In his new book, God’s Politics, Jim Wallis predicts 50 things that will happen during this next century. Among these, he foresees the following:
1) Faith will be defined much more by action than by doctrine, even as religious fundamentalism continues to grow.
2) The secular left will give up its hostility to religion or it will die. Some liberals will get the question of values right, and some conservatives will begin to care about poor people.
3) Women in leadership in every area of life will become a given.
4) Internet pornography will quietly undermine people’s lives and relationships, if there are no restraints.
5) More parents will choose good books over mindless and soulless television. Those who don’t will produce children who are increasingly mindless and soulless. Raising children will again be seen as an important thing.
6) The enormous gap between the rich and the rest of us will finally be recognized as a real problem for both democracy and religion. Overcoming poverty will become the great moral issue. More affluent families will get off the pressure train and adopt a simpler lifestyle.
7) The challenge of pluralism will replace the challenge of secularism, as many diverse religious and spiritual traditions have to learn to live with one another.
8) Television will get worse, and more people will decide they don’t want their reality to be like reality TV.
9) Violence will be affect everyone and we will have to learn much more about forgiveness and reconciliation if we are to heal the violence.
10) The need for prophetic religion will grown and hope will be the most essential thing both inside of religion and inside of society itself.
To his list, let me add some predictions of my own. During this next century:
1) The issue of dialogue among the great religions of the world will become much more important than our present ecumenical conversation among Christian churches. Whether the great religious traditions of the world can learn to understand and accept each other will become the single most important issue in the world, religiously and politically.
2) The struggle with militant fundamentalism and terrorism will remain front and centre, the consuming agenda item, for the next 50-75 years. But, like Soviet Marxism, militant fundamentalism too will run its course and collapse from the inside.
3) The ongoing struggle with Islamic fundamentalism will help the religious right better grasp some of the moral strengths within secularity, even as it will help the secular left better appreciate how Judeo-Christianity underpins most of what’s best inside the secular world.
4) Abortions will slowly decrease and will decrease to the extent that pro-Life and pro-Choice advocates stop demonizing each other and begin to work together in good will to minimize abortion (which, ultimately, nobody wants).
5) Sexual schizophrenia will continue to increase as family and social structures continue to destabilize and this, perhaps more than anything else, will continue to sow a deep restlessness everywhere.
6) Virtually all parts of the world will become more multi-ethnic and multi-cultural. Initially this will increase tensions, but ultimately it will reduce them and make the world a safer, richer, and more interesting place. There will be much inter-marrying, ethnically and religiously, and this will help break down many old separations and biases. There will be less racism in the world by the end of the present century.
7) China will become the world’s superpower, eclipsing both the United States and Europe.
8) Inside of Christianity and our churches:
– Our understanding of God will widen and deepen, as will our understanding of the cross.
– Many of the old tensions between Catholics and Protestants will dissolve and there will be more unity among Christian churches.
– The Christian churches will recover more of their Jewish roots.
– We will see a return more to the both the theology and pastoral practices of the early church. We will have to learn again, as was the case in the first generations of Christianity, what it means to be church.
– Many people will choose not to be baptized and more people, as in the time of Augustine, will choose to be baptized only later in life.
– People will either become mystics or non-believers.
– We will learn to understand salvation in a deeper and more inclusive way. We will slowly understand more deeply how God’s universal salvific will is all-embracing, plays no favourites, is never a question of luck or chance, and is ultimately beyond all human and ecclesial manipulation.
– We will understand more deeply our own role of binding and loosing inside the body of Christ and the community of the sincere.
– Women will continue to assume more leadership inside the church.
– Vocations to the priesthood and religious life will continue to decrease, until we produce a new St. Francis and a new St. Clare who can give us a new romantic imagination for those vocations.
– New saints will emerge and they will give us new hope, new imagination, and the vision we need to walk with God and build church, right inside all these changes.