Have you ever seen a television clip showing a satellite shot of planet Earth, which then zooms in on some tiny square footage of the same planet, with astounding detail?
Such a clip is designed, at times, to demonstrate the technical developments that permit the observation and photographing of relatively small items on the earth from cameras operating high above — perhaps several hundred kilometres away.
A recent journalistic endeavour depicts, in my mind at least, an equivalent reporting and recording of the religious scene on the planet. And it does so in a way to show the big, global picture, and then to zoom in on several particular aspects of religion, with a fair measure of accuracy.
The endeavour in question is a 20 plus page special report in The Economist, in the November 3 – 9, 2007 issue.
Readers can access the report by going to www.economist.com, then typing the word “religion” into the search box. Summaries of the several sub-reports on the subject, along with their links, will then show up. The cover title of the report is ‘Faith and politics: the new wars of religion.’
In the print edition, for those who have bought newsstand copies or subscribe to The Economist, there are instructions for obtaining reprints, with special rates for teachers who might want to use the reports in the classroom.
The reports piqued my interest. So often, I find it difficult to find tightly written, but not-overly-simplified, analyses of the various major global religious forces, including their diverse efforts to both do battle with and collaborate with each other.
I will leave it to readers to get as far into the reports as they wish to, but would draw attention to three particular highlights, coming respectively out of Korea, Nigeria and India:
- Korea’s Yoido Full Gospel Church, the 750,000 ‘mother’ of all Christian multi-site megachurches, whose main church is across the street from the National Assembly, in downtown Seoul.
- The somewhat less than peaceful co-existence, in Nigeria, of Muslims and Christians, in almost equal numbers.
- The influence of a movement, in India, called Hinduvta that plays a major role in enabling the Hindu religion to be a substantive hegemony to political life in what The Economistrefers to as the most religious nation on earth.
Quite separately from The Economist‘s report, the story of Yoido, and its founding pastor, David Yonggi Cho, has a small and gentle reflection, in Canada, in the Meeting House, a multi-site church led by Bruxy Cavey. The Oakville-based MH now has congregations there, as well as in Brampton, Hamilton, two locations in Toronto and Kitchener, with weekly aggregate attendance running to over 4,000.
A dry run for an Ottawa site occurred last Sunday evening, November 18, with Cavey on hand to talk about the MH’s latest effort to develop church for those who are “not into church.”
The fact that Cavey has skipped over Oshawa, Belleville and Kingston in his thrust eastward is undoubtedly, in part at least, tacit recognition that a church presence, in a place where politics is the main thing, is not to be disparaged.
One point worth noting, in his hour-long presentation, was the way in which he worked into what he was saying some of his own denomination’s critical thinking about conflict resolution. Meeting House is affiliated with the Brethren in Christ denomination, an evangelical Mennonite group. Woven in nicely throughout his talk, were the non-violent biblical options in the handling of personal, family, political and international issues.
The point of this particular OttawaWatch is to create some context for Christians trying to be effective in the global picture, or in relatively small city-states and centres of influence.
That is the reason that I would be remiss if I did not mention the current Mulroney-Schreiber tension in some sort of faith-based context.
Where did former prime minister Brian Mulroney first choose to defend himself against the looming reopening of the issue money moving from the hands of Karlheinz Schreiber to his own? Why, at the Toronto fundraiser for St. Francis Xavier University, a venerable and respected Nova Scotia Catholic institution — and Mulroney’s alma mater.
Without either defending or denigrating Mulroney, it can be said from this corner, that faith-based-ethics might end up being a factor in seeing some eventual resolution to this issue.
Mr. Mulroney evidently believes, as do the opposition parties, Mr. Schreiber himself and perhaps even Prime Minister Stephen Harper, that an inquiry will provide the answers we need. Everyone relevant will be summoned, and under oath will reveal the long-hidden secrets. Why do people believe this?
Fr. Raymond J. De Souza, National Post, November 15