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Sin and Punishment: The Art of Churches’ Domination and the Resistance of Apostates

Wenwen Chen
p. 31-40


This paper is a qualitative analysis of the life experiences of three female believers who were punished for their “sins” and eventually left the Church. It reveals how religious power manifests itself through the condemnation of “sins” such as “demonic possession,” “premarital sex,” and “adultery,” as well as the various kinds of resistance strategies among these “apostates.” I argue that fundamentalist Church doctrines are an essential part of the process of Sinicisation of Christianity, embedded as they are in the disciplinary structures of personal life in China, especially mother-daughter relationships, intimate partnerships, and acquaintance societies, which intensify constraints on individuals. In turn, discussions of moral taboos are themselves deeply involved in Chinese society and culture.

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Editor’s notes

Manuscript received on 8 October 2022. Accepted on 7 August 2023.


Full text document will be published online on March 2025.


Key concepts and methodology
Mana: “Demon” in the mother-daughter relationship
“My body is a storehouse of memories”
“I came to know that she was also a victim”
Ye Xin: “Unchastity” in intimate partnerships
“Hiding”: Premarital sex and anxiety
“Seeking”: Deconstruction and renarrative
Chun Mei: “Adultery” in an acquaintance society
“Authorities” in local networks
Spying and gossiping in the neighbourhood
Dualist teachings, hidden disciplines, and Sinicisation

First lines


Scholarly discussions of Chinese Christianity often emphasise the influence of political factors. First, religious policy and development are seen as based in an opposition between Christianity and local religions; and second, the localisation of Christianity is framed through an East-West dichotomy. The former focuses more on the effects of state control while the latter deals with strategies of religious expansion.

In both cases, the state is highlighted as the main actor, not only in the sense that the modern Chinese state defines what a religious organisation is, but also in that it acts directly on the sociopolitical context, which determines the direction and degree of influence of the institutional characteristics of religion (Sun 2017: 1670-3). Many studies attribute the growth of Christianity in post-Mao China to the state crackdown on rural local religions, which created a more conducive environment for change, with the decline of traditional values clearing the...

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Bibliographical reference

Wenwen Chen, Sin and Punishment: The Art of Churches’ Domination and the Resistance of ApostatesChina Perspectives, 136 | 2024, 31-40.

Electronic reference

Wenwen Chen, Sin and Punishment: The Art of Churches’ Domination and the Resistance of ApostatesChina Perspectives [Online], 136 | 2024, Online since 01 March 2025, connection on 14 April 2024. URL:; DOI:

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About the author

Wenwen Chen

Wenwen Chen is a PhD student in sociology at Zhejiang University, 866 Yuhangtang Road, Hangzhou, 310058 China (

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The text and other elements (illustrations, imported files) are “All rights reserved”, unless otherwise stated.

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