The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity

The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity

The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity

The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity

Synopsis

The explosive southward expansion of Christianity in Africa, Asia, and Latin American has barely registered on Western consciousness. Nor has the globalization of Christianity--and the enormous religious, political, and social consequences it portends--been properly understood. Philip Jenkins' The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity is the first book to take the full measure of the changing face of the Christian faith. Jenkins asserts that by the year 2050 only one Christian in five will be a non-Latino white person and that the center of gravity of the Christian world will have shifted firmly to the Southern hemisphere. Within a few decades Kinshasa, Buenos Aires, Addis Ababa, and Manila will replace Rome, Athens, Paris, London, and New York as the focal points of the Church. Moreover, Jenkins shows that the churches that have grown most rapidly in the global south are far more traditional, morally conservative, evangelical, and apocalyptic than their northern counterparts. Mysticism, puritanism, belief in prophecy, faith-healing, exorcism, and dream-visions--concepts which more liberal western churches have traded in for progressive political and social concerns--are basic to the newer churches in the south. And the effects of such beliefs on global politics, Jenkins argues, will be enormous, as religious identification begins to take precedence over allegiance to secular nation-states. Indeed, as Christianity grows in regions where Islam is also expected to increase--as recent conflicts in Indonesia, Nigeria, and the Philippines reveal--we may see a return to the religious wars of the past, fought out with renewed intensity and high-tech weapons far surpassing the swords and spears of the middle ages. Jenkins shows that Christianity is on the rise again, and to understand what that rise may mean requires a new awareness of what is happening in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The Next Christendom takes the first large step towards that new awareness.

Excerpt

Europe is the Faith.

—Hilaire Belloc

The end of the twentieth century was marked by an obsessive compilation of retrospective lists, which assessed the greatest moments and the most important individuals of the previous hundred years. Some observers, still more ambitious, tried to identify the high and low points of the whole millennium then passing. Yet in almost all these efforts, religious matters received remarkably short shrift. When religious individuals were highlighted, they were usually those most closely identified with secular political trends. Martin Luther King Jr. is an obvious example. After all, the attitude seemed to be, what religious change in recent years could possibly compete in importance with the major secular trends, movements like fascism or communism, feminism or environmentalism? To the contrary, I suggest that it is precisely religious changes that are the most significant, and even the most revolutionary, in the contemporary world. Before too long, the turn-of-the-millennium neglect of religious factors may come to be seen as comically myopic, on a par with a review of the eighteenth century that managed to miss the French Revolution.

We are currently living through one of the transforming moments in the history of religion worldwide. Over the past five centuries or so, the story of Christianity has been inextricably bound up with that of Europe and European-derived civilizations overseas, above all in North America. Until . . .

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