Tuesday, January 26, 2010





From: SELLING GOD - American Religion
in the Marketplace of Culture,
by R. Laurence Moore
Religious leaders had started national life
aware that they had to deal with competition.
They said so in many forums, and in one way or
another they declared it a problem.
All procedures were in the beginning ad hoc.
Innovation was a forced option. One locus
of competition was between denominations,
but in some ways that was the easy part of it.
The unexpected proliferation and prosperity
of new religious groups aided church leaders
generally. Looming as a bigger problem was
competition with non-religious enterprises on
the cultural landscape that attracted people's
attention and energies. Many of those
enterprises were changing the nature of leisure
in the United States. Increasingly, they turned
casual pastimes into organized businesses.
Religious leaders entered a long struggle
to try to control the direction that commercial
culture took. In many ways, religion's determined
intrusion into the marketplace of culture made
that arena the central moral battleground of
American life. What religious leaders did early
in national history, they continued to do later.
They opposed many new forms of commercial
culture as they came along. They tried to set up
attractive, alternative diversions under church
sponsorship. They fought with cultural
entrepreneurs who resisted the idea of running
their businesses according to guidelines dictated
by a Protestant moral economy.
These efforts gave American religious life a
distinctive quality that was radically different
from what it had been in the colonial era.
For one thing, almost all of them committed
religious leaders to a process of popularization.
They had to attract people to what they were doing.
Whether they were trying to clamp controls
on the marketplace of culture or not,
they found themselves using the language
of selling and commodification.

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