Yale University Southeast Asian Studies Monograph 36, 1991), pp. 1–18Google Scholar.
22 Starling, Lucy, Dawn over Temple Roofs (New York: World Horizons, 1960), p. 179Google Scholar. A handbook on Thailand published in 1974, but drawing on data from the 1960s, estimated that the total Christian population of Thailand was 100,000. See Moore, Frank J., Thailand: Its People, Its Society, Its Culture (New Haven: HRAF Press, 1974), p. 216Google Scholar.
23 Kim, Samuel I., The Unfinished Mission in Thailand: The Uncertain Christian Impact on the Buddhist Heartland (Seoul, Korea: East-West Center for Missions Research and Development, 1980)Google Scholar.
24 These figures are calculated from statistical tables given in Rauws, et al., The Netherlands Indies.
28 Cooley, Frank L., “Allang: A Village on Ambon Island”, in Villages in Indonesia, ed. Koentjaraningrat, (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1967), p. 148Google Scholar.
30 Ricklefs, A History of Modern Indonesia, p. 230.
32 This and the following statistical data are taken from Barnett, David B. (ed.), World Christian Encyclopedia: A Comparative Study of Churches and Religions in the Modern World, AD 1900–2000 (London: Oxford University Press, 1982)Google Scholar.
33 If Khmer who had been converted while living in refugee camps inside Thailand were taken into account, the percentage of Christians in the Cambodian population may be larger than that in Thailand. The percentage of Protestants in Laos in the mid-1980s appears to have been roughly equal to that of Thailand.
34 I have elaborated on the idea of “crisis of order” in other papers dealing with Buddhist movements in Thailand. See my “Millennialism, Theravada Buddhism, and Thai Society”, Journal of Asian Studies 36,2 (1977): 283–302Google Scholar; “Political Crisis and Militant Buddhism in Contemporary Thailand”, in Religion and Legitimation of Power in Thailand, Burma, and Laos, ed. Smith, Bardwell (Chambersburg, Pa.: Anima Books, 1978), pp. 147–64Google Scholar; and “Buddhist Politics and Their Revolutionary Origins in Thailand”, in Eisenstadt, S.N. (ed.), “Structure and History”, International Political Science Review 10,2 (1989): 121–42Google Scholar.
35 See Aragon's paper in this issue of the Journal of Southeast Asian Studies; cf. Tapp, Nicholas, Sovereignty and Rebellion: The White Hmong of Northern Thailand (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1989), p. 85Google Scholar, and Tapp, “The Impact of Missionary Christianity upon Marginalized Ethnic Minorities”.
36 See Joseph A. Weinstock, “Kaharingan: Life and Death in Southern Borneo”, pp. 98–112, and Jane Monnig Atkinson, “Religions in Dialogue: The Construction of an Indonesian Minority Religion”, pp. 171–86, both in Indonesian Religions in Transition, ed. Kipp and Rogers.
37 See, in this regard, my “Millennialism, Theravāda Buddhism, and Thai Society” and my “Buddhist Politics and Their Revolutionary Origins in Thailand”.
38 Wolters, O.W., History, Culture and Region in Southeast Asian Perspectives (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1982), pp. 6ffGoogle Scholar; also see my “Christianity as an Indigenous Religion in Southeast Asia”, p. 179.
39 In 1988, Lee Kuan Yew, then Prime Minister of Singapore, reported that since 1980 the percentage of Christians in the Singaporean population had grown from 10.3 per cent to 18.7 per cent (N. Balakrishnan, “The Gospel According to an Agnostic Lee”, Far Eastern Economic Review, 29 Dec. 1988). This remarkable growth was almost entirely accounted for by the success of evangelical Protestants. See Lincoln Kaye and V.G. Kulkarni, “A Queue of Christians”, Far Eastern Economic Review, 12 Jan. 1984, and Margaret Scott, “Halting the Crusade”, Far Eastern Economic Review, 2 Jul. 1987. This success stimulated protests by Malay Muslims and led to controls being placed on proselytization. Government efforts to control religion can, in some cases, enhance rather than detract from the charisma of evangelists. In Vietnam between 1974 and 1986, during a period when joining either Catholic or Protestant churches was viewed as an act hostile to national interests, evangelical Protestants more than doubled in number, from 140,000 in 1974 to around 300,000 in 1986. See Reimer, Reg, “Evangelicals in Vietnam”, Indochina Issues 74 (1987): 8–9Google Scholar.
40 Cf. Tapp, Sovereignty and Rebellion, ch. 6.
41 See Horton, Robin, “African Conversion”, Africa 41,2 (1971): 85–108CrossRefGoogle Scholar; “On the Rationality of Conversion”, Africa 45,3 (1975): 219–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar; “On the Rationality of Conversion, Part II”, Africa 45,4 (1975): 73–99Google Scholar. Also see Hefner's discussion of Horton in “World Building and the Rationality of Conversion”, pp. 200–222.
43 The development of reformed Islam in Indonesia and Malaysia and the transformation of Theravada Buddhism in Burma and Thailand were, however, influenced to some extent by the rationalist approach of Christian missionaries. As noted above, missionary-established schools paved the way for modern state-sponsored secular education.