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Authors by the dozen

"Authors by the dozen" Continued...

Issue: "Summer Books 2002," July 7, 2002

Q: Do you see many of your books (and your Trinity Forum work) as a form of pre-evangelism?
A: Just as Christians have always held that "all truth is God's truth," so I believe that any good Christian argument about anything is "pre-evangelism." It all prepares the ground for the good seed of the gospel. Put differently, my approach to apologetics-compared with most people's-is broadly human and cultural rather than narrowly philosophical.

Q: You talk a lot about Big Ideas like truth, character, virtue, leadership, and the problems of modernity. Is our society becoming more or less oriented toward these core values?
A: We are both closer and further at the same time: closer because Big Ideas are becoming all the more vital as the nation's foundations are giving way; yet further because our sentimental, simplistic sound-bite way of modern thinking militates against all serious thinking. As George Orwell put it, we are at the point where restating the obvious is the first duty of thoughtful people.

Q: Do you think that the 9/11 tragedies and the war on terrorism have turned Americans toward virtue? Or does this newfound patriotism veil great amounts of insincerity?
A: I believe that the surge of good things we have seen since 9/11, such as heroism, generosity, and patriotism, will all prove to be a temporary spasm rather than a sustained renewal-unless we also see an assertion of leadership and a morally serious articulation of their significance today. When it comes to religion and public life, we are already worse off than we were on Sept. 10. Following the slowly mounting antipathy toward religion stoked by the religious right over the last 25 years, 9/11 had the effect of cementing the conclusion that religion is the problem-at least for educated people. We have a major political-and apologetic-challenge on our hands.

Daniel Lapin is president of Toward Tradition, which promotes issues including public morality, Christian-Jewish relations, and the Middle East. A Jewish rabbi, he attacked militant secularism in the book America's Real War (Multnomah). His latest, Thou Shall Prosper: Ten Commandments for Making Money (John Wiley) is scheduled for release later this year.

Q: You've pointed out that what some call "tolerance" can be used to suppress one's political enemies. What do you think can be done to inspire true tolerance in American society?
A: Unfortunately many so-called Jewish organizations got into the destructive habit of acting as private police agencies, rooting out any hints of Christian "intolerance." Intolerance was defined as expressing certainty either about moral matters (homosexuality, abortion) or about certain theological questions (like, "Who goes to heaven?" or "Who killed Jesus?"). When Christian leaders committed "intolerance" they could count on being publicly humiliated by secular Jewish leadership. Only when the faith that won America's war of Independence 200 years ago again flourishes will public culture welcome standards and values. This will be good for all Americans-including Jews. Until then, however, our culture will remain de-Christianized and continue to be shaped by the fads of multiculturalism, which is nothing but Marxism translated from the economy to the culture.

Philip Jenkins is Distinguished Professor of History and Religious Studies at Pennsylvania State University. His recent books include The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity and Pedophiles and Priests: Anatomy of a Contemporary Crisis (Oxford).

Q: You write of an expansion of Christianity within Africa, Asia, and Latin American cultures. What about Europeans and North American believers?
A: Christianity is booming worldwide, but the color scheme is changing fast! By 2050 or so, I estimate that perhaps only one Christian in five or six will be a non-Latino white. Partly, that reflects much lower birth rates in the presently advanced countries. By 2050, my figures suggest that the seven countries in the world with the largest Christian populations will be the United States, Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Ethiopia. I don't place great faith in the absolute numbers, but this is a rough guide. There are no European countries on the list, you notice. By the way, the contrast is even more than that, because in the northern countries themselves, many Christian believers will be of southern or Third World heritage, as a result of immigration. I am thinking for instance of Asian and Latino Christians in the United States. By 2050, about a third of Americans will claim Asian and Latino roots. If you are a white person worried about race, I suppose this might be bad news. If you are concerned with the fate of Christianity, though, this coming century should be a very exciting time indeed. Jesus said His church would endure till the end of the world. He never said that any particular racial group would be in the majority at any given time.

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