The mind and the Devil: porosity and discernment in two Chinese charismatic‐style churches
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AbstractThis essay explores otherworldly encounters and notions of mind across two charismatic‐style churches in China. In Zhao Village Church in rural Henan province, Christian congregants more often approached the mind as porous to the Devil's corruption. In Living Church in Shanghai, congregants were more influenced by bounded, psychological notions of the mind as an entity; although the mind was also held to be permeable to spiritual personae, its interior workings stood as the central hindrance to discernment, rather than the externality of the Devil. And while those in Shanghai stressed a gradual, retroactive verification of potential spiritual signs, those in Henan strove for a rhythm of immediate response. Meanwhile, Shanghai congregants described fewer sensory and embodied encounters with divine voice, pain, and healing than congregants in Henan. Such divergent theories of mind, virtuous rhythms, and distributions within the Christian spiritual sensorium might be understood in part through styles of engagement accentuated at these churches, and in part through the uneven unfolding of religious abolition and revival in China, including the heightened urban presence of psychotherapeutic genres and the rural presence of spirit mediumship in recent decades. These variations in personhood and otherworldly encounter, including deeply porous ones, were thus co‐present in an atheist secular milieu, after what have been seen as some of the most thorough secularization campaigns conducted by a modern state.