I was perilously close to becoming an agnostic—at least about certain statistics. Specifically, I really didn’t know the data on Christians in China, and for a while I was not sure if anyone did. Only now, perhaps, do we have the glimmerings of an answer to one of the most pressing questions in global religion: just how many Chinese Christians are there?
Demography drives religious change. That bald comment is too obvious to be worth making, but it’s surprising how little attention demographic factors receive in most histories of religion, particularly of Christianity. That neglect means we miss a very large part of the story.
This has been a dreadful year for the Roman Catholic Church in Europe. Across the continent, churches are suffering from sexual scandals of a kind long familiar in the United States. European media commonly present the picture of a systematic church crisis and ask how—or if—the church can recover. Will the scandals irreparably destroy Catholic authority?
Once upon a time, Europe lived in an age of faith, which found buoyant expression in the massive popularity of pilgrimage. Pilgrimage shrines flourished across Europe, some drawing millions of followers each year, and new pilgrimage destinations emerged regularly to meet the demand.
What has Seoul to do with Kampala? In the 1980s, the term “Global South” gained currency as a means of describing those parts of the planet outside the advanced regions of Europe, North America and Japan. Various writers, including myself, noted the dramatic rise of Christian numbers in that vast region.