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Evangelicals in America
May 15, 2005 9:46 AM   Subscribe

Earthly Empires: How evangelical churches are borrowing from the business playbook - "The triumph of evangelical Christianity is profoundly reshaping many aspects of American politics and society... This year, the 16.4 million-member Southern Baptist Convention plans to 'plant' 1,800 new churches using by-the-book niche-marketing tactics. 'We have cowboy churches for people working on ranches, country music churches, even several motorcycle churches aimed at bikers', says Martin King, a spokesman for the Southern Baptists' North American Mission Board... Many of today's evangelicals hope to expand their clout even further. They're also gaining by taking their views into Corporate America. Exhibit A: the recent clash at software giant Microsoft."
posted by kliuless (35 comments total)

 
Religion as a business. How true to Paul's original goal of personally collecting tithes from all the churches! A grand pyramid scheme, indeed.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:11 AM on May 15, 2005


Just because a business sells an imaginary product, should not make it tax exempt.
posted by Mr_Zero at 10:16 AM on May 15, 2005


Would Microsoft be vulnerable to a P&G-style boycott? Mr. Sharp and Rev. Hutcherson acknowledge boycotts are hard to pull off successfully. But Rev. Hutcherson, at least, believes the company could be vulnerable, for three reasons. "One, Mac is back," he says, referring to Apple Computer Inc.'s competing computer system. "Two, viruses are killing Microsoft. And three, Linux is making a comeback."

Fundies boycotting Microsoft in favor of Apple and Linux? Most entertaining news item of the week!
posted by Kwantsar at 10:28 AM on May 15, 2005


Wait, these evangelicals...they're evangelizing?

*gasp*
posted by jonmc at 10:33 AM on May 15, 2005


Isn't it interesting that

1. if you boycott for religious "reasons" then the boycott scares the company
2. if you boycott for some-other-reasons , for instance because it's closed source or because it's polluting, the company isn't scared

Why is some corporate people so afraid of religion ? Usually the only ones afraid of religions are people offering another maybe opposite religion....*souns of a pondering brain*
posted by elpapacito at 10:35 AM on May 15, 2005


Haven't I seen Bill Gates' name on lists of "prominent atheists"?
posted by telstar at 12:29 PM on May 15, 2005


Heh. Churches have been niche marketing for quite a while. They're called "missions."

Just because a business sells an imaginary product

Tithing is a gift given to the church. Churches that include bookstores or other retail outlets pay taxes on money they receive from those transactions.
I think you're also failing to see the implications of taxing "not-for-profit" organizations that "sell" ideas.

Then again, church-bashing is a cliche of vaudevillian proportions on metafilter, so what do I know.

*sits back down*
posted by Baby_Balrog at 1:15 PM on May 15, 2005


I don't care so much that churches, or any not-for-profit enterprise receive tax free contributions, but what I don't understand why they shouldn't be charged property taxes.
This should go for more than just churches. The Olympic Training Center is in the middle of my town, and takes up about 18 city blocks in prime real estate area that just drives the property taxes up on the surrounding homes and buisinesses. They pay sales taxes for all the gift shop stuff, but somehow it just doesn't seem right.
posted by Balisong at 2:57 PM on May 15, 2005


So how long till we have full scale non-Christian cleansing in this country?

Take a cue from the Sudan... stock up on machetes and home HIV kits.
posted by wfrgms at 3:00 PM on May 15, 2005


This article conveys the impression that these churches are acting individually. "With no overarching authority like the Vatican, leaders don't need to wrestle with a bureaucratic hierarchy..." On the contrary, we are witnessing a national political movement in full steam, as determined and organized as any the USA has ever encountered. It's Dominionism, a takeover bid that just happens to have a religious face. For an American to report what this or that evangelical church is doing is like an Afghan reporting in 1994 what one particular Taliban training camp was up to. Keep your eyes on the movement, which is gaining strength. I believe that, given the power it wants, the movement would be no less dangerous than the Taliban. The radical evangelicals are not churchgoers who are "capitalizing on trends." They are an army, they have invaded, they are advancing, and they are winning.
posted by QuietDesperation at 3:02 PM on May 15, 2005


It is going to truly suck to be a US American in the USA once the new evangel republic gains complete political control.

If you don't wish to live under an evangel republic, you must agitate against it. You need to express your concerns to your friends, co-workers, neighbours; you need to encourage them to consider your public representatives religion when voting; you need to demand that your school district, city hall, and state reps keep religion out of the political realm.

In BC, elections are going to take place in the next few weeks. Locally there is a candidate who, to judge by his literature, really is on what I consider the right track, wrt social support systems and the importance of education. But his tract also mentions "God-given rights," and that makes me very wary. On that basis alone, I will not be voting for him: he has mixed politics and religion, and that can not be supported.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:33 PM on May 15, 2005


There's a really fascinating article in this months Harper's by Mike Sharlet, on the New Life megachurch organizational structure.

One of the things that was mentioned was how the church's founder (also personal advisor to G.W.) came up with a cell-like structure that retains ideological purity in the face of massive growth.

elpapacito: if you read that last WSJ link:
P&G officials won't talk publicly about the boycott. But privately, they acknowledge the groups turned out to be larger, better funded, better organized and more sophisticated than the company had imagined. And there is little doubt the boycott hit its mark. Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association, says 360,000 families signed petitions to boycott P&G products.

libruls just aint that organized
posted by stratastar at 6:54 PM on May 15, 2005


Churches have been niche marketing for quite a while...

yes, but this time they're "profoundly reshaping many aspects of american politics and society," while evangelizing apple and linux to boot; that's just weird :D

cheers!
posted by kliuless at 8:18 PM on May 15, 2005


Okay. In response to some of the comments for this post... Please don't buy into using the word "Evangelical" as a synonym for the "Religious Right".

Just like any population, the politics of Evangelical Christians exist on a spectrum (although Focus on the Family and their ilk would like everyone to think otherwise.)

You can refer to Sojourners, Jim Wallis, the Young Pietists, etc. etc.

And, regarding churches profoundly reshaping many aspects of american politics and society? The Christian church has ALWAYS had a hand in shaping and reshaping many aspects of American politics and society, starting with the Pilgrims. Different denominations influence politicians, communities, policy, and culture in different ways. Christianity has always been profoundly political since its origination...even Christians who believe in the separation of Church and State have always been acutely aware of that.
posted by jeanmari at 8:37 PM on May 15, 2005


Then again, church-bashing is a cliche of vaudevillian proportions on metafilter, so what do I know.

I have actually, in my professional life, had to work out the difference between religious belief and secular looniness in terms of its tax implications.

I have yet to come up with any reasoned, practical way to explain to you or to an administrative tribunal or to a judge why Person A, who believes that Jesus speaks to him via a slice of bread with a mold patch that looks like the Virgin Mary should be entitled to tax relief while Person B who believes that aliens are sending him messages through his wind-up monkey should not. Nor, in other areas that I have worked, have I found a better basis for a distinction between the two when it comes to human rights claims/violations (eg: fired from job for religious beliefs/practice vs. same beliefs without the God part) and exemptions from narcotics laws (eg: religious use of peyote).

And from a mental health perspective (and as a logic-building exercise for society), should we be endorsing views -- any view -- so long as there is a Supreme Being involved, when we'd consider the person mentally ill if it were Little Green Men instead?

I have to go with Mr_Zero on this.
posted by dreamsign at 8:50 PM on May 15, 2005


dreamsign, that may be a Canuckian thing. As far as I know, a secular nonprofit (such as the Association for Research into Simian-Borne Alien Communication) would be just as federally tax-exempt as a local church in the US.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:06 PM on May 15, 2005


Well glad to see someone proselytizing for Apple after their own evangelist fell to the ways of Satan
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 9:15 PM on May 15, 2005


The Christian church has ALWAYS had a hand in shaping and reshaping many aspects of American politics and society...

yes, but again they're* "considering redefining science itself," taking over the military and boycotting microsoft (OMFG! :)

cheers!

*helpful guide to getting your religious terms right :D
posted by kliuless at 9:35 PM on May 15, 2005


a secular nonprofit (such as the Association for Research into Simian-Borne Alien Communication) would be just as federally tax-exempt as a local church in the US.

Except that churches aren't classified as non-profits (which BTW have amazingly tight restrictions on how they run their finances; for example, even having an interest-bearing savings account can disqualify an organization from being a non-profit); they're exempted under section 501(c)(3) of the tax code as "not-for-profits", which covers trade, charitable, scientific and religious organizations. Needless to say, only 1 of those 4 types are allowed to sell crazy for cash.
posted by boaz at 9:37 PM on May 15, 2005


The peyote example actually comes from the U.S.. Right now it's just American Indian use in religious rites, but you know it won't be long before a non-Indian claims the right to pratice the religion and thus practice the rites as well.

And marijuana may now be exempted... for people in the "district" of Guam and -- get this -- because D.C. is also a district and not a state, it could technically be legal there, too.

My fave are those "kits" you can order online -- "religious exemption kits" I think they call them -- with labels for your stash and even tomato-stakes that claim religious practice rights for your growing bud.

In any case, we still draw lines -- in law -- between the sky-god believer and the UFO-savior believer, and I can't find a justification for it whatsoever.
posted by dreamsign at 9:46 PM on May 15, 2005


One, Mac is back

and guess what corporation owns a big fat chunk of it?
posted by quonsar at 11:02 PM on May 15, 2005


Well I don't consider people who believe in little green men to be mentally ill in and of itself. And religious tolerance is more in line with philosophical tolerance as far as the hire/fire thing. I wouldn't want anyone removed from a post because they're a Objectivist even if it is not my fav philosophy.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 3:59 AM on May 16, 2005


"American Family Association"..."Focus on the Family"... It really bugs me sometimes how "Family" is getting to be a code word. On the other hand, gay friends of mine use it in an entirely other way, as referring to another gay man as one of their own: "Him? Oh, yes, he's family too."
posted by alumshubby at 4:05 AM on May 16, 2005


five fresh fish writes "But his tract also mentions 'God-given rights,' and that makes me very wary."

I'm an atheist, but i use "God-given rights" as a shorthand for rights that are inherent in men, and cannot be granted by the State.
posted by orthogonality at 4:19 AM on May 16, 2005


This year, the 16.4 million-member Southern Baptist Convention plans to 'plant' 1,800 new churches using by-the-book niche-marketing tactics

*Stealth*Baptists*

Pick a cute name like "Faith Promise" or "Cornerstone" and never let on that you're SBC.
posted by nofundy at 4:43 AM on May 16, 2005


Well I don't consider people who believe in little green men to be mentally ill in and of itself.

Believing in little green men and worshipping them are two entirely different things. I wonder about many different unknown things. However I would not withhold prescribed medicines or murder an abortion doctor for any of them.
posted by Mr_Zero at 7:23 AM on May 16, 2005


Why is some corporate people so afraid of religion ?

Because they know, for some people, religion is the only thing that trumps consumerism.

There are other comparatively minor examples where morality is considered over profit such as 'ethical' investment funds or perhaps some aspects of the green movement but there's no clear-cut demographic like one of the major religions.
posted by scheptech at 7:35 AM on May 16, 2005


"Needless to say, only 1 of those 4 types are allowed to sell crazy for cash"

I'll say this again: Churches are not selling anything. I think it is very important that you get your terms straight, or you risk running into the same logical walls that people who lash out against "secular humanism" and "the relativist wave" find themselves up against.

Selling refers to the transfer of goods and services. Churches are not selling anything. Individuals tithe, or contribute, to churches because they want to support the church. Churches, with our without tithes, provide their followers with spiritual guidance and *some* churches offer up a solution for better living and a way to acquire eternal life.

When a televangelist gets him/herself on the air and subtly implies that, "giving me money will assure you a place at the Lord's table," they are selling.

Televangelists are not churches. Sometimes they start churches, but the only religious organization that I'm aware of which SELLS salvation for dollars is the Scientologist movement.

Don't try to equate religious forums and communities with ice cream stores. It's naive and makes you sound like a 12 year old. The same goes for this "Magical Wizard Sky-God Worshipers Will Put My Gay Brother In a Gas Chamber" nonsense. I despise the Newest Church as much as any rabid atheist (though for entirely different reasons) but you simply cannot begin attacking a political structure by calling out all Christians. It just won't work. And frankly, if I began to say things like, "String theorists are all a bunch of people-who-have-abortions and pot-smoking-child-rapists!" you would tear me apart. However, I'm sure their has been at least one proponent of String Theory to have an abortion, or perhaps engage in coitus with a 17 year old and smoked pot. The point is that I would avoid making sweeping generalizations, because they'd make me look silly.

Let's try and stick with the program. The enemy is not Christianity. The enemy is not the Christian God/dess. The enemy is a political organization that is using a particular book to prop up its shallow, hate-filled propagandist agenda - most of which I believe is firmly grounded in unfulfilled sexual desires - and this wide-eyed, paranoid view of Christianity is only going to split us apart.

I was raised an atheist, until one day I had direct experience of the numinous and any doubts I reserved concerning the existence or nonexistence of a higher order and sentiency was utterly stripped away. I am more certain of this presence than I am of you people out in cyberspace. I will never be convinced otherwise - no more than you would have me convince you that the Earth is round or the ocean's salty. My point is that by stabbing out blindly against Christianity, you are stabbing out at me, and I am no narrow-minded red-state twit.

And I don't like being stabbed out at.

And I stab back. Alot.

*On preview: *doubts anyone will read all that.*
posted by Baby_Balrog at 7:44 PM on May 16, 2005


The enemy is not Christianity.

But the enemy includes all those who claim to be Christian and allow their name to be tarnished by the religionist haters. To accede is to conspire. Through silence, great atrocities are wrought.

And one of them is the quiet dismantling of the United States, a nation which had been showing great potential.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:58 PM on May 16, 2005


"....So how long till we have full scale non-Christian cleansing in this country?" - 5 to 10 years.

"It is going to truly suck to be a US American in the USA once the new evangel republic gains complete political control." - Being Canadian then won't be much better.
posted by troutfishing at 9:41 PM on May 16, 2005


I'm an atheist, but i use "God-given rights" as a shorthand for rights that are inherent in men, and cannot be granted by the State.
posted by orthogonality at 4:19 AM PST on May 16 [!]


So you're not the only atheist who uses God indiscriminately either... well, Goddamn..

When a televangelist gets him/herself on the air and subtly implies that, "giving me money will assure you a place at the Lord's table," they are selling.

But they still get the tax free status, even if they are a "loophole" in our tax/penal/1'st ammendment rights.
They should at least pay the tax.
posted by Balisong at 11:02 PM on May 16, 2005


Don't try to equate religious forums and communities with ice cream stores.

But that's exactly the point of fundamentalism and evangelicalism. Admittedly not the point of Christianity, but I've yet to find a really Christian church anywhere.
posted by dagnyscott at 9:01 AM on May 17, 2005


I'm having a hard time getting my head around the concept that we have "evangelical, which typically refers to Christians who believe the Bible is the literal work of God" and in the same article talk about Osteen and Creflo A. Dollar.

How does the claim that "God takes pleasure in the prosperity of his servants" as justification for material weath match up with Matthew 19:20-30? Is there some giant needle out in Texas somewhere?
posted by john at 2:49 PM on May 17, 2005


It's just people trying to assuage their guilt, john. They want permission to be greedy. Giving away all worldly possessions and following the lord, as demonstrated so much in the NT, isn't what they desire.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:13 PM on May 17, 2005


" Is there some giant needle out in Texas somewhere?" - well, yes.... That needle is in some people's heads.
posted by troutfishing at 8:03 PM on May 17, 2005


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