Next Christianity' Phillip
Jenkins: Atlantic Monthly October
Article Review by Lisa
Intern in the office of
article, "The Next Christianity",
by Phillip Jenkens in the Atlantic
Monthly for October 2002 analyses
the current global state of Christianity. The following essay will briefly summarize
the article's main arguments,
followed by an evaluation.
The ideas and arguments
suggested in Jenkins's article
have an impact on both a macro
level, globally speaking and
on a micro level, domestically
speaking for North America.
is scattered with numerous religious
movements. One in particular Jenkins
discusses is the Reformation movement.
The Reformation promoted
an individualistic model of religion,
as compared to the communal models
of the past.
The Reformation saw these
communal models as being far too
In doing so, the Reformation
was a welcomed movement within
the progressive West at the time,
specifically among the educated.
Today, there is a general lack of consensus
among the academic and religious
communities, on the causes and
consequences of the Reformation.
However, there is a general
agreement on the fact that the
Reformation movement left a lasting
mark on history, especially in
the areas of politics, culture,
economics, education, law and
In discussing the Reformation, Jenkins
seeks to draw attention to the
similarities between the current
global state of Christianity and
the Reformation movement.
Jenkins believes that the
current Christian movement will
have a profound impact on history
as the Reformation once did.
Furthermore, in Jenkins's
opinion, the twenty first century
will be seen as a time in history
when religion replaced the importance
once occupied by ideology.
Christianity will be viewed
as having a significant effect
on the world's belief systems.
At a global level, beginning in the
South, Christianity is moving
exponentially towards a belief
system based on divine authority,
literal interpretations of the
New Testament, super naturalism,
neo Orthodoxy, mysticism, personal
devotion, and communal relationships.
This new Southern form
is strikingly conservative in
direct contrast to the liberalism
of the West, both in a theological
and moralistic sense.
This rapid movement has
often been referred to as the
"third church", and
is rapidly spreading in: Africa,
Asia, and Latin America.
Jenkins concludes, that
the growth of the "third
church" is expanding at a
rate positively correlated to
the increasing state of political
oppression and corruption in these
Furthermore, Jenkins points
to the parallels between this
current trend and the unstable
There is a strong emphasis placed on
physical healing in the "third
church" as a result of the
current devastating public health
crisis experienced in the Southern
regions of the world.
Christianity is a welcomed
phenomenon in these countries,
as most Southern persons view
Christianity is providing a desperately
needed sense of unity and loyalty.
In highlighting this rapid
growth, Jenkins notes, "
By 2025, 50 percent of the Christian
populations will be in Africa
and Latin America, and another
17 percent in Asia."
This Southern trend has already occurred
in Catholicism, where Euro Americans
are the minority in global terms.
The religious conservatism
of the South has paced these countries
in opposition to the liberal Euro
Jenkins suggests that the
North will be increasingly viewed
by the South as being heretic
in nature, and in dire need of
Throughout the article, Jenkins raises
many strong and relevant arguments.
To begin, Jenkins argues
that the South will soon need
to address and reach a resolution
age old debate over the
appropriate relationship between
church and state.
In considering this relationship,
questions of tolerance, diversity,
minority relations, and the role
of religious laws in the public
realm will soon require resolution.
Jenkins believes it will
be educational for the West to
observe how the South handles
these difficult issues.
In reaching a resolution,
it will be healthy and productive
for an ongoing dialogue to occur
between the church and state in
addressing their relationship.
As the North has been struggling
with the relationship of church
and state for years, it will be
interesting to see if the North
will be able to gain any newfound
wisdom on this issue from the
Secondly, in Jenkins's opinion, the
current trend in Christianity
of becoming largely concentrated
in the South will never reverse
back to the North.
Jenkins compared this situation
to the current gap that occurs
between the North and South on
the technological revolution.
In the North, rapid technological
innovation is in direct contrast
to the stagnant technological
growth found in the South.
Through this technological
analogy, Jenkins argues that the
religious North/South divide is
impossible to close, just as it
is impossible for the South to
catch up to the North technologically.
To some extent this argument
does possess merit.
However, one must address
the possibility that the North
might realize and appropriately
address the religious transformations
of the South in the very imminent
This would allow the North
an opportunity to reverse this
In doing so, the North
could very likely develop a working
dialogue with Christians in the
However, if the North does
indeed fail pay attention to the
trends and events in the South,
then it is clear, as Jenkins stated,
in a decade or two neither
component of global Christianity
will recognize its counterpart
as fully or authentically Christian."
Thirdly, Jenkins argues that in the
future Northern religions will
be increasingly characterized
by promoting a faith focused on
decentralization and privatization.
On the other hand, the
Southern religions will be primarily
grounded in the ideals of traditional
authority and community.
One must note that Jenkins
failed to take into account the
devastating and life altering
attacks of 911 in New York City,
and the subsequent global consequences
following the attacks.
As a result of these attacks,
in contrast to Jenkins opinion,
the North American continent has
demonstrated a desperate search
and desire for the safety net
provided by religion.
Fourthly, Jenkins argues that
it is absolutely necessary for
the political institutions of
the world to pay attention to
the religious transformations
in the South.
To begin, in the South
there is a strong emphasis placed
on the martyrdom and anticipation
for the literal return of the
kingdom of God on Earth.
tensions in the South have the
potential to make the current,
already unstable state of affairs
in the South drastically worse.
In regards to the Southern
view on achieving righteousness,
the South foresees ultimate righteousness
as being fulfilled when the world
is devastated by a plague. It is clearly evident that these groups are
made up of a plethora of tension,
and have an incredible potential
to erupt into a state of chaos.
Thus, it is absolutely
imperative for global political
institutions to address this issue
before the situation becomes irreprehensible.
The North needs to aim
towards becoming more attuned
with global affairs.
Thus, by taking on a pro
active role in the current religious
transformation, the North will
have a greater likelihood for
success with building a stronger
relationship with its Southern neighbours.
In presenting his arguments, Jenkins
alludes to how the Southern reformation
will affect the North.
In regards to Canada, one
can infer that it is absolutely
imperative for Canadians to take
on a leadership role in addressing
the role of Christianity in guiding
Religious moral leadership
is growing in the South, and soon
these regions will be required
to deal with the difficult issues
regarding the complex relationship
of church and state.
Canadians should strive
towards becoming leaders in this
debate and work towards the development
of more concrete solutions.
It is absolutely essential that Canadians
no longer view Christianity as
being a European and North American
Canadian Christians in
particular need to reach this
conclusion as a united community
and formulate an appropriate response
in regards to this transformation.
Lastly, Christians need to take the
initiative in educating themselves
accurately about the current religious
Christians need to create
and maintain a working dialogue
on how they as a community see
their faith in the future.
Furthermore, the Christian
community should aid in educating
the Canadian government about
the current religious transformation
occurring on a global scale and
encourage it to provide aid to
the unstable situation presently
in the South.
The Canadian government
has the potential to play a key
role in preventing the current
tense situations in the South
form erupting into irreprehensible
is essential for today's Christians
to maintain a futuristic view
of their faith as compared to
a stagnant one.
In doing so, they will
be better prepared to address
the complex issues of the future
and intern ensure their livelihood
and prosperity at both a global
level, as well as in the Western