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.
United for a Fair Economy was started 15 years ago in response to the growing gap between rich and poor in the U.S. Mike Lapham joined the organization in 1997 to head its Responsible Wealth program, which mobilizes the voices of people who want to use their money to create a better society—through their own tax money.
When a child is ignoring basic responsibilities, parents rely on a well-known parenting technique to make a point. Mom looks her ten-year-old in the eye while holding a toothpaste tube in one hand and the cap in the other. “This is called toothpaste,” she says, “and this is called a cap. They go together.” The Lord God is not beyond impatience and remedial instruction when people need a reminder about neglected responsibilities. God held a basket of ripened summer fruit beneath Amos’s nose and said, “Amos, what do you see here?” The prophet, sensing that God was serious, didn’t bother joking. “A basket of summer fruit,” he replied. With that brief exchange, strangely similar to a parent remedially instructing a child, the doors opened to a flood of divine wrath.
A global survey by National Geographic indicates that people are eating better—more local food, less meat—yet diets in many countries are still unsustainable environmentally. The best country is India, since many people are vegetarians and those who aren’t tend not to eat beef, the most environmentally detrimental meat. Americans eat the most packaged and convenience foods and the least fruits and vegetables. Mexico ranked last in the rankings due to a diet high in chicken and beef. Japan, which eats the most seafood, is the most resistant to dietary change (National Geographic, September 29).