The changing demographics of Christianity...
Zenit News Agency carried a report on Sunday headed "Christianity's Booming Sector — Pentecostal and Charismatic Numbers Surge"
Here are some key quotes from the opening paragraphs that will provide you with an overview of this news report:
Pentecostalism and other similar charismatic movements are among the fastest-growing sectors of global Christianity. So says a 10-nation study published by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. The Washington, D.C.-based research group released the study Oct. 5.
This news is hardly surprising. It seems very clear from even the most casual following of the news that the world is in the grip of a significant swing to conservatism and fundamentalist beliefs. I do seriously wonder though if either the political change that is underway, or the accompanying religious swing, augers well either for world peace and harmony or for a brighter future in terms of what the end objective of Christianity is supposed to be — the coming of the Kingdom.
If I was confident that the Pentecostal or Charismatic interpretation of the Christian story actually provided greater access to the ultimate truths, and to personal salvation, I would be amongst the first to get on this bandwagon. I honestly do not believe they lead us in that direction at all. Largely, I see these movements as being too rooted in the heart (the emotions) rather than in a more balanced way between head (the intellect) and the heart (our emotions and gut instincts).
My observations from meeting various people over the years enamoured of these movements, and from general observation of the behaviours one sees exhibited on television and in the media from time to time, is that this kind of religion tends to appeal to the dispossessed elements in society as it offers a form of hope that is largely based in the emotions rather than a truly spiritual form of hope. All of us who have experienced a sense of dispossession in our lives hunger for something better than our dispossessed circumstances. I honestly do not believe Jesus offers us the kind of hope that seems to be what the Pentecostals and Charismatics believe is being offered. Sure it feels good — and at a couple of earlier periods in my life I had an opportunity to immerse myself in a couple of charismatic communities in my own journey to trying to find answers — but does this ultimately lead to what Jesus Christ offers to lead us to?
I honestly do not believe the Pentecostals and Charismatics even offer some kind of half-way progress towards what is ultimately the right place, or right mind-frame or state of being. I seriously do think they are as likely to lead people away from where ultimately salvation and true redemption or heaven is to be found. Seriously, they seem to me to be only capable of offering "the warm fuzzies" — a sense of well-being and security — in the here and now rather than the qualities of ultimate peace and equilibrium which I believe largely stems from an intellectual (but not an academic) understanding of learning, firstly, to think and, secondly, to act as Jesus Christ would do if he were facing the particular decisions that need to be faced in our lives.
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