What kind of tea are they drinking in London these days? WORLD’s June 20 cover story (“The sixth wind: Headlines trumpet Christian decline, but a closer look suggests another rise in serious faith”) quotes three British authors as we assay reasons for optimism. And a recent article and book by writers across the pond are also worth noting.
• The article in The Times, by journalist (and twice Columnist of the Year) Matthew Parris, began, "As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God. Missionaries, not aid money, are the solution to Africa's biggest problem—the crushing passivity of the people's mindset."
Parris then noted "the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa. . . . In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good." He wrote that he "used to avoid this truth by applauding—as you can—the practical work of mission churches in Africa. . . . I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith."
Then Parris described his realization that "faith does more than support the missionary; it is also transferred to his flock." That's crucial, because "anxiety—fear of evil spirits, of ancestors, of nature and the wild, of a tribal hierarchy, of quite everyday things—strikes deep into the whole structure of rural African thought. . . . A great weight grinds down the individual spirit, stunting curiosity. People won't take the initiative, won't take things into their own hands or on their own shoulders."
What's the solution? "Christianity, post-Reformation and post-Luther, with its teaching of a direct, personal, two-way link between the individual and God . . . smashes straight through the philosophical/spiritual framework I've just described. It offers something to hold on to, to those anxious to cast off a crushing tribal groupthink. That is why and how it liberates."
Parris concluded, "Those who want Africa to walk tall amid 21st-century global competition must not kid themselves that providing the material means or even the know-how that accompanies what we call development will make the change. A whole belief system must . . . be supplanted by another. Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete."