Landmark studies by Philip Jenkins, David Martin, Lamin Sanneh, Dana Robert, and Andrew Walls have powerfully described the move of Christianity's center of gravity from the Christian West to the Global South. Now comes an extraordinarily valuable book series titled Evangelical Christianity and Democracy in the Global South (5 stars), which includes volumes on Latin America (Paul Freston, ed.), Africa (Terence O. Ranger, ed.), and Asia (forthcoming, David Halloran Lumsdaine, ed.). The series heralds a new day for understanding the contemporary realities of world Christianity. With funding from the Pew Charitable Trusts, and under the leadership of Timothy Samuel Shah, scholarly teams were commissioned to produce studies that examine the diverse ways the world's newer evangelical communities relate to currents of political democracy.
The teams provide diligently researched case studies explaining what life on the ground has really been like in this era of rapid evangelical expansion. There are five for Latin America (Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Peru, and Brazil) and six for Africa (Nigeria, Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and South Africa).
With an impressive display of careful research, the books' chapters explore a series of complex yet very important questions: Have the evangelical movements of the majority world contributed to the strengthening of democratic institutions and practices? Has American influence made evangelicals elsewhere in the world dupes for regimes propped up by American military aid or multinational business interests? Does it make a difference whether evangelicals are Anglicans (say, in Kenya or Nigeria), Pentecostals (in much of Latin America), or neo-Pentecostals with an emphasis on health and wealth (in many African and Latin American regions)?
Christianity Today 1 Jul 2008