Helping front office teams grow better

Can religion modernize? - #389

One of the things that makes religious institutions countercultural is their resistance to change. Everything in our society prefers new & improved. You don't really have to explain why the new way is better than the old way: the new is to de facto preferred. This, of course, has its drawbacks. We have an ongoing disaster from putting front facing cameras on phones, connecting them to social networks, and giving them to our kids. But we didn't really question when the cameras on phones were better: they were new. And that was enough. The opposite is generally true when it comes to church: it exists to uphold the old.

That something was done this way before is usually enough to keep doing that way in the future. When Joseph Smith sent out his first missionaries, they were permitted to write home twice a year. Apparently, that hadn't changed until recently. The church decided, with the "new" ability to make long distance phone calls, that they could allow their young missionaries to call their parents once a week. Given our tendency to adopt new ways of doing things with reckless abandon, I found myself surprised at this anachronism.

Reading more about Mormonism's changing missions, I began to wonder if they would lose the secret sauce. Now that their church is global, they also realized they didn't necessarily need to send everyone to the opposite continent to do their mission. For most of us, door-to-door salespeople are a relic of the past. Historical fiction makes peddlers appear almost exotic. While being out-and-about is still a big part of the mission, no longer is it exclusively door-to-door in pairs. Certainly "making content" needs to be part of any effort to communicate, but is posting your videos to Tiktok really part of a mission? If you're only a few states away from where you grew up, then how much are you experiencing something altogether different (and, for many, life-changing)? Gen-Z likes these sorts of missions, but will they accomplish the mission's purpose?

Will religion change? An emerging group of Catholics are answering in the negative. Ross Douthat calls them the neo-traditionalists and puts them at the center of his predictions of religious vitality in the coming decades. They're also profiled in the AP piece linked to below: marked not by changing their religion into something new, but by embracing a pre-1960s traditional practice. They're not motivated by "new & improved", especially if that was the church's mid-20th century attempt to make itself relevant. People chanting in Latin are 21st century America's counterculture. Unlike the Mormons on mission in Tiktok, you wonder if these folks are talking to anyone other than themselves. I wonder if they'll turn into something like the Amish: a community so defined by its different from everyone else that no one can engage with it.

Given the fraught position religion has in most of our lives, some of us choose to disengage from it altogether. The last piece linked to below has a note of caution here: the author of Devout tells the tale of institutions dedicated to science failing you in much the same ways as institutions dedicated to God. In other words: changing religions may not be the answer.


00NAT-MORMON-MISSION-top-maybe-cqgj-superJumboFor Mormon Missionaries, Some 'Big, Big Changes'

The church has loosened its strict rules for those evangelizing. And many members of Gen-Z are loving it.


90-1'A step back in time': America’s Catholic Church sees an immense shift toward the old ways

Generations of Catholics who embraced the modernizing tide sparked in the 1960s by Vatican II are increasingly giving way to religious conservatives who believe the church has been twisted by change, with the promise of eternal salvation replaced by guitar Masses, parish food pantries and casual indifference to church doctrine.

12anna-gazmarian-author-superJumboShe Trusted God and Science. They Both Failed Her.

In Devout, an author who grew up in the evangelical church recounts her struggle to find spiritual and psychological well-being after a mental health challenge.