Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Why denominations grow internationally?

Here's an abstract from a paper "Exporting Christianity: Governance and Doctrine in the Globalization of US Denominations" by Gordon H. Hanson and Chong Xiang

"In this paper we build a model of market competition among religious denominations, using a framework that involves incomplete contracts and the production of club goods. We treat denominations akin to multinational enterprises, which decide which countries to enter based on local market conditions and their own “productivity.” The model yields predictions for how a denomination’s religious doctrine and governance structure affect its ability to attract adherents. We test these predictions using data on the foreign operations of US Protestant denominations in 2005 from the World Christian Database. Consistent with the model, we find that (1) denominations with stricter religious doctrine attract more adherents in countries in which the risk of natural disaster or disease outbreak is greater and in which government provision of health services is weaker, and (2) denominations with a decentralized governance structure attract more adherents in countries in which the productivity of pastor effort is higher. These findings shed light on factors determining the composition of religion within countries, helping account for the rise of new Protestant denominations in recent decades."

It's interesting to read scholars in other disciplines take such different approaches than sociologists.


Thanks David!

1 comment:

K T Cat said...

A semi-related thought:

I don't know if you've seen this article on the decline of the Jesuits, but I would suggest that the time scale for the ebb and flow of religions is on the order of generations. A previous generation of devout Catholics produced Jesuit candidates because that's what had gone before and the Jesuits stood for something unique. In the last 40 years, the time scale of slightly more than one generation, the Jesuits have wrecked their image by becoming just like the secular world. The C of E might be in the same boat.

The first generation after you change your faith to match modern sensibilities, you don't see much of a dropoff because you have cultural momentum keeping the faithful in the pews. After that, the new generation doesn't see any need for you and they desert.

I'm not sure marketing analyses are designed to handle things that evolve so slowly and involve such brand loyalty. Maybe car preferences would be similar. "We've always been a Ford family, even back in Daddy's time."

Instead, I'd argue that religion needs to offer something that the secular world does not, otherwise there's no point in forgoing watching the Sunday NFL games in a Pacific Beach surf bar to go to Mass.