Thinking about global Christianity, as Crux digs deep into many overlooked Catholic details — GetReligion

It’s hard to believe that it’s been two decades since historian Philip Jenkins published his groundbreaking essay “The Next Christianity” in The Atlantic Monthly.

It contained key material from the first of three books Jenkins published on the future of global Christianity and, therefore, the changing face of global religion – period. The first book was titled, “The Coming Christianity: The Coming of World Christianity.”

This piece of Atlantic The subtitle is crucial: “We stand at a historic turning point,” the author asserts – a turning point as historic for the Christian world as the original Reformation. Around the world, Christianity is growing and changing in ways Western observers tend not to see.

Indeed, many reporters failed to see what Jenkins was describing, even though the clashes between the cold and declining Christian West and the rising Christian South and East are easy to see looming in the background. plan of many major stories. Like Anglicans and United Methodists about it.

Understanding Jenkins’ work is a crucial first step in understanding the importance of a new Node Thoughtful piece by the ubiquitous John L. Allen, Jr. The title: “In New Catholic Figures, ‘Imponderable’ Movement Shaping History.”

First, consider this from Jenkins:

If we look beyond the liberal West, we see that another Christian revolution, quite different from that demanded in affluent American suburbs and upscale urban parishes, is already underway. Throughout the world, Christianity is actually moving towards supernaturalism and neo-orthodoxy, and in many ways towards the old worldview expressed in the New Testament: a view of Jesus as the embodiment of power divine, who overcomes the forces of evil that inflict calamities and diseases on the human race. In the Global South (the areas we often think of primarily as the Third World), huge and growing Christian populations – currently 480 million in Latin America, 360 million in Africa and 313 million in Asia, compared to 260 million in North America – now form what the Catholic scholar Walbert Buhlmann called the third church, a form of Christianity as distinct as Protestantism or Orthodoxy, and which is likely to become mainstream in the faith. The revolution unfolding in Africa, Asia and Latin America has far more radical implications than any current change in North American religion, whether Catholic or Protestant. There is a growing tension between what might be called a liberal Reformation in the North and the emerging religious revolution in the South, which might be likened to the Counter-Reformation, the internal Catholic reforms that took place at the same time that the Reformation – although in reference to the past and present, the term “counter-reformation” misleadingly implies a mere reaction instead of a social and spiritual explosion. Regardless of the terminology, however, a huge divide seems inevitable.

With that in mind, let’s move on to Allen and some radical, but often overlooked, trends in modern Roman Catholicism.

Allen begins with a quote from historian Arnold J. Toynbee:

“Things that make headlines are on the surface of the stream of life, and they distract us from the slower, intangible, imponderable movements that operate below the surface and penetrate the depths. But it’s really these deeper, slower movements that make history, and they’re the ones that stand out enormously in retrospect, when the sensational passing events have diminished, in perspective, to their true proportions.

Allen then turns to the pages of the Vatican’s “Annuario Pontificio” and the “Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae.”

What’s going on?

… The Directory notes that Catholicism added 16 million new members in 2020, the latest year for which statistics are available. Granted, this meant that the church has only kept pace with the overall growth of the world’s population, but it remains important at a time when most Western perceptions are that the church is shrinking due to the fallout from the sexual abuse crisis, various scandals at higher levels. , bitter internal struggles, growing irrelevance to younger generations, and a number of other alleged failings.

Of course, if you live in Western Europe or parts of the United States, where parishes are closing or consolidating and Mass attendance seems to be plummeting, these perceptions are understandable. Yet the reality is that globally, Catholicism has experienced its greatest expansion in history over the past century, more than tripling from 267 million in 1900 to 1.045 billion in 2000 and 1.36 billion today. today.

Consider that 16 million is more than the entire Catholic population of Canada, and the church added that many new followers in a single year. Today, Catholics make up a solid 17.7% of the world’s population.

In other words, the dominant Catholic story today is not decline, it is skyrocketing growth.

But, as Jenkins noted, there are tensions between the growth in the Global South and the decline of churches in Europe and parts of North America. This can be seen in issues of worship, doctrine, and church governance.

Can you say Synod on Synodality?

Can senior journalists see the big picture? Here is Allen again:

Catholicism, in other words, is already a non-Western religion, at least at its core, and it will be more so over time. By the middle of this century, three quarters of every Catholic man, woman and child will live outside the West. Trying to understand the church exclusively through the prism of Western concerns and priorities is therefore a mistake, but that is still how most of us in the press cover the church. …

Consider that North America has almost the same number of priests as all of Africa, despite the fact that there are 84 million Catholics in the United States and Canada and more than three times that number in Africa, at 236 million.

It doesn’t take a Harvard MBA to figure out that something’s wrong with this photo.

Read everything. I would also challenge journalists and news consumers to consider writing a list of major stories that are shaped by these demographic realities, whether editors understand them or not.

Comments are closed.