Faith in the Future
Christianity's Interface with Globalization
Warner Press, 2008, 136 pp., ISBN 978-1-59317-317-3
Patrick Nachtigall lives in Hong Kong and mentors a young thriving Christian congregation. He travels throughout Asia training church leaders. This quick read is a brief, tightly packed, global status report.
"Good and evil have always coexisted on the planet, but there are so many new opportunities and challenges arising in this new era that it is worth cultivating the habit of mind that examines new developments from a Christian perspective." (Introduction)
Part I. The Opportunities
1. How the world got its groove back
"Yes, many people are still living in terrible poverty and the world continues to suffer from violence and war, but the average human being today has a greater chance than ever before of dying a natural death, avoiding the experience of war, and making a decent living." (9) "The twentieth century was the most violent in human history." "Today's level of peace, prosperity, and international cooperation is unprecedented in human history." (10)
Large segments of emerging third-world nations such as China and India are catching up to the rich countries. Living standards are rising rapidly and pockets of populations are highly plugged into the first world. A number of least developed countries remain disconnected and mired in poverty.
Al Jazeera is providing a window into places like United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and the rest of the rapidly developing Islamic world to those nations still ruled by repressive Islamic leaders, creating a hunger for freedom and opportunity. (16)
The developed nations are no longer the only places where good things happen, where living standards are high, and where rich people live. In this new world of greater openness and interconnectivity, many emerging nations have the chance to compete and reap the profits. (17) Countries at odds with each other risk more by antagonizing each other because they are economically interdependent. (18) Former Marxist socialistic countries have turned to free-market capitalism and are giving us more competition than we want. (19) Open social interaction is opening the door to spiritual interaction. Globalization presents the church a golden opportunity to "reduce poverty, educate people, enter countries that were once closed, and witness the explosion of Christianity into new cultures." (20)
On the downside the technology that is revolutionizing the world and is a genie you can not put back in the bottle. (23) "Globalization creates new rules and forces even authoritarian China to hide the truth less and care more about the global community." (24)
The strongest antiglobalization force is Islamic militants, whose mobilization is made possible by globalization itself. (24)
2. The Poor You Will Always Have With You
"Two-thirds of the world's population is now seeing standards of living improve rapidly." (27) About 50 countries are totally disconnected from the global economy and seeing virtually no improvement. (28) "Prior to the nineteenth century, almost everyone in the world was poor by today's standards--including kings and princes. Until 200 years ago, there was very little progress in raising living standards or increasing personal wealth." (28) The rich-poor gap is widening but even the poor are getting richer. (29)
Empowering women is one of the keys to eradicating poverty. (32) "One of the most exciting trends of late is the creation of large charity organizations using the wealth of billionaires." Bill Gates alone is outgiving the Christian church. The noveaux rich are imitating Gates and Warren Buffet. Rich Asians and others are watching. (33)
3. Searching and Planning for the Poor
"Billions have been spent trying to eradicate third world poverty over these past few decades. For the most part, these efforts have not succeeded." (36) "Many factors are needed to help the poor succeed." "There has to be good security and a helpful government. It doesn't work to build a school or for a family to own a business if society is unstable and not protected. (38) "In coconut republics and vampire states, the people are ignored while corrupt rulers siphon off all the funds…." "Our analysis of the needs of the poor must be much more nuanced and sophisticated in today's world." (42)
A great untapped resource is Christian businessmen who are equipped to bring about economic fairness and share the gospel. Christian organizations need business expertise and long-term investors. People and churches want quick results whereas businessmen understand investments may take years to mature. (41-2)
4. The Gravitational Shift
"Christianity stands alone as the global faith that is growing cross-culturally and through conversion…." Christianity is not tied to ethnic identity, local culture, or geographic location. (43) "It is increasingly obvious that people from non-Western cultures also believe the gospel of Jesus Christ and feel compelled to 'go unto all the nations of the world.' Christianity did not begin in the West, and it will not end in the West." (45) "There are more Christians in Africa than the total population of the United States and Canada combined." (45)
Evangelical churches have the flexibility and decentralization that allows them to quickly address the kinds of needs that globalization produces. (48) "In some ways there has never been a greater need or greater opportunity for Western Christians to engage the world." (49)
5. Where Have All the Churches
"Europeans are still seeking spirituality in various ways; some healthy and some unhealthy." Pilgrimages are popular. Young people flock to hear the pope. The greatest religious fervor is in the immigrant communities from the emerging and least developed countries. There are some very dynamic Christian immigrant churches. That the West might be re-Christianized by people from the third world is ironic but emblematic of the global nature of Christianity. "Underneath the secular veneer, many Europeans hold core values that echo Christian values."
6. Students Are Plentiful, But Teachers Are Few
"From South Africa to Iran, new mega-universities are being launched that are able to handle more than one hundred thousand students by taking advantage of the Internet. Increasingly, evangelical universities are also playing a large part in meeting the demand for education…. The emphasis on education is vital, because education is the single most important factor in determining whether people will be relegated to a life of absolute poverty or not." (57) "Throughout the world, students increasingly want to receive a good education in English…." "…a new door of opportunity is opening up around the world." (58)
7. Good Morning, Vietnam!
"This battle-scarred nation is a hotbed of growth." (61) "Vietnamese Christians represent the new face of Christianity in emerging nations. It is nonwhite, mission-minded, and overwhelmingly open to the supernatural. This spiritual openness is coupled with a motivation and resilience that is lacking in many churches in the West. The Vietnamese have shown the world time and time again that they do not quit amid persecution and war…." (64)
Part II. The Challenges
8. Scourge of the New Century
"The growth of the transnational sex trade of women and children may be one of the greatest struggles against evil that we have ever faced." It is truly global. "Organized crime syndicates take advantage of cell phones, lax immigration laws, and ease of travel and communication to do their business." "As unbelievable as it might sound, more people are caught up in human trafficking (slave trade) today than in the African slave trade of centuries past. Approximately 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders annually." This slavery generates $31 billion in annual profits. (68) "Sexual abuse is a global epidemic empowered by the new technologies and interconnections of our globalized world." (71)
9. The Threat is Different Now
"Transnational terrorism is more dangerous." (73) Today's terrorism is larger in scope and has very large goals. It has cheap powerful communication, high levels of education, technological innovation and international financial networks. They poison the well on several levels, paving the way for criminal organizations and drug cartels to avoid detection. The criminal economy is growing seven times as fast as the global economy. (76) Warfare is becoming cheaper for terrorists while it becomes more expensive for governments. (77) And negotiation isn't an option. "Most terrorists don't care if the whole world goes down with them." (78) Our world is far less stable than what we have enjoyed in recent years. (79)
10. Consider the Jatrophas of the Field
"We should care about the environment more than anybody." (81) "The environment is not a liberal issue: it is a Genesis 1 issue." (82) One third of the particulates hanging in the Los Angeles air comes from China, India, Russia, and the other developing countries. 60% of Hong Kong children suffer from asthma. Living in certain cities and towns in China is a death sentence because of contaminated soil and water. Environmental refugee is a new class of citizen. (83)
"Lack of access to clean water is one of the largest causes of disease in the least developed countries, and water scarcity threatens the development of emerging nations…." (84) "…the effect of two billion people entering the global workforce and raising their standards of living is going to strain the global environment…" (86)
11. Russians Come In From the Cold
Americans had high hopes for Russia to become a democracy but such a transition requires healthy institutions, the rule of law, fiscal management, security, etc… Russia is a more discouraging place to live than before. Life expectancy is close to a least developed country. Alcohol is an enormous problem. There are 160 deaths for every 100 births, a shocking demographic decline. This is caused in part by the high abortion rate, fourth in the world. There is a huge divide between rich and poor. Openness to Christianity has declined substantially. It may be one of the most difficult mission fields in the world. (89-95)
12. Focus on the City
"Nothing in human history compares to the current migration to cities." (100) "Hundreds of millions of people today live as squatters in the world's urban centers, and it is the cities in least developed nations and emerging nations that are experiencing population explosions." (101) "Tokyo has slightly more people than Canada." "Life increasingly becomes about work and the acquisition of things." "Another cost is the increasing disconnection from nature." (103)
In many cities such as Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, a fast-growing emerging middle class is fueling economic growth. Some live very comfortably just a couple of miles from where others live with no sewage facilities or running water. Some cities, such as Lagos, Dhaka, etc., are disintegrating, where up to 78 percent live in slums. (106) Slums have very few legitimate economic opportunities. (107) "It is vital that churches and missionaries continue to bring Christian hope to the places that the world chooses to ignore." (109)
13. A Glimpse of Hell
Some countries, such as Haiti and the Central African Republic, are failed states. North Korea is a spectacular failure. South Korea was poorer than Egypt in 1960. It now has the world's eleventh largest economy. By contrast North Korea is "the most depraved, most disconnected, most dysfunctional nation on the planet." "It is effectively run as a cult…." (112)
Globalization is making it more difficult for oppressive states to get away with persecution. North Korea is the exception. The whole country is one enormous prison. (114) An estimated 400,000 Christians live in North Korea, 100,000 of whom are imprisoned in unimaginable conditions. (117)
14. A New Imperialism in Latin America
While Latin America is more prosperous it is still riddled with problems. El Salvador is threatened by transnational gangs. Several cities have massive slums. Nearly every country has had its government overthrown by the U.S. marines at some point in the last 150 years.
"Prosperity gospel preachers are being televised around the globe." "To think that America's wealth and power do not affect our theology is ludicrous and self-delusional." (121) "Most Christians throughout human history have not had the luxury of sitting around trying to attain happiness and prosperity." "…more real things can come into focus when we are free of excessive materialism and security." (124) We do well to remember that in the Bible the kingdom promise is so great that gold is only a limited metaphor. (125)
Appendix: 7 Important Questions Regarding Globalization.
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