Supply Side

This week’s McGuire reading for Tuesday focused on religion in the modern world, and what exactly is its present position. Four different narratives (secularization, reorganization, individualization, supply side market analysis) currently dominate the answer to the future of religion. The supply side narrative is the only one of these that I had not before heard of as an explanation to the changes in religious trends over time. It is explained that the U.S. has a free market for religion, and what makes a church successful is the participation and amount of members. The reading states that by redesigning a religion to be more popular, “church members will flock through your doors.” (299)

The connection between church and religion, however, is not always present.  Strange but plausible is someone who considers themselves to be Christian and reads the Bible daily, yet never attends church, and because of the religious free market, it is easier than ever to find ways to practice different forms of religion or even start a new church. When people are reminiscing about the “good old days,” McGuire points out, they include the singular neighborhood community church everyone attended, but fail to bring up the “gravely restricted individual freedom” people were subjected to, particularly women. These authoritarian, patriarchal structures found within churches and congregations were non democratic and placed no emphasis on the individual. Additionally, as other cultures and Eastern religions make their way into Western culture, there become more mainstream options for church attendance. Supply side seems to ignore that religion and church can coexist separately as well as together. The success of a church is not always due to religion itself, but the members, charisma, hospitality, and physicality of the church rather than its actual beliefs. As religion becomes more individualized with the growth of spirituality, we may find that while churches become less frequently attended, religion still has the same amount of presence within people’s lives, just differently than it may have with religion.