“The One enthroned in heaven laughs ….” (Psalm 2:4)
Everywhere one looks in the media today, it appears that proponents of secular liberalism are celebrating another social victory lap.
The Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision has effectively redefined marriage for the entire country. The first openly gay football player, Michael Sam, has been drafted (temporarily) into the NFL, and the public criticism tweeted subsequently by the Miami Dolphins’ safety Don Jones resulted in a mandatory fine and sensitivity training. The popular social media site Facebook now has over 50 self-identifying gender options, such as ‘gender fluid,’ ‘genderqueer,’ ‘agender,’ and ‘bigender.’ Several states have passed ‘gender neutral’ public restroom laws, and the annual Eurovision Song Contest crowned as its 2014 winner Conchita Wurst, a bearded transvestite.
It is therefore certainly understandable that so many in the media sympathetic with such developments are interpreting these current events as the wave of the future. Christine Brennan of USA Today hails Sam as the most important football player in the nation, while Cyd Zeigler in Time argues that history will look back at his drafting as that moment when professional sports changed forever. And across the pond, the newly crowned Eurovision diva declared to the world: “This night is dedicated to everyone who believes in a future of peace and freedom. You know who you are! We are unity and we are unstoppable!”
However, one recent publication by a self-proclaimed liberal should give such triumphalistic pronouncements pause; the future, as it turns out, is actually rather dire for secular liberalism.
According to University of London scholar Eric Kaufmann’s detailed study on global demographic trends, we are in the early stages of nothing less than a demographic revolution.
In Kaufmann’s words, “religious fundamentalists are on course to take over the world.”
There is a significant demographic deficit between secularists and conservative religionists. For example, in the U.S., while self-identified non-religionist women averaged only 1.5 children per couple in 2002, conservative evangelical women averaged 2.5 children, representing a 28 percent fertility edge. Kaufmann notes that this demographic deficit has dramatic effects over time. In a population evenly divided, these numbers indicate that conservative evangelicals would increase from 50 to 62.5 percent of the population in a single generation. In two generations, their number would increase to 73.5 percent, and over the course of 200 years, they would represent 99.4 percent.
He notes that the Amish and Mormons provide contemporary illustrations of the compound effect of endogamous growth. The Amish double in population every twenty years, and projections have the Amish numbering over a million in the U.S. and Canada in just a few decades. Since 1830, Mormon growth has averaged 40 percent per decade, which means that by 2080, there may be as many as 267 million Mormons in the world, making them by 2100 anywhere from one to six percent of the world’s population.
Kaufmann believes the numbers projected for Islamic demographics in Europe are greatly exaggerated, and instead sees a bright future for evangelical Christians on the secular continent. Since 1970, charismatic Christians in Europe have expanded steadily at a rate of 4 percent per year, in step with Muslim growth. Currently, Laestadian Lutherans in Finland and Holland’s Orthodox Calvinists have a fertility advantage over their wider secular populations of 4:1 and 2:1 respectively.
In contrast, Kaufmann’s data projects that secularists, who consistently exemplify a low fertility rate of around 1.5 (significantly below the replacement level of 2.1), will begin a steady decline after 2030 to a mere 14 to 15 percent of the American population. Similar projections apply to Europe as well.
Why? Secular liberalism entails its own “demographic contradiction,” the affirmation of the sovereign individual devoid of the restraints of classical moral structures necessitates the freedom not to reproduce. The link between sex and procreation having been broken, modernist reproduction translates into mere personal preference.
It thus turns out that the radical individualism so celebrated and revered by contemporary secular propagandists is in fact the agent by which their ideology implodes.
The one potential hope for the secular liberal would be mass conversions, enticing the children of religious conservatives to break away and join the ranks of the secular. However, Kaufmann sees this as highly unlikely. The more conservative and vibrant the religious commitment, the harder it is to convert the children. This is because conservative Christian communities start their own schools or homeschool, marry off their children to those who have gone through similar education, and are very much active in vibrant church communities.
With clearly delineated social boundaries and identity markers, conservative endogamous groups are generally very difficult to break up. And Kaufmann’s data suggests that the more conservative the group, the greater the demographic discrepancy as compared with secularist procreation.
Moreover, there is nothing less than a revolutionary change occurring within global Christianity. The ground-breaking study by Philip Jenkins as well as the 2013 report published by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity (CSGC) found that the center of Christianity has shifted away from Europe and towards the so-called global south. As the Kenyan scholar John Mbiti noted: “the centers of the church’s universality [are] no longer in Geneva, Rome, Athens, Paris, London, New York, but Kinshasa, Buenos Aires, Addis Ababa and Manila.” According to the CSGC report, while 41.3 of all Christians lived in Africa, Asia, and Latin America in 1970, this figure should rise to about 65% in just a few years from now. And we are finding that Christianity is growing more rapidly than the population increases themselves, which shows that conversion is a key part of such growth.
In fact, Christianity is far outpacing Islam. By 2050, there will be three Christians for every two Muslims worldwide. The growth of the Pentecostal movement alone has been nothing short of staggering. In 1970, Pentecostals were 5% of global Christianity, today they are 26%, and they are projected to reach over 1 billion by the end of the century. Indeed, Pentecostalism may be the single most successful social movement of the twentieth-century.
In Africa, the Catholic Church more than doubled between the periods of 1976 and 1995. Currently there are 120 million African Catholics with projections of upwards of 230 million by 2025. In Asia, Catholicism has seen a 90% increase in the last several decades.
The CSGC report found that Evangelicalism has grown significantly, from about 98 million Evangelicals in the world in 1970 to over 300 million today.
And just when liberal commentators are busy gleefully writing the obituary for the Christian Right, these global trends are indicating the emergence of a worldwide conservative Christian activism which is increasingly exercising powerful influence at the UN. As it turns out, the global Christian realignment is making conservative Christianity more of a political factor, not less.
And so, it appears that all the rhetoric we see throughout the media celebrating the inevitable triumph of the secular self is little more than a pipe dream that is itself the product of self-centered aspirations and ambitions. It does appear that religious conservatives, not secular liberals, will inherent the world after all.
If you would like more information on Kaufmann’s study and more global trends, see my essay, “Will the Modernists Inherit the Earth?”
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