Best of Times, Worst of Times

Darren Grem

What happens to religion when the economy goes belly-up? Apparently, it results in a boom for evangelical churches:

“It’s a wonderful time, a great evangelistic opportunity for us,” said the Rev. A. R. Bernard, founder and senior pastor of the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, New York’s largest evangelical congregation, where regulars are arriving earlier to get a seat. “When people are shaken to the core, it can open doors.”

This excerpt comes from a recent NYT article, and, it stands alongside this one and this one and this one to make a general, albeit anecdotal, answer to the question. Some quick googling reveals some more perspectives, like this one and this one and this one and, of course, our homespun ones here and here.

The economic fallout has also already affected holiday sales, seriously undercutting our "consumer rites" and spurring the first few rounds of gesturing about the "true" meaning of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. The commodification of Festivus, it seems, is going smoothly despite the economic downturn. Festivus Pole sales are pushing 4,500 since 2004.

So, what does it all mean? Which groups or individuals will benefit most from the economic crisis? Which will take a hit? Economic panics have been instrumental in shaping American religious life before, but what about this one?

Maybe those questions are too speculative. But hey, speculation got us into this problem. Maybe it ain't all bad.


Phil said…
Great post. Witty and thoughtful as usual. These stories add more texture to discussions of "religious economy."

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