Friday, February 13, 2009

God's Tapestry, by W. Eugene March: Chapter 3 "No Longer Number One"

When did North America lose it's hold on being the center of Christianity? Did you even know that we were no longer "Number One" in terms of Global Christianity? Sure, we are a very religious country, even while some claim the more specific "Christian Nation" title; but globally speaking the center of Christianity has shifted South, to South & Central America, Africa, and South East Asia. In March's third chapter he says:

Since 1900 the Christian population of Africa has grown from an estimated 9 million to some 380 million in 2000. In 1900 about 80% of the Christians in the world lived in Europe and North American. In 2000 some 60% of the Christians lived in the global South or East.

Sure, we still have some of the most "famous" pastors and mega-churches and publishing houses and Christian media empires, but as March points out of one billion Christians worldwide "there are approximately three times as many who live outside North America as within it.

So why does it matter that we are no longer "Number One" in Global Christianity? One big reason is that we no longer have the final say in how to interpret the Bible. For the last thousand years the key theologians and Biblical scholars of the faith have come from either Europe or North America. In this next thousand years of Christianity it is just as likely that profound theological thought and Biblical interpretation will be generated in Africa or India and with the wonder of the world wide web, blogs, and other digital forms of communication that our faith will be shaped by someone whose ancestry, culture, worldview and therefore interpretation of the Bible is far different from our own. Or as March says in chapter three:

We as the "forebears," if no longer the "directors," of our Christian brothers and sisters around the world have a responsibility to do some serious thinking about how we are all to live in this world of such enormous religious diversity.

How will we respond to this new shift in the center of Christianity? Will we petulantly pound our fists on the floor and yearn for the past? Or will we embrace an opening up of what our faith will be and broadening our perspective of who we are as children of God?

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