This paper addresses the familial dimension of religious practice based on investigations conducted among Chinese Christian churches between?2009 and?2014. 69?semi?structured interviews combined with several observation sessions of religious life within these churches show a recurring reference to family, both in discourses and in practices. Such a reference to family within a religious context, though neither original nor specific to the Chinese Christian context, calls for attention, as a thorough analysis reveals a three?level process of constructing “religious families” at work in these churches, especially in the “house churches.” At a first level, churches are operating as surrogate clan organizations. At a second level, they provide their members with symbolic patterns of an idealized and conservative family order. At a third level, they offer their members a frame within which they may reproduce for themselves the corresponding family patterns. In a context of secularization and “exit from religion,” where representations related to kinship, affinity, sexuality and gender gradually become emancipated from religious norms, the results of our investigations show that some individuals, especially religious converts initially socialized in a secularized context, tend to reconstruct their social relationships on a religious foundation, reintegrating their social career within a religious community.
- house church
- surrogate family