Saturday, April 23, 2005
How are liberal churches like newspapers?
Rick Heller at Transparent Eye points to an extremely provocative comment over at Jay Rosen's journalism blog, PressThink. Jeff Gill, a Disciples of Christ minister, observes that the professionalization of journalism gave journalists a false sense of their own authority and the newspapers that employed them — but his provocative suggestion is that the professionalization of the mainline Protestant clergy during the same period has dangerously misled ministers about the nature of people's religious commitments. It's as if entrepreneurial Evangelical and Pentecostal ministers are blogs and late-night talk shows to the mainline Protestant churches' daily newspapers, and they are drawing audiences away from the old establishment.
[T]he huge influx of thankful vets and Boom Babies [in the post-World War II period] masked systemic problems that went back before even WWI, and as downtown churches and regional/national structures consolidated and calcified, they pushed aggressively a model of clergy "professionalism" that left them utterly unable to respond to the entreprenurial surge of untrained, personally motivated new start-ups of the Assemblies of God, COGIG, Vineyard, WillowCreek, and Saddleback approaches. The world they built was based on a "weird, ahistorical 1960-2000 period" and many national and regional structures still can't comprehend what's going on.
Add to that a recent uptick in bequests from dying WWII era folk that mask the final drawdowns on endowments, etc., and a new found appreciation for stewardship and tithing preaching from even liberal pastors, which has pushed per capita giving up enough to cover the decline in total numbers, and you have. . .
Well, it looks a lot like the newsprint and ink world to me. The core function of communicating to and between people is still vital and necessary, but when the mechanism for doing it breaks down, folk will find one that works, no matter what it looks like. There is no loyalty to the mechanism, not because loyalties changed, but because they were never loyal to the mechanism in the first place. Their connection is to the community that's created, and the sentiments about the delivery mechanism were no deeper than, well, sentiment.
This ties both newspapers and oldstyle programmatic, board/committee driven churches together, with Masters of Divinity/seminary trained pastors and J-school journalists in the same leaky boat. It's not that they don't "like" us or stopped "liking" us: they never "liked" us, they liked and even love the community we helped to deliver and maintain. Stop doing that, and they move to the light and warmth of company and community somewhere else.
What sorts of entrepreneurism can Unitarian Universalists and other liberal Protestants encourage?
Copyright © 2005 by Philocrites | Posted 23 April 2005 at 11:00 AM