Naomi Schaefer Riley: Shopping for God

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In the early 1980s, the People for the American Way ran a television commercial in which actors were made to say how they preferred their eggs--e.g., scrambled, poached or fried. Everyone should be free, the ad implied, to choose as he wishes: That's the American way. The punch line, Richard John Neuhaus wrote in "The Naked Public Square" (1984), was aimed at moral majoritarians "who allegedly would impose one way on everybody." But of course, as Mr. Neuhaus noted, the matters over which the moral majority felt strongly--e.g., abortion and the death penalty--were not exactly comparable to breakfast fare. The ad amounted to a "fatuous trivialization" of moral concerns.

In "Shopping for God," James B. Twitchell resurrects the spirit of the egg analogy to make an even broader claim. Choosing a religion, he argues, is much like choosing any other product--from breakfast food to beer. He sets out to determine why the "spiritual marketplace" in the U.S. seems so hot right now, and, more pointedly, why evangelical megachu rches have become, well, so mega. His theme can be summed up in one of the book's smug chapter titles: "Christian Consumers Are Consumers First."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture

Posted October 24, 2007 at 5:07 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Just Passing By wrote:


The “read it all” link is broken. I believe this one is the correct article.

Note to elves: I think you just need to add “68” to the end of the URL.



October 24, 7:38 am | [comment link]
2. rwkachur wrote:

This topic always fascinates me.  We cannot, as 21st century Americans fathom the influence of “cosumerism”, and I would add “pragmatism” on our thoughts.  It is the water we live in.  Of course, church shopping isn’t limited to right wing “mega churches”.  How much does shopping for experience feed the “emerging church” movement?  I was recently at an Episcopal Church which was offering the U2charist…the average age of the congregation was in the upper 50s, and I’m being generous—so sometimes the marketing isn’t that shrewd.  The labyrinth was the previous “hot ticket” on the left.  Everyone markets in our culture, it is second nature. 
I have always thought it was one of the strength of the Roman Church that it had a relatively strict parish system…it forced people to live together and work things out.  No shopping…or at least not as much.

October 24, 9:09 am | [comment link]
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