Every now and then, a magazine like The Atlantic Monthly -- a must-read publication, no matter what one's cultural worldview -- publishes a cover story that transforms how thinking people think about an important issue. At least, that's true if lots of members of the thinking classes are open to thinking about information that may make them uncomfortable.
This was certainly the case in October, 2002, when historian Philip Jenkins published a massive Atlantic cover story that ran with this provocative headline: "The Next Christianity." For those with an even longer attention span, there was the book, "The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity."
Now, before I hit you with a key passage from that important Atlantic piece, let me tell you where we are going in this Sunday think package.
Jenkins was writing about a wave of global change in pews and pulpits, as the face of Christianity moved -- statistically speaking -- from Europe and North America to the multicultural reality that is the Global South. Thus, if you are looking for a "typical" Christian in the world today, it is probably an African woman in an evangelical Anglican (or maybe Methodist) congregation. She is probably a charismatic believer, too.
Now, I thought about that Jenkins piece when reading an amazing new Bloomberg essay by Yale Law School professor Stephen L. Carter, addressing the media storm surrounding that bizarre New Yorker sermon about You Know What (click here for my most recent piece, and podcast, on this hot topic). Here is the dramatic double-decker headline on the Carter piece:
The Ugly Coded Critique of Chick-Fil-A's Christianity
The fast-food chain's "infiltration" of New York City ignores the truth about religion in America. It also reveals an ugly narrow-mindedness
What's the connection here, between Jenkins and Carter?
Hint: Demographics is destiny (and doctrine is important, too). Here is a famous (and long) summary paragraph from the 2002 Atlantic essay:
If we look beyond the liberal West, we see that another Christian revolution, quite different from the one being called for in affluent American suburbs and upscale urban parishes, is already in progress.