Christianity is far from exhausted at the turn of the new millennium, but many of the regions where it gained status as an established religion are likely to remain in the free fall of secularism, writes sociologist David Martin.
In the National Post (Jan. 1), a Canadian newspaper, Martin maps where Christianity is likely to retain its strength or grow and where it will continue to decline. Christianity is in trouble in its Mideast birthplace, but only because of the local factor of high migration due to Muslim pressure. Europe is the place where secularity continues to win the day.
It is not only the older secular centers such as Scandinavia, London, Paris and Amsterdam, but also areas of waning Catholic influence or post-communist disillusionment. Today the secular capitals are also “places like Madrid or Prague, Tallinn and Minsk. To put it melodramatically, the Catholic fortresses of Ireland in the northwest and Poland in the northeast felt the onset of the secular tide,” Martin writes.
In short, where faith was tied up with established powers, there is decline. In North America, there is still vitality in the midst of religious pluralism, though Canada may “follow the secular path of Britain and Europe,” writes Martin. The growth of indigenous Pentecostalism in Latin America, suggests that “If the U.S. could go its own way, free of church-state link-up and religious monopoly, so too could Latin America.” Africa is following suit, as Pentecostalism grows among “young men and women anxious to partake in imagined communities stretching across borders, particularly through modern communications.”
Asia is more of a “question mark,” as Christianity continues to appeal to marginal people, on one hand, and new aspiring middle classes, on the other. Martin concludes that “How you estimate the future of Christianity depends where you locate today’s lead societies.”