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I've been asked to post my response to an e-mail I received recently concerning a video on Youtube that's been circulating recently concerning Islam. So here goes.
First, the question:
Larry, I know you have done a lot of study on the growth of Islam. How accurate is this video?
Then, the video:
From my e-mail response:
Well, a couple notes about this video.
First, I'm a little put off by the tone of fear from the video. We forget that God is sovereign and is well aware that Muslims are growing as a people group. He doesn't need us to "wake up and take action" to complete His plans. Also, the video creates the picture that there is a vast conspiracy afoot, perpetrated by Muslim leaders, to overrun the worlds population by breeding. In truth, Muslim culture considers child-rearing differently(PDF link) than our secular western cultures (i.e. as a good thing) and really, Muslims move to the U.S. and Europe because they're like anybody else: they want a better place to live. So let's tone down the hysterics first.
Second, it's true that Europe, especially, has been in decline as a culture and as a people group. They're well aware of it, too. In Spain, (and likely in other European states), you can earn a government stipend just for having children. Yes, they pay you to have children because they recognize their population is shrinking. But that happened because God was kicked out of Europe. A cultural shift occurred sometime last century and we now see the results. Muslims are moving in because there are job opportunities and a higher quality of life available to them, not because they want to take over the world. A similar kind of Europeanization and decline is occurring in the states, though it will certainly look different however it pans out.
Third, the narrator throws out a comment at the end of the video about how Christianity is being eclipsed by Muslims currently in terms of numbers. Coincidentally, I was looking into these numbersjust last night so I can shine some light into what this really means. Currently there are about 2 billion professing Christians in the world. Only approx. 680 million would consider themselves to be "born again" though, so, for the sake of conversation, we'll consider there to really only be about 1 billion "real" Christians, give or take. Well, we've already lost the numbers game then, because there are about 1.3 billion adherents to Islam. But that's not the whole story. Let's talk about growth rates. Currently, Islam is growing at a rate of about 2.9% a year. Christianity (or those who would call themselves Christians) are only growing at about 2.3% a year. But then look at these growth rates:
- Pentecostals: 8.1%
- Evangelicals: 5.4%
- All Protestants: 3.3%
- Roman Catholics and Others: 1.3%
So what we really see is that nominal Christianity (what I would consider most Roman Catholics to be, and a fair number of Protestants too) is dying, as we would expect. However, the Church is alive and growing much faster than Islam. Are we outnumbered? When have we never been?
The truth is that the Gospel continues to conquer throughout the world, whether we know it or not. On the other hand, America as a nation and a culture is on it's way out (whether we like it or not) and other nations are taking the lead in spreading God's word. Sure, we need to be obedient to God and ministering at home and abroad, but if we weren't doing that already, I'm not sure a video on Youtube is going to make us do that.
One last thing I'd mention. I think Americans don't realize how young our nation is, and how promptly the world changes. Americans are not students of history as a rule, and when change looks like it's coming we tend to panic. The truth is, our nation or culture is not guaranteed to last forever. I'm not saying I'm not unsettled by what's happening in our world. But am I surprised? Would I be surprised to find that the world my children grow up in will be vastly different, perhaps even hostile? Not at all, even though I'm certainly not comfortable with it.
In times like this we need not put our hope in awareness campaigns, programs to increase child-bearing, or even in our nation. We need to look to the God's Word and understand that the Church and the Gospel is eternal, will survive the fall and rise of many nations and religions, and that our hope rests not in this world.
Anyway, I hope that's not too bleak for you. But those are my thoughts.
And some post-thoughts:
It is unfortunate today that people have so much information available to them, but most don't take the time to analyze that information. There are a number of assumptions from the video (such as, all Muslims are the same, believe the same thing, have the same agenda, that what's true of Europe is true of the U.S., and so on) that I imagine many viewers will take at face value. The only good assumption one should make when watching videos like these is this: things are never as simple as they seem.
The unfortunately corollary to the lack of analysis is that misunderstanding breeds fear. I doubt that the vast majority of American Christians watching this video have ever talked with a Muslim, but most of them have preconceptions about what Muslims are like. Saying those words fills me with sadness, as I realize what a statement that makes about Christians in this nation. God desires that no man should perish, and that we should fear no one, and painting a caricature of Muslims as bogey-men will get us no closer to spreading God's love among them.