Uganda has attempted to pass a dramatically strict anti-gay law that would make homosexuality a legal crime and instate severe punishments, such as a three-year sentence for anyone who does not report homosexually-related “crimes.” The proposal of such a law is intertwined with Ugandan Christianity and indicates a sort of of Christianity that has enormous implications for Uganda, the entire African continent, and the world. Dr. Philip Jenkins contextualizes Uganda’s situation in the light of Christianity’s growth in the Global South. Explaining past changes and likely future developments, he emphasizes that Christianity’s spread and the ways it develops in local contexts has enormous worldwide implications.
“What African Christianity looks like matters for the religious future of the world. You have to realize the nature of the states in which they’re emerging. Christianity is very strong in countries that have no particular problem about trying to enforce morality. Don’t forget, separation of church and state is an American idea, and one of the ones which has not been exported particularly successfully.”
What I’d like to do is just to show you some demographics that I think are quite interesting. There are two handouts here. Had I been more farsighted, they would be neatly stapled together, but I didn’t. If you look at the one that does not have the map on, and it says “Table One, the Changing Distribution of Christian Believers.” I have talked, and a lot of other people have talked, about the shift of Christianity to the global South. I want to give you some hard numbers on that, and they’re interesting. This is an estimate of where Christians are, were, and will be at various points in history.
If you look back at 1900, for example, it’s very obvious Christianity is overwhelmingly a Euro-American religion. If it has a center, it’s somewhere in the north Atlantic. You have — what is it? Basically 460 out of 560 million Christians are based in North America and Europe. Africa has 10 million. It’s a tiny, tiny, number. Look at that African number. Look how that African number goes from 10 million in 1900 to 490 million today. But look at it in 2050 – one billion. It goes from basically what? About one and a half percent in 1900 to around a third by 2050.
Actually the figures are more dramatic than that for a couple of reasons. The source here, the World Christian Database, we can talk about this. I think that exaggerates the number of Christians in Asia and also that leaves out that very significant population of African migrants in Europe and North America, of whom there are a sizeable number. I mean, a figure I’ve used before in England, for example, in London on a typical Sunday, half the believers in church are black. They’re African or Afro-Carribean, and the four largest mega-churches in Britain are all pastored by Africans. Christianity, by 2050, is going to be a very Africa-centered religion in terms of people. And when you look at the Latin American figure, you know, a lot of those are going to be people of African descent in countries like Brazil. As the phrase goes, you know, “God goes where He’s wanted, and God sticks pretty close to the equator.”
So what African Christianity looks like really matters for the religious future of the world. We can talk about Asian Christianity also. That’s a whole different subject, but apart from the nature of the Christian doctrine, you have to realize the nature of the states in which they’re emerging. Christianity is very strong in countries that have no particular problem about trying to enforce morality. Just to give you a real quick figure, the countries in the world that should have the largest Christian populations in 2050, I’ll just give you a picture of the Christian world in 2050. Number one will still be the United States, followed in no particular order by Brazil, Mexico, Nigeria, the Congo, Ethiopia, the Philippines, and China. China would have no problem at all in using its laws to enforce public morality. African countries, whether they come from the British heritage or the French heritage or the Portuguese heritage have long traditions of state alliances with churches and the enforcement of morality.
Don’t forget, separation of church and state is an American idea, and one of the ones which has not been exported particularly successfully. If you look on the back of that, you’ll see where Christians are today, and we can argue about some of these figures. And I think some of them are actually misleading. You know, 50 million Christians in Britain. Yeah, right. Maybe. The figure for India is also too high. It says 58 million. I’d say 40 million.
DR. JAMES DAVISON HUNTER, University of Virginia: Philip, do you know what the numbers are as a percent of the population?
DR. JENKINS: In particular countries?
DR. HUNTER: Yes.
DR. JENKINS: Yeah. I’d have to answer according to individual ones. But you see, the problem is when you have a country like Britain or Germany, for example, countries that have a state church and you’re not officially signed out as a Jew or a Muslim, you’re a Christian. Okay? Which is a very optimistic projection.
In a country like Nigeria, then you have more solid evidence of — of commitment. So I’d have to respond to that on the basis of individual countries.
DR. HUNTER: So when you see these trend lines of growth in Africa versus Europe or Asia versus North America, as a percent of the population, what does it look like? I’m not asking for specific numbers or actual figures, but if you had a ball park sense that’d be great.
DR. JENKINS: Well, you’re going to have specific figures.
DR. HUNTER: Okay. Fantastic.
DR. JENKINS: If you just take Africa, for example, in 1900 that 10 million would be 10 percent of the population. By the time you get to 2000, it’s around 46 percent of the population. And that’s roughly what it is today. And I think what they’re doing by 2050 is they’re assuming that 46 percent remains fairly constant. So, you know, you could have a situation where you know there are jihads all over Africa, and the Christian population is wiped out in whole sections. That could happen.
You could have mass conversions and, you know, the Jesus video conquers the continent. I mean, this could happen. So around 46 to 48 percent in the African context. And that also, by the way, gets me to one other point. If you wanted to take some of the most important trends in the world today that have nothing to do with religion, the shear growth of population in some continents as opposed to others, and the figures for Africa are startling. In 1900 there were 100 million Africans. Today there are one billion Africans, and by 2050 there are going to be two and a quarter billion Africans. If you assume that the Christian population of that continent was the same, that’s a religious explosion there, but what happened in 20th century Africa was half the population moved from tribal animist religions to either Christianity or Islam. And what really mattered was 40 percent moved to Christianity and 10 percent to Islam.
By the way, some of these statistics are astonishing. I mean, you take the country that would become Kenya. Kenya in 1900 had one million people. By 2000 it had 40 million people. By 2050 it will have, depending on which estimate you accept, between 70 and 80 million people. We’re living through the greatest age of urbanization in human history right now. And it’s happening in Africa. And if you just look at the other handout, the one that has the helpful map on one side, and on the back, these are Africa’s mega-states.
But just look at the growth there. That’s — not like over 2000 years. That’s between 1975 and 2050. You can read the figures yourself. But Nigeria, for instance, just in that 75 years should go from around 60 million to 300 million. Democratic Republic of the Congo, from 25 million to 180 million. And, obviously, they don’t all live in the Congo, which is why if you go anywhere in French-speaking Europe, if you go to France or Belgium you’ll find Congolese mega-churches, and you’ll find Congolese people preaching at you on every Metro.
Uganda — I love this one — why does Uganda matter? Well, let me just take that back. In 1950 there were five million Ugandans. That was 11 million by 1975, 48 million today, and the conservative figure — that’s the low figure — suggests 84 million by 2050. Now, obviously as I say, they’re not all going to live in Uganda and Kenya. What I should really also have here is the population figures for countries like Italy and Britain and France, those places where they gave up having children, and where somebody needs to do the jobs, and where the good people of Uganda and Nigeria will be very happy to help. So in a sense that table, although it has nothing to do with religion directly, is the essential underlying framework.
If you want to understand the religious picture of the world in 2050, think of these demographics. And underneath that, I include a breakdown of some of these mega-states in terms of their religious balance, and I say, mainly Muslim significant Christian minorities, Sudan. Mainly Christian with significant Muslim minorities; Congo, Uganda. Christian and Muslim with neither a strong majority; Nigeria, Ethiopia, Tanzania.
In each of those countries, moral politics matter enormously because neither side can afford to be soft on issues like homosexuality without opening a vast rhetorical, political opportunity to its rival. That may change, but if there is a phrase that they do not want to hear — you know, I follow the African press very closely. And you actually see so many references to this. Actually, there was just one in here. Okay. And this is from an African journalist, and he’s saying, “Okay. African Christians are whining so much about what the Americans have done. What do they know? African Christians accepted the white man’s religion when they’re not party to its formation. Now, what gives them the right to dictate to the owners of the religion? Whites own this religion. They should do whatever they damn well please with it.” But the suggestion is, you know, we’re Africans. We should do our own thing. “Meekly they’ll toe the line because they’ve been conditioned to always obediently follow the white man wherever he leads them, even to their own deaths. Poor Africans.”
And if you’re a Christian, you don’t want that. That’s bad news. And if there is a a bottom line here, the thought that Ugandans or Kenyans, whatever — simple, passive natives just waiting for people to arrive from Colorado Springs to tell them what to believe, that is beyond an insulting stereotype. So I’ll wind up very quickly.
I know we’re very near my time. These issues are going to be very important in coming years. There are a couple of countries to watch. Remember the idea that the gay issue becomes a symbolic form of anti-Western assertion. That is one reason why Mugabe is so strong on it. Why in countries like Namibia, Sam Nujoma basically said two sorts of things about gays; the horrible ones that you could actually print, and the even more horrible ones that you couldn’t print. And as you get countries who assert an Africanness, homosexuality is going to be folks that watch South Africa. Watch South Africa, the nation with probably the most liberal constitution in the world and the most liberal laws on homosexuality. Then look at the ruler, Jacob Zuma, who recently did his tour of England with one of his polygamous wives, one of the many first ladies, as a deliberate way of saying, “I don’t care what the Brits think. I am an African nationalist. No, I’m not going to condemn Mugabe.”
And watch what happens to the South African constitution and its gay provisions in a few years. So homosexuality, not because of any intrinsic nature of the act or its social status in Africa, but because of its links with the West. And the Western agendas become the battleground. And that basically is about what I had to say. Am I more or less within time?
MR. CROMARTIE: No, you’re within time, and Lisa Miller gets to go first. James, you had a quick comment?
DR. HUNTER: Just one little footnote. Are you speaking of Pentecostalism? Are you speaking of Anglicanism? I mean, Catholicism? Just, could you give us some sense of the texture?
DR. JENKINS: Yeah, absolutely. Okay. When I speak of Christianity, I’m speaking of all Christian sects, and, in fact, I tend to have a fairly what you might call liberal definition. I not only include all the obvious denominations; the Pentecostals, the Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists, whatever, but also the independent churches who are sometimes criticized for being on the fringes of Christian. If they define themselves as Christian, they’re Christian.
And one interesting thing. You will get this much more likely in countries with a Protestant or Pentecostal background, more than ones with a Catholic background. Which is also the reason why South Africa is going be an interesting one.
MR. CROMARTIE: Lisa?
LISA MILLER, Newsweek: I appreciate you contextualized these issues because I think that’s really important. But I guess my question is, in America there is a lot of conservative Christian enthusiasm for the African church and the vibrancy and orthodoxy of the African church, and along with the sense that Africa needs our help. And this Uganda law is not the first onerous law either against gays or other people in Africa. Nor is it the first obvious case of sort of human rights issues.
And so my question is, how do you advise the Christian pastors here who are so enthusiastic about Africa, about how to have their relationships and how do they not fall into bad relationship — or, you know, unsavory relationships with people out of enthusiasm?
DR. JENKINS: Yes. You know, one of the interesting things for me, as I look at this over the last decade or so, many more conservative Christians in this country really have had this love affair with African Christianity. They see it as an idealized orthodoxy and, you know, in some ways they have a basis for doing this. I think the anti-gay law has been so interesting because it’s provided a platform for liberal Left progressive Christians to organize a counter-campaign to say that what you think you see there is partly the Christian Right doing its evil thing.
I suppose what I would advise if anyone asked me to do that is to look very carefully at what is happening on the ground. Recognize that some of the things that are coming out of African Christianity are part of — you know, reflect particular cultural battles and duels in that society, and that you have to understand that cultural context and that history. So do not have this idealized vision.
At the same time, I would say they’re absolutely right to see this as being enormously significant for the future of Christianity. So any guidance they can give would be helpful. So it’s an issue of knowledge more than anything. I can actually see something like this anti-gay debate in this country being helpful. Because I think it actually — if it does make people look carefully at claim and counter-claim and try and decide where these laws are coming from.
MR. CROMARTIE: Eliza?
ELIZA GRISWOLD, The New Yorker: Phil, thank you so much. One of my favorite moments with the Jesus films — now there’s been a leaving behind of generators and solar powered DVD players are now carried, and backpacks are now in wide use. But I had a couple of questions for you about the specifics of these numbers.
DR. JENKINS: Yes.
MS. GRISWOLD: Because that’s where I think a lot of questions lie. I also rely on the World Christian Database in a lot of my work. And you mentioned it a couple times, you thought some might be inflated, and could you put those in context for us a little bit?
DR. JENKINS: Yeah. Sure. My sense is that the World Christian Database, you know, it’s an excellent source in lots of ways. There’s now a new one, by the way, called the World Religions Database, which is probably better. The World Christian Database is better on some areas than others. I think it’s very good on African countries. Where I can observe something in an African context, it’s good. Where I can observe in an Asian context, I have real doubts.
And the prize example, one of the most important countries in the world, obviously, is China. And there is a range of estimates for Chinese Christians, which is a huge range. The official government figure is, I think, 24 million Christians in the country, which is still a lot. Some enthusiasts put it up already to 110 or 120 million, and what they do is they accept that number, and then they extrapolate it forward. So they’ll say, oh, you know, there’s going to be 250 million by 2050 or whatever.
I don’t believe that and for a variety of ways. I don’t think they have the basis for that. I tend to assume a conservative number of around 50 to 60 million. That’s already more than in virtually any European country, so it’s a lot. But it’s a considerably smaller number. There is, by the way, a brand-new survey. It was carried out in 2007, and it’s only just becoming available. And I know this through my colleagues at Baylor University, which is the first ever national survey evidence on Chinese religions. And the figures from that are just coming out, and that’s going to be a really important thing. As I know the figures roughly, they tend to support the much lower estimates. Okay?
But — so when, for instance, in Asia, you see 600 million Christians estimated by 2050, I may be wrong, but I think like 250 million of those are meant to be in China. Where I think you can lose 150 million or 200 million there right now. India is another interesting example. There are a lot of Indian Christians. A lot of them cannot express their identity. I mean, you know, if you’re a low-caste person, the census taker comes along and says, you know, “Are you a Hindu or a Sikh or a Buddhist?” “I’m a Christian.” “You didn’t hear the question. Are you a – ” So obviously, there’s understating.
And you have a phenomenon of crypto-Christianity. How many is it? The official figure’s like 24 million. The figure I hear from all my contacts in India is around 40 million. They say 58 million. I think that’s wrong. So I think the Asian figures are systematically exaggerated. I don’t suggest any kind of evil intent with that, but I think there’s a certain over-optimism with the Asian figures. I don’t see that over-optimism with the African figures. Interestingly, again, some of the recent survey evidence from Africa suggests that the World Christian Database is undercounting in Africa, that there’s actually far more Catholics in Africa than the Catholic church claims, which is an interesting phenomenon.
MS. GRISWOLD: And also just one other comment on one thing that I’ve seen emerging here, just the beginning of it — out of this anti-gay movement is a fracturing within the Christian Right over — I mean, I was just talking to a young Evangelical who said, “These guys don’t speak for me.” And I think that is one of the most interesting implications of what this encounter between conservative Christianity and Islam will yield is fracturing within each side. I think that’s something to watch here in the U.S. too.
DR. JENKINS: I think that’s critically important, and I know people like Rick Warren, for example, have backtracked very seriously on this, and they’ve said, absolutely, we do not want to see anything like this. You know, I come back to my Jesus Wars book. And what happens is you get these ideological debates which consist of a division between an old Christianity in places like Syria, Palestine, and Egypt and the new Christianity in these bizarre boonies off in Europe. And of course because the bizarre boonies, a phrase I intend to coin and patent —
MR. CROMARTIE: What does it mean again?
DR. JENKINS: It’s the name of a rock group. These strange areas like, you know, France and Italy and so on, what do they understand about Christianity? But they’ve got the numbers. So ultimately they get to establish a Christian doctrine for the whole world. Syria, Palestine and Egypt basically defect, and that opens the way to Islam. So without that religious split, Islam could not have risen and could not have created a Muslim Middle East. So the idea of these theological issues creating internal divisions is, like, a very familiar one. I’ve been critical of the coverage of the anti-gay law. And I think there’s been too much emphasis on, you know, a bunch of yanks turn up in Kampala and all the, you know, the simple Africans are delighted to hear what they should think. But the debate is actually good because it does allow people to test and to press this. And I would like people to know about African Christianity, but I would like them to have an accurate vision of it.
MR. CROMARTIE: Barbara Bradley Hagerty.
BARBARA BRADLEY HAGERTY, NPR: That was great. Thank you so much. I have a bunch of questions, but I’m going to ask you two. One is do you see any evidence that African Christianity will begin to affect Christianity here in the United States? I mean, you mentioned London where the mega-churches are basically filled with Africans. But here, I don’t see that happening yet?
DR. JENKINS: Mm-hmm.
MS. HAGERTY: I don’t see large African churches actually having an impact on American Christianity yet. Now, I may just be blind on that, but do you see any evidence that African Christianity is in some way radicalizing U.S. Christianity?
The other thing is, I was surprised to hear you say that in most places like Uganda, Islam and conservative Christianity coexist happily side by side. What are the elements required for there to be a conflict which results in violence? And would it be places like Africa’s mega-states.
DR. JENKINS: Yeah.
MS. HAGERTY: “Christian and Muslim with neither a strong majority.” You have Nigeria, Ethiopia and Tanzania where the numbers are close. Is that where you tend to see more violence? Or what are the elements needed to come up with a violent conflict?
DR. JENKINS: Okay. Well, let me answer those two questions. The first one about African Christianity affecting the United States has been, of course, for about 350 years now. And that’s not meant to be a joking comment. You know, it’s always interesting when people cover Evangelicals in this country. They always mean white Evangelicals, and, you know, African American churches have been a global South Christianity for a real long time. And I often see them as a kind of mold for many future churches. Let’s look at that immigrant phenomenon. I said I’d mention these figures. By 2050 the census projection for the U.S. is that there will be round about 400 million Americans. Of those, 25 percent will have Latino origin, but 8 percent will have Asian origin. And, overwhelmingly, those will be Christian.
“If you want to understand religious conflict, one of the main driving forces is rapid religious change. Think of the lands that became Nigeria. Christians have gone from one percent to 45 percent in 70 years, and that’s scary because Muslims start thinking, my God, my children, my grandchildren are going to be infidels. How fast can these Christians grow? So much of the Muslim violence in the situation like that does not derive from Muslims having a savage religion. It’s genuine fear of being overwhelmed.”
You know, if you look at Koreans, Chinese, Vietnamese, increasingly they tend to be Christians, specifically Pentecostal. That, by the way, is even more marked in terms of ministries and seminaries. If you go to like a west coast Catholic seminary, you’ll see Vietnamese everywhere. The Roman Catholic clergy in this country is increasingly becoming an immigrant clergy as it was back in 1900. Africans. You do get a lot of African churches in this country. Numerically, they are not huge. They are very active. You get some of these so called “Aladura” healing churches like from Nigeria. They tend to come through the Nigerian capital of the United States which is Houston. And you have groups like the Redeemed Christian Church of God. I just mentioned that for one particular reason because it allows me to tell one of my favorite stories. Because if you ever go to Nigeria, they have these astonishing campgrounds where you get a million people gathered together for meetings.
And the RCCG has tried to build one in the United States. And they built it near Dallas. And they built it in a small town, which up till the 1920’s had an official motto, “Come to this town. The blackest land and the whitest people.” And it’s now the capital of a Nigerian mega-church in the U.S. If you ever think God does not have a sense of humor. I forget the name of the town, but I can find that easily, but RCC — it’s the Redeemed Christian Church of God.
But you get these Nigerian churches everywhere. There’s some debate, by the way, about how far these churches are missionary. That, you know, some guy in Nigeria says I must go off and, you know, convert Kentucky or something, and how far they are Nigerian migrants who built churches and then reach out to local people. First of all local African Americans. Some whites. Not a huge number. Brazilians also very strong. One thing I should say, and this is a little bit of a tangent. This phenomenon of African migration and mission activity in the north is a well-known phenomenon. Virtually nobody has covered the Francophone.
MR. CROMARTIE: The what?
DR. JENKINS: Francophone, French-speaking churches, which are huge. I mean, you go anywhere in Europe and you find these Francophone, these Congolese churches. They’re all over the place. No one’s ever written about them. If you ever know anyone who’s a journalist looking for a story — well, anyway. In terms of religious conflict and coexistence, I know what I’m saying is counter-intuitive, and I’m certainly not trying to be, you know, Pollyanna about this, but if you ever talk to Africans, if you talk to Nigerians, even in a country where there has been horrendous violence, you know, we just had this vicious massacre in the city of Jos reported just today, like 500 dead. You talk to Nigerians and you say, “Oh, this is a terrible thing. My family, for instance, you know, my uncles are Muslim and my cousins are Muslim. We’re all Christians.” And this is just a normal thing.
If you ever go to like a public meeting or a business meeting, it will always start with prayer, and it doesn’t matter whether the prayer is said by a pastor or an Imam. That’s just normal behavior. That’s just polite. The only thing you can do wrong is do what Americans try and do and that’s not pray at all, which is just weird.
Why does it break down? It’s not a case of any of those particular variables in terms of who’s the majority? Who’s the minority? The biggest detonator is family and gender expectations. And the biggest detonator is this: A man converts to Islam and has the impression that his whole family is going with him. And his daughters have different opinions. And that idea of independent women which then, of course, confirms the
Muslims and their theory that Christianity is associated with uppity women, that is when you get the riots. That’s when you get the conflict. That’s when you get the local church trying to rescue Christian women from Muslim oppression.
But where you get families divided, that’s the greatest potential for violence. And that, incidentally, if you look at the European reformation, that’s when you got the real religious wars is when you got families split between the two religions, and one tried to impose on the other. But gender roles and expectations, that’s the real detonator.
MR. CROMARTIE: Before I go to Robert Guest, though, can you quickly say what you know the source is of yesterday’s violence in Nigeria was?
DR. JENKINS: Oh, as far as I’ve heard, this was a perceived retaliation for an earlier attack. Supposedly Christians had attacked Muslims. Muslims were now getting back against Christians. I have an article which is going to be very unfortunately timely. I just published a piece in the American Conservative, which is about Christian-Muslim interactions and it begins with saying, oh, the latest violence in Jos, and I was referring to what happened like two months ago. But it now looks as if I’m writing from today’s paper which I really wish I wasn’t.
MS. HAGERTY: So what’s going on in Jos is that there’s tension over who’s the political leader of the city? Right? The Muslims are the minority. They’re a powerful minority. They’re angry that they’re under Christian control. What’s at the bottom of this is the issue of indigenship, whoever can claim they came from Jos first gets the right to jobs, scholarships. So that’s what underlies this conflict in Jos primarily.
DR. JENKINS: Thank you very much. I just want to add one thing. If you want to understand religious conflict, one of the main driving forces is rapid religious change. Let me give you an example of that. Think of the lands that became Nigeria. In 1900 those lands were one percent Christian, 28 percent Muslim. Okay? If you’re a Muslim, hey, you rule the place. Fast forward to 1970 when the Muslims have gone up to 45 percent, and the Christians have gone to 45 percent. Christians have gone from one percent to 45 percent in 70 years, and that’s scary because Muslims start thinking, my God, my children, my grandchildren are going to be infidels. How fast can these Christians grow?
So much of the Muslim violence in the situation like that does not derive from Muslims having a savage religion. It’s genuine fear of being overwhelmed.
MS. HAGERTY: And it also is generated by the Christians also in many — of these regions where Christians are a minority, that can also kick off the same.
DR. JENKINS: No argument.
MR. CROMARTIE: Robert Guest. Since you haven’t spoken in a day and a half, Robert, you can go on forever.
ROBERT GUEST, The Economist: I’m afraid I don’t have the ability not to be concise. But it’s kind of long years of working for the Economist. It sort of does that to you. But first of all, the Britain figures for Christianity, it says 50 million Christians in Britain. Well, there are only 60 million people in Britain. More than half of them say they don’t believe in God, and two-thirds of British teenagers say they don’t believe in God, so I suspect —
DR. JENKINS: I agree. I agree.
MR. GUEST: This seems to be people who come from families that were at some point Christian, which is, you know, a slightly broader definition of Christian.
DR. JENKINS: I entirely agree.
MR. GUEST: I have a question about the Christian Muslim conflict in Africa in general. My impression has long been that most of this stuff is about economics. In Jos, for example, when people say Christian and Muslim because these are familiar labels, but we’re actually talking about the Fulani tribe and the Buram tribe who have a long tradition of competition over resources. We’re talking about conflict between pastoralists and farmers. We’re talking about fighting over the spoils of office.
Because in Nigeria, the entire political system is based on fighting over a share of the oil revenue distributed by the federal government. And if you get to control the local government, you get to steal the money and hand out public jobs to your ethnic kin. And it seems to me that that’s mostly what people are fighting about. But I wondered if you thought there was actually the potential for actual wars between Christians and Muslims that were about religious things? I mean, you know, look at Sudan, and that’s fighting over land and oil. You look at the Ivory Coast and, again, that’s fighting over the spoils of coffee, and, you know, the whole government. I’ve never met anyone in Africa who said, actually the real problem is that the Christians believe nonsense or that the Muslims believe nonsense. It’s always, like, we just hate these other guys, and we want to take their stuff. Do you think that’s wrong?
DR. JENKINS: Okay. See, my problem is this. You can define or one can define religious wars in such a way that there never have been religious wars ever. And I’m thinking, for example — and maybe that’s correct — but I’m thinking, for example, about the Reformation and the wars that you get in the 16th and 17th centuries. And the 30 Years’ War kills a third of the population of Germany. Are these religious wars?
Well, religions certainly provide the label. One of the most famous tables in European history, a graphical representation of history maps corn prices in France. And it’s very clear that high corn prices coincide exactly with religious pogroms. You know, so is that religious? Well, is there an economic dimension? Yes. But on the other hand, if you’re in Jos and somebody stops you and pulls you out of the car, they will say, depending on which mob you have the good fortune to meet, they will either say, recite the Shahada — recite the declaration of faith in God, or what is John 3:16? And if you don’t know those, you get killed.
I’ll be organizing seminars on the nature of John 3:16 afterwards.
I come back to this idea of religious affiliation being so important, whether these are theological wars. But I genuinely see real fear among Muslims especially, that their children, their grandchildren are going to go over to this evil other religion. Not necessarily because their religion is bad, but because it means abandoning the whole of family tradition, what we have always believed, accepting this alien cult, this alien creed.
And you mentioned the tribal element. Well, you know, in Nigeria, the Hausa, who are basically Muslim; The Ibos, who are basically Christian, and you have the Yoruba who are deeply, deeply split. And that’s where you get a good deal of the fighting.
MR. GUEST: The Ibo did try to secede in 1967, and there were a million people killed. And that was —
DR. JENKINS: I’m aware of that, and, incidentally, the general who suppressed that rebellion was a Presbyterian.
MR. GUEST: Yes.
DR. JENKINS: So he was a Presbyterian running a Muslim army, a marriage born in hell.
MR. GUEST: Can I — it’s not even a question. I’m going to cheat. I’m going to add on something that people ought to know is that Jos is in plateau state of Nigeria, of which the state motto is “The home of peace and tourism.”
DR. JENKINS: Yeah. No, you see, your questions are so precisely right in terms of defining religious war. And, you know, I take another example. I mean, if you look at Northern Ireland, very clearly, you had a long vicious split between Protestants and Catholics. If you ask the average, you know, Protestant assassin to explain the doctrines of Calvinism, he’d probably have a tough time. But those words, Protestant and Catholic or Christian and Muslim don’t just exist in theological isolation. They come associated with a set of common law values and traditions, a set of conspiracy mythologies, and set of ideas. So it does get back to the idea, are there ever religious wars? And I personally believe that there are, but not so much theological because — but rather the body of traditions and common law values that get associated with those names.
MR. CROMARTIE: You’re next, but Carl wanted one quick short intervention on that point.
CARL CANNON, PoliticsDaily.Com: Just on this point of Ireland, Northern Ireland. We’re told in the United States by the press, we tell ourselves that this is not a religious war really, that it’s national identity if you’re Irish or English. But the great early patriots for Irish separation were mostly Protestant.
DR. JENKINS: Protestant.
MR. CANNON: They were killed.
DR. JENKINS: Sure.
MR. CANNON: And this was a political dispute with weight on both sides. But it was in the 1840’s, 1850’s that a Catholic bishop and some priests decided to make this sectarian to grow their own plots, right? Then there were Protestant clergyman who were willing to respond in kind. And what started as a political thing, certainly became a sectarian.
DR. JENKINS: See, I would disagree a little bit with the history. What happens is in 1798, for instance, you have this body of Irish patriots who are mainly led by Protestants, and they have this flag which is green, white, and orange. And the idea is Catholic, Protestant and those of no religion, okay? And they launch, basically, the 1798 uprising, the one people like Tone and Grattan are associated with, but what then happens when the rebellion starts is it turns into Catholic peasants killing Protestants.
So in other words, maybe not unlike some other later situations, you have these elites generating a revolution that is going to be very non-sectarian, and that works well until you actually find that the people are way more sectarian and actively religious than you think they are. And you are horrified by the result.
MR. CANNON: So it is religious after all?
DR. JENKINS: Definitely, yes and no. I don’t know, but what I’m saying is that if you look at Northern Ireland over the last 30 years, those religious labels are fundamental. Religion defines the factions. How much of it is religious content as opposed to a symbolism?
You know, the most frightening question in Northern Ireland — again, if you were picked up late at night in, say, the 1980’s by some guys in a car. The question they’d always ask you is, where did you go to school? And there are two possible answers. You went to the local public school, and that meant you were a Protestant. Or you went to Saint Philomena’s, and that meant you were Catholic.
You could also tell religion by in terms of what comics you read? What comics did you read as a kid? If you read English comics, like the Beano and the Dandy, which were the sacred writ when I was growing up, you were a Prod. And if you read American comics and Superman, you were a Catholic.
MR. CANNON: So is that a religious war, or is that a gang war? That’s like the Crips and the Bloods now what you’re describing in Los Angeles.
DR. JENKINS: I agree with you, but the labels happen to be religious in this context. Can I just say, I can talk at great length about Ireland, but maybe that’s not what we’re here primarily doing –
MR. CANNON: Thank you.
MR. CROMARTIE: Philip, you’ve probably written a book on Ireland, I take it?
DR. JENKINS: I’ve written a book about Irish terrorism, yes.
MR. CROMARTIE: That will be our next seminar. Let me just say this, Ellen is up next.
ELLEN WEISS, NPR: My question is really about Muslims in Africa. I’m interested in whether or not you’re seeing an outside investment; support, schools into Africa because you sort of set up this dynamic of a battle for the hearts and minds of children, whether it’s the girls or the boys. Is that a mostly a West Africa kind of investment? Is it coming from places like Saudi Arabia and how is that dynamic affecting the relationship between Muslims and Christians just in terms of Africa in general?
DR. JENKINS: Yeah, that’s a central issue. In large sections of Africa, there are very strong native African traditions. Across West Africa stretching into Northern Nigeria you have what’s critical is these Sufi traditions. Anywhere you go — actually this would be a great project — one of the great Sufi leaders in West Africa was Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba, early 20th century, and he was this lovely saintly figure. And you get his images everywhere in West Africa. And now you can map them all across Italy and France, wherever you get these West African migrants. And that sort of Islam was deeply, totally African.
Where you see this symbolically now is in Somalia where you have the Qaeda affiliated militia at war with the Sufis. But there is then another phenomenon happening all over west — well, all over the whole continent of Africa, which is from the late 80’s you start getting Gulf and Saudi money pouring in. And that’s a very tempting package. “Oh, you know, you want a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, you know, we’ll pay for this. You want a scholarship for your son to go to this school, this college, we’ll pay for this.” And coming from the Gulf — Libya started pouring money in like there was no tomorrow. And if you go to Ghana, for example, where 30, 40 years ago Islam was just not on the horizon, suddenly Islam is a really pressing force, and they’ve got these very well-built mosques and colleges.
If you talk to any Christian leader in Uganda for example, they, again, have this conspiracy theory. This goes back to this late 80’s conference in Abuja. And what they will tell you is this was the all-Islamic conference and that they had like a secret protocol about how they were going to convert the whole of Africa using this money. They were going to try and set up, you know, sultanates all over Africa, and they were going to wipe out the Christians. And that idea, although it is associated — and I come back to Robert’s question — although that is associated with factional divides, is framed in religious terms. It’s about Muslim oppression, Muslim external funding. But that’s absolutely critical.
So then the Jesus video comes in on one side, and the Saudi financed mosques come in on the other. And they meet. What they’ll always tell you is, “You know, if it was just us in this country, we’d get along fine. But it’s these damned outsiders.”
MR. CROMARTIE: Michael Gerson.
MICHAEL GERSON, The Washington Post: I have a question about the point you were making about communal righteousness. There’s obviously a third alternative between communal righteousness and moral relativism. It’s pluralism, essentially the idea that a Christian human being would require moral autonomy and a level of individual choice. I’m interested in what the obstacles are to that message in Africa because I’ve attempted to make the argument, to some extent. There’s a sort of resistance there. You mentioned Providence as a theological obstacle. One of the most important questions related to a lot of religion and politics questions is whether you can maintain strong exclusivist religious belief and a belief in social pluralism at the same time. Okay? As being, you know, the important sort of decision.
And given what you say about the future importance of African Christianity to world Christianity, it seems like the outcome of that debate would be quite important.
So I’m just interested what are the obstacles? What are the prospects for a kind of commitment to pluralism within the context of religious belief?
DR. JENKINS: Well, very good, very important question. Let me try answering that in a very short way. The biggest obstacle is the newness of many of the churches. Let me explain that.
When you look, for instance, at this notion of providentialism, which I think is one of the things we really underestimate when we look at the driving forces in, you know, religious repression, religious violence. Whether it’s in the Islamic world, the Christian world, it’s a critical idea. That does not arise from African churches being in any way primitive or uneducated or any of the above. It’s the fact that when churches or religious organizations are new, when so many of the people joining them are adult converts, those religious organizations tend to be marked by certain religious styles which do not characterize longer-established bodies into which people are born.
So that you get in, say, 17th century New England. The first couple of generations of Puritans had this very hard line view, this very literal interpretation of the Bible expressed especially in ideas of providentialism.
And it’s a generation or two later when people are born into those churches and don’t make that personal, individual commitment that you get religious conflict and you get a growing diversity, a growing pluralism. And the old churches have to figure out in what sense these people are really Christians. They were just kind of born into it. They didn’t decide themselves. And that’s a familiar idea that goes back to Max Weber, the division between sects and churches.
Presently, a very large proportion of people in African churches are first or second generation converts, so they have that what you might call sectarian quality with a very passionate, very literal reading of the Bible. The whole Bible, especially the Old Testament, and that gives them that. Over time, as you get new generations, then you do get that growing sense of pluralism.
Now, of course, there’s another variable there, which is it would help that enormously if with time you also got more serious economic development and prosperity. And one would love to think so, but the auguries presently are not good.
What people used to believe was that people would become pluralistic as they moved into cities as you got more and more urban Africans, for example. In fact, it’s working the other way. Urbanization tends to coexist very happily with Pentecostal, Evangelical, fundamentalist styles of belief. I have argued in the past that we presently live in the golden age of witch hunts and witch panics, and they are urban rather than rural.
So I would say the greatest obstacle to pluralism is the newness of the churches and what Weber would call a sectarian quality to their belief and practice, and the remedy of that is time. Is time, is generations, and if I was guessing what African churches would be like in 30 years, it would be an ever-growing diversity, an ever-broader spectrum from liberal to conservative and fundamentalist and a broader spectrum of belief and practice. And one more familiar to the West.
MR. CROMARTIE: What are the prospects — are there any Pentecostal theologians in Africa who believe in principal pluralism as an outgrowth of Christian conviction? And are they getting any hearing?
DR. JENKINS: That is a tough question. I don’t know how to answer that –
MR. CROMARTIE: Now, wait a minute. You’ve answered every question we’ve had here today. You can’t avoid mine. [laughter]
DR. JENKINS: Let me finish. There are some excellent African Pentecostal theologians, but the reason I’m trying to be careful answering your question is so many of them are African Pentecostals based in the West. Okay? And, you know, African churches live in a world in which access to seminaries, higher education, publishing is so much more limited than we might imagine in the West.
There are basically two big publishing centers in South Africa and Nigeria, and so many of the ideas are bounced around through DVDs and videos, and they’re on the internet. So there are Pentecostal theologians who are discussing some of these ideas, but they tend to be based in the U.S. chiefly or England. And so African Pentecostal theology is one which is developing, that’s in progress as we meet.
Now Catholics, on the other hand, are much better established.
MR. CROMARTIE: Okay. Ross Douthat.
ROSS DOUTHAT, The New York Times: Well, this is really actually a follow-up, effectively, to the last question, which is about the long-term institutional structures that you see emerging or think will emerge in the African context. Because one of the interesting things, I think you’ve written about this yourself, is the sense in which the African church is sort of recapitulating some of the dynamics of early Christianity, Roman-era Christianity from the emphasis in speaking in tongues, heavy emphasis on miracles, martyrdom and so forth.
And what you had eventually in the Roman world was the emergence of a fairly robust, for the time, institutional, you know, power of patriarchs, bishops and so on and so forth. And I think one of the interesting questions going forward is to what extent does this Pentecostal revival, which has now really been going on for over a hundred years, is that going to translate into similarly stable structures, or is there always going to be a deep inherent structural instability in Africa especially, also Latin America and beyond?
DR. JENKINS: Okay.
MR. CROMARTIE: But you need to quote Tertullian before you finish your comments.
MR. DOUTHAT: As Tertullian said, “What’s going to happen next?”
DR. JENKINS: Well, if I can quote Saint Augustine in — actually I’ll quote another modern thinker. One of the best scholars of global Christianity is a man called Andrew Walls who is a Scottish thinker.
And he basically has this sustained argument that African Christianity today is living through so many of the debates of the first couple of centuries, including basic things like how do you tell the difference between false prophets and true prophets?
You know, you have a prophecy everywhere, and that gets directly to your question, which is in Pentecostalism is this idea of authority is not closed. You can have these charismatic figures rising and, you know, apparently speaking for God.
One factor that you find all over Africa is not only are these church structures in place, but as any NGO knows, these are the people you have to speak to if you want to deliver aid successfully. If you are trying to get aid to the Eastern Congo, for example, then you look at the Catholic churches and the Pentecostal churches and ironically, the people with the most apocalyptic mindsets tend to be the ones you can deal with most easily.
Why? Interesting thought. You know, I come back to my Jesus Wars in which I have this major theme about by the fifth century the churches effectively controlled most social services. Any money goes from them. And you have the choice between a state, which is just an instrument of oppression and tax gathering, and the church, which is a reliable instrument of development, charity, aid, education. And that describes the set-up in many African societies.
You know, I’m not the first to say this, but if you sit in the office of a Nigerian bishop, it’s like being in the office of the Minister of Development in terms of the business that is going by.
That’s one reason, by the way, why churches attract so many intelligent and educated young people because the idea is the state is a thoroughly corrupt evil institution. There are corrupt people in the church, but the church as a whole is honest. And that issue of corruption and honesty is one of the biggest single appeals of churches.
In answer to, do they have the structure? Absolutely. There are multiple overlapping structures. There’s the Catholic. There’s the Anglican. And the reason they get on so well is they have a fundamental thing in common, which is they’re not Muslim. And it makes it very easy to be non-denominational, non-sectarian if the issue is Muslim v. Christian. In Latin America it’s totally different. Because you have a very sharp Protestant/Catholic divide.
But, you know, are you seeing these structures? You bet. They’re critical. They’re on the ground, and they’re basically a primary focus of loyalty. That’s one reason why when I wrote my book a number of years ago called The Next Christendom, a title which really irritates people, what I meant was the idea of Christendom as if you live in societies where states come and go, but the church goes on. And that should be the prime refocus of your loyalty. Muslims are loyal to the world of Islam. Christians are loyal to the church.
You know, Nigeria may come and go just as in the Middle Ages Wessex could come and go or Burgundy could come and go, but the church endured. That’s what I meant by Christendom.
MR. CROMARTIE: James Hunter.
DR. HUNTER: It’s very short. It’s a quick question, a quick observation to tag onto precisely Ross’ question, which is that it seems to me that certainly in the early church the barbarian conversion into Northern Europe, the Carolingian renaissance, the Reformation — at these key moments where the church flourished, there was a robust intellectual culture.
Are you seeing that? I mean, in the early church it was the infiltration into the paideia, the Roman paideia and so on. So the question is, among those structures is there a robust intellectual culture in the institutions that will sustain that? The observation has to do with Pentecostalism, and it is that often times there are comparisons between the Protestant ethic out of the reformation and what’s going on in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa.
It seems to me that in sub-Saharan Africa, in any case, Pentecostalism is very much oriented toward consumer capitalism. It may have a kind of work ethic in it, but consumerism is rampant as well. Just to tag onto that.
PHILIP JENKINS: There’s a couple of questions there. In terms of the intellectual culture, I would say for many of the churches it’s certainly not there yet. There’s been a great deal of what you might call “faith without knowledge,” and I know an excellent institution in Ghana which is called Good News Theological Seminary. And what it’s trying to do is to take the independent churches which range very widely in their theology and tried to get them back to basics and say, you know, this is the basic theology that you have to know.
And some of these churches, I mean, they’re interesting. There’s the Musama Disco, for example, which basically decided that everything in the Old Testament about the temple applied to them. So they actually do have a temple in which the high priest enters once a year with a rope around his foot so he can be pulled out in case he dies suddenly, and they don’t want to leave his body there.
You have institutions, but they are isolated. I mean, in Jos, for instance, I’m sure you know the Jos Evangelical Seminary which services all the main denominations. But you do not have that robust life yet.
In terms of the economic side, by the way, which is one of the most important topics in this. You know, again, back to Weber, you have this theory that the Protestant ethic is what makes the West, allows the West to break out of that old trap. You have that work ethic. I disagree with you somewhat on the consumerism. One of the main concerns is freeing yourself from sickness and demons and debt. Debt is a bodily sin. And that combines praying to be free from debt and having good long seminars after church explaining why you should avoid debt at all times and how to do it. And if you want to see the basis of a civil society, that’s a good way of doing it.
When you also build in, as you do in Latin America, what’s called a reformation of machismo where you teach new family values, you teach thrift, you teach hard work, and you teach sobriety, that’s when the Pentecostals really seem to be laying the basis of a Victorian society. In a good sense.
DR. HUNTER: I’ve never seen more BMWs, Audis, Range Rovers than in the parking lot of the Rhema Church in South Africa. And pastors, even in the settlements, drive Mercedes.
DR. JENKINS: Okay. I’m not arguing that such groups exist. On the other hand, there are also, you know, lots of other churches where they’re doing the other side. The whole issue of prosperity gospel, by the way, is something which, you know, we can talk about again, but —
MR. CROMARTIE: I want to know where to get all these Mercedes. Or what I need to do to my theology to get all these — I’m really open. I’m teachable. Amy Sullivan?
AMY SULLIVAN, Time: You started off your talk by posing the question of how churches that have a global presence can or maybe should relate to cultural differences in other parts of the world.
And we have talked about how American Evangelical leaders have responded to the situation in Uganda. But someone like Rick Warren doesn’t actually have any authority there. And when he denounces the bill, that probably helps him here, but I suspect it doesn’t matter one wit within Uganda.
So I’m interested to hear you talk about churches like the Anglican church and the Catholic church that obviously do technically have some authority there. There’s been some calls for Archbishop Williams and for Pope Benedict to speak out. The Pope actually last Friday met with the Ugandan leadership from the church, and the subject did not come up.
And so I’m interested, I guess, both just because I don’t know very much about the role that Ugandan Anglicans and Catholics have played in developing the bill. But secondly, kind of what you think the role of these global church leaders should be in cases like this.
DR. JENKINS: Okay. Much of the religious pressure for the anti-gay bill came not from the Anglican church or the Catholic church, but from freestanding churches. The main one, the main activist was a guy called Martin Ssempa, the Makerere Community Church.
The issue of who actually has authority on the ground is a tough one. Now, with the Catholic church you clearly do have a hierarchy, and the Pope can say things and so on. Equally, the Vatican is desperately sensitive to avoid any impression of trying to bully Africans or trying to impose standards on Africans.
Uganda, by the way, has a very special role in African Catholic history. Because back in 1939, that’s where they had their first African Catholic bishop since the seventh century, Michael Joseph Kiwanuka, and they’re very proud of that Kiwanuka thing.
The central Catholic shrine there incidentally is also the great shrine to the Catholic martyrs. And we come back to that martyrdom story. So you can understand why Benedict is being a little bit cherry about anything that might appear too interventionist in this way.
The Anglican primates, Anglican provinces are, in effect, pretty much autonomous. So you have Archbishop Orombi, who’s somebody who is very closely tied to different American groups, not doing their will, but having connections with them. And he is certainly somebody who — I don’t know how he responds on this particular law, but certainly is not, shall we say, gay-friendly.
So the only people who really could stand any chance of intervening and laying down the law would be the Vatican, would be the Pope. And they have a strong disincentive to do it, particularly in Uganda because it represents one of the great hopes of the Catholic church in Africa. They do not want to alienate it.
But you ask a very important question about who has authority. And I suppose the key actor would be somebody like Martin Ssempa. The main MP, member of Parliament who advocated the law was David Bahati, and I’m not sure who he’s affiliated with, what church he’s affiliated with.
MR. CROMARTIE: Is the law going to pass?
DR. JENKINS: If I was guessing, I would say yes, it would, but with some of the more obnoxious provisions taken out.
MR. CROMARTIE: Okay. Reihan.
REIHAN SALAM, Forbes: This is a kind of obnoxiously speculative question, but you seem like somebody who was willing to take imaginative leaps.
PHILIP JENKINS: I can also be obnoxious, too.
MR. SALAM: So when you’re describing this kind of very diverse African Christianity that’s emerged when you discovered these other Christianities emerging in the global South, it raises the question of changing geopolitical alliances that are kind of, you know, building on kind of shared values and sensibilities.
In the United States, you obviously have this other dynamic of kind of secularism growing at the same time that you have a certain kind of charismatic religious belief, et cetera. But again, this Christianity is incredibly diverse, but there’s this access of Christian Muslim conflict that you see across sub-Saharan Africa and a lot of Eliza’s work relates to some of this.
And maybe it’s possible to over determine the weight of those categories. But can you imagine a shift in terms of devout believers in the United States, where they see their natural allies in this global geopolitical context? Or even in values forums like the United Nations? You know, we discussed Durban the other day becoming this alliance of believers in the North with believers in the global South?
And are there actually wider implications in geopolitical terms for that as well in terms of sharpening other conflicts? So, yes, that’s what I want to ask you about.
DR. JENKINS: Well, I’m trying to answer that in terms of believers, you know, global North and South. That, again, brings in the Vatican angle. Because in population conferences in the 1990’s, John Paul II was strongly allied with the Muslim leader on issues of abortion and that made him immensely unpopular in liberal and feminist circles in the U.S.
And this is a well-known story that I won’t go into in any great detail, but in many northern world Christian denominations you have conservative believers who see their main salvation, their main hope in ties with African or Asian churches. You know, so American Episcopalians who put themselves and African bishops and not just Episcopalians. You get Lutherans, I mean, conservative Lutherans in Sweden and Germany put themselves in the Tanzanian Lutheran bishops. Methodists, Presbyterians, you have what are called confessing movements, more conservative movements, especially on issues of sexuality, homosexuality, and they really see their future as being tied to the global South. And one could well say tied to an imaginary concept of what the global South should be.
I come back to one important distinction I’m trying to make. We always tend to impose our own political labels on other people. And the tendency is so, you know, people look at, say, a global South church and say, Oh, they’re very conservative. My question is, on what? They might be considered conservative on sexual issues. On economic issues, they’re way to the left of the Democratic party.
And so then the issue arises, what are they aligning themselves to? Are they aligning themselves to United Nations millennium development goals as to conservative views on sexuality?
MR. CROMARTIE: I think you have a follow-up.
MR. SALAM: There are some Americans who, when they’re looking at some of these maybe over-optimistic projections regarding Chinese Christianity who when you look at those who are converting or secretly converting, et cetera, they actually tend to be clustered in elite segments of society. And the idea that one can imagine a future Chinese trajectory in which the values orientation of the elite of that society is more in line with what we would think of Western values. That’s part of what I have in mind.
Actually, the way that geopolitics, not just politics within these kind of global denominations.
DR. JENKINS: Yeah. Okay. Well, the Chinese one is interesting. You know, David Aikman wrote the book Jesus in Beijing. And his projection was that the most important development in global politics in the next 20 or 30 years would be the creation of a Christian hegemony in China. And I think that’s probably optimistic.
But it is interesting as to who gets converted in a society like China. I was fascinated by one man called Bei Cun. And Bei Cun is a writer and filmmaker in China, and the closest analogy in the United States would be Tarantino. And back about 15 years ago, he converted to Evangelical Christianity, and that’s have strongly reflected in his writings and film ever since.
It’s those sort of cultural elite leaders who are converted, not just to Christianity, but are very enthusiastic Evangelical forms of it, then you have a phenomenon in progress.
The counter to that is that particularly in a Chinese context there is a long record of Chinese Christianity taking directions radically different from what their western sponsors wanted. They’re not becoming capitalists and American Republicans. They’re adopting a particular style which Americans may not like at all.
MR. CROMARTIE: Who was the film producer?
DR. JENKINS: Bei — B-E-I C-U-N, Bei Cun.
MR. CROMARTIE: Okay.
DR. JENKINS: Interesting guy. He writes these wonderful stories, but he’s also a filmmaker who’s well-known for doing these very violent films. So he’s like Tarantino suddenly becoming a Christian fundamentalist or something which is something I would pay to see.
MR. CROMARTIE: Lauren Green, you’re up next.
LAUREN GREEN, Fox News: When you talked about this rejection of sort of the American influence because the anti-gay movement is sort of been a rejection of Western thought.
One of the things that someone told me is that this conversation an Anglican bishop had with an Episcopalian bishop or on that level and says — about homosexuality — and they said, “Why don’t you pray to heal this brokenness?” And the reaction, of course, from the American was like, “We don’t consider this to be brokenness.”
So here you have a theological point, not a political point. There’s a theological difference, and my question is will that start to affect this sort of exodus of American Episcopal churches. Will the situation in Uganda, this bill, start to affect the exodus of these Episcopal churches to these African bishops because they see this now as not just a theological point?
They may not see it as that. That may see it as more a political point or this sort of, you know, unruly rejection of homosexuality or violence against homosexuality. I mean, will it have any kind of effect, or will the theological point get through more than the political?
DR. JENKINS: You know, the theological one is interesting. As is often pointed out, just within the Anglican world there is a real diversity of opinion. In Africa, for example, you have some people who are very strong on this issue like Akinola in Nigeria. And you have people like Ndungane in many years in South Africa who is always regarded as the arch-liberal on this. And his view was, hey, the Americans want to appoint a gay bishop that’s their business.
But when you look at Ndungane, his view is that don’t treat homosexuality as a great evil. It’s just a pastoral problem. But he’s still seeing it as a kind of brokenness. It’s just where you frame it on the overall scale of things.
You know, I just want to turn this around a moment. Because we live in a society, you know, where we’re used to the messages we get, can I just try and remind us how radically attitudes to homosexuality have changed in the last 15 to 20 years.
Imaginative exercise. Think about 1990 or 1995, a year which some of you in this room may remember. Trust me, there were no opinion polls from before the year 2000 on gay marriage because nobody suggested it as a practical reality.
If I can cite the central piece of American late 20th century culture, Doonesbury, there is a mid-1990’s season where even the Rev. Scott, the most radical cleric in America, will not conduct a gay marriage for fear of going to hell.
The idea that gay marriage seems such a natural human right twenty years ago would have seemed incredibly radical. And we have to apply that sort of intellectual recollection to understand why this idea is so startling in Africa, in India, in China. You let men marry? Really?
As to your basic question, will something like this present controversy affect the drift of Episcopal parishes? I honestly don’t think so because most of that drift that’s going to happen is already in progress.
And you know, numerically what are we going to get? I would suggest that the Episcopal church was at three and a half million in the mid 60’s. It’s down below two million now. And the breakaway churches are probably around 100,000 members. Maybe they could crest at 200,000. So we’re not talking huge numbers. To put this in context, there are 200,000 Amish in the U.S. Okay?
MS. GREEN: One other addition to that though is that in America they’ve stopped the conversation about whether homosexuality is a sin or not. I mean, that’s not a conversation that Americans have.
DR. JENKINS: Right.
MR. GREEN: But they’re still having that in African churches — they’re projecting that. And so as the African churches, perhaps, gain influence in the U.S., will that conversation start to emerge again?
DR. JENKINS: You know, in most African churches it isn’t the conversation. It’s not a conversation. It’s a sin. I would suggest that if you like the mainstream American religious world, the issue of homosexuality as sin is pretty much out of conversation. I don’t think it’s coming back, and even more so in the European religious world. So I think that’s the short answer to your question.
MR. CROMARTIE: Dan Gilgoff is next.
DAN GILGOFF, CNN: I had a question about how the controversy in Uganda has played out in the United States. And one of the surprising elements was that in the run up before the controversy surfaced in the mainstream media, there were a handful of American Evangelicals, conservatives, including this professor at Grove City College, Warren Throckmorton, who is himself a conservative Evangelical, who was, surprisingly, I think to some observers making the case against the anti-homosexuality bill and calling on American Evangelical leaders to denounce it.
And so I’m wondering how much of a conversation Throckmorton is an interesting figure in that — he’s a psychologist. And he is basically taking a more nuanced position on homosexuality.
DR. JENKINS: Right.
MR. GILGOFF: Not encouraging a, I guess, biblical acceptance of it, but opening a different space on how to respond to it. For instance, denouncing conversion therapy. And so I’m wondering how much of a conversation if you’ve watched this, the controversy has opened up among American Christians, Evangelicals in particular. And whether there is that more nuanced space emerging.
Secondly, it was in response to that campaign by Throckmorton and others that Rick Warren wound up taping this message that was — if I’m remembering it correctly — was actually addressed directly to the Ugandan people. And I’m wondering, does that have any impact, kind of vis-a-vis Amy’s question about authority —
DR. JENKINS: Sure.
MR. GILGOFF: — of Americans? Or does it wind up playing into that same, you know, here’s a Western cultural imperialist trying to hand down policy to us. Or does he transcend that because he’s a figure in global Christianity.
MR. JENKINS: Yeah. I think with Warren, Warren’s in an exceptional category because he carries so much weight. He has had this love affair with Africa. You know, he knows so many people there. I think his views really can carry weight with anyone who has ears to hear as opposed to those who are going to kind of make up their mind anyway.
You know, your question about the debate within the American Evangelical world builds on something we were talking about yesterday, which is one of the most remarkable changes is how not just Americans have largely accepted or widely accepted gay marriage as a — something of a right, but how many Evangelicals are largely prepared to accept that. That is a phenomenal — I hesitate to use the word — but revolutionary change in the space of a decade.
Don’t forget, gay marriage wasn’t on the agenda before what? 2004? This is a remarkably fast change. And it does get, again, to the issues we were talking about following James’ talk yesterday about culture and the way Evangelicals have taken aboard ideas of autonomy, of diversity, of, you know, sexual choice.
So, you know, yes, there is a major debate in progress. All that limits it as a debate is I think you’d find very few respectable Evangelicals who’d be prepared to come out for anything like the Ugandan law in anything like its fullness.
MR. GILGOFF: Right. But is there, to invoke a phrase from yesterday, that kind of face-to-faceness? Is this issue actually being confronted, or it’s not like they’re — at least from what I’ve seen — a lot of Evangelical elites like Rick Warren who are coming out — he would be the exception in this case — who are coming out and denouncing the bill. Is this actually being confronted head on by American Evangelicals, or is the issue being more ignored?
DR. JENKINS: Oh, I think it’s being confronted. I mean, the number of people who have spoken out on that, and, you know, they’ve done these open letters. And you look at publications like Christianity Today, which is the one which really carries a huge amount of weight in that area.
Yeah, they’re speaking out against it. And interestingly, what they’re doing is making their definitive historic rejection of anything resembling traditional providentialism. And certainly in — in terms of sexual sin. So the words will in so far as this is sin, this is a pastoral response.
But they are severing themselves absolutely from the idea of enforcing that kind of morality through such, you know, stringent draconian laws.
MR. CROMARTIE: I think that’s true of World Magazine also.
DR. JENKINS: Yeah.
MR. CROMARTIE: Byron York.
BYRON YORK, The Washington Examiner: Just a fact question on this Ugandan law stuff. Given the anti-gay sentiments that predate the involvement of American Evangelicals, were there other laws? Policies? What was on the books regarding homosexuality before then? And why the need for a newer one if there were such laws?
DR. JENKINS: Right. There were laws. There were stringent laws. The idea of assaulting someone under the age of 18, I think that was already a death penalty offense. A lot of Ugandan and former British colonies still retain capital punishment because they broke away from the British empire at a point when Britain still had the death penalty for a wide variety of offenses.
I think it’s perfectly plausible that the present law, the one that they’re proposing right now, that was incited as a, if you like, a symbolic response following the more recent campaigns.
You know, I’m not saying that the Americans had no impact there. What was so interesting about this was the first incursion that I know of into African political, moral, legal debate of a longstanding American canard about homosexuality being intimately tied to pedophilia. And, in fact, we’re in a very appropriate place to have this discussion right now. Because where this erupted into American politics was in the Dade County referendum in 1977 when that was a gay rights referendum that led to a national conservative campaign. And that’s what really brought in all the rhetoric about gays are not born, they recruit. The idea is that homosexuality is tied to child molestation.
That idea was really the new importation into African debate. And I know Bahati, his ideas surfaced in hearings on child molestation. So that is one American conservative rhetorical theme, which I —
MR. YORK: But on the Uganda thing, some of the homosexual acts covered in the new law —
DR. JENKINS: Yeah.
MR. YORK: — were previously illegal —
DR. JENKINS: Exactly.
MR. YORK: — previously illegal under existing law?
DR. JENKINS: Yeah.
MR. YORK: Okay.
MR. CROMARTIE: I heard this in Washington recently by someone who is against the law, but he did say it’s complicated. And it hasn’t come up here, so that’s why I’ll bring it up. He said there’s a lot of rampant homosexual promiscuity and a lot of people are getting infected with AIDS, and they’re getting death sentences because of it. And so they want to curb it. Have you heard that argument? Because I just heard it.
DR. JENKINS: You know, the association of AIDS with homosexuality has not traditionally been part of the African debate because normally AIDS transmission is associated with heterosexual behavior or at least that’s how it’s understood.
And if you want to map the transmission of AIDS in Uganda or anywhere in Africa, what you would do is you map truck routes and truck stop prostitutes. But my sense of where the law is coming from is this new focus on child protection, which is a very familiar American debate.
MR. CROMARTIE: Child protection? Elaborate.
DR. JENKINS: Well, child protection, the idea that homosexuality is not a business of consenting adults. If you tolerate homosexuality, then gays will molest children. And that’s how people become gay.
MR. CROMARTIE: Barbara, you’ll be our last question. You get to wrap us up here.
MS. HAGERTY: Oh, my goodness. Well, I only have about ten minutes of observations. Actually one — a quick observation and then one question. When I was reporting the story on Uganda, something actually rather surprised me, which was the people who I consider most closely associated with Africans in Nigeria and Uganda and places like that are the breakaway Episcopalians, the Anglicans.
And I was talking to Martyn Minns, who’s the head of the Convocation of Anglican — CANA, Anglicans in North America. He’s most closely associated with Nigeria. But what really, really surprised me is I was asking him about whether Americans should speak out about the death penalty for, you know, for aggressive homosexuality.
DR. JENKINS: Mm-hmm.
MS. HAGERTY: And he would not disown that. He would not come out — here, I was giving him the opportunity, he would not come out and say, this is wrong. And finally at some point I said, you know, “Reverend Minns, are you telling me that you believe that homosexuals should get the death penalty?”
And he said, “No, I don’t.” He said that briefly, but then he said, “But, you know, we shouldn’t be interfering in a sovereign nation. We shouldn’t be interfering in the Anglican church there.” And the thesis seemed to be that, you know, the more they spoke up, then the more anti-Western sentiment would grow.
But it just was stunning to me that the people who were most closely associated with Ugandans, conservative Christianity and Uganda, simply wouldn’t come out and say anything publicly. You know, condemn it publicly. So I just wanted to say that because, you know, it’s one thing to do something on your website, but I tried to reach people, and they just wouldn’t come out against it. And I was surprised by that. Okay. That’s the first little observation.
The real question I had though is there were reports that this kind of legislation would pop up in places like Rwanda. I think it’s not going to happen there, but in the beginning of your talk, you said we need to watch this issue because it’s going to pop up. It’s going to be a big issue.
DR. JENKINS: Yeah.
MS. HAGERTY: Where else do you see it becoming a big issue aside from Uganda?
DR. JENKINS: There is a regional concept which is not familiar in the U.S. but which is important which is called the Great Lakes, the Great Lakes nations. And there are six of them, which would be Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania. And —
UNKNOWN SPEAKER: Could you give us those again?
DR. JENKINS: Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania. Pardon me?
MR. GUEST: And Congo.
DR. JENKINS: Is that on the great — I know it’s on a Great Lake, but is it part of those federations? I didn’t think so.
MR. GUEST: It’s part of the region.
DR. JENKINS: Yeah, I don’t think it’s one of the federations. There are some dissidents who believe it may include Congo, but those six nations do represent a kind of religious federation. For instance, you got the Anglican churches of those nations meeting regularly.
Incidentally, I mean, just to give you an example, back when they had the Lambeth conference in 1998, when the Africans organized against homosexuality issues. That was preceded by a very important Great Lakes meeting in 1997. I mean, the Great Lakes thing really gets lost in American accounts.
So those ideas are bouncing around those nations. But the others which are interesting is where you have secular governments, which are radically anti-gay anyway, and Zimbabwe is an obvious one. Namibia is just rampant, but the one which I was going to say I think is going to be interesting down the road is South Africa, which is so critical. Because that’s where you have so much of the media and the publishing for the whole of black Africa.
But, yeah, so those are some of the nations that I would be paying close attention to. And not just, of course, in the Anglican world. In fact, you can take the Anglicans out of the Uganda mix, and you’d still have somewhat similar policies because it’s coming from freestanding and independent churches.
MR. CROMARTIE: Ladies and gentlemen, you can see from our time together why we’ve had Professor Jenkins three times now. I think I will just go ahead and book a contract with him and have him at every one. We’ll do Irish terrorism —
DR. JENKINS: Tertullian.
MR. CROMARTIE: We’ll do a Tertullian session.
DR. JENKINS: Yes, Ross and I can do a double bill.
MR. DOUTHAT: No way.
MR. CROMARTIE: Thank you, Professor Jenkins.