Easter conversions may signal a new springtime for Christianity

The news is bad. Israel is pounding Gaza, with tens of thousands of deaths. Ukraine is barely holding its own against Russia. China might invade Taiwan. The Antarctic ice sheet might break up. Transgender ideology is spreading everywhere. Birth rates are dropping.

And on and on.

"Humankind cannot bear very much reality," wrote T.S. Eliot. Perhaps that is why TikTok, Instagram and other social media are turning the minds of Gen Z to glop. Sorry. Once you’re started, it’s hard to stop.

Look closer, though, and you may see green shoots, unnoticed sprigs of good news. They pass unseen by the media, which is too busy chasing fire engines racing to apocalyptic conflagrations.

As someone interested in and occasionally depressed by news about Christianity, and particularly the portion of Christianity to which about 18 percent of the planet and myself subscribes, Catholicism, I was intrigued by this year’s celebrations of the Easter Vigil, a traditional day for baptisms. Not in every church, not in most churches, but in some churches, attendance rose spectacularly, along with the number of baptisms.

It's hard to know if these really herald a new springtime for Christianity, but the signs are promising. Faith resists statistical analysis and most churches are incompetent publicists. But consider this. In London, the gigantic Westminster Cathedral (the Catholic one), which has a capacity of 3000 worshippers, had to turn people away on Good Friday because it was full.

One disappointed worshipper, Robert Stephenson-Padron, then walked to the historic church of St James in Spanish Place to discover that it, too, was full. “Friedrich Nietzsche is dead. King Christ the Crucified and His holy Catholic Church are alive and well!” he tweeted, referring to the German philosopher’s famous dictum, “God is dead”.

More significantly, baptisms appear to have increased as well. In the Archdiocese of Southwark in the UK, 450 adults became Catholics, the highest number of conversions in a decade.

Moving across the pond, in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, 2,075 were baptized into the Catholic faith, the largest number since at least 2016. Another 1,521 people who had already been baptised as Christians were received into the Catholic church, also a record number. In the nearby Archdiocese of San Diego, nearly 1,300 people entered the Catholic Church. In Newark, the largest number in a decade became Catholics.

Surprisingly, in the diocese of Charlotte, North Carolina, where Catholics are a very small minority, 1,104 people became Catholic. And in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Georgia, that figure was about 2,500.

The buzz on social media was that the wife of the controversial Jordan Peterson had become a Catholic at the Easter Vigil in Toronto. Even more newsworthy was the conversion of Bree Solstad, who had worked for a decade as a porn star and producer. She announced her plans on X (formerly Twitter) in January: “I have decided to quit sex work. To repent of my innumerable sins. To give up my life of sin, wealth, vice and vain self-obsession.”

Back across the Atlantic, in France, comes the surprising news that there has been a sharp uptick in a single year. The number of adult baptisms rose by 30 percent, from 5,463 in 2023 to 7,135 in 2024. This figure did not include the 5,000 teenagers who became Catholic, so the total was about 12,000. This is the largest number in 20 years. In one rural diocese, the numbers rose 200 percent in one year – admittedly, from a low base – 8 to 27.

What does all this prove?

Well, it proves nothing but it suggests a great deal.

The Catholic Church has had terrible press over the past 25 years, especially over sexual abuse scandals. Nearly every country with a large Catholic population has discovered that some priests have been sexual predators. The media has amplified the scandals. Catholics in France are still reeling from a report published in 2021 which claimed that 216,000 children - mostly boys, had been abused. These figures were inflated, but the reputational damage was severe.

The media delights in highlighting other issues: declining numbers of priests and nuns, financial scandals in the Vatican, the Pope’s media gaffes, dissident cardinals…



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And yet, and yet … Thousands of French, British and Americans have decided that the Catholic Church is their spiritual home. From a media point of view, this is inexplicable.  

These Easter conversions suggest that beneath the pollution and the rubble, Christianity is stirring. People are looking for the transcendence, forgiveness and unselfish fellowship that are missing at a gay Mardi Gras. Perhaps we are at the inflection point of that hockey stick they use in graphs of climate change. “But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound," says St Paul. Or, in the words of the former porn star, “God’s forgiveness and mercy is real. If someone as broken and sinful as me can be redeemed and converted, there is no doubt anyone … can also be saved by His divine mercy.”

Despite the stumbles and moral collapse of a few, people see that God is at work in the hidden and self-sacrificing efforts of clergy and lay people. They see that life without God is meaningless and leads to appalling violations of human dignity. They’re tired of paddling in puddles of boredom and welcome a rudder and a stiff sea breeze into the future.

Could it also be a symptom of a change across Western culture? Perhaps. Venture capitalist Santiago Pliego told Tucker Carlson the other day that he had detected a “vibe shift”. Green shoots of all kinds are breaking through the ashes of woke bonfires. He sees them in business, family life, technology, politics, and culture.

The old ways of cutting and slicing the world have broken down, and now the most unexpected groups have found themselves as co-belligerents in an existential war to preserve our ability to speak, compute, build, worship, transact, and live in peace.

And thus—cutting across communities and denominations and occupations and hobbies—we get to the Vibe Shift:

Pliego’s essay on Substack is a breath of fresh air for anyone who feels that the news is bad:

The Vibe Shift I’m talking about is the speaking of previously unspeakable truths, the noticing of previously suppressed facts. I’m talking about the give you feel when the walls of Propaganda and Bureaucracy start to move as you push; the very visible dust kicked up in the air as Experts and Fact Checkers scramble to hold on to decaying institutions; the cautious but electric rush of energy when dictatorial edifices designed to stifle innovation, enterprise, and thought are exposed or toppled.

A similar dynamic is at work in the religious sphere -- and that ultimately is the most important of all. People who are sick of materialism are asking themselves if life has anything more to offer than getting rich, getting laid, and getting buried. The answer is, Yes, it does. Ask Bree Solstad.

Do you agree? Share this article with your friends! 

Michael Cook is editor of Mercator 

Image credits: Bigstock


Showing 9 reactions

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  • David Page
    commented 2024-04-23 08:39:24 +1000
    Do you imagine that a right-wing site like Mercatornet is helping? When my wife was dying she became fast friends with the priest who visited her at our home. He understood her objections and thought they were not a problem. She often said, when things weren’t going well, that she knew God loved her. But two of our three children are gay. He said that many of his parishioners were also gay, and that he didn’t think it mattered. After she died he wanted very much to bring me back into the fold. I couldn’t make the leap; not with three daughters, two of whom are gay. Aside from the gay issue, how can a man with daughters accept a doctrine that assumes women to be inferior? If the Church changes it will prosper. I will be the first in line. But if the Church wants to remain in the Middle Ages then it will wither and die.
  • Michael Cook
    commented 2024-04-11 08:09:18 +1000
    Hullo, Warwick. Many thanks. This was a very impressionistic piece, so I could only speak about my personal experience. I have no doubt that there are stirrings everywhere. Much appreciated.
  • Warwick Marsh
    commented 2024-04-10 22:18:27 +1000
    Absolutely brilliant article and i can testify that a very similar thing is happening in many protestant churches. Some not all. But the green shoots are there!!! Soli Deo Gloria!!!!!!
  • mrscracker
    Just a PS about Charlotte, NC.
    I double checked online & it does seem in part to reflect migration & at least half of that being from South of the Border:

    “The number of Catholics in the diocese has more than doubled to an estimated 530,000 – nearly half of whom are Hispanic. …
    Bishop Jugis, who speaks English, Italian and Spanish, has also emphasized the importance of ministering to the diocese’s increasingly diverse flock.

    Now, two-thirds of the diocese’s churches offer Spanish or bilingual Masses. There are robust Spanish faith formation and marriage prep programs. Every seminarian must learn to speak Spanish. And the diocese’s Hispanic Ministry has a full-time vicar and 10 staff coordinators who serve the diocese’s vicariates.

    “Bishop Jugis is a very, very dedicated person to Hispanics and served in several parishes with a large Hispanic presence,” says Deacon Guillermo Anzola of St. Luke Parish in Mint Hill, where the bishop recently dedicated a new church building. “(He) always makes a point of speaking in Spanish for us.”

  • mrscracker
    I’d be cautious about data coming out of Gaza if Hamas is the source. The lines between combatants & civilians there can be blurry to non-existent. I’d question any info from what’s basically a pirate state. It’s like asking Mexican trafficking cartels about illegal immigration numbers.
    You’ll get dodgy data.
    There’s been quite a lot of migration from Northern US states with large, historic Catholic populations to Southern ones. Atlanta & Charlotte have seen huge growth & also have sizeable Hispanic communities. So, that may explain some of the increase in Catholics.
  • Maryse Usher
    commented 2024-04-09 19:32:17 +1000
    Well, we shouldn’t be surprised. Ditch Man was practically road kill when the Good Samaritan showed up. The King didn’t go out to the highway to watch for His son until the prodigal had hit rock bottom. and gave warning he was crawling home. God’s timing is perfect. Perhaps He has been keeping the merits of 20 million martyrs of the last Century on ice until now – when there’s barely anything left to do to destroy ourselves save a nuclear holocaust. We need that Blood transfusion very badly indeed, and that’s just us Catholics.
  • Enrique Alonso de Velasco
    commented 2024-04-09 18:33:09 +1000
    Thank you Michael, for this article. I was thinking the same the last months, since I’ve heard similar impressions from people in the UK and in the Netherlands, where I live.
    Also in Amsterdam and other Dutch cities past Easter Vigil has shown a higher number of adults becoming catholic, although I don’t have statistics of the whole country.
  • Carolyn Moynihan
    commented 2024-04-09 18:12:33 +1000
    Great news! Even Richard Dawkins says he likes Christmas carols: https://www.tiktok.com/@lbc/video/7352829553682795809
  • Michael Cook
    published this page in The Latest 2024-04-09 17:11:28 +1000