|Contrasting Views of the Corporation||Rodney Stark|
by Christopher Chantrill
April 11, 2005 at 3:16 pm
EVER SINCE the death of John Paul II people have been generously offering to help plan the future of the Catholic Church. They recognize that the Church occupies a unique position in the world, and they want it to succeed.
OK. They just want to graft their own agenda onto the Churchs robust root stock and grow their own fruit upon it.
The British atheist Matthew Parris wants the Church to become amiably feeble like the Church of England, and the left wants it to incorporate its secular sacraments of abortion, women in the priesthood, contraception, condoms, and gay marriage into the already substantial list of seven sacraments: baptism, confirmation, eucharist, penance and reconciliation, anointing of the sick, holy orders, and matrimony.
All this free advice would be comical if it werent so outrageous. How in the world does a secular journalist imagine that she has standing to advise the Conclave of the College of Cardinals on the content of the Catholic faith? Strictly speaking, of course, nobody has standing, since the Church has always been a top-down church, a magisterium. If you prefer bottom-up religion, go plant a Protestant church!
But there is one way in which we interfering opiners can help. We can apply our Yankee ingenuity to the market share issue. Granted that the Catholic Church wants to remain the market leader in the global religion industry, what should it do to stay No. 1?
Fortunately, the U.S. is home to a coterie of academic sociologists that has studied just this problem: How does a church find the sweet spot in the religious market, and grow to become market leader?
It seems sacrilegious to develop a sociology of religion that treats religion as a market. But that is what sociologist Rodney Stark and his collaborators have done.
Suppose you think in terms of supply and demand for religion, and symbolize religious organizations as religious firms led by religious entrepreneurs. What then? You could think of a big, corporate religious firm as a church, and a start-up religious firm as a sect or cult.
The whole point of a church, as the Jewish spokesman Will Herberg advised in 1966, is to take its stand against the spirit of the agebecause the world and the age are always, to a degree, to an important degree, in rebellion against God. There should be, and there usually is, a tension between a church and society. A church should keep a certain distance from the secular world to demonstrate the distance between what is and what should be.
Some religious firms, such as the Jehovahs Witnesses sect, keep a large distance from the secular world, maintaining a separate community in high tension with secular society. Sects usually impose heavy costs and prohibitions upon their members. Others, like the average Pentecostal or fundamentalist church, maintain a medium tension with godless, secular society and impose fewer costs and prohibitions upon their members. There are others, liberal religious firms like the Unitarian Universalist Church, that maintain almost no tension with the dominant secular society and the educated, secular elite. For their members there is almost no cost to membership.
Church members understand that to get a really superior product you have to pay more.
For budding religious entrepreneurs or CEOs, the question arises: Is there a best level of tension? In Acts of Faith Rodney Stark and Roger Finke asked just this question, and they found that there is a Bell Curve associated with religious tension or strictness. Very strict and very liberal churches are usually small. The sweet spot with the biggest churches is the moderately strict religious market niche in moderate tension with secular society.
The Catholic Church used to have a reputation for strictness. It was a church that was notorious for imposing substantial costs upon its adherents, in particular upon its religious, the male celibate priests and female celibate nuns. But in the 1960s the Catholic Church suddenly decided to reduce its tension with the rest of society, and updated its doctrines and its beliefs. It reduced the cost of being a Catholic (by relaxing the threat of excommunication and the requirements to attend church) and it reduced the benefit of being a religious priest or nun (mainly by annihilating the feeling of being set apart, according to Stark, in a special state of holiness). All of a sudden, the churches emptied and the religious lost their vocations.
Fortunately, along came John Paul II and made the church stricter. The Catholic Church started to grow again except, of course, in Old Europe.
You can understand what the unpaid, un-solicited secular advisers are proposing for the Catholic Church. They are proposing that it reduce its tension with secular society. They are proposing that it become smaller.
Buy his Road to the Middle Class.
But I saw a man yesterday who knows a fellow who had it from a chappie
that said that Urquhart had been dipping himself a bit recklessly off the deep end.
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison
Civil Societya complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churchesbuilds, in turn, on the family, the primary instrument by which people are socialized into their culture and given the skills that allow them to live in broader society and through which the values and knowledge of that society are transmitted across the generations.
Francis Fukuyama, Trust
Tear down theory, poetic systems... No more rules, no more models... Genius conjures up
rather than learns... Victor Hugo
César Graña, Bohemian versus Bourgeois
We have met with families in which for weeks together, not an article of sustenance but potatoes had been used; yet for every child the hard-earned sum was provided to send them to school.
E. G. West, Education and the State
When we began first to preach these things, the people appeared as awakened from the sleep of agesthey seemed to see for the first time that they were responsible beings, and that a refusal to use the means appointed was a damning sin.
Finke, Stark, The Churching of America, 1776-1990
When we received Christ, Phil added, all of a sudden we now had a rule book to go by, and when we had problems the preacher was right there to give us the answers.
James M. Ault, Jr., Spirit and Flesh
A writer who says that there are no truths, or that all truth is merely relative, is asking you not to believe him. So dont.
Roger Scruton, Modern Philosophy
As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable...
[1.] protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death; [2.] recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family... [3.] the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.
Pope Benedict XVI, Speech to European Peoples Party, 2006
At first, we thought [the power of the West] was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity.
David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing
But the only religions that have survived are those which support property and the family.
Thus the outlook for communism, which is both anti-property and anti-family, (and also anti-religion), is not promising.
F.A. Hayek, The Fatal Conceit
Conservatism is the philosophy of society. Its ethic is fraternity and its characteristic is authority the non-coercive social persuasion which operates in a family or a community. It says we should....
Danny Kruger, On Fraternity
Families helped each other putting up homes and barns. Together, they built churches, schools, and common civic buildings. They collaborated to build roads and bridges. They took pride in being free persons, independent, and self-reliant; but the texture of their lives was cooperative and fraternal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism