Pew Research Center

Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity is NOT Eastern Orthodox, But It Did Influence Protestantism

Ethiopia is a predominantly Christian county, with around two-thirds of its people belonging to a Christian church. Roughly 44 percent follow Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity (the Tewahedo Church), and little over 20 percent belong to a Pentecostal denomination.

Many sources erroneously depict the Tewahedo Church as part of the Eastern Orthodox branch of Christianity, putting it in the same category as Greek Orthodoxy, Russian Orthodoxy, Serbian Orthodoxy, and so on. Even highly reputable publications such as the Pew Research Center make this error (see the figures posted below). In actuality, Eastern Orthodoxy is much more similar to, and historically intertwined with, Roman Catholicism than it is with Ethiopian Christianity. Eastern Orthodoxy did not split from Roman Catholicism until 1054 CE, and even then the divorce was more a political than a religious matter. (The main theological disagreement stemmed from a single Latin term, filioque.*) The Ethiopian Church spilt from the main Christian stem much earlier, in 451 CE. It did so as a result of theological decisions reached at the Council of Chalcedon. At issue was the relationship between the human and divine natures of Jesus. The council decreed that Jesus is one person in two natures, whereas the Ethiopian church insisted that Jesus is fully divine and fully human in one nature. Although this distinction now strikes most Christians and non-Christians alike as insignificant if not beside the point, such Christological controversies mattered a great deal in late antiquity.

The Ethiopians were not the only Christians to reject the decisions made at Chalcedon. The Armenian Apostolic Church and the Coptic Church of Egypt also maintained that Jesus has a single nature, as did several other eastern sects. Today these churches are grouped together under the category of “Oriental Orthodoxy” – not to be confused with Eastern Orthodoxy. More properly, they are described as constituting Miaphysite Christianity, a term that capture the crucial “one nature” aspect of their theology. The Ethiopian Tewahedo Church is most closely connected to the Coptic Church of Egypt, as both follow the Alexandrian Liturgical Rites (so too does the Eritrean Tewahedo Church, which split from that of Ethiopia in 1991 on geopolitical grounds.)

Arguably, the Tewahedo Church has closer ties with Protestant Christianity, especially Lutheranism, than it does with Eastern Orthodoxy. As the figure posted below shows, Martin Luther was influenced by Ethiopian Christianity, arguing that it adhered more closely to the original teachings than did Roman Catholicism. Luther evidently had close contacts with an Ethiopian cleric named Michael the Deacon, and they discovered that they agreed about many issues of religious belief and practice, if not on the nature of the Trinity.


Ethiopia has an unusual cultural/religious link to England, Catalonia, and the Republic of Georgia, as each polity has the same patron saint: George. Saint George is famed for killing a dragon in all four lands, but, unsurprisingly, he is given a very different physical appearance in Ethiopian religious art than in that of Western Europe.

*As is explained in the Wikipedia article on the term, “In the late 6th century, some Latin Churches  added the words “and from the Son” (Filioque) to the description of the procession of the Holy Spirit, in what many Eastern Orthodox Christians have at a later stage argued is a violation of Canon VII.”

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The Changing Geography of Poverty in The United States

U.S. Poverty by County MapIn 2007, James B. Holt published an interesting article on “The Topography of Poverty in the United States” based on cartographic analysis (I have reproduced two of his maps here). His concluding map posits a “continental poverty divide,” with most areas of entrenched poverty found in the southeast and south-center and most areas of low poverty found in the northeast and north-center, but with a number of outliers found on both U.S. Continental Poverty Divide  Mapsides of the divide. Holt’s maps, like others of the same phenomenon, show several distinct zones of deep poverty: the Appalachian coal country of eastern Kentucky and West U.S. Black Belt MapVirginia; the so-called Black Belt, originally named for its dark soils, that was once the major cotton-plantation zone; the heavily Hispanic areas of southern Texas and New Mexico; and scattered counties containing by American Indian Reservations in Arizona, New Mexico, the Dakotas, and Montana.






Changing Geography of Povertty U.S. MapThis week, the Pew Research Center published an equally interesting report entitled “How the Geography of U.S. Poverty Has Shifted Since 1960,” by Jens Manuel Krogstad. Krogstad’s map and analysis indicate a significant weakening of Holt’s “continental poverty divide.” The poorest macro-region, the South has seen the largest decline in poverty, while the Northeast has experienced little change. Although the Midwest showed an intermediate level of poverty decline, a number of counties marked by Holt as “very low poverty (concentrated)” in Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, and India are shown by Krogstad as having experienced an increase in poverty. Some of the largest declines, on the other hand, are shown as having occurred in some of the country’s poorest areas, including a number of counties in the Black Belt, eastern Kentucky, and southern Texas. The most concentrated zone of poverty reduction is evidently located in northern New Mexico, an area called the “Hispano Homeland” by geographer Richard Nostrand, which has been mostly Spanish speaking for several hundred years.

States of Jefferson and Lincoln, mapThe biggest surprise to me on Krogstad’ map is the large zone of poverty increase in far northern California, southern and eastern Oregon, and eastern Washington. Unfortunately, it is impossible to tell how extreme this increase has been, as all counties are placed on the “0-20%” category. But that said, it might not be coincidental that far northern California, southern Oregon, and eastern Washington are all marked by active state-secession movements.



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The Geography of Extremism in Pakistan

On July 29, 2010, the Pew Research Center released a heralded study of social and political attitudes in Pakistan. Its principal finding was announced in its title, “Concern About Extremist Threat Slips in Pakistan.” In 2009, 69 percent of Pakistanis reported being worried about extremists taking control of their country; a year later the number had slipped to 51 percent. Despite their lessened fear of militant Islamists, Pakistanis remain frustrated and pessimistic. 84 percent express dissatisfaction with the state of their country, and 78 percent think that its economy is in bad shape. Only 20 percent rate president Zardari favorably. Fewer still – 17 percent – have anything good to say about the United States: 59% regard the U.S. as an enemy country.

Most foreign commentators were both cheered and dismayed by the findings. Many were pleased to see that a majority of Pakistanis have little use for the Taliban or al Qaeda, and that 80% of Pakistani Muslims claim that suicide bombing can never be justified to defend Islam, “the highest percentage among the Muslim publics surveyed.” But reporters were also alarmed by the extraordinarily harsh social attitudes uncovered by the survey. 85 percent of Pakistanis evidently support the segregation of men and women in the workplace, 82 percent believe that adulterers should be stoned to death, and 78 percent call for the death penalty for those who leave Islam.

Almost all of the recent Pew data on Pakistan is nationally generalized and thus cannot be mapped. The report does, however, list levels of support for three extremist organizations in the provinces of Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan, and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. I have mapped this data and posted it above. [Note: the first map show favorable views of Lashkar-e-Taiba, while the second and third show unfavorable views of al Qaeda and the Taliban.]

The patterns revealed by the maps are consistent and unexpected. The Punjab, Pakistan’s core, is clearly revealed as its most radical province. News reports, however, more often associate extremism with Pakistan’s western periphery, especially the Pashtun northwest, which is the site of most violence. But the Pew data shows that most residents of Pashtun-majority Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa reject Jihad-oriented movements. (Attitudes in the Pashtun tribal districts along the Afghan border were not surveyed, and are probably much more extreme.) Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s rejection of radical Islamism is probably related to its constant exposure to bloodshed, which usually turns most people away from violent ideologies.

More difficult to explains is the relatively high levels of support for extremism in Punjab. Punjab dominates Pakistan, forming the demographic, cultural, and economic core of the country, with considerably higher levels of development than Sindh, Balochistan, or Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Punjab’s 34 percent support for Lashkar-e-Taiba, a group that supposedly aims “to destroy the Indian republic and to annihilate Hinduism and Judaism,” does not bode well for the future of Pakistan.

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