Monday, May 25, 2009
© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense
Last week, we saw an interview of a Ku Klux Klan member. He made frequent reference to segregation as having been sanctioned by God.
More recently, one of our “supporters” suggested that we “sprinkle” our articles with Biblical references to generate more interest, particularly because God has chosen to assemble more of his passionate followers here in the Southeast.
(In a previous article, we noted our repeated requests that God speak to us, all to no avail. We actually envy those special people to whom God speaks. They’re apparently doing something we’re not, despite our willingness to participate in a conversation. The Logistician’s Father long claimed that he was simply not trying hard enough.)
The segregationist and our supporter, in conjunction with the noise generated over the President’s Notre Dame Commencement speech, reminded us of a blunder candidate Obama made on the campaign trail. In April 2008, he said that it was not surprising that working class citizens, in small cities decimated by job losses, might cling to guns and religion to deal with their frustration.
Many felt that Sen. Clinton would benefit enormously from this misstep.
And perhaps she ultimately will.
And so it was timely that C-Span aired a presentation entitled, “God is Back,” sponsored by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. “Taking Cover under the Canopy of Religion,” was coined by one of the panelists.
We learned that the “mega church” is actually an American invention – an extension of free market capitalism. In the 1970s, some religious leaders realized they were living in a very competitive environment. They suspected the application of business principles and marketing, along with getting more involved in the media and politics, would drive growth beyond their missionary efforts abroad.
One of the panelists noted that “Religion, American Style” has done so well in these “emerging markets,” that they have taken the business of religion to a new level. The growth has been particularly noteworthy in Guatemala and South Korea (where one mega church boasts 830,000 members).
It’s not just a matter of more people personally following religion, but rather the reassertion of religion as a force in life. Per the panelists, globalization is stoking the demand for religion.
China has roughly 1.4 billion people. Despite its purported communist underpinnings, it could become the largest Christian nation, Buddhist nation, or any other type of religious nation. Many suggest that the central authority of the Communist Party is fragile and subject to fracture.
The branch of Christianity most successful in riding this wave has been Pentecostalism, which places emphasis on a direct personal experience with God. (Perhaps that’s the ticket.) Globalization is driving insecurity, because change makes people insecure.
Insecurity historically has driven an apocalyptic attitude, and concern about impending doom. Pentecostalism also has a sociological element, which provides uprooted people with a philosophy in which they can emotionally invest.
To many, the Pentecostal Church service is the spiritual equivalent of infotainment. Entertainers from Ray Charles to Elvis Presley traced their musical roots to the melodies and arrangements they learned as children on Sundays.
As with everything in life, the panelists acknowledged a downside. When religion is at its most passionate, it is also at its most intolerant.
And most dangerous.
More blood has been shed in the Name of God, through religious wars, than for any other political purpose.
One perhaps counterintuitive aspect of the mega churches is the focus on small units to drive the agenda. One reason that Islam has grown so rapidly is that individual mosques have tremendous control and autonomy at their level, as opposed to functioning under a huge, centralized bureaucracy.
The strength in this approach is that it empowers people. The weakness? Doctrinal inconsistency, subject to variations of all types, and manipulation.
Our friend the Laughingman abandoned a Mormon heritage, traceable to Brigham Young’s initial march across the plains and mountains, to become an Episcopalian (not least to insure continued access to the company of Rev. Davenport’s daughter). Forty five years later, he remains a 4 times a month church goer… not least because he has discovered that getting down on your knees once a week, and reciting the Litany, is good for one’s sanity as well as one’s soul.
“We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done, and there is no health in us, but thou, oh Lord, have mercy upon us miserable offenders.”
He likens religion to a human operator’s manual. Pay attention to the Ten Commandments, and you can get through this life without causing harm to yourself or others. Ignore them, and it is hell living with the consequences.
We guess that candidate Obama got it wrong. Imagine that.
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