My fellow professors talk the talk of multiculturalism but don't walk the walk when it leads them in directions they don't want to go -- toward what the left calls sexism, homophobia and Christian fundamentalism.
For example, the religious left often claims that U.S. and European Christians twisted Christ into a god made in their own image. The Huffington Post Web site ran a claim by liberal minister Jim Rigby that "many Christians seek a white male king" and (Europeans) "could not see Christ in non-male, non-European, and non-Christian people because they were limited by their theology."
Rigby concluded with a call to teach our children to abandon "the dictator Christ of this culture." But is the idea of God with authority the product of our culture? Last summer I worshipped at a house church in Beijing, and the previous summer relished a service in a Zambian megahut. Crucially, those Asians and Africans see Jesus as Lord, not just a pal. Secondarily, they have conservative positions on homosexuality, gender and other issues that are dividing the American church.
Penn State professor Philip Jenkins has documented the growth of non-European Christianity, most notably in "The Next Christendom" and "The New Faces of Christianity." He argues, using demographic data and trends, that by the year 2050 only one Christian in five will be white and non-Latino, and that Asia, Africa and Latin America will be centers of Christianity, not Europe or North America.
This forecasting method has its limitations: Who knows what God will do? Furthermore, although the trends are bad, Europe may not yet be finished, and Christianity in the United States -- despite many flaws -- is still vibrant. Still, it would not be surprising in 2050 if China were the leading Christian country in the world. As an extension of current growth patterns, Jenkins' prophecies are important, and his specific detail useful.
For example, Jenkins points out that the surging churches of the south are decidedly non-liberal in their theology: He quotes one African church leader saying, "We read the Bible as a book that comes from God and we take every word in the Bible seriously. Some people will say that we are therefore fundamentalists. We do not know whether this word applies to us or not but we are not interested in any interpretation of the Bible that softens or waters down the message."
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