A Misinformed Assumption
Christianity is not declining, contrary to many of our perceptions, whether we are secular or religious. The reason we think it is is that we over-index on white westerners. It is certainly the case in western Europe and in North America, that the proportion of people who are identifying as religious in general and as Christian is declining, but that is a localized phenomenon to the West, and in particular, to white westerners.
It’s also interesting to look within America and see that people who are moving away from identifying as religious or Christian to identifying as non-religious or of no particular religion are largely being drawn from cultural or theologically liberal Christians.
If we look globally over the next forty years, Christianity is not only not declining, it’s set to increase slightly from about thirty-one percent of the world to thirty-two percent of the world.
So, the proportion of people who are actively engaged in Christian community—and seem to have real conventional beliefs that they’re living out of—is holding pretty steady. The proportion of people who are saying that they are Christian—when in fact they have no real involvement with church or engagement with Christian fellowship in any particular way—is certainly declining.
If we look globally over the next forty years, Christianity is not only not declining, it’s set to increase slightly from about thirty-one percent of the world to thirty-two percent of the world. But, the center of gravity of Christianity is shifting away from the West. It seems that by 2060, forty percent of all Christians will live in sub-Saharan Africa, and China could be a majority-Christian country at that point with far more Christians than the US.
A Personal Example
It’s interesting for me even as I look at my own community. I live in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the church that we are part of is majority white but has a significant proportion of people of color from America and also immigrants from other places around the world. The same church building hosts two other churches—one Haitian and one Nepalese.
If I look at the Christian club at my daughters’ public elementary school, it’s minority white. We have about forty percent kids from Ethiopia and Eritrea, we have Chinese Americans, we have Korean Americans, we have Costa Rican Americans, we have immigrants from other parts of the world. In that group, the underrepresented demographic is white Americans.
If I look at the community group my husband and I host, it is also minority white. In our last meeting, we had sixteen members present and we represented eight different countries, four different continents, and I think we had a total of four white-Americans. So as I talk to my secular friends who believe deeply in racial diversity, the irony is that they think that pursuing racial diversity means walking away from Christianity—when, in fact, Christianity is the greatest movement for racial diversity in all of history.
- Did Jesus Have Bad PR? (Rebecca McLaughlin)
- Why the Secularization Hypothesis Is Fundamentally Flawed (Rebecca McLaughlin)