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December 20, 2002 - Image 26

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-12-20

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Militant Christianity?


hick of the world's largest
faiths, Christianity or
Islam, is experiencing the
greater ideological reasser-
tion and demographic surge?
"Islam" is surely nearly everyone's
answer. As American Christians experi-
ment with ever-milder versions of their
faith, Muslims display fervor for
extreme interpretations of Islam. As
Europe suffers the lowest population
growth rates ever recorded, Muslim
countries have some of the highest.
But, argues Philip Jenkins recently in
the Atlantic Monthly, Islam is the
wrong answer. He shows how
Christianity is the religion currently
undergoing the most basic rethinking
and the largest increase in adherents.
He makes a good case for its militancy
most affecting the next century.
"For obvious reasons," notes this
professor of history and religious stud-
ies at Pennsylvania State University,
"news reports today are filled with
material about the influence of a resur-
gent and sometimes angry Islam. But
in its variety and vitality, in its global
reach, in its association with the


Daniel Pipes is director of the Middle

East Forum and author of Militant
Islam Reaches America. E-mail•

world's fastest-growing societies, in its
shifting centers of gravity, in the way
its values and practices vary from place
to place — in these and other ways it
is Christianity that will leave the deep-
est mark on the 21st century."
What Jenkins dubs the "Christian
revolution" is so little noted because
Christians divide into two very differ-
ent regions — North (Europe, North
America, Australia) and South (South
America, Africa, Asia). We who live in
the North only dimly perceive the
momentous developments under way
in the South.
Fortunately, Jenkins is there to guide
Faith: The changes in the South "run
utterly contrary" to those in the liberal-
izing North, where religious beliefs and
practices are ever more removed from
traditional Christianity.
In the South, Protestant movements
are mainly evangelical or pentecostal,
while Roman Catholicism takes an
orthodox cast.
By Northern lights, the South's the-
ology and moral teaching are "stalwart-
ly traditional or even reactionary,"
what with their respect for the power
of priests, their notions of spiritual
charisma, their aspiration to direct spir-
itual revelation, their efforts to exorcise
demonic forces and their goal of re-cre-
ating a version of early Christianity.


The Holocaust And Rwanda



red Zeidman, who was
named to head the board of
the U.S. Holocaust
Memorial Museum earlier
this year, has his hands full as the
institution enters its second decade.
Zeidman, a Houston entrepreneur,
says the Washington, D.C., museum's
foremost mission is to "give life to the
world that was lost" as the trustee of
a legacy that must remain fresh. .
That's the message he delivered in a
speech at Atlanta's Selig Center Dec.
15. At the same time, however,
Zeidman — the first non-survivor to
head the museum — wants it "to
bring history's lessons to bear in cur-
rent situations."
How Zeidman manages to do that
without alienating Holocaust sur-
vivors and their descendants — who
worry about the slightest shift in

Bob Menaker is editor of our sister paper,

the Atlanta Jewish Times. E-mail:



emphasis — will be the greatest chal-
lenge of his five-year term.
"What will you do after we're gone,"
a child of Holocaust survivors asked
"There's a fine line between being a
Jewish museum and an American muse-
urn," Zeidman responded. "It creates a
tension as to how much we can do."
For example, he noted, there was
great turmoil within the museum itself
when an exhibit on the Nazi persecu-
tion of gays opened last month.
"People asked why we would recognize
that someone other than Jews had
been killed."
The answer, he said, is that the
museum can teach "what man is capa-
ble of doing to man."
In that sense, the genocide in
Rwanda — the subject of a discussion
led by ABC-TV's Ted Koppel at the
museum not long ago — is a lesson of
the Holocaust too, said Zeidman.
Emory Professor Deborah Lipstadt,
winner of a history prize awarded by
the American Jewish Joint Distribu-

As "Southern Christians are
reading the New Testament
and taking it very seriously,"
increasing tensions then devel-
op with the liberal

This said, the trends are clear:
• Although Islam may
appear to be the faith of
choice for the world's poor,
Christianity is faring at least
as well among them.
Demographics. "Christians
• Christianity is no longer
are facing a shrinking popula-
predominantly a European
tion in the liberal West and a
and North American faith.
growing majority in the tradi-
• The experimentation and
tional Rest. During the past
decline that pervades Nor-
Spe cial
half-century, the critical cen-
Comm entary thern Christianity is less
ters of the Christian world
important than it appears.
have moved decisively to
• The concept of
Africa, to Latin America and to Asia.
Christendom may re-emerge in the
The balance will never shift back."
South, where political, social and per-
By 2025, two-thirds of all Christians sonal identities are being primarily
(and three-quarters of all Catholics)
defined by religious loyalties.
are expected to live in the South.
• 'An enormous rift seems
(These numbers actually underesti-
inevitable" between North and South,
mate the contrast in growth rates, for
possibly leading to a split in the
many Southern Christians are relocat-
Christian church, similar to what hap-
ing to the North. In London today,
pened centuries ago between the
for example, half of all churchgoers are Catholic Church and the Protestant
If present trends continue, by 2050
• Christianity and Islam are on a
the proportion of non-Latino whites
collision course, competing for con-
among the world's Christians will fall
verts and influence. Some countries
to about one in five.
"might be brought to ruin by the clash
Of course, the chasm between North of jihad and crusade."
and South is not complete (a fact that
To understand the future of
Jenkins hardly touches on); the United
Christianity, then, keep your eye on
States, for example, contains substan-
those Southern believers who reject
tial numbers of Christians with a
the North's liberal outlook and who
"Southern" outlook.
increasingly dominate the faith. ❑

tion Committee for a book on
Eastern Europe to get our
Holo-caust revisionists, agrees.
hands on as many artifacts as
Such discussions "aren't
we can. We feel we have 10
diluting the museum's mes-
years to bring in what's left,"
sage because the world hasn't
said Zeidman, who headed
learned," said Lipstadt, who
President Bush's 2000 cam-
attended Zeidman's speech.
paign outreach to Jews and
Zeidman also believes the
has handled tough tasks for
museum has to market its
Bush for years.
story so the Holocaust
"There are two things I
"doesn't become a footnote
tell President Bush,"
to history." That's why you'll
"Thanks for
see it sponsoring programs
supporting Israel and thanks
like the sensitivity training
for appointing me to head the
required of all new police recruits
Holocaust museum."
in Montgomery County, Md.
Zeidman, who speaks with .a soft
Charles Moose, the county's police
Texas drawl, is noticeably louder when
chief — who was in the news recently
he talks about how Bush has become
because of the D.C. sniper shootings
the greatest friend of Israel ever to
— began sending new recruits to the
occupy the White House.
museum for training two years ago.
And it's obvious he'd like that to be
Now Zeidman hopes to extend the
a factor in the 2004 presidential race,
program nationally.
when Bush could be facing Connec-
The issue of broadening the muse-
ticut's Jewish senator, Democrat
um's mission without losing its Jewish
Joseph Lieberman.
heart isn't the only problem confront-
"This year marked only the second
ing the museum.
time that a menorah was lit in the
Researchers are racing the clock to
White House," said Zeidman. (Bush
rescue evidence of the Holocaust in 37
had the first one lit last year.) "I mar-
countries. "We're running around
vel at how far we've come."

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