Christianity Worldwide, then (1910) and now (map)

Okay, this maybe the coolest map I’ve seen of the spread of Christianity worldwide.  From the Pew Center, it compares the distribution of Christianity today versus a century ago, and it does with a spatial-weighted map.  While the percentage of the world’s population that is Christian has dropped a bit (35% to 32%), the big change is in where Christians live.  In the map, the larger the country, the more Christians live in it.  Look what’s happened to Africa and Asia-Pacific.  This sea-change in the nature of Christianity has many, many implications that we have and will experience for some time to come.

Love your enemies. Sit next to them.

I saw this bit of news last week and, of course, didn’t like it too much. KLM, the airline, is discussing plans for passengers to be enabled to select their seatmates, rather than let randomness prevail. I never thought about that possibility, although clearly entrepreneurial souls out there think about such things all the time. While I get it, I don’t think it’s a good idea. But it’ll definitely happen, and it’ll likely spread to other airlines soon. Why? Because people are homophilous; that is, they tend to prefer associating and bonding with others who are similar to them. The inclination to associate with others like you is deeply rooted. It doesn’t make you a bad person. It’s not inherently wrong. It’s simply human. But the urge shouldn’t always be obeyed, of course. (Like lots of urges…).

It does make me wonder what sort of person I’d select to sit next to me. (Answer: quiet, studious type.) On the other hand, who would select to sit next to us? That part is, after all, outside of your control. (My luck: “Wow, a sociology professor—do I have some questions for him!) What I suspect it’ll lead to—instead of selecting a seat based on whether it’s an aisle or window—is obsessive rechecking of your seat selection to make sure those around you are the sort of people you’d prefer to be with for a few hours. Just like our obsessive rechecking of all sorts of electronic communications. And then, capitalizing on that impulse, advertisements will be easy to sell, since “page looks” on the seat-assignment website will soar. Imagine it: even though you may not care who you sit by, your seatmate may have thoroughly studied you and come expecting you to communicate with them in ways they expect. Who knows what they’ll know about you already? (This whole social networking thing may be starting to turn sour.)

Back to the basic idea about homophily. There are people in my wider social network [Read more...]

Finding Christmas Culture in Asia and Asian America

In Texas, Christmas time is tamales time. The grocery stores have this festive and somewhat addictive (ok it’s just me) Latino dish which I learned is a celebratory dish from multiple Latin cultures.

While it has nothing to do with Christmas, it is often seen as a traditional Christmas dish for many Mexican American households. It got me thinking about whether there are any Asian American Christian contributions to Christmas. When I think about it, I only remember eating traditional Korean foods on Christmas, maybe with some baked ham or another “American” dish to mix things up. And in my popular media recollection, there’s the hilarious depiction in the classic bit from A Christmas Story of the white Indiana family that winds up at a Chinese restaurant due to a number of stressful preceding events – watch it, it’s a good one (as long as such movies don’t actually stress you out). [Read more...]

The Worldwide Reach of Christianity: Pew Center Report

Over the past several years, the Pew Center on Religion and Public Life has become the go-to place for solid descriptive statistics about all religions, including Christianity.  They just realized a report on Global Christianity.

The report highlights how Christianity has become a worldwide religion.  Here’s the executive summary:

A comprehensive demographic study of more than 200 countries finds that there are 2.18 billion Christians of all ages around the world, representing nearly a third of the estimated 2010 global population of 6.9 billion. Christians are also geographically widespread – so far-flung, in fact, that no single continent or region can indisputably claim to be the center of global Christianity.

A century ago, this was not the case. In 1910, about two-thirds of the world’s Christians lived in Europe, where the bulk of Christians had been for a millennium, according to historical estimates by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity. Today, only about a quarter of all Christians live in Europe (26%). A plurality – more than a third – now are in the Americas (37%). About one in every four Christians lives in sub-Saharan Africa (24%), and about one-in-eight is found in Asia and the Pacific (13%)

That’s a remarkable amount of change, and something that is great news. Here’s one of their many maps that illustrates just how spread out Christianity is.

Leisure and Worship: A Christmas Message

For much of my adult life, leisure has been something of a bad word. Isn’t what I learned in my years studying at Ivy League schools followed by joining the ranks of university professors that I’m made to do intellectual work, and pretty much 24/7?

Until recently, I thought leisure was what I do when I’m too tired to work. After much prodding, I finally read Josef Pieper’s Leisure the Basis of Culture. While clearly upholding the material and spiritual value of all work, Pieper critiques the modern view of life as “total work.” Although no one really works 24/7, the ideological commitment to “total work”, subscribing to the idea that hard work defines the good life, can be just as harmful as (almost) never taking a break from work.

Why? Because, Pieper masterfully explains, [Read more...]