Friday, August 28, 2009

How globalization is affecting the spread of the gospel

I just finished reading GloboChrist: The Great Commission Takes a Postmodern Turn by Carl Raschke. It is a very interesting book that, among other things, explores the impact of globalization on the spread of the gospel.

Globalization has been received in various ways. Trade unions are against it, and anyone who has had his or her job outsourced probably is not a big fan. However, globalization has also helped lift millioins of people out of poverty in India, China, Africa, and other places around the world. It has also made most goods in the US and other Western countries much cheaper.

Whether one is a fan or not, however, globalization is here, and it is an unstoppable force. If companies do not globalize, not only do they miss out on market share, but they also will fail to be competitive and may go out of business.

One might think that globalization would have a positive affect on the spread of Christianity, as Western thoughts and Western technologies flow into non-Western countries and people groups. And it has had a positive effect--but not for the reasons that we might think.

Western culture is moving away from Christianity at a rapid pace. Europe has done so for some time, and the US--while founded with spiritual dimensions and retaining a spiritual vitality--has moved in this direction as well. Filling the void of Christianity has been secularism, consumerism (pursuit of material things), and hedonism (pursuit of decadent pleasure).

According to Raschke, the reaction of the "Global South" to globalization and the exporting of Western values has been a strong move towards religion, as these forces have been seen as a threat to their values and way of life. The two religions that these countries are turning to are radical Islam and devoted Christianity. While these religions are obviously very different in terms of theology, they share a common vitality and all-encompassing worldview that inspires their adherents.

This helps explain the phenomenal growth of the gospel in continents like Africa. In 1910, after colonialism with its enforced, non-indigenous expression of Christianity, there were only 108 million Christians. By the mid-1980s, however, Christianity had grown to be the majority religion in Africa, growing at the rate of 6 million new adherents per year. (p. 43) Radical Islam has grown significantly during this time as well, resulting in events like 9/11.

One of Raschke's most interesting--and scary--points is that anemic, consumeristic Christianity as is so typical in the West does not have the power to compete with the fire and passion of radical Islam. It is seen as the product of a corrupt, consumeristic West. Only the "real deal"--a passionate, Christ-centered Christianity offers a real alternative to the appeal of Islam. As globalization brings eastern religions and Islam backflowing to the US, they may have great appeal to Americans. Indeed, Wicca and Islam are currently the two fastest growing religions in the US. Churches that offer weak, add-on Christianity to a consumer lifestyle will suffer attrition to churches--and other faiths--that offer a more devoted, comprehensive worldview.

GloboChristianity is a fascinating read for anyone interested in globalization, Islam, and the spread of world-wide Christianity. i recommend it.

What do you think of Raschke's conclusions?