It is common place these days to hear Christians bemoan the imminent demise of Christianity from the cultural mainstream due to incessant frontal attacks by individuals and groups desiring to enthrone science, reason, technology and modernization as the epicenter of human existence. The common presupposition is that as secularization has increased, the Christian faith has become more and more “irrelevant” to human life. Atheists rub their hands with glee at their apparent ‘success’ in relegating the Christian faith and other religions to the background in their communities. Their irreverent vitriol against the sacred is deliberately becoming more shrill and militant. They mock Christians and ridicule them whenever they have the opportunity to do so. They claim that Christianity is an evil that should be completely uprooted from our culture so that it never germinates again. These hateful outbursts are fast gaining ground, particularly among young and tender minds in institutions of higher learning where most of the proponents of the death of Christianity occupy distinguished positions as faculty and advisers are. Their claim is indeed not without substance, particularly in the Western societies such as Canada, Australia and Europe where Christianity has indeed lost its significance as the referent point for critical individual and corporate moral decisions and laws. Positivistic law has become normative as secularization has gained ground. In these nations, the churches, cathedrals and other edifices that once were venues for vibrant spiritual activities and worship, have now been reduced to mere tourist attractions for those who are fascinated by their architectural uniqueness and beauty. According to Dinesh D’Souza, in 2007, only about 10 to 25% of the populace attended church regularly in Europe. The percentage could be even lower by now. However, the global picture is not as dismal and there are still some nations even in Europe that still regard belief in God as an important part of their socio-cultural structure. The findings of research conducted in 40 countries by Katie Simmons of Pew Research Center Survey between 2011 and 2013 claim that:
• 49% of Greeks believe that it is necessary to believe in God;
• 44% of Polish people believe the same;
In the United States, 53% of people believe it is important to believe in God.
But the state of Christianity cannot be judged by its Western picture alone. Christianity is now a world-wide faith and there are statistics from other continents and nations where the growth of Christianity is literally explosive.
The Pew Research findings further claim that the following percentages of populations in the nations listed below believe that it is necessary to believe in God:
• 99% in Indonesia;
• 93% in the Philippines;
• 98% in Egypt;
• 94% in Jordan;
• 99% in Ghana;
• 93% in El Salvador;
• 86% in Brazil;
• 75% in South Africa.
Atheists claim that these nations believe in God because they lag behind in scientific education and understanding. In other words, they still cling on to God because of poverty and “ignorance” of natural laws and their role in explaining the phenomena attributed to God. Although it is true that in materially wealthier nations, the emphasis on belief in God is waning, Americans stand out as more likely to indicate that belief in God is important. Although there is a notable decline in religious belief in the nation, still a significant number of people in American continue to believe that faith in God is important for good morals and values (54% of them as if Spring of 2014). This belief is significantly pronounced among Mormons and Catholics (and other faiths) who by no means constitute the poor and ignorant segments of the American population. Food for thought, huh? Americans also tend to be more positive and upbeat about life than their counterparts in other developed nations.
In the developing world, people link faith to morality and good values as well. As the West separates itself from God, South America, Africa, and Asia have embraced Christianity in an unprecedented manner, regardless of a cacophony of mocking critiques. Amazingly, in spite of governmental stringent restrictions on religion, over 100 million Chinese people have embraced Christianity. Church membership in China goes as high as 750,000 people worshipping in underground churches! The church in China will soon be (if it is not already) the fastest growing church in the world. At the same time the 2014 Proceedings from the National Academy of Sciences report that China is significantly rising as a major contributor to science and technology. So, how can a nation whose populace is fast turning to Christianity become a major science and technology power block, simultaneously, if Christianity is a religion that truncates the intellect?
In developing nations (and they are developing), the socio-economic portrait of Bible times resonates with the daily experiences of the people. They also contend with poverty and hunger. Some of them still suffer from leprosy and health conditions such as blindness are rife among them. These are the same conditions that were prevalent during the time of Jesus.
The continent of Africa was only 10% Christian in 1900, but in 2007 it was 50%, says D’Souza. South Korea is second only to the United States as far as sending out missionaries is concerned. Interestingly enough, this explosive growth took place after the yoke of colonization and imperialism was broken. While churches are closing and being sold in Western nations, Asian and African churches are bursting at the seams with new converts. It is not unusual for pastors to preside over a minimum of 10 churches in these societies. The challenge is not how to bring in converts. The challenge is how to disciple these large masses of people coming to Christ in droves, and how to find enough churches to accommodate them. Christianity is no longer a regional religion. It has grown into a world or global faith. Overall, the face of Christianity has evolved tremendously. It is now coming in an assortment of shades of brown, yellow and black from every nation, kindred, and tongue, literally. Some of them have gone to Western countries as missionaries. On June 11, 2007, the Washington Post reported that there were 250 and 150 churches in Britain and Denmark, respectively that were being run by foreign ministers-missionaries from the developing world proclaiming the Gospel to their Western brothers and sisters. This could be the beginning of a counter move against the onslaught of secularization in the West. To claim that secularization has triumphed over Christianity is really a fallacy when perceived from a global standpoint. Interestingly, atheists whose literary work derides anything to do with Christianity (and other religions) often adopt Christian terminology and phraseology. One of their champions, Friedrich Nietzsche, titled his biography Ecce Homo-Behold the Man-a phrase he borrowed from the words used by Pilate when he presented Jesus to the murderous throng on the eve of his passion. Then there is the use of the word ‘secular’ which was a coinage of Christians, as Wolfhart Panenberg asserts. In the Catholic faith, the word secular applies to a priest whose calling is to live among ordinary people. Separation of state and state is not a secular concept or proposition. Rather, it is a by-product of Christian teaching coming straight from Jesus Himself: “Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s,” (Matthew 22:21, KJV).
Because secularization leaves in its wake a dire need for finding purpose and meaning in the lives of its advocates, it inadvertently ends up leaving room for religion, a God-shaped vacuum. If indeed Jesus is God, Christianity will continue to thrive and to survive its pall-bearers, no matter what.