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God Is Back

Two authors look at the emerging religious culture

By Kenneth Bagnell

God Is Back: How the Global Revival of Faith Is Changing the World
By John Micklethwait and
Adrian Wooldridge
(The Penguin Press) $35

German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche first used the expression “God is dead” in 1882. Now a new book announces God Is Back. But this is not theology so much as it is sociology, in particular the growth of Christian and Muslim conservatism.

The authors report this growth without raising much of a sweat. Two illustrations: Focus on the Family, the radio program of American evangelical James Dobson, has 12 million listeners in the United States and 200 million around the world. Further, “Islam is on the march in Europe: many Islamic communities are trying to build their own parallel universe of institutions, much as conservative Christians did in the United States.” Indeed, it seems the authors view this as good news. Many Europeans and liberal Christians will disagree.

That aside, we must recognize that the co-authors are credible journalists: John Micklethwait is editor-in-chief of The Economist, and Adrian Wooldridge is the magazine’s Washington correspondent. Moreover, allowing for their circumscribed vision, we can read the book for both its quality reporting and its brisk analysis.

Only near the end of the book do the authors weigh in on so-called liberal churches, writing, “People who rallied behind the banner of Christian socialism are now rallying behind three more modest banners: environmentalism, fair trade and debt forgiveness.”

God Is Back is an intelligent and comprehensive look at emerging religious culture, but I don’t sense that the Prince of Peace is near its heart.

Rev. Kenneth Bagnell is an honorary associate minister at Toronto's Eglinton St. George's United.

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