Something unpredictable is happening in New York City. It is the arrival of “Black Swans.”
For a millennia most people thought there were only white swans. Then, the news spread that in Australia there were black swans. Thousands of years of experience and a mindset that said that swans are only white were contradicted. Everyone had to change their thinking. In his book The Black Swan Nassim Nicholas Taleb wrote, “It took one single (and, I m told, quite ugly) black bird to overturn “a millennia of confirmatory sightings of millions of white swans.”
Taleb uses the metaphor of “Black Swans” to describe unlikely, highly improbable happenings that cause huge impacts on normal, predictable life. Taleb, who has used his analysis of “black swans” to make and hold onto his wealth in Wall Street trading, likes to say the unexpected happening causes history to jump, not crawl.
In New York City we are experiencing a Black Swan that is hardly recognized in its importance. After sixty years of extreme secularism, the city is having an unpredicted, widely hailed as unlikely, revival of religious faith. Political scientists had predicted that religion would not play any future important role in city politics. Journalists and intellectuals beat the secular drum harder than any street musician. It’s time to change our thinking; it’s time to get a new tune. There is a whole flock of Black Swan events going on in New York City.
We don’t know completely what will be the huge impacts, but not a day goes by that a new church, temple or religious movement or faith-based compassion program doesn’t surprise me with its presence and impact.
Recently, Donizete Rodrigues, an anthropologist from Portugal, shared with me that he has found over one hundred- fifty Brazilian churches in the NYC metropolitan area. Let me incredulously repeat, One hundred-fifty? In 2004 we had counted eleven. Later, with Rodrigues' help we counted forty-five.
The Brazilian Black Swans are having an international impact. The first director of the Redeemer Presbyterian Church Planting Center (City to City) was a Brazilian immigrant. One new denomination headquartered in New York City area, the Pentecostal Missionary Church of the Portuguese Language, has sent missionaries who have planted churches in Florida, Portugal, Switzerland, England and South America. The church has also recently purchased a radio station.
The founder of the church is Bishop Zeny Tinouco. He came to Christ through Billy Graham in 1974 in Brazil. When Graham came to NYC in 2005, Bishop Tinouco had already moved here to start the Pentecostal Missionary Church.
Life here in New York City is very unusual. Around every corner, we see a different manifestation of preaching, healing, praying, and comforting. We await to see what the future huge effects of these Black Swans will have on our city. Will these Black Swans fly away? Will knew ones join them or replace them?