On the face of it Eliza Griswold’s The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line Between Christianity and Islam is a book whose content is summed up accurately by the title. The author recounts her experiences in various African and Asian lands which straddle the tenth parallel north of the equator: Nigeria, Sudan, Somalia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. It is a story told through personal narrative, the author’s, and the numerous people who are themselves embedded in larger forces welling up from below and descending from above. One can accurately describe The Tenth Parallel as a travelogue. But it is also a time machine, as Griswold surveys worlds which are a clear simulacrum of those which we know only through works of history; empires of faith, the lands of God’s platoons. As such, The Tenth Parallel is also a narrative which describes an alien world of ideas, outside of our conventional categories and classes. Many of the preconceptions and expectations which we bring to the table are “not even wrong” in the lands Griswold traverses, and what has been learned must sometimes be unlearned. This is not Newtonian Mechanics, where a cold and objective eye surveys the terrain and reports back positions and trajectories across space and time. An awareness of the author’s viewpoint is critical, while the viewpoint of her sources are plain. Finally, your own presuppositions and experiences as a reader shape the ultimate “take home” message which Eliza Griswold stitches together across her disparate sojourns.
As for the author, she is informs you about the details of her background repeatedly. Judging a book by its “cover” you see a young white Christian woman tasked to report on the turmoil in the lands of black and brown folk, many of whom are not Christian themselves, and many of whom are ardently Christian. But Griswold’s vantage point is more nuanced, she is the daughter of Frank Griswold, a prominent cleric in the Episcopal Church of America, who was a participant in the consecration of Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican Communion. This event has come close to rending asunder the Anglican Communion, of which the second largest district is covered by the Church of Nigeria (though arguably Nigeria has more practicing Anglicans than Britain, the largest district). In many ways in terms of core values I suspect that Muslims and Christians in Nigeria share more with each other than they do with Eliza Griswold. Her meetings with Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, always seem fraught with tension because it is as if Eliza Griswold’s very being serves as a witness for the liberal mainline Protestant tradition in the face of the muscular and unsubtle evangelical Protestant Christianity she observes all around her. The author’s own subjective viewpoint as a liberal Christian (at a minimum culturally, she published no precise statement of faith) interweaves with the story she tells much more subtly in most contexts than it does when she engages with Graham and his coterie. It is as if they bring with them an awareness of American culture wars and to some extent force Griswold to play her part. The author’s peculiar perspective is always there and should never be forgotten. It does not take much reading between the lines to infer that Eliza Griswold is not sympathetic to the methods of Western evangelical Protestants who believe it is their Great Commission to bring the whole world to their own faith. This is not a conclusion which is “wrong” or “right” in a conventional sense, but derived from a set of values, which the reader may or may not share.
I am currently reading Eliza Griswold’s The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line Between Christianity and Islam. The first half of the book is about Africa, and much of that is given to religious conflict in Nigeria. Africa’s most populous nation happens to be split down the middle religiously, with a Muslim north and a Christian south, meeting in the “Middle Belt” to contest. Griswold describes a very competitive religious marketplace.
One thing I was curious about though: are the religious conflicts in Nigeria simply due to coalitional fissures, or deep substantive divergences which track the religious differences? To illustrate, if Muslims and Christians share a village, then Christians who slaughter pigs in public places because pork is their primary protein source will likely have tensions with Muslims, who as a matter of substance object to pig slaughter which might pollute the landscape (this is a problem in parts of Southeast Asia where Muslims live downstream from Christians). In contrast, if you have economic difficulties in a region, and it is fractured ethnically or religiously, trivial tensions may quickly exploded into violence. In other words, in the second case religion is just a “quick & dirty” coalitional marker around which inevitable conflicts are going to swirl (in Mauritius Muslim Indo-Mauritians play a “wild card” role between Christian Creoles and Hindu Indo-Mauritians, despite greater substantive religious affinity with the Christians and greater cultural and racial affinity with the Hindus).
To answer this question I looked at the World Values Survey. For Nigeria there was data from 1995 and 2000, so I combined them to increase my sample size. Additionally, I wanted to focus on the Yoruba ethnic group, which is religiously divided between Muslims and Christians. In the WVS the religious categories actually break down further among the Christians, and I selected Pentecostals and Protestants for the Yoruba because of the large N for these groups, along with Muslims. Additionally, I selected Hausa Muslims as a comparison. The Hausa are an overwhelmingly Muslim northern ethnic group, while the Yoruba are a religiously pluralistic southern group (the Igbo of the southeast are as Christian as the Hausa are Muslim).
Please note that the survey was taken during a period of military rule by Hausa strongmen. I included only a subset of questions. You can follow to link to do your own queries.
Mus = Muslim, Pent = Pentecostal, Prot = Protestant. Some cells for Pentecostals are missing because for some questions all Protestants were aggregated together.