Five ‘GREAT DIVIDES’ – that will shape 2022

Five ‘GREAT DIVIDES’ – that will shape 2022

By Mike Burnard, Analytical Strategist at dia-LOGOS

A pandemic not verbalised often enough is the Great Divide that separates people globally.  The world exists of “us-and-them” groups, regardless of the reason, the religion, the location, or the culture.  As humans, with all the technology and history at our disposal, it seems to be more impossible than ever before to cross the great divide.  Even within like-minded people, there are GREAT DIVIDES.

Take the Church as an example and think about the Protestant mindset rejecting Catholic teaching simply because it is Catholic, and vice versa. Or the reformed reasoning rejecting the charismatic experience, and vice versa.  There are the pro-vaxxers and the anti-vaxxers, the conservatives and the liberals, the creationists and the evolutionists, the Orthodox and the Evangelical, the revolutionary and the pacifist, the pre-millennium and post-millennium, the persecuted and the prosperous – all reluctant to acknowledge that the other group might possess a view-point of the truth that could be useful for spiritual growth.  The doctrinal walls that block exposed wisdom are endless. 

As followers of Christ, it is imperative that we identify those things that divide us, address it in a God-honouring way, and pursue the unity that Christ prayed for in John 17:21

Here are FIVE GREAT DIVIDES that will continue to separate people in 2022. 

1.     CHRISTIANITY:  The CFH vs the GTC

Church, as most of us used to know it, has been dramatically and traumatically altered since March 2020.  Pretty much every church got online, courtesy of the pandemic.   And this will dramatically impact faith, discipleship, church, and involvement.

The major divide within the Christian faith for 2022 will not be theological but locational.  It will be a divide between those who now practice CHURCH FROM HOME (CFH) and those who GO TO CHURCH  (GTC). 

The data for church attendance after lockdown is concerning.  A Lifeway Research survey[1] shows that in January 2021, 31% of churches reported less than 50% of their January 2020 physical attendance. Only 2% have grown.  The guestimate is that a third of Church members are now CFH members, streaming from home, another third is GTC members who physically attend Church and another third has completely abandoned Church

For those who now practice CHURCH FROM HOME (CFH), the numbers are equally concerning.  The Barna Research Group[2] identified three types of churchgoers in this unique era of digital Church:

  • Christians streaming their pre-COVID-19 church online,
  • Christians streaming a different church online and
  • Christians who have stopped “attending” church altogether.

Recent data show that over half (53%) say they have streamed their regular church online within the past four weeks. Another third (34%) admits to streaming a different church service online other than their own, essentially “church hopping” digitally.  And about one-third of practicing Christians (32%) says they have abandoned church.  Effectively, one in three practicing Christians has stopped attending Church during the pandemic.

This great divide in Church attendance will ultimately affect missions, charity, involvement and church-life in a transformational way. 

The plus side of this development is that the gospel explosion on the internet has opened many doors for pastors and Evangelists to reach beyond the four walls of their buildings.  The only borders that now separate the message from the audience are technological borders

2.     ISLAM:  Secular Islam vs Radical Islam

Christianity is not the only religion facing the influence and impact of secularism.  Islam is facing an inevitable divorce from its followers and Saudi Arabia, the protector of true Islam, is setting the tome

On 16 December 2021 a four-day music festival took place in a desert in Saudi Arabia, and a Bloomberg report says it looked remarkably similar to its’ Western equivalents.  MDLBEAST SOUNDSTORM 2021 kicked off on December 16 on the outskirts of Riyadh, and it featured everything that Islam is not. 

Bloomberg reported that the women wore everything from “skintight pants” to “full-length robes and face veils.”   According to Bloomberg, other sights to behold were a sign of “pushing boundaries” as the kingdom transforms.   “Inebriated men stumbled through crowds perfumed with the distinct scent of marijuana,” said Bloomberg, “alongside a limited but notable display of local queer culture.”

Saudi Arabia is observed within the Islamic faith as the guardian of “true” Islam and the heart of the second biggest religion on earth.  The Prophet Muhammad was born in Mecca and buried in Medina. Officially all Saudi citizens are Muslims and the percentage of Saudi Arabian citizens who are Christians is officially zero, as Saudi Arabia forbids religious conversion from Islam and punishes it by death.   Atheists and agnostics are officially called “terrorists” in Saudi Arabia and apostasy is also punishable by death.

But the key factor in Saudi Arabia’s pursuit of reforming an oppressive and conservative religion stems mainly from a changing generation.  Saudi Arabia has one of the world’s youngest populations with approximately 56% of Saudi Muslims being below 30 years of age.  This young generation with a more liberal expression of faith and a more technological exposure to the West is no doubt the driving force behind the initiative of a young Crown Prince who understands the mindset of a millennial. 

The main challenge for the new “Reformists” in the Muslim world is that Islam is in essence is a conservative culture.  Changing a religion is a lot easier than changing a culture and reforming Islam in a Christian culture like the USA will be a lot easier than the near impossible task of reforming Islam in a strict conservative culture like Iran.

A reformed Islam will no doubt provide an alternative for those who grew up in an Islamic culture yet seek more than just a traditional faith.  This will impact the flow of converts and impact the harvest field as experienced in the Middle East today. 

A key strategy of strengthening the Church in the Middle East need to be on the priority list of every Church in the Western World as the window of opportunity shrinks.

3.     POLITICALLY:  Nationalism vs patriotism

At the heart of US and European politics today lies the growing and concerning trend of Nationalism.  This was especially exposed during the term of American President, Donald Trump (pro- and anti-supporters), the Brexit campaign, France’s Marine Le Pen, Anti-refugee PEGIDA in Germany and a host of campaigners in Europe.  All have in common a deep sense of nationalistic devotion to their country. 

In light of this growing trend, a key question is being asked – Can I celebrate my national and cultural identity and still pursue Kingdom principles? If the more than 84 million displaced people in the world is “the story of our time” then this is probably “the question of our time.” 

Ryan Hamm in an article in Christianity Today[3], makes a distinction between PATRIOTISM and NATIONALISM and explains that this has often been blurred by zeal and by a legitimate struggle that lies at the root of most of the modern-day ‘anti-immigrant movements’.  Hamm offers the following insight:

“PATRIOTISM can be defined simply as love of country—it’s a love that seems to include much of the world’s population. It’s the kind of love that makes you thankful you’re an American whenever you hear the “The Star-Spangled Banner”,  or that makes you thankful you’re British whenever you hear “God Save the Queen,” or that unified joy of listening to Nkosi Sikel’ iAfrica as a South African. 

Patriotism unites people for the overall wellbeing and prosperity of the nation.  In Patriotism, the sentiments are more inclined towards the idea of peaceful coexistence between nations.

NATIONALISM, on the other hand, takes that love of country and expands it to mean love of country at the expense of other nations. It’s when someone believes they are better because they come from a particular place or race, or that someone else is less valuable because of the country that issued their passport.  In Nationalism the sentiments are more inclined towards aggression towards other nations.   Nationalism unites people against a foreign hostile nation, it unites people against a common enemy.

As Christians, we are encouraged to be patriotic but not nationalistic.  Indeed, heaven is our homeland, but we still live in this world; we must do our best to support the interest of our earthly home. We must pray for the peace of our country where we hold the right of citizenship. We must contribute our quota of efforts that will aid our society to be peaceful and habitable. Christians must make efforts to promote the unity and integrity of their society!  But we do so with a heart to welcome strangers and to use our freedom so that others can prosper.   

4.     MEDICALLY:  Vaxxed vs Unvaxxed

Few topics are globally as divisive at the moment as the topic of VACCINATION.  For two reasons:

Firstly, the divide between the pro-vaxxers and the anti-vaxxers.

Novak Djokovic, the world number one tennis player, exposed the GREAT VAX-DIVIDE when he was stopped on arrival at Melbourne Airport earlier in January on route to the Australian Open and his visa was cancelled.  But it is important to note that everybody who chooses not to get vaccinated, is not necessarily “anti-vaccine”,  and everybody who chooses to get vaccinated is not necessarily a pro-vaccine crusader.  Even though Djokovic made the choice not to get vaccinated, he was not an anti-vaccine crusader.  Yet, within the current divide, most people are unable to see the difference.

Ted Kuntz of Ted Kuntz Counseling Services[4] wrote that there are many more factions participating in this divide, not just the pro- and the anti-. They include:

  • Pro-Vax Crusaders: Those who publically support it, believes in it and promotes it as the only good moral option
  • Compliant Vaxxers: Those who got it out of compliance with current practices and societal beliefs without any objections.
  • Hesitant Vaxxers: Those who continue to participate in the vaccine program but do so hesitantly.
  • Reluctant Vaxxers: Those who got it because they had no choice (travel/ work)
  • Non-vaxxers:  Those who choose not to get vaccinated because of moral or religious objections
  • Anti-Vax Crusaders: Those who publically oppose it and are fiercely against it

Sadly, the vaccine divide did not escape the Church and few issues of faith has divided the church as much as the vaccine debate – this time not only because of theological convictions but also because of medical convictions.  

Secondly, the divide between the first world and the developing world.  There is a stark divide between COVID-19 vaccine roll-outs in the world’s wealthiest and poorest nations in the world.  For every dose of a COVID-19 vaccine administered in lower-middle-income countries, such as India and Egypt, the wealthiest nations have given out 23.  Two-thirds of doses have been given in the richest nations which represent 16% of the global population

The church will continue to be divided about this issue unless intentional efforts are put in place to focus on unity more than differences.

5.     ECONOMICALLY:  Rich vs Poor

Poverty in 2022 is a global disaster.  Billions of people around the world still live in extreme poverty. Nearly 1 out of every 10 people in the world lives below the international poverty line. That’s 689 million people struggling to survive on less than $1.90 a day.  And nearly 2 billion people, or 26.2% of the world’s population, live on less than $3.20 a day.

The extremely poor live without support, on the sidelines, watching economic growth and prosperity pass them by. They are shunned by the world economy. They live lives abundant in scarcity. Without enough food, access to clean water or proper sanitation. Without access to safe shelter, health care or education.

But the challenge in global economy is not found in wealth or poverty, but inequality.   Thousands of people live in homeless camps in many large cities while billionaires board rocket ships for joyrides into space. Those are among the most vivid illustrations of the rich-poor divide, but there are others 

A comprehensive new report[5] released by the World Inequality Database represents the “most up-to-date synthesis of international research efforts to track global inequalities.” It’s the work of more than 100 global researchers over four years, from Thomas Picketty of the Paris School of Economics to Emmanuel Saez of the University of California at Berkeley.

Here are some key insights:

  • The poorest half of the global population barely owns any wealth at all, possessing just 2% of the total. In contrast, the richest 10% of the global population own 76% of all wealth.
  • In terms of dollars, people in the lower half own about $4,100 in net assets on average, compared with $771,000 on average for those in the top 10%.
  • In recent decades, rich-poor divides have widened. Since 1995, for example, the richest 1% of the global population captured 38% of the wealth created over that period, while the poorest half got 2%. The rest went to people in the middle.
  • This divide was exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis in poorer nations 
  • One of the key inequalities involves women who, according to the study, take in only 35% of work-related income on a global scale, with men accounting for the rest.

But there is good news.  The good news is 1.1 billion people have moved out of extreme poverty since 1990, and 15 countries have made rapid progress in extreme poverty. Several countries in Asia, including China, Moldova and Vietnam, effectively ended extreme poverty in 2015. Tanzania, one of seven sub-Saharan countries on the list, almost halved its extreme poverty in just over a decade!

As Christians the answer is to be found in equality.  2 Corinthians 8:13-14  states it clearly:  Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality

The Christian Conclusion

Taken from John Piper[6]

Unity among two or more people gets its virtue entirely from something else. Unity itself is neutral until it is given goodness or badness by something else. So if Herod and Pilate are unified by their common scorn for Jesus (Luke 23:12), this is not a good unity. But if Paul and Silas sing together in prison for Christ’s sake (Acts 16:25), this is a good unity.

Therefore, it is never enough to call Christians to have unity. That may be good or bad. Christian unity in the New Testament gets its goodness from a combination of its source, its views, its affections, and its aims.

Source

Paul tells us to “be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). I take that to mean that the Holy Spirit is the great giver of unity. “In one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13).

Views

Paul says that pastors and teachers are to equip the saints “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God” (Ephesians 4:13). In other words, the unity we pursue is unity in the truth. Of course, Christian unity is more than shared truth, but not less.

Affections

To be sure, unifying love in the body of Christ includes a rugged commitment to do good for the family of God whether you feel like it or not (Galatians 6:10). But, as difficult as it is for diverse people, the experience of Christian unity is more than that. It includes affectionate love, not just sacrifice for those you don’t like. It is a feeling of endearment.

Aims

Spirit-rooted, Christ-manifesting, truth-cherishing, humbly-loving unity is designed by God to have at least two aims: a witness to the world, and an acclamation of the glory of God. The apostle John makes the first of these most clear. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34–35).

“Christian unity includes affectionate love, not just sacrifice for those you don’t like.”

Jesus’s famous statements in John 17 are rooted in the profound spiritual unity between the Father and the Son, and with those whom God has chosen out of the world (John 17:6). “I ask that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:21). Note the witness to the world is that the disciples are in the Father and the Son so that the world might believe. This is vastly more — deeply more — than being related through a common organization.

The oneness that shines with self-authenticating glory for the world to see is union with the Father and the Son so that the glory of the Father and the Son is part of our lives.

 

[1] https://lifewayresearch.com/2021/02/22/fewer-churches-held-in-person-services-in-january/

[2] https://www.barna.com/research/new-sunday-morning-part-2/

[3] http://www.christianitytoday.com/biblestudies/articles/churchhomeleadership/patriotism.html?start=1

[4] https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/pro-vaxxers-anti-vaxxers-others-ted-kuntz

[5] https://www.azcentral.com/story/money/business/economy/2021/12/12/world-inequality-database-study-tracks-income-and-wealth-disparities/6430714001/

[6] https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/what-is-christian-unity

 

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