Jayeel Serrano Cornelio is the Director of the Development Studies Program, Ateneo de Manila University. He was a postdoctoral research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Göttingen. He is a recipient of various research grants including a UK ESRC Urgency Grant on disaster response and a research grant from Tearfund UK on disaster preparedness. He is also a co-investigator on Vote of the Poor 2016, a major study funded by the Institute of Philippine Culture. He edited with Khun Eng Kuah-Pearce the special issue of Asian Journal of Social Science on religious philanthropy in Asia. He is the lead editor of a new project, the Routledge Handbook on Religion in Global Society (with Linda Woodhead, Francois Gauthier, and Tuomas Martikainen).

Project Summary

The Transformations of Filipino Christianity

This project documents the transformations Filipino Christianity is undergoing in the contemporary period. The project has two components. First, it will investigate the rise of a ‘prosperity ethic’ in a way that progresses from traditional prosperity gospel in the country. Second, it will document the international expansion of Christian organizations of Filipino origins. As a whole, the study relates these transformations to the country’s economic development.

The Rise of Prosperity Ethic

Traditionally, the prosperity gospel links religious beliefs to financial success. This component of our study suggests a shift in the character of prosperity teachings among Christians in the Philippines. It takes a more refined shape – what we call a ‘prosperity ethic’. This ethic values upward mobility and uses Biblical principles to justify practical financial rules to acquire wealth. We trace the contours of this prosperity ethic based on the message of two prominent Christian-entrepreneurs: Bo Sanchez and Chinkee Tan. The writings of these two preachers promise financial freedom while achieving right spirituality at the same time. This study conducts textual analysis of their books focusing on justifications for prosperity, and the theology behind money, blessings, and God.

Filipino Christianity in Southeast Asia

The second component interrogates the guiding principles that inform the expansion of Filipino Christianity in Southeast Asia. The interest lies in the religious beliefs used to justify the mobility of Filipino Christians. By drawing from the experiences of Filipino Christians based in Thailand, the study examines how they position themselves as a minority and how they view the wider region as a religious space. This project relates these developments to dominant religious understandings of the Philippines as a ‘Christian nation’, an identity with a long history but is also indicative of how contemporary Filipino Christians position themselves as missionaries in the region.