Back from holiday with a good news post.
Whenever you hear ‘everybody knows’, beware: what follows is almost invariably wrong.
‘Everybody knows’ that Christianity in Europe is dwindling away, merely a few old codgers clinging to the beliefs of their childhood like overgrown infants with a comfort blanket.
The reality is very different. Christianity is on the upsurge throughout Europe, and numbers are steadily growing throughout the continent.
In Spain the growth in church attendance is remarkable. Between 2011 and 2012 the proportion of the population attending Mass grew by nearly 3 per cent from 12.1 to 15 per cent. Even more significantly, the number attending on a weekly basis grew by 23 per cent between 2012 and 2013. The number of Spaniards voluntarily contributing part of their taxes to the Church is also on the rise.
It’s not only Catholics. Spain’s Evangelical churches are growing. According to a report from the Spanish government’s Justice Ministry, in 2016 a new Evangelical church opened in Spain every two and a half days. This does not include the many unregistered house churches or Bible study/prayer groups.
We see the same in Germany where in 2016 there was a 6 per cent growth in Protestant churches in Germany.
France repeats the pattern. Despite its strong tradition of laïcité, or secularism, there is a growth of evangelical Christianity in France. According to a report by the National Council of Evangelicals in France a new Evangelical church opened every ten days in 2016. In the last 60 years the number of evangelicals has increased tenfold.
As well as the increasing number of churches, the report added, many congregations are experiencing growth. More than thirty evangelical churches in France have congregations of 1,000-plus. The Lille Metropole church recently increased its seating capacity from 800 to 2,000.
The French are still 34 per cent atheist. However, as in Germany and Spain, the spiritual ‘tectonic plates’ are shifting.
The same shift is seen in Eastern Europe. Ground down by atheistic communism for decades, freedom has brought growth to Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox churches.
Hungary is experiencing a political revolution which is pro-family and pro-life. Part of this is a rediscovery of its Christian roots, even though church attendance is still low. Following his re-election this year, prime minister Viktor Orban defined the main tasks of his new government as preserving Hungary’s security and Christian culture.
The Croats declared independence from communist Yugoslavia in 1991 and also rediscovered their Christian identity. The proportion of Croats believing in God has risen from 39 per cent in 1989 to 75 per cent in 1996 and 82 per cent in 2004.
The strength of Croatia’s Christians was seen in 2014, when 65 per cent voted to amend their national constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman. This occurred after 700,000 people – one-fifth of Croatia’s adult population – signed a petition demanding a referendum.
Croatia’s president Ivo Josipović, Prime Minister Zoran Milanović and Minister of Foreign Affairs Vesna Pusić expressed concern and campaigned against a restrictive definition of marriage. Nevertheless, the people forced them to alter Croatia’s constitution.
Poland’s church attendance is growing and now exceeds 40 per cent of the population. In November 2016, at a ceremony at the Church of Divine Mercy in Krakow, the bishops of Poland in the presence of President Andrzei Duda officially recognised Jesus Christ as the King of Poland and called upon Him to rule over their nation, its people and their political leaders.
Similar growth can be seen in Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania, Armenia, Moldova and Georgia. It is clear that in the ex-Soviet dominated countries the cool thing to be is a Christian.
Why is this happening? Secular globalism’s chickens are coming home to roost. Globalism’s anti-cultural, anti-traditional thrust threatens a sense of place, identity and security. Confronted by this, people instinctively tend to resist by re-asserting their traditional identity. Secular globalism’s anti-traditional dynamic has produced a counter dynamic.
A major plank of European identity is Christianity. As people feel vulnerable and anxious due to the changes surrounding them over which they feel they have no control, it is natural for them to assert their customs, traditions, ethnicity, language and above all their spiritual roots.
Throughout most of Europe there is renewal and growth in all branches of Christianity. There is one major exception: the UK. There are signs of recovery such as an increase in numbers training for ordination, but these are little more than straws in the wind.
Why? Culture and faith are inseparable, they interact and influence each other. In the UK the mainstream neo-Protestant denominations have completely bought into the progressivist globalist vision. Instead of leading the cultural conversation, they are frantically scrambling to catch up.Where progressivists preach multiculturalism, the mainstream churches hold inter-faith worship. For the sake of diversity, the mainstream denominations downplay the distinctiveness of Christianity. To accommodate ever-expanding sexual mores, the churches ordain homosexuals and push homosexual marriage. Aping the world, they declare themselves irrelevant, and decline in numbers and influence.
The main areas of church growth in the UK are in churches insisting on teaching and living traditional Christianity. This is no surprise. Research on general social groups has shown that those with a consistent unified message and clear boundaries which define who are inside the group and who are outside are actually attractive to outsiders.
Whether the UK’s mainstream denominations are prepared to take the risk of teaching a consistent unified and biblical message is another matter.