While we are Looking Elsewhere

Atlantic Monthly, one of those publications on my “If I only had time to read it I’d subscribe” list, has an excellent feature on the future of Christianity in the early 21st century. While the scandal in the American Catholic Church and the challenge of Islamic Fundamentalism is getting all the press, the driving force in the Christian Church is coming from the southern nations of the world, from Africa, Latin America, and Asia.

The brand of Christianity being practiced there is very traditional and conservative, with a lot of emphasis in the power of supernatural forces to directly influence the lives of the faithful:

“The most successful Southern churches preach a deep personal faith, communal orthodoxy, mysticism, and puritanism, all founded on obedience to spiritual authority…. Whereas Americans imagine a Church freed from hierarchy, superstition, and dogma, Southerners look back to one filled with spiritual power and able to exorcise the demonic forces that cause sickness and poverty.”

Given that the populations are growing fastest in the south and slowest in the north, American Christians, and especially us American Catholics, may find ourselves and our perspective to be a tiny atoll in a swelling sea of resurgent orthodoxy. Before you conservatives out there lick your lips and rub your palms together, consider that this will be an orthodoxy quite unlike anything most of us know. Most of the Southern nations are places where democracy and capitalism have been for the most part failed experiments if they’ve experienced them at all. This won’t be your Granddaddy’s Conservatism.

Not saying I am sure that this would be a bad thing overall. But it wouldn’t hurt us to turn our attentions south, way south, of the border and anticipate what’s coming next. Let’s not let the future hit us in the jaw from the south as we are looking at the Middle East.

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