Thursday, November 09, 2006

Christianity as a Demographic Movement.

In Breeding for God (published in the British magazine 'Prospect') Eric Kaufmann argues that secularism, and with it modernism, is challenged due to conservative religions being demographically dominant. Religious conservatives simply have greater fertility rates than adherents of liberal religions and secularist.

Basing his thesis on Rodney Starks 'The Rise of Christianity' and Phillip Longman's research, Kaufmann sees the rise of conservative Protestantism in the United States a case study for this trend. A similar, though somewhat more complex, tend is appearing in Europe.

Against the thesis he acknowleges political scientist Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart, who argue that secularism is actually advancing. They argue that focusing on fertility rates overlooks the widespread defection from conservative religions. Kaufman sums up their argument making this point:

If fertility is always the main mechanism of social change, we would expect much higher populations of Amish, Seventh-Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses and other sects with very high fertility. Yet we know that these sects suffer high "defection" rates—even the Mormons lose a higher percentage of their children than most American denominations.
Kaufmann's article is interesting and raises important question e.g.:

- Can Christianity be truly understood as demographic and sociological phenomena?

- Does such religious change theory truly correspond to developments in the United States, Europe or elsewhere?

- Is Kaufmann's argumet weakened by the simplistic branding of Adventism as sect with high fertility and defection rates?

- How does christianity as a demographic movement fit into the biblical meta-narative and the biblical remnant narrative?

What is apparent, from my perspective in North-Western Europe, is that religious chance is happening in the both North America and Europe, even to an extent and speed that is surprising most observers. Its not clear, however, how this change is affecting Adventism. In North Western Europe church membership is either falling or growing through immigration from Africa or Eastern Europe. Should the church accept this trend or can the church become movement that touches the hearts and minds of even unchurched, secular and indigenous people?


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