The future of Christianity

In 1900, about 80 percent of the world’s Christian population lived in the Western world and about 20 percent in the majority world. By 2000, only 37 percent lived in the Western world, and nearly two-thirds lived in the majority world.

By James A. Haught | 29 March 2023
Freethought Now


Christianity is ceasing to be a white northern religion, and is becoming mostly a faith for southern people of color, according to an American Anglican priest. Millions of those southerners relish emotionalism, hold hidebound views, and “speak in tongues.”

Writing in The New York Times, in a report titled “The Global Transformation of Christianity is Here,” the Rev. T. Harrison Warren said he attended a Texas evangelical service where people waved their arms, shouting “Glory to God” and “Amen.” However, there was an unusual difference: “Nearly everyone in the room was an immigrant and a person of color. We sang in English but also in Spanish, Portuguese, Igbo and Nepali.”

Pentecostalism is surging in less-developed lands – and when an advanced northern country acquires a large “holy roller” church, its members mostly are southern immigrants, he said. Warren quoted Sam George of Wheaton College:

“What is happening in America is just a part of a larger transformation because Christianity is getting a new face. It is getting more black and brown and yellow.”

The priest quoted a new book, “The Unexpected Christian Century,” which says that, in 1900, about 80 percent of all Christians lived in the developed north – but by 2000, the northern ratio dropped to 37 percent and almost two-thirds are in the Southern Hemisphere, mostly in independent “spiritual” churches. “There are around 685 million Christians in Africa now,” Warren said. He continued:

“The largest church congregation in the world belongs to Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, an Assemblies of God church, which has around 480,000 members.” (“Full Gospel” usually means to accept the entire Bible, including Christ’s mandate that believers “shall speak with new tongues.”)

Warren declared: “The future of American evangelicalism isn’t white.”… This ‘browning’ of the church in America, as some scholars call it, scrambles all the categories.”

To me, it seems that the world is splitting into two camps: Intelligent, educated, science-minded northerners have little need for supernaturalism. They ignore it – even laugh at it. But the other camp, less-educated southerners who spout glossalalia, is enormous, and growing. That seems to be the bipolar global picture in the 21st century.

Reprinted with permission from the author.

James A. HaughtJames A. Haught died on 23 July 2023. He was editor emeritus of West Virginia’s The Charleston Gazette-Mail and was a senior editor of the Free Inquiry magazine. He was also the author of numerous books and articles; his most recent book was Religion is Dying: Soaring Secularism in America and the West (Gustav Broukal Press, 2010). Haught won 21 national newswriting awards and thirty of his columns were distributed by national syndicates. He was in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in the World, Contemporary Authors, and 2000 Outstanding Intellectuals of the 21st Century.

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