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Understanding the Numbers Game PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 10 May 2007 07:02
One of the things that is easily missed in grasping the spread of new forms of Christianity like Pentecostalism is the whole issue of what David Barrett, editor of the world Christian Encyclopedia, calls "double affiliation" or "double confession".

We usually assume that if you are one faith, that's it. If you are Protestant, you can't simultaneously be Catholic or Buddhist or Hindu. But, in fact, the world of faith is much more complicated than that. Many millions around the world are "double dipping" in two or more seemingly contradictory faiths at the same time.

In Brazil in the year 2000, for instance, Barrett estimates that over 55 million Catholics or 36% of all Catholics in the country were "double-affiliated", that is, simultaneously "affiliated to or claimed by the Catholic Church and by a church termed "Evangelica" by the government. And this sort of thing happens all over the US as well. Barrett estimates that there were 21 million "double affiliated" Christians in the US and nearly 200 million around the world in 2000. And the numbers are steadily growing.

In a place like India, "double confessing" of Christianity and another non-Christian faith is common since there are legal and financial consequences to one's formal religious affiliation. For instance, Barrett estimated that there were over 21 million "crypto Christians" in India in 2000. A "crypto Christian" is a person affiliated with a church but still listed by the state as being of another faith.

It gets every more complex. There is the whole phenomena of "Non-baptized Believers in Christ" in the Muslim and Hindu worlds. Muslims and Hindus who regard Jesus Christ as the messiah and Son of God but are not baptized and are still officially Muslim and Hindu. It is estimated that there are 15 million NBBC's in the world.

The boundaries between faiths has always been porous, not only officially but especially in terms of ideas and influence. This is especially common in times of relative peace and freedom where travel and interchange between peoples of different faiths is common and governments or local rulers or customs don't punish people for not strictly adhering to the faith of their birth.

In a globalized world saturated with media and technology, the boundaries are even more fluid. This has big implications for our evangelization and pastoral practices and is one of the situations in which extremely flexible, passionate communicators like evangelicals and Independent Christians thrive and in which "institutionally oriented", historic forms of Christianity like Catholicism, with its memories of Christendom, are at an disadvantage.

Unless we adapt to our new historical and cultural situation, which it seems that Catholics have been doing pretty successfully in Brazil recently. I'll try to write more on this later.

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