It seems to me that most of those who don’t think Christianity is true believe that it will soon disappear from the world, or all but disappear; that the solvent of liquid modernity really is universal and will inevitably come to all the places where Christianity is now strong, from Nigeria to South Korea. Most of the Christians I talk to about such matters are naturally more hopeful, at least about the Global South. (They tend to be resigned to the marginalization of Christianity in the West.)

But what strikes me about all such expectations (hopes, fears) for the future is how short-term they are. But that’s appropriate for one of those groups only. If you think that Christianity will soon be dead then there’s no reason to think about its long-term future. But if you think Christianity will be around as long as this world lasts, then what’s your excuse for short-term thinking? 

For Western (especially American) fundamentalists that excuse has tended to be: We’re in the end times. Jesus is coming soon. People obsessed with end-times thinking see Christianity as having an even shorter lifespan than the more skeptical atheists do, though that’s only because they’re expecting the whole shebang, “the great globe itself,” to go up in flames. But if you don’t see any reason to believe that Jesus is returning in the immediate future — though of course no one knows the hour — then wouldn’t it be a useful exercise to stretch your imaginative capacities a little bit? Whatever frustrations we Christians are experiencing right now would surely look rather different, and considerably less significant, if we thought in terms of what Mikhail Bakhtin called great time. Someone should write a book called Christianity: The Next Ten Thousand Years