Compliant Singaporean Christians? State-Centred Christian Responses to COVID-19 in a Single-Party Dominant State

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Abstract

Since the political suppression and decline of liberal Christianity in Singapore during the 1980s, Christian groups in the city-state have striven to maintain subordinate relations with the government by largely supporting and not challenging the major socio-economic policies and discourses of the dominant People's Action Party (PAP). The COVID-19 pandemic supplies us with a unique window of opportunity to understand how Singaporean Christian groups have been compliant actors to the state's policies, even during this health crisis. By evaluating the differing responses of various churches and organisations, I argue that in spite of inadequacies in the state's public health and social measures, Christian leaders and groups crafted state-centred responses, and engaged in crisis-driven social action and the construction of state-affirming narratives within government-promoted boundaries. This also meant that Christians have projected an image of themselves as being socially-responsible Singaporeans who are willing to adhere to the government's crisis-mandated standards, while sacrificing their regular faith-based practices and physical gatherings for the greater good of the nation. The willingness to adhere to the single-party state's measures and boundaries has, nevertheless, disclosed the Christian community's inability to provide a critical voice about public health gaps and socio-economic injustices during this crisis. Secular civil-society groups and academics have filled this gap by highlighting these problems and criticising the government's failures. In sum, the COVID-19 episode reveals the lack of a ‘prophetic’ capacity in the responses of contemporary Christian groups and leaders because of their predilection to firstly acquiesce with the state.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-260
Number of pages22
JournalStudies in World Christianity
Volume26
Issue number3
Early online dateOct 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020

User-Defined Keywords

  • Singapore Christianity
  • South-east Asian Christianity
  • Christianity and authoritarianism
  • COVID-19 in Singapore
  • Christian responses to COVID-19
  • religious responses to crisis

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