Featured Post

The Hypocrisy of Evangelicals in the 2016 Presidential Election

Today’s guest post is from a woman named Rachel. She asked me to keep her identity anonymous since she fears any backlash for her views. Rachel is an evangelical Christian. She’s married, has two children, and she’s in her early 30s. She and her family attend a Baptist church and are involved in...

Read More

The Coming Ecclesiastical Mass Extinction

Posted by Radical Resurgence | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 13-03-2012

0

The asteroid has struck, the sky is darkening, and the mainstream churches and any evangelical megachurch you care to name are the dinosaurs.

The asteroid is late capitalism and it is darkening the skies in at least two ways.

(1) The global economy is putting an end to national economies and marginalizing the modern nation state. The present recession is the result of our inability to understand or control global financial flows. People in the right places press a few keys on their desktops and laptops and vast amounts of money leap across boundaries and around the world and ‘national’ economies are twisted into bizarre pretzel shapes by the event.

Capital intensive forms of church and parachurch will undergo a mass extinction event as this recession is followed by later ones. It is impossible to predict (much less control) the outputs of what mathematicians call ‘ a chaotic system’ so this will just be the first of many such downturns each resulting in yet another episode of what the economist Shumpeter called ‘creative destruction”.

(2) Historic cultures are replaced by a symbolic marketplace. Cultures are looted in order to replace them with niche markets, lifestyle options, and colorful commodities. Counseling options of all sorts become available (Freudian, Neofreudian,and Postfreudian psychotherapy are joined by Jungian depth psychology, Adlerian analytical psychology, gestalt therapy, rational-emotive therapy, reality therapy, Skinnerian behavioral modification, hypnotherapy, group therapy, New Age spiritualities et cetera, et cetera).

This wider range of well capitalized options will greatly reduce the demand for pastoral counseling as well as the demand for much of what passes for spirituality today. Wonderful choral and organ music will be available in the form of CDs, DVDs, And public, cable and satellite TV and radio. The market for organizations that offer opportunities for civic activism in many causes (environmentalism, poverty, homelessness, architectural preservation, and many, many others) will soon be saturated with better funded and better promoted organizations than anything the church can put put there. Since the postWW2 church has organized itself around the goal of meeting the demands of a denominational market, the results of the symbolic marketplace filling up with slick, well-capitalized alternatives will be mass extinction.

There will be only two ways to survive.

(1) We can go further into the realm of the religion business. Dioceses and parishes can take on corporate sponsors. We can stamp their corporate logos on our hymnals and display them on the west walls of our churches. We can experiment with such things as online parishes that never meet. We can mail out to the subscribers/members consecrated eucharistic elements that can be consumed in the context of a broadcast or recorded ritual. We can pay programmers to develop a virtual reality version of the rite of reconciliation. You get the idea.

or

(2) We can return back to the premedieval diocese that covers a metropolitan area and its immediate environs. We can choose pastorally oriented and theologically adept bishops for such dioceses. We can dump an understanding of priesthood that is modeled after the professional careerist model of the attorney and the physician. Professional training is not the same thing as education, so we can stop kidding ourselves about having an ‘educated’ clergy (we don’t) and we can follow the model of the early church in which people like Ambrose and Augustine were told, “I’m sorry, but the church sees you as being called to be a priest (or a bishop) and you don’t really have a lot of choice in the matter.”

Those so called can learn how to do what they need to do from faithful working priests and the church can send them to a public university to pursue any needed academic education or training. Attendance at frequent seminars and conferences can acquaint one with what is happening in other dioceses. We don’t need to worry about interfacing that much with the ‘national church’. It will be marginalized just as the nation state will become marginal. Many of our parishes may meet in homes and in many cases their priests may have to be ‘tentmakers’.

I know that it seems now that we have plenty of other options and that another fistful of well designed ‘programs’ can do the trick. But programs are not the answer. They’re part of the problem.

All of the dinosaurs will eventually die. The mammals will survive. In other words, the bureaucratic, program-driven, mainstream Protestant churches will die. The out-and-out religion businesses and the sacramental neomonastic communities and other forms of organic church will survive.

I wonder which category your church will be in.

Written by Valdez

Comments are closed.