Ethiopia Lifts Her Handsrnby Philip JenkinsrnIn a classic book of humor entitled The Experts Speak, we findrnan impressive collection of failed prophecies and wildly inaccuraternpredictions: Television would never catch on, nobodyrnneeds a personal computer, and so on. I occasionally thinkrnthere might be a place for a parallel volume of religious forecastsrngone stunningly wrong. Such an assemblage of errorsrnwould include Thomas Jefferson’s belief that America’s futurernwas undoubtedly Unitarian and Mark Twain’s prediction that,rnby around 2000, Christian Science would be challenging RomanrnCatholicism for supremacy in the Christian world. Thern1%0’s produced a singularly rich crop of predictions insistingrnthat liberation theology and theological radicalism would carryrnthe field long before the end of the century. Foretelling the futurernshape of religion requires, well, a prophet, which most of usrnare not. All of which is by way of apology for the fact that 1 intendrnto engage in exactlv the kind of activity that I have disparaged.rnIt would take a fool to try to foretell the religious loyaltiesrnof the coming century; I am that fool.rnMy foolishness, at least, has a strong statistical groimding,rnbased on what today seem like undeniable demographic and religiousrntrends. If these developments unfold as predicted, thenrnthe world’s religious picture by around 2050 is going to havernmany features that would delight a modern-day conservative:rnChristianity will be flourishing, expanding rapidly both in absoluternand relative numbers, and religious thought and belief willrnbe highly conservative and traditional. The problem —andrnsome will see it as a problem —is that the traditions in questionrnwill not be those of Europe, North America, or the globalrnNorth: in short, of anything that we currently think of as “traditionalrnChristian culture.” Christianity may be entering one ofrnthe most glorious ages in its history, but this age is one withrnwhich we Northerners will have precious little connection.rnWhen I tell people that I am researching future trends inrnPhilip Jenkins is Distinguished Professor of History andrnReUgious Studies at Pennsylvania State University.rnworld religions, they often ask, “So, will Christianit’ (or the RomanrnCatholic Church) sur-ive?” They seem stunned when Irntell them that both should be expanding apace through therncoming century, and that nothing short of a global cataclysmrncan prevent this. Barring an encounter with an asteroid that hasrnour planet’s name on it, the number of Christians worldwidernshould soar, because the faith is so strong in those regions thatrnare growing at an astounding rate. Moreover, the Christianrnshare of the population in these countries is expanding due tornevangelistic efforts that are succeeding to a degree scarcely paralleledrnin church history. Currentiy, for instance, about 40 percentrnof Nigeria’s 120 million people are Christian. If thernchurches can simply maintain that share, then there will bernover 120 million Nigerian Christians by 2050. Most observers,rnhowever, think that this is a pessimistic scenario and that thernproportion of Christians in that country will be even larger byrnmid-century.rnLooking aroimd the world, we can find many similar cases,rnand we can make a plausible estimate of the countries thatrnshould, by the middle of the 21st century, have the largest numberrnof Christians. The list will startie many. The United Statesrnshould still head the list, with over 300 million members ofrnChristian denominations, but after that, the emphasis shifts dramaticallyrnto the global South. The next names on the list, eachrnwith between 100 and 200 million believers, would be Brazil,rnMexico, the Philippines, Nigeria, and the Democratic Republicrnof the Congo (formerlv Zaire). Trailing these, with 60 to 80rnmillion Christians, are Ethiopia, Russia, China, and—wouldrnvon believe it!—actually a Western European country, Germany.rnDon’t worry though; this anomaly will soon be corrected:rnIn all probability, Cermany will shortly after be overtaken byrnanother African country.rnLooking at the top ten Christian nations slightly distorts thernoverall picture, because it understates the growing African dominationrnof the churches. Quite apart from giant nations such asrnNigeria, Christian numbers are expanding across the continent.rn16/CHRONICLESrnrnrn