The Church as Institution, Day Four

   Curse you, Ken Coffee.

The Church as Institution, Day Four

   Understand the Traditionals I have mentioned innovated the Church into what it is today. Everything after the innovations of the 1950’s amount to variations on a theme, like playing a song in a different tempo but with the same lyrics.

   The Traditionals came out of a period of relative poverty/anxiety (the Great Depression and WW II) into an era of tremendous upward social mobility based on conformity. Everyone knew the same things. Good was good and bad was very bad. People lived in the same kinds of houses, drove the same cars (with fierce brand loyalty; my dad bought only Fords; big ones, made of metal) and attended worship centers practicing some variation of ritual cannibalism.

   The Traditionals built a bigger, better mousetrap. The world beat a path to their door.

   No one could foresee accurately the developments just around the corner of time. The Traditionals gobbled up whole populations the way Homer Simpson attacks a doughnut tray.

   Naturally, the gains of the fifties and early sixties slowly ground to a halt as the Moderns emerged to place systemic controls on, well, everything, in order to consolidate the gains of the past fifteen years. Suddenly, everything depended on the system.

   The Viet Nam War started to end when Bob McNamara looked at Lyndon Johnson and said, "I have crunched the numbers. We can’t win."

   Understand, the Moderns did not fail. They simply reorganized according to the new technology available to them. In point of fact, they succeeded admirably in tinkering with the machinery, applying mass production techniques to personal services and finding out why things worked as well as how they worked. The Moderns were the children of the 60’s, free love and all its regrets wrapped in a button down shirt under a smart business suit. By 1972, the former hippies were voting Republican.

   No one could have foreseen the events just around the corner of time. The Cold War ended. Democratic governments declared a peace dividend. Economies once devoted to war production would now convert to plow-share production.

   Portable terrorism, native and foreign, impinged on the peace dividend. Civil liberties in the Democracies began to erode, along with their wealth, since the new world consumed energy in staggering amounts. Once again, as often in history, transportation and home comfort started to become prohibitively expensive.

   The Post-Modern Non-Traditionals, who are actually closer to the Traditionals than they seem to know, emerge to play just as the rules of the game change. A young American born in the 1980’s has not known a meaningful recession in their life time. Always, jobs have been more plentiful than workers. Someone always waited at the finish line to award them a participation ribbon for showing up that day.

   The rules are changing.


2 thoughts on “The Church as Institution, Day Four”

  1. Thanks for taking this topic on.
    As someone who was in Southern Baptist churches in the ‘50’s I have to disagree with you that “everything after the innovations of the 1950s” amounts to “variations on a theme.” I WISH it were so!
    From the ‘50’s I remember: Preaching about sin and guilt. No guitars, videos, or PowerPoint slides in the sanctuary. In fact, sanctuaries instead of worship centers. Christians were actually expected to be different from the world.
    I don’t see anything CLOSE to variations on these themes in the churches I’ve attended, as a member or as a visitor, for the past twenty years.
    Still, thanks for challenging us to think about the changes.

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