Sunday, May 04, 2003

heh, deleted long rambly bit about being pissed off at my family. I'm still pissed off at family some, but I don't need to have it splayed across the internet.

I'm in more of a cheery mood than I was this morning. I'm not totally cheered because I just realized the time and date, and I'm wondering where the hell the weekend went. I have to write a paper tonight, of course, since it's Sunday. But at least it's a little paper and I'm sure I can get it done.

A month and a week until I leave for Europe. I'm excited and terrified and all that. On the one hand, it should be the most wonderful thing I've done in my life. Certainly it's the most adventurous thing I've ever done. On the other, damn it'll be draining. Just little things like trying to find a place to sleep every night will be hell. I can't stop thinking about it. It's pretty much the only thing keeping me going in a lot of ways. Not that I'd die or something, if I had never been able to go. But the promise of this is better than the usual things I cling to this mortal coil over.

I know that my blogs have been of a lesser quality recently. I haven't felt particularly reflective. Just nervous. I haven't felt particularly lucid. Just drained. But tonight I'm feeling a little better. I just can't get over how lucky I am. I have a big stupid smile all of the time, and I laugh for no reason. I disturbed April last night, because I was just smiling and laughing, and apparently, I don't do a lot of that these days. Or, at least not that way. I'm filled with joy, even when I'm not. Even when I'm freaking furious, I'm grinning.

In more typical news, I’ve been reading a book called The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity by Philip Jenkins. The basic premise is that Christianity is becoming a consistently more South-of-Equator sort of religion. Western Europe is for all intents and purposes, post-Christian. And while America is much more stubbornly holding on, Christianity’s once unquestionable status is beginning to falter even here.

But all that isn’t necessarily awful news for the religion. Christianity continues to grow. It’s just growing in places that we don’t like to take notice of in the West. Places like South America and Africa. Even the Middle East. While the media has been telling us for decades now, that Islam is the world’s fastest growing religion, they’re just flat wrong. They base their assumption on the fact that Islamic countries are having the largest population booms; the problem is that in so many Islamic nations, there are huge Christian minorities and even majorities that apparently go unnoticed in these statistical studies. Christian populations are booming and will continue to boom. And while the book doesn’t deal with it, I think Islam has seen better days. And the next few decades may see some shake ups in places that have hitherto been considered implicitly Islamic.

Of course, while we consider places inherently of a certain type, like Rome is Christian, or Turkey is Islamic, there’s nothing implicit about a state that makes it any sort of religion at all. Rome was not always Christian; it may not always be Christian. If that sounds ridiculous, consider how Constantinople once trumped even Rome as the crown of Christendom. And I hardly need sing the song; we all know that you can’t go back to Constantinople, because now it’s Istanbul. Istanbul, of Turkey, that place which is as Islamic as Italy is Catholic.

Changes are coming in Christianity. It isn’t unreasonable to posit that the next pope may be African (though, anyone historically minded, knows that there have been three prior African popes). But it may be difficult to convince, say, Alabaman Catholics that this is true.

It’s an exciting time to be alive, I think. The stakes are higher than they have ever been; or at least, it’s easier for a single human being to destroy the world now, than it’s ever been. But in the end it all comes down to individual lives. How to save them and how to end them; whose matters and whose doesn’t. And that may be the most interesting bit about changing Christian demographics.

Christianity came to the West, really, with the Edict of Milan in the fourth century. But Western Europe wasn’t really Christian for centuries after that. And the most shallow historian can see that the Christianization of Western Europe changed Christianity and what it meant to be Christian. It will be interesting to see how the so-called globalization of Christianity changes the religion, and what it means for how individual Christians define themselves.