Christianity has seen remarkable increases in church attendance in non-Western context as compared to a decrease in Church goers from the West. This development can be explained by analyzing the history of the development of modern Christianity.
According to Woodhead, modern Western form of Christianity has two modernities (89). The first modernity is linked to the period of enlightenment were philosophers and theologians incensed by the irrational wars of the 17th century advocated for a more rational form of Christianity that demanded aligning ideas of human reason with a rational conception of God. The second modernity has its roots in the cultural changes of the 1960s that saw a definition of Christianity along the belief in subjective life. This was characterized by an embrace of one’s “deepest inner feelings, intuitions, desires and experiences” (Woodhead 89). Along with this development were changes in the economic and political sphere were democracy and capitalism triumphed.
In the United States, the Christian church allied itself with the forces behind the American Revolution and fight for independence. This in the end helped preserve both the church and the state by removing antagonism between the church and the state. Separation of state and church was constitutionally mandated. In other western contexts, the church continued on its path of antagonism due to its close alliance with the monarchy which democratic forces were trying to dismantle.
Liberal Christianity has seen a reduction in the number of followings and has been replaced by conservative Christianity in the USA. Conservative Christianity with its firebrand message against homosexuality and such things as abortion found an ally in non-Western developing country Christian groups that are against the liberal brand of Christianity (Sanneh and Carpenter 5). Evangelical or Fundamentalist Christianity has been successful in both the US western context and the non-western context. Its emphasis on deep individual experience has helped with the subjective turn and its resultant effect of fundamentalism (Woodhead 105).
Sanneh, L. and Carpenter, J. A. The Changing Face of Christianity: Africa, the West, and the World: Africa, the West, and the World. Oxford University Press, 2005.
Woodhead, Linda. An Introduction to Christianity. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004.