Religion has had a long and tortured history of development.
In the first two centuries of its history, Christianity was an outlaw movement. Much of what it did was done in secrecy. You could be killed if you were found guilty of practicing your religion.
That changed during the middle centuries where Christianity had the power to have you killed if you were not a Christian.
Recently, Christianity has taken a position some place between victim and executioner. With the advent of the Internet, it has been forced to become a business.
Like every other institution on the face of the earth Christianity has lost its power to dictate what people should and should not believe. The people of the Internet now determine that for themselves. What’s left for religion is to define its value proposition and sell its services like every capitalist enterprise.
Christianity no longer has cover for its mistakes. The Catholic Church has learned that this decade. The church no longer holds a special privilege under the law; it is merely equal under the law. Twenty years ago, secular courts would not touch cases involving the church, especially cases dealing with disciplining the clergy. Now Christian churches are facing regulation just like corporate America is.
Religion like any other business can no longer exaggerate its claims, even though strong marketing will be a must if religion stands any chance of keeping and growing its client base. What it promises it has to deliver on. Lawsuits have started in placed like Great Britain accusing one religion of false and misleading representation. But in a crowded global market, Christian religions must expand their message through every outlet possible. Puffery is legal, but what is determined to be illegal will ultimately be decided in a court of law.
Like other businesses, it has to engage in mergers and acquisitions to diversify its risk. It has merged with other religions to form lobby groups to represent its interests in the public arena. Examples of this are seen in state fights over gay marriage. Also, religions buy assets to offset the possibility of shortfalls.
In the future you might even see religions buying companies or taking over organizations that meet needs that the church has failed to do, but can hope to start doing through acquisitions of desired assets. This is not entirely new. For example The Mormon Church exercises great influence over the Boy Scouts of America, incorporating the scouting program into all its activities for its young male members. Who knows but what certain religions will come together and buy the controlling shares of Disneyland, and rebrand it as healthy Christian activity, where all are invited, hopefully with the idea of letting the world make a connection between fun and worship.
From outlaw to prosecutor to business entrepreneur, historic Christianity in America and Europe has undergone dramatic transitions over the past two thousand years.
How this generation will manifest its support for Christianity as a business is anyone’s guess, but if demographic studies are any indicator, those individuals 35 and under will keep it hopping. For one, how do you engage a generation who wants less and less to do with organized religion, and more and more to do with spirituality as it defines it on a personal and individual basis?
You can bet a lot of experimenting will be taking place. Marketing budgets will grow, product offerings will expand, mergers will increase, acquisitions will grow. Who knows, maybe one day the NFL will be owned by several religions and the intro song will be: heaven is like being a touchdown away.
My bet is that, like business activity in general, there will be great successes and great failures. In this way, communities will continue to have their real needs met.