Jen Fulwiler at Conversion Diary asked her international readers the following questions:
- Where do you live? (Or, if you’re not currently living there, what part of the world is it that you’re familiar with?)
- What is church attendance like in your area? Are there many churches? Do they seem to have active memberships?
- At a typical social event, how appropriate would it be if a person were to explicitly acknowledge in casual conversation that he or she is a believing Christian? For example, if someone at a party made a passing comment like, “We’ve been praying about that” or “I was reading the Bible the other day, and…”, would that seem normal or odd?
- What belief system do the politicians in your area claim to practice? For example, here in Texas almost all politicians at least claim to have some kind of belief in God, regardless of what they may think in private — to openly admit to being an atheist would be political suicide in most parts of the state. Is this the case in your area?
- How many families do you know who have more than two children? If a family with four children moved to your area, would their family size seem unusual? What about a family with six children?
- What seems to be the dominant belief system of the people in your area?
- Do you notice any trends? Do people seem to be becoming more or less religious?
The answers are well worth the read. Folks from Belgium, United Arab Emirates, Russia, New Zealand, Japan, Denmark, Germany, Canada, the Netherlands, Singapore, the UK, Ethiopia, Australia, Croatia, Germany, Peru, Spain, Norway, France, Austria, and the Philippines responded. Some of the stories are of parts of the world on fire for Christianity, many others where Christianity seems to be dying out disturbingly quickly.
Politicians in the US, the Philippines, and Africa are openly religious, even if they’re not as religious as they pose, or privately harbor doubts about God. Politicians in Canada and Europe are the opposite, keeping their belief, rather than their doubts, secretive.
The general pattern is that the historic religion of a given country struggles to keep people coming at all – there’s a lot of cultural Catholicism in Spain, cultural Orthodoxy in Russia, and cultural Anglicanism in the United Kingdom. While Catholicism seems to be dying in its historic strongholds, She’s gaining ground in areas She’s been historically oppressed. Even in the US, we can see this pattern. The Church seems to be growing in the South and collapsing in New England.
Meanwhile, on the family question, the First World continues to stigmatize large families, while the Third World views children as a blessing. So many in the West view children as just too expensive – even those who want children throw their hands up at the economics of starting a family. And then someone comes with a tiny fraction of their wealth, but with a large and happy family. The irony is hard to miss.
In any case, there’s plenty to pray for, but plenty to thank God for, as well.