Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Evangelicals and Self-Imposed Religious Isolation

Christianity Today magazine online recently posted a troubling essay titled "The Craziest Statistic You'll Read About North American Missions." The essay by Abby Stalker draws upon the research of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity as it relates to the high number of Christians in North America who do not know any no-Christians. The first sentence of the article summarizes this is by saying, "One out of five non-Christians in North America doesn't know any Christians." The perspective of that sentence should perhaps have come at the topic from the other direction, which is more in keeping with the thrust of the rest of the article by saying, "Many Christians in North America don't know any non-Christians."

This problem is even higher outside the United States, as the article tries to address what factors contribute to this. One factor is high immigration rates of non-Christians, but the other is separation between religious groups, which is probably the most important issue because this separation is largely self-imposed. The article quotes Todd M. Johnson who speaks to this:

"The United States is a very strategic place for people to interact," he said. "It's ironic in a place with all the freedoms to interact that people don't do it. In light of the deficit of contact, what better thing could happen than to have a bunch of people move into your neighborhood and build houses of worship?"

The essay goes on to quote Gina Bellofatto, an Evangelical FRD Chapter charter member:

CSGC research associate Gina Bellofatto said identifying contact between Christians and non-Christians based on location, age, and gender is "on her list" for further research. In the meantime, she notes that burgeoning movements have arisen to initiate purposeful interreligious dialogue and community service projects. They're still rare compared to the apparent apathy among Christians about befriending non-Christians, especially if it means reaching across neighborhoods and towns into more ethnic enclaves. "I don't know how many more million Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Jews need to come to this country before it becomes a priority," she said.

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