Sunday, November 10, 2002

The Future of Religion-Part II-Let me finish up on that Pruitt post of yesterday.
I put that down to ecumenism, which is fine in theory, but which ends up looking for the similarities among religions while ignoring or downplaying the differences. The resulting thin gruel is devoid of both flavor and sustenance.
Once again, people will tend to look for either real religion or secular alternatives. However, I'm not sure if Pruitt gets the bigger picture of Christianity. Evangelical churches only get airplay when there are internal fights (such as the schism within the Southern Baptists) or scandal. There are plenty of growing churches who do teach right from wrong and provide meat rather than thin gruel. They don't show up on the nightly news or even in the Web's better news outlets, for much of this work doesn't make headlines. If 30 people marched on City Hall demanding a living wage, it would make the paper; 250 people worshiping God at the Lakeland Vineyard (or 3000 people worshiping God in the big Carpenter's Home Church) doesn't make news since it happens every week. The news media doesn't handle longitudinal stories well, but the world has slowly grown more evangelical, especially in the third world. Pastor Dave had a good factoid this morning that my Operation World book confirms; in 1970, 70% of the world's evangelicals were in Europe and North America. Today, 75% of the evangelicals are outside of that area; not that the numbers of evangelicals have declined in the traditionally Christian areas, but that the growth of the evangelical churches have skyrocketed elsewhere. This Phillips Jenkins Atlantic article, although a bit too focused on the mainline churches in the US, is a solid look at how the liberalization of the church in the northern countries is being offset by the growth of conservative church movements in the south of the globe. We're already seen African and Asian Anglican bishops sponsoring schismatic churches in North America who have had it with liberal local church leadership; the entire Anglican communion could split in two, largely on geographic lines with the incoming liberal Archbishop of Canterbury. The Catholic church is alive and well, even having strong charismatic elements that will bring the power of the Holy Spirit back into the mix and ward off the loss of "market share" to the charismatic and Pentecostal Protestant churches. The more liberal European church leaders will begin to see themselves outvoted by their uppity southern coreligionists.
...it seems to me that Islam's appeal is that it does present that "right-wrong" aspect; it just draws it out to the point of absurdity, with fatwas on everything down to how to pee correctly (Muslims are supposed to squat because The Prophet did) and how to pack the pork to the Little Woman.
People turn to religion for answers to how to live; too much freedom gives people an overload of options. Most religions have their legalistic wing; Orthodox Jews have their hoops to jump through and, to a lesser extent, some more legalistic Christians will have their own long set of do's and don'ts.
The one will die because it's bloodless, and the other because it's bloodthirsty.
The mainline churches will likely slowly die due to lack of life, but the evangelical wing of the church will live on. As for the Wahabbi brand of Islam, it will likely have to be tamed. Countries that are aiding the jihadists will be quarantined and/or invaded and any Islamic contact with the rest of the world will have to be ones that stress the greater jihad. It's a bit contrary to American values of respecting other's religion, but if a religion demands the right to take over the world by force, then they have crossed the line.

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