When the U.S. government imagines the global future, the term BRIC features prominently. The concept was created in 2001 when researchers at Goldman Sachs identified four critical emerging powers—Brazil, Russia, India and China. By 2050, claimed these experts, the BRIC powers would be challenging the U.S. for worldwide economic supremacy. U.S. officials have taken this forecast very seriously. Hillary Clinton recently listed these four “major and emerging global powers” as vital partners in any future attempts to solve the world’s problems.
The BRIC theory has political, strategic and military implications, but it also raises intriguing questions about the world’s religious future. The BRICs will be the scene of intense debates about faith and practice—about coexistence and rivalry between different faiths; about the proper relationship between religion and state power; and, conceivably, about the use of religious rhetoric to justify an imperial expansion.
Philip Jenkins is professor of history at Baylor University's Institute for Studies of Religion and author of The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade and The Many Faces of Christ: The Thousand-Year Story of the Survival and Influence of the Lost Gospels.