The appeal of Christianity
Regular columnist John Myhill considers the reasons for the ongoing appeal and growth of Christianity across the globe.
The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few (Matthew 9:37/ John 4:34)
The Sociologist David Martin made clear in “The Future of Christianity” the evidence around the world for the current considerable growth of religious faith; thus disproving the simplistic view of some atheists that religion is somehow incapable of developing in a modern world dependent on Science and Technology.
Of course, the social background of new faith varies from country to country: - In many countries that were controlled by Russia, the resistance to foreign rule was led by Christians. In contrast, in Russia itself, Putin is encouraging religious education in schools and refurbishing churches in the hope of encouraging Russian Orthodox Christianity, rather than some foreign form of religion. Similarly, in China, some Christian churches are welcomed, as supporting the new spirit of Capitalism; and China has the fastest growing population of Christianity anywhere.
In contrast, Christianity is growing fast in a number of Muslim countries, where conversion from Islam can mean the death penalty for new Christians. Islam is also growing and spreading, but this is itself a reason more people are turning to Christianity, as they feel lack of faith leaves people sitting on the fence.
In Western Europe spirituality and magic are gaining growing numbers of believers as separate organisations from Christianity; whereas in USA Christian groups have adapted to include these new forms (re-enchantment) into their churches.
Christian churches in both these areas are growing because of welcoming homosexuals into the full possibilities of leading their organisations; whilst in some African countries homosexuality is still seen as part of Western Imperialism’s sex tourism, and therefore persecuted. These African churches are growing because they are seen as opposing Imperialism.
Technology enables people around the world to change lives, but science as a philosophy of ethics and knowledge has no mass appeal. The lack of scientific evidence for Faith has never been a cause of religious decline.
The fact that countries which accuse religion of blocking progress towards a less violent world, have used that accusation as the basis for state organised mass murder, makes that idea void and meaningless.
In the West, three current trends have brought Christianity back into central focus:
1) Our reverence for victims – listen to the respectful voice used by those interviewing victims, as against the combatant voice used to interview people in positions of power (Jesus on the Cross is the classic victim);
2) Personal authenticity – who am I? what is my identity? (Christianity is all about the struggles of the individual soul);
3) Yearning for community (Christians are friends looking after each other and their local communities).
“…The workers are few” - As in Jesus own lifetime, the numbers of people with social reasons for seeking a faith (the harvest) are huge. The number of people who have real experience of the Holy Spirit transforming them, and a deep understanding of the meaning of the Bible, are few indeed. Read the Judges 7 to see how Gideon reduced his army so that God, not man, could be given all the credit.
John Myhill is a Norwich Quaker, retired magistrate and author. His blog is at http://johnmyhill.wordpress.com/
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