Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Global future of Christianity

The last few decades have seen a dramatic change in the demographics of the global church.
Philip Jenkins, a historian at Penn State, has documented this in several books. A recent one is The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South published by Oxford University Press in 2006.
2002 interview with Jenkins published in The Atlantic Monthly is worth reading. Here is the beginning:
For someone who isn't familiar with Christianity as it's practiced in the Southern Hemisphere, how would you define it? In general terms, how does it differ from the ways that Christianity tends to be practiced in the North? 
There are a number of prime things I would list, but high on the list is the fact of poverty—that very often in the global South you're dealing with people who are not the world's fat cats. That means that they tend to relate much more closely to the biblical world and its concerns than do people who are rich and from the First World. Often they're people without access to the kind of medical care that the First World takes for granted, so the medical, healing, and exorcism elements of the Bible make very good sense to them. The other fact, apart from poverty, is novelty. In many parts of the global South, Christianity is a much newer religion than it is in Europe or North America. That's particularly true in Africa. Of course, Christianity has been in South America for a long time, but the kind of Pentecostal and Protestant Christianity that's come in over the last fifty years is obviously a newer kind of experience. So in some cases these are families that are discovering the Bible and Christianity for the first time, and it seems to be a new and rather intoxicating experience.

No comments:

Post a Comment