And while Africa and Latin America grow, European populationsrnwill contract steadily: The fifteen nations of the EuropeanrnUnion combined will shrink by about a sixth over the next 50rnyears. Some countries, such as Italy and Spain, will be losingrnpeople so fast as to raise doubts about their continued existencernas organized societies. Even in terms of formal adherence tornChristianity, sub-Saharan Africa will already have displaced Europernas the Christian heartland within a quarter century or so,rnwhile the divergence in terms of practice will be even morernglaring. By 2050, non-Hispanic whites may make up only oneseventhrnof Christians worldwide.rnThe nation of Uganda is representative of the fast-growingrntropical countries, particularly in Africa. Uganda’s populationrnin 1950 was a mere 5.5 million people (in a land the sizernof Oregon), but the number of people has doubled every 25rnyears or so, the same rate of growth as North America experiencedrnduring the expansion of the colonial and early nationalrnperiod. There were 11 million Ugandans by 1975; today, therernare 23 million. According to U.N. statistics, the total shouldrngrow to 65 million by 2050. The U.S. Census Bureau offers anrneven more remarkable projection; 84 million Ugandans by thernmid-21st century. The rate of overall growth would be evenrnhigher if not for the effects of AIDS and civil violence.rnIn religious terms, Uganda represents one of the triumphs ofrnthe missionary movement. Although Christian activities daternback only to the 1870’s, the successes have been astonishing:rnToday, about one third of the population is Protestant, onethirdrnCatholic, and one-sixth Muslim, while the rest follow tiaditionalrnAfrican religions. Even if we assume no further expansionrnthrough conversion, the Ugandan Christian populationrnshould still grow from around 17 million today to over 40 millionrnby mid-century. Assuming continuing evangelistic success,rnat least 50 million Ugandan Christians is probable. At thatrnpoint, there will be more self-described Christians in Ugandarnthan in Britain, France, or Italy. As this example indicates, wernare living through an age of religious revolution.rnAs the saying goes, you can prove anything with statistics,rneven the truth. Much more significant than the raw numbers isrnwhat they imply for the practice and theology of the faith: Putrnsimply, the booming African churches will diverge ever furtherrnfrom European patterns. This is not just a matter, say, ofrnAfrican Anglican or Catholic churches keeping the same basicrnliturgy and religious beliefs, but adding a little drumming andrnputting up pictures of a dark-skinned Christ. To understand thernscale of what we might be dealing with, just think of how Christianityrnchanged when it was assimilated into the Cerman culturesrnof Europe in the Middle Ages. Yes, Jesus was imaginedrndifferently, becoming the blond, blue-eyed figure we have beenrnportraying ever since; but over the centuries, the cultural interactionrnalso resulted in a wholesale revision of older Christianrntiiought and beliefrnI have already ventured too far into the prophecy business torntr)- to imagine the shape of the new Christianities, of what wernmight call the “Next Christendom” that is now in gestation. Yetrnwe can already see how Christians in the Southern hemispherernare adapting the faith to their cultural realities and distinctiverntraditions. All too often, Americans and Europeans assume thatrnChristianity is a purely Western export, a toxic package of prejudicesrnand repressions that has been imposed on unwilling nativernpopulations in Africa or Asia as part of the colonial enterprise.rnIn Barbara Kingsolver’s snide novel. The PoisonwoodrnBible, a missionary girl in the Belgian Congo recollects thatrn”We came from Bethlehem, Georgia, bearing Betty Crockerrncake mixes into the jungle.” Kingsolver is depicting Christianityrnas a part of white-bread Euro-American culture which has nornplace overseas; only imperialistic arrogance leads us to believernotherwise. In truth, Christianit}’ has been in Mrica for a ver-rnlong time and was domesticated there long before it ever tamedrnbackward tribes such as the Germans and English.rnTo appreciate the Africanness of Christianity, we might lookrnat the truly ancient Ethiopian Church. An Ethiopian court officialrnis one of the first Gentile converts identified in the Acts ofrnthe Aposties, and the entire nation was converted around diernsame time that the Roman Empire was. Although scarcelyrnknown by Westerners, this church offers one of the most remarkablernsuccess stories in Christianity. The church has manyrnaspects that would surprise a Westerner, including some practicesrnthat derive from Judaism: Most believers practice circumcision,rnsome keep a Saturday Sabbath, and many churches featurernan ark. But it would be a daring outsider who wouldrnsuggest that the faith for which Ethiopians have struggled andrndied over 1,600 years is anything less than a manifestation of thernChristian tradition. Even today, after conflicts with Muslimsrnand, more recently, anticlerical Marxists, the church claims 30rnmillion members, which is more than the number of NorthrnAmerican Methodists of all denominations combined. Thernpopulation of Ethiopia is expected to triple in the next 50 years,rnand it is reasonable to expect that the number of EthiopianrnChristians will grow accordingly.rnAlthough there is no direct link between the EthiopianrnChurch and the newer congregations of black Africa, the blackrnchurches often lay claim to the Ethiopian name as a kind ofrndeclaration of independence from European models. Africanrnchurches of all stripes are fond of quoting Psalm 68, which proclaims,rn”Let Ethiopia hasten to stretch out her hands to God.”rnFor over a hundred years, autonomous “Eithiopian” or “Zion”rnchurches have been expanding across Africa. Today, aroundrnone sixth of all Christians worldwide belong to churches thatrnare neither Catholic, Protestant, Anglican, nor Orthodox, andrnmany of these are found among the African independentrnchurches. That is already over 350 million believers, and thernnumber is expected to climb in coming decades.rnThese independents flourish because they offer believers arnbrand of Christianity that accepts many older rituals and culturalrnpatterns of the kind that the missionaries once denouncedrnas pagan. Often, too, newer churches practice a very enthusiasticrnreligion, one that fully accepts the value of dreams, visions,rnprophecies, divine revelations, and spiritual healings. It is easyrnfor Westerners to see such behaviors or rituals as beyond the legitimaternbounds of Christianih’, but in many critical ways, thernindependent congregations lie firmly within the great tradition.rnThe creeds of the different churches are classic and powerfulrnstatements of Christian doctrine.rnIn many ways, the Christian texts and creeds make far morernsense for the independent churches than they do in the West,rnprecisely because they are so rooted in traditional cultures,rnwhich can be seen as an ideal preparatio evangelica. Westernrnchurches might assert a formal belief in the communion ofrnsaints and imagine the supernatural church as a union of livingrnbelievers with the souls of those who have already died. ForrnAfrican Christians, the notion of continnih^ with the world ofrntheir ancestors is not only credible, it was a fundamental componentrnof popular beliefs long before the acceptance of Cliris-rnDECEMBER 2000/1 7rnrnrn