Commercialism as It Affects Religion in America
Write about 5 Pages on Commercialism as it affects Religion in America. You must have at least 3 scholarly sources without using any internet sources.
Traditionally, religion was used to nurture the faith of the believers and provide them with an opportunity to converge and work towards the attainment of the goals of salvation for not only oneself, but also for others. However, according to Burns and Fawcett (2012), in contemporary society, commercialism (the need/urge to maximize profits), has changed the landscape of religion in America. Commercialism has transformed religious organizations into commercial enterprises whereby the traditional goal has been partially abandoned and replaced with the need to make profits from the believers. Religion in the American society has been populated by a commercial clutter and transformed into one of the commodities sold in the consumer marketplace (Einstein, 2011). Faithfuls have started competing with one another as well as with a variety of entertaining and convenient leisure activities. Commercialization has not only led to the transformation of religious organizations into profit-making entities, but also eroded the morals and identities which were previously reminiscent of religious organizations. This essay provides a discussion of the effects of commercialism on religion in the US.
Commercialism has led to a shift by religious leaders from focusing on the core mandate of salvation to the maximization of profits. For instance, in Christianity, the entertainment of followers has superseded the need to make them understand the gospel, dessert their sinful ways, and follow the example of Christ (McAlexander et al., 2014). In 2000, there were enormous expenditures by Evangelical, Pentecostal, and other Christians in not only Christians related but also mass-marketed material. For instance, in music, $747 million were made from Christian albums. Moreover, approximately $1 billion was spent on Christian related books with a majority of those falling in apocalyptic fiction. For example, according to Einstein (2011), the Left Behind Series, sold close to 29 million copies in the first year of its release. Videos and movies have not been produced in plenty not to educate believers but to make profits. For instance. In 2000, Christian related movies such as Omega Code and Left Behind, despite being low-budget independent films, amassed over $17 million (Burns & Fawcett, 2012). One of the reasons for such huge sales is the fact that the evangelical and Pentecostal pastors advise their followers to purchase the films because; in doing so, they will support a Christian effort and thus combat the evils associated with Hollywood.
Religion has become a commodity product due to commercialism and branding faiths has become the norm. Notably, a majority of the religions provide the same end benefits for the followers such as salvation and peace of mind. As such, Einstein (2011) opines that although some of the religious denominations have been branded (packaged) differently, they have fundamentally provided the same product. For the followers, the choice of religion in the US has become increasingly difficult because a majority of them stand for the same goals and values. As such, through commercials, the only way in which an individual can differentiate one religion from another is through the services offered. For instance, Burns and Fawcett (2012) argue that whereas some religious organization offers some added values, others have found new mechanisms to attract congregants. Additionally, differentiating between different religions involves examining the signs and symbols which are designed to different organizations. Although the traditional churches were seen as having brands based on denominations, the contemporary religious environment has been populated with nondenominational churches. The traditional culture and values of churches have been abandoned in favor of flexibility (Einstein, 2011). In specific, the values adopted by different religions are now based on the goals to be attained. For instance, if the aim is to ensure increased contributions from the congregants, then the message would be tailored to meet that specific need.
Commercialism has resulted in the secularization of religion with religious institutions having less influence in society and people becoming less religious. Notably, based on the secularization theory, it is assumed that when societies become more commercial and industrialized, then there is a tendency of people becoming less religious (Einstein, 2011). In specific, most people in the US have started to analyze the world from an empirical as opposed to a religious perspective. Additionally, commercialism has made religious institutions decrease level of influence on matters affecting society. As a result, the need for believers to attend churches has been on the decrease and children are even becoming less religious (McAlexander et al., 2014). Although some followers have not had any concern over the commercialization of religion, some have been critical of the changing nature of religion. Secularization of religion arising from commercialism in the US can be examined from both the declining role of religion in the society and the manner in which it has become more secular. For instance, the type of music played in most churches has now been more secular which is an aspect of commercialism meant to entice more followers (Gauthier, Martikainen, & Woodhead, 2011). Organized religion has lost its identity and secular practices have been the order of the day.
Due to commercialism, religion in the US has now become more privatized with religious leaders making their denominations and organizations their personal property and business. As such, the traditional churches which belonged to the congregants have been replaced with private organizations owned and run by the religious ministers. As a result, Einstein (2011) asserts that fewer people are now attending churches and fewer of them are recognizing others as people of faith. Although most of the leaders and founders of religious organizations have postulated that the growth of religious movements has emanated from purely spiritual reasons, it is clear that commercialism has played a pivotal role in the rise of religious movements. When the followers have sought the services of their religious leaders, they have in turn paid for the supposedly religious services provided (Burns & Fawcett, 2012). Religion in the US has now become an income earning practice and a means of achieving immense wealth. Religious messages can now be seen in some of the billboards as well as in social media with the religious leaders advertising on the services they offer. The traditional role of the church has now been overtaken by commercial interests.
In my opinion, commercialism has adversely affected the identity of religion and the traditional role of religious organizations in the US. I have witnessed many occasions whereby churches have become brands which are marketed not only through print, but also social and mass media. Competition for followers between different denominations is real in contemporary society. Churches and other religious organizations are now focused on making their brands attractive to prospective believers. However, the ultimate aim has not been to transform lives but rather to ensure increased revenues for the owners (Gauthier, Martikainen, & Woodhead, 2013). In more than one occasion, conflicts have arisen between the leaders and their followers based on the manner in which the church resources have been utilized. Religion has been commoditized which is now made attractive to the consumers. Although commercialism has also been instrumental in making sure that believers have a wide variety of faiths to choose, just like business organizations, religious organizations have become tools of trade and commercial interests have now overridden the main goal of salvation as the reason for the existence of religious organizations.
In conclusion, commercialism has not only turned religion into a brand/commodity capable of being marketed and sold, but also eroded the identities reminiscent of traditional religious organizations. Based on the revenues obtained from the sale of Christian related music, books, and videos in 2000, religion has become a huge commercial market. A shift has occurred from the focus of religion on salvation to the maximization of profits. With commercialism, many people have become less religious and the influence of the church has decreased. Additionally, commercialism has led to the secularization of religion with the songs in the churches being designed to provide entertainment as opposed to spreading the message from the religious scriptures. Moreover, commercialism has led to religious organizations being privatized with now most of the religious entities belonging to individuals and being used as business enterprises. Religious institutions have now been populated with conflict because of the misuse of resources and less accountability from the leaders. Finally, commercialism has made religion a product capable of being branded and offered to the consumers (followers) in a competitive manner.
Burns, D. J., & Fawcett, J. K. (2012). The Role of Brand in a Consumer Culture: Can Strong Brands Serve as a Substitute for a Relationship with God?. Journal of Biblical Integration in Business, 15(2).
Einstein, M. (2011). Brands of faith: Marketing religion in a commercial age. Routledge.
Gauthier, F., Martikainen, T., & Woodhead, L. (2011). Introduction: Religion et société de consummation/Religion in Consumer Society. Social Compass, 58(3), 291-301.
Gauthier, F., Martikainen, T., & Woodhead, L. (2013). Acknowledging a Global Shift: A Primer for Thinking about Religion in Consumer Societies. Implicit Religion, 16(3), 261-276.
McAlexander, J. H., Dufault, B. L., Martin, D. M., & Schouten, J. W. (2014). The marketization of religion: Field, capital, and consumer identity. Journal of Consumer Research, 41(3), 858-875.