Around the world, a shift in where faith thrives.
One of the most important trends reshaping the world is the decline of Christianity in Europe and its rise in Africa and other parts of the developing world, including Asia and Latin America. The denominations gaining ground tend to be evangelical, and especially Pentecostal; it's the churches with the strictest demands, like giving up drinking, that are flourishing. This is changing the character of global. Christianity, making it more socially conservative. The rise of the Christian right in the U.S. is finding echoes in other parts of the world. Yet conservative Christians in the U.S. should take heed. Christianity is thriving where it faces obstacles, like repression in China or suspicion of evangelicals in parts of Latin America and Africa. In those countries where religion enjoys privileges--Britain, Italy, Ireland, Spain, or Iran--that establishment support seems to have stifled faith. That's worth remembering in the debates about school prayer or public displays of the Ten Commandments: Faith doesn't need any special leg up. Look at where religion is most vibrant today, and the obvious conclusion is that what nurtures faith is not special, privileges but rather adversity. [3/26/05]