by Charles Whitaker
Last month we looked at a phenomenon called Southern Christianity, a native version of Christian groups in South America, Africa, Asia, and Oceania. During the last century, particularly the last fifty years, Southern Christianity has surprised everyone by displaying spectacular growth. Today, Southern Christianity—typically evangelical, Pentecostal, and fundamental—is characterized by its structural disunity and its undisguised moral conservatism. Its hundreds of groups around the world are fiercely independent, in many cases shunning affiliation with Western denominations. In fact, the dynamism of Southern Christianity marks it as a reaction against the formalism and liberalism that has crept into many American and European denominations, leaving them morally and doctrinally moribund. Southern Christians are generally otherworldly, unafraid of the mysterious and mystical; they often place heavy emphasis on Biblical prophecy. Finally, Southern Christianity is often syncretistic, borrowing doctrinal and liturgical elements from different denominations and even other religions. It is not surprising, then, to observe these groups often crossing denominational lines.
The hallmark of Southern Christianity is its moral conservatism. While God's true church cannot, of course, subscribe to most of Southern Christians' doctrines (such as the Trinity, false holidays, Sunday worship, etc.), it can relate to their firm belief in God's sovereignty, their acceptance of both the Old and New Testaments as God's inerrant revelation (which they misunderstand), and their staunch moral stance against abortion, homosexuality, permissiveness, and the like. More often than not, Southern Christians are exponents of traditional family values and proactive child-rearing techniques.
From a larger cultural perspective, Southern Christianity appears to be a reaction against the West. Its ethos is heartily opposed to the economic materialism, humanistic secularism, and agnostic (if not atheistic) liberalism that the West has come to accept and promulgate. In this lies perhaps the paramount feature of Southern Christianity: It repudiates the postmodern; it rejects what the West is, and it refuses what the West offers the world. Southern Christians swim in the other direction, against the current of modernism. Increasingly, Western liberal elites have come to see it as countercultural.
This "clash of civilizations," to use Samuel Huntington's famous term, would be bad enough if Southern Christianity were there—in the south, far from North America. However, Southern Christianity has moved north—into America—with gusto.
The Liberals' Nightmare
We are all aware of the phrase, "the best laid plans of mice and men." Things do not always work as expected. Nothing could be a better example of that truism than the Immigration Reform Act of 1965, which opened the floodgates to immigrants from Latin America, Asia, and Africa. Indeed, liberals craftily engineered the law to "diversify" American culture, to weaken the fiber of traditional (that is, Christian) religion. Their idea was to render America less and less Christian as time went by, as the sheer numbers of Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and others diluted America's Christianity. This was their real motive: to weaken the influence of Christianity, proving once and for all that Christianity and national greatness were not related.
Well—the best laid plans of mice and men! One commentator observes that the Immigration Reform Act paved the road for
a far-reaching restructuring of American religious life, in directions that were distinctly conservative and traditionalist. . . . While mass immigration is indeed having an enormous religious impact, the main beneficiary of the process is unquestionably Christianity. Far more than most secular observers yet appreciate, the vast majority of new immigrants are Christian. . . . More catastrophic still, from the point of view of our secular elites, the Christianity that these newcomers espouse is commonly fideistic [reliant on faith rather than reason to ascertain truth], charismatic, otherworldly, and (nightmare of nightmares) fundamentalist.1
Let's examine this influx of Christian immigrants—and the liberals' nightmares—in a bit more detail.
Southern Christianity in America
Statistics indicating the magnitude of the human tide to these shores are not hard to come by. The number of immigrants (and their children) who have reached America as a result of the 1965 Act is nearing 20% of the total American population. Amazingly, 5% arrived within the last decade.2 What is not so obvious is that most of these people are Christians. (Throughout this article, I use the terms Christian and Christianity to refer to Satan's counterfeit of the way of life Christ taught; see Revelation 12:9.)
Conventional wisdom does not lead us astray when it observes that most of the immigrants from Latin America are Roman Catholic, although, surprising to many, about 20% are Protestant Pentecostals. That means America will boast about 100 million Roman Catholics and Pentecostals (of various degrees of fervor) by 2050. Make no mistake about it, the bulk of these immigrant Catholics are not "modern" Catholics—those who practice birth control and favor abortion. Rather, Catholic immigrants from Latin America tend to be loyal to the Pope and avowedly conservative—traditionalist—in outlook. The same moral and political conservatism characterizes the Pentecostals who cross the border with them.
The growth patterns of America's major religious denominations during the last decade or so reflect the ever-deepening influence of Southern Christianity. Almost everywhere, conservative religious groups are gaining adherents, while moderate and liberal ones are experiencing decline. Since 1990, "old fashioned" groups have outstripped those espousing "contemporary" values hands down. The Southern Baptists have grown by 4.9%, the Catholic Church in America by 16.2%, and the Assemblies of God (a Pentecostal group) by 18.5%. All this at the expense of the mainline churches, such as the Presbyterian Church USA, whose membership rolls declined by 11.6% in the same time period, and the highly liberal United Church of Christ, which chalked up a 14.8% decline. The handwriting is on the wall: Liberalism is not where it's at!
What are the predominant religious preferences of immigrants from Africa and Asia? The answer may surprise you. These people, also, are largely Christian. "Among Korean-Americans, for example, Christians presently outnumber Buddhists by more than ten to one."3 Most Filipino immigrants are Catholic. Korean and Vietnamese immigrants are typically Christian. Similarly, many African immigrants are Christian. "Independent and prophetic African churches are now firmly rooted in American cities, from which they plan ambitious evangelistic expansion."4
It appears that, as a general rule, the Asians and Africans who have the money and the motivation to relocate to the United States are Southern Christians. What motivates many of these people to come to America is truly amazing: They often share a driving desire to evangelize America. These people actually come as missionaries to "heathen" America to convert her peoples "back" to Christianity. El Shaddai, a Catholic charismatic group centered in the Philippines, funds and operates an evangelistic network in 25 nations, including the United States and Canada. "Few observers predicted that [the Pacific Rim nations] would increasingly become a Christian Arc."5
Certainly, that was not in the mind of the liberals when they crafted the 1965 Immigration Reform Act!
Those designers, the liberal post-moderns who form the elite policy makers in America, have striven ardently for decades to turn America into an unreservedly secular nation. Their goal is the ultimate obliteration of every vestige of Christianity from our culture, not only from the public square, but from private conscience as well. Examples of the public policies they have introduced to further their ends include banning prayer in the public schools, refusing to allow religious symbols on government property, and employing the IRS to harass ministers who preach conservative values.
Part of the liberals' strategy has been to use immigration policy to create "diversity." This means they want to dilute traditional religious patterns, injecting into America numbers of people practicing religions that had not hitherto been a significant part of her religious experience. Alas, that diversity of religions simply has not materialized. The religious potpourri they sought to create through increased immigration is today more fantasy than reality.
For, the fact remains: The aggregate number of Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Sikhs, and Hindus living in America today is only about five percent of the population. This statistic does not do much to promote the myth that America is religiously diverse. The reality is that America is less religiously diverse than many nations in the Middle and Far East, "where religious minorities commonly make up 10 or 20 percent of the population, or even more."6
Diversity eludes the liberal social engineers, who watch in dismay as America becomes more solidly Christian every day. True, America's new Christianity is not old-line Protestant Christianity. It is far from the WASP-religion that predominated American religious life as late as the middle 1900s. Nonetheless, it is Christianity anyway—in highly charismatic, fundamental, and evangelistic dress. Southern Christianity moved north is the liberals' worst nightmare.
So far, the liberal reaction to the growth of Southern Christianity in this country has been to suppress the truth—hide the facts from the public. They do not advertise, for instance, the straightforward demographic that, at current growth rates, America will boast a larger Latino population—most of whom are Catholic or Pentecostal—than any nation except Mexico and Brazil by 2050.7 The liberals' strategy is to keep the public ignorant, lest it figure out that America remains a "Christian" nation after all!
Liberals have pressed into service the media, which they largely control, to portray America as no longer a "Christian" nation, but a fully secular one—in spite of the fact that there are at least six nominal Christians for every one secularist in the general population. The media consistently lie, painting the American religious makeup as highly diverse.
A good example of their lack of candor is the glowing—almost outlandish—praise widely lavished on a 2001 book by Diana Eck, a scholar in religious studies. Eck's book, A New Religious America: How a Christian Country Has Now Become the World's Most Religiously Diverse Nation,is sheer hogwash. Yet, reviewers extolled it for revealing "the new 'pluralism' that is sweeping away Christian 'fundamentalism.'"8 Funny thing is, Christian fundamentalism is not being swept away!
The liberal media habitually publishes outright fabrications that overstate the influence of non-Christian groups in America. Figures do not lie, but the lying liberals do their best to figure out ways to deceive Americans. A stark example of this lack of honesty is the media's fondness of inflating the number of active, practicing Muslims in America. The press routinely "rounds up" one early estimate of eight million Muslims to ten or even twelve million. It fails to reveal that many Arab-Americans, especially those coming from Syria, Palestine, and Egypt, are Christian. Mosque attendance, the best indicator of the number of active Muslims, stands at only 1.5 million, with another 2 million inactive believers. By what formulations of new math does three-and-a-half million equal twelve million? Muslims, in fact, account for only about one percent of U.S. population. Although some Muslims represent a clear and present danger to the American internal security by virtue of their radicalism, their raw number of adherents is miniscule compared to the number of Southern Christians from Latin America, Asia, and Africa, the majority of whom are at least nominally Christian.
Suppressing the facts does not change them. Broadcasting myths that exaggerate the importance of non-Christian groups while holding back the truth about current trends in American Christianity will not change reality. Yet, how many Americans believe the "strong delusion," preached by those who, as the apostle Paul put it in Romans 1:18, "suppress the truth in unrighteousness"?
The appearance of Southern Christianity in America is an unintended consequence of the 1965 Immigration Reform Act. From the viewpoint of America's secular elites, it is as unwelcome as it is unintended. Since 1965, Americans have witnessed an undeniable display of God's sovereignty. God turned the tables on the Satan-inspired, godless social engineers who sought to dilute Christianity to the point it would become insignificant, a statistical nonentity. God used their plan to modify immigration regulations so that He might accomplish His purposes.
What purposes? Next month, in the final part of this three-part series, we will consider why God is changing the face of Christianity in America through the influx of Southern Christians.
1 Jenkins, Philip, "A New Religious America," First Things, August/September, 2002, p. 25. Mr. Jenkins is Distinguished Professor of History and Religious Studies at Pennsylvania State University.
2 Ibid., p. 26.
4 Ibid., p. 27.
5 Ibid., p. 26.
6 Ibid., p. 27.
7 Ibid., p. 26.
8 Ibid., p. 27.
From A to Z in Reverse:
A Zambian Lesson for America
Not only Gentile religionists, like the Southern Christians, but also Gentile writers and commentators serve to instruct modern-day Israel regarding God's law. A recent—and poignant—case in point is a feature editorial appearing in the principal Zambian newspaper, The Times of Zambia, January 20, 2003. The author is George Roberts, a former staff writer for another organ, the Northern News. By and large, the article is so close to reflecting God's truth that it could be reprinted verbatim in Forerunner.
Roberts' subject is HIV/AIDS. He opens the article, which occupies five full columns, about half the page, with a statement reminiscent of Herbert Armstrong's approach to problem-resolution. "The world's worst response to what is regarded as the most devastating pandemic in human history lies in dealing with symptoms, without seriously tackling the cause."
Roberts continues with straightforward comments the likes of which one would never read in the New York Times or other liberal organs in this country:
HIV/AIDS is primarily a moral issue. Sex before marriage, fornication, adultery, rape, incest, sexual violence, homosexuality, prostitution, polygamy, pornography, child abuse, are all serious sins against God. Calling it [by any other name] does not in any way alter God's view of these wrong patterns of behavior that His Word says He hates. . . . The Bible's moral standards are very clear. Non-married persons should abstain from sexual relations, married persons must remain faithful and should not commit adultery. The foregoing amount to just 17 words, 103 letters, and yet is the only fool-proof antidote.
Next, Roberts blasts the media, politicians, and national and church leaders:
All these have one thing they hold in common, total disregard of the Creator's laws. National leaders, church leaders and politicians should take a leaf from the book of Ezra 7:10, which says "For Ezra himself had prepared his heart to consult the law of Jehovah and to do it. . . ." To put the matter into perspective one must go back to the beginning of man's existence in the garden of Eden. In order to instill in man a fundamental principle for his own good, Man's Creator emphasized acknowledgement of God's sovereignty. God has a right to choose what is good and what is bad for His human creation. God has a right to rule mankind. This is very forcefully summed up in these words from the Bible, book of Isaiah, 48:17: "I am the Lord your God who teaches you on what is best for you, who directs you on the way you should go."
Roberts then launches into a discussion of Adam and Eve, concluding that, "There is no alternative to obedience." The choice God gave Adam and Eve was really a choice about accepting God's sovereignty. He is careful to point out:
There are no circumstances under which one can ignore God's laws. The Bible puts it bluntly: "Do not be misled; God is not mocked. For whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap," Galatians 6:7-8. No bill of rights, constitution, statutory instrument, legalizing, legislating, cultural profiling, or religious decree, however enacted, can circumvent the Creator's law. Nothing but nothing can protect one from the consequences of disregarding God's law.
As regards [the spread of] HIV/AIDS, nothing that mankind can do will reverse this trend. The only way this can be redressed is by making meaningful changes by allowing space for God's laws, word and principles, and coming to terms with and living by them, especially as regards morals. Only then can anyone sing about "fighting and conquering AIDS." We have no alternative. Anything else will be a waste of time and effort and end in utter disappointment!
It is not known whether George Roberts is a Gentile or an Israelite. That does not really matter. Nor is it known to what extent his opinions reflect those of the paper's editors or of the people of Zambia. What matters, though, is that his comments, which express an uncompromising acceptance of the Old Testament as binding in this day and age, were printed prominently in Zambia's leading newspaper, without editorial disclaimer.
What—and Who—Is a Secularist?
A recent study asserts that a "religious gap" exists between American secularists and traditionalists.1 Its authors define a "secularist" as an individual who rejects the authority of God's Word, has no religious affiliation, does not pray or attend religious services, and finally, claims that religion grants him no guidance in his daily life. The authors define a "traditionalist" as an individual who takes exactly the opposite view.
The gap was first noticed in 1972, when more than 33% of the white delegates to the Democratic Presidential Convention claimed to be secularists, while only 5% of the general population fit into that category.
Since then, the gap has grown. Among white voters in the 1992, 1996, and 2000 presidential elections, the religious gap was more important than all other "demographic and social cleavages in the electorate." It played a far greater role in determining the outcome of these elections than the so-called gender gap, and, believe it or not, was more significant than any other combination of differences (for example, in education, income, occupation, age, marital status, and regional grouping).
To see just how deeply rooted this gap has become, consider that, in the three presidential elections since 1992, white women on average gave Democrats 9% more of their vote than did white men. Nine percent does not a significant gap make. However, "the average gap separating secularists and religious traditionalists in these same elections was 42 percentage points." Now, 42% makes a statistically significantly gap! Any campaign strategist worth his salt will pay attention to a gap of that size.
Since about 1990, the Democratic Party has provided a home for secularists. Secularists—those who lack any fear of God—almost universally register Democratic, while traditionalists increasingly tend to muster among Republicans. In fact, Bill Clinton captured 80% of the "anti-fundamentalist" vote in 1992; Al Gore captured 70% of that vote in 2000. This secularist/Democrat and traditionalist/Republican divide has become so entrenched that it is polarizing the two parties.
Over forty years ago Gerhard Lenski2 asserted that religion would play a lasting role—if not a hegemonic one—in American political and cultural life. The liberals mocked. Are they laughing at the idea now? Probably not. For the evidence that Lenski was right is becoming overwhelming.
We can count on religion playing an increasing part in voter decisions and in the determining of public policy in this nation—the Supreme Court notwithstanding!
1 Bolce, Louis and De Maio, Gerald, "Our Secularist Democratic Party," Public Interest.
2 Lenski, Gerhard E., The Religious Factor, Doubleday, 1961.