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An Excerpt from "Christianity in North America"
I am so excited to share that Christianity in North America co-edited with Drs. Todd Johnson and Kenneth Ross is available for preorder. It will be released June 2023.
Book Description: Building on the success of EUP’s highly acclaimed Atlas of Global Christianity, this volume is the seventh in a series of reference works that takes the analysis of worldwide Christianity to a deeper level of detail. It focuses on Christianity in North America, covering every country and offering both reliable demographic information and original interpretative essays by locally based scholars and practitioners. It maps patterns of growth and decline, assesses major traditions and movements, analyzes key themes, and examines current trends. As a comprehensive account of the presence of Christianity in every part of North America, this volume will become a standard work of reference in its field.
Below is a short excerpt from my “Introduction” in Christianity in North America:
Christianity in North America is a vibrant, informative and challenging volume as it traverses various regions of North America to understand the origins, rise and impact of Christianity in the different areas. This volume examines pertinent themes and issues, such as gender, ecology and racism, as well as the different forms of church life in North America such as Anglicans, Independents, Protestants and Catholics. Through these various lenses of exploration and research, this volume seeks to challenge preconceived understandings of Christianity and to discern emerging trends in a land thirsting for spirituality, reconciliation, growth and flourishing.
Christianity in North America has taken on some distinctive cultural characteristics of the region. Some have argued that it is a highly individualistic culture. The Western culture of individualism has created churches and a theology that are highly individualistic in nature and less communal than in other parts of the world such as Asia and Africa. This individualism has consequences for our faith practices, as it tends not to promote communal worship and fellowship. The COVID-19 pandemic has not helped in building communities as, since March 2020, much inter action has moved online. This tends to isolate people further, especially the elderly, single people and other groups on the margins of society. Further more, COVID-19 has also led to an increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans as some in white society (following former US President Donald Trump) have continued to call COVID-19 the ‘Chinese virus’, which perpetuates racism and xenophobia. This has affected Asian American church communities and denominations as they try to cope with systemic racism within faith communities.
Its orientation to individualism might have made North America fertile ground for religious innovation, with movements like the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Seventh-day Adventists and the Jehovah’s Witnesses originating in the USA. These new religious movements were able to germinate and grow in a context where many had left Europe for a new world in pursuit of religious freedom. Also, individualism, which is the predominant way of life in North America, allows people to freely choose their own spirituality. There is little communal pressure to join a certain faith tradition. As such, new religious identities and practices can easily emerge and grow in North America. This climate also encourages the expression of Christianity through para-church organisations as opposed to the churches themselves. Such organisations do not have to negotiate the hierarchical power and authority that are found in the Roman Catholic, Episcopal or Presbyterian churches. Rather, they are organic and rise in response to the needs of students, communities and social movements.
In recent times, social media has heavily influenced North American Christianity. Conservatives and liberals argue on social media and thus it has become a powerful tool to convey Christianity to the masses. Christian churches and leaders use social media to share worship, sermons and church news. Some believe that without social media, they might feel isolated and out of touch with their church and faith communities. Social media has also been used to promote ‘cancel culture’ and expose those who have been abusive leaders. If social media is used positively, it can be a powerful tool to quickly disseminate news and prophetic messages to fight such evils as racism and sexism within the church.
1. Preorder Christianity in North America, co-edited with Drs. Kenneth Ross, Todd Johnson and myself.
2.Please order Robert Ellsberg's 3 books, A Living Gospel, On Pilgrimage: Sixties and On Pilgrimage: Seventies with discount code "MAD" to get 30% off. Please watch his wonderful Madang Podcast interview here.