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Always Something Missing

Breen, Gareth; (2022) Always Something Missing. The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology , 40 (1) pp. 51-67. 10.3167/cja.2022.400105. Green open access

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What does it take to experience grace? I argue that for followers of the Chinese Christian reformers Watchman Nee and Witness Lee, in China, Taiwan, and the United States, grace is experienced as an intended gift with a missing motivating intention. For a group in which God’s intentions are rigorously mapped out, experiencing God’s grace is thus no simple feat. In particular, I show how the experience of grace occurs in moments of apparent wrongdoing when reward is least comprehensible. As this wrongdoing becomes institutionalised as an ideal mode of grace, however, it paradoxically becomes less graceful in practice. Therefore, grace here is an inherently transgressive, destabilising, contradictory phenomenon. Extrapolating beyond Nee and Lee’s followers, I suggest that at a time of gratitudinous secularism, of givenness without a Giver, blessedness without a Blesser, grace is more abundant than ever. But that with this grace comes gratitude, an emotion often resistant to social change.

Type: Article
Title: Always Something Missing
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.3167/cja.2022.400105
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.3167/cja.2022.400105
Language: English
Additional information: This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Keywords: death; deification; excess; gifts; phenomenology; semiotic ideologies; theology
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10147061
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