Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Plan to Market Transformation

"Every time the Bible is made available through a new technology, there tends to be an awakening. The Protestant Reformation occurred after the invention of the printing press."
--Rick Warren, interview in Business Week, May 23, 2005.[emphasis added]

"See, here's the other reason why I believe a Reformation could happen: every time God's word is put into new technology, there's a Reformation. In 1456 or something, that's when Gutenberg came out with the printing press, and the first thing he prints, what is it? A Bible. It's not pornography; it's the Bible, okay? Within about 50 years of that time we have the Reformation. Why? Because what Martin Luther nailed to the wall of the Wittenberg door somebody pulled off the wall and started reprinting. The Reformation would have never happened without the technology to make it possible. We now have a new technology which allows global networking between millions of local churches. It's called the Internet."
--Rick Warren, "Myths of the Modern Mega-Church," speaking at the Pew Forum's conference on religions, politics and public life, May 23, 2005. [emphasis added]

Jeremy Rifkin, in his landmark book The Emerging Order, which was a blueprint for how to create a massive overhaul of evangelical doctrine to a new Dominionism, seized upon media technology as the primary vehicle to forge this transformation. Not only would evangelicals use the medium of television, but television would, in turn, transform the evangelicals. His 1979 book (G.P. Putnam's Sons) didn't foresee the role the Internet would play in this transformation, but his comments pertaining to television below could just as easily have been applied to the Internet:

"Before the invention of the printing press, the written word was preserved largely through the efforts of monks who were subject to the Catholic Church. This gave the Church a virtual monopoly over reading and manuscript duplication and assured their authority over the interpretation of Christian doctrine as well. The printing press changed all of that overnight. By making the Bible readily available to everyone, Gutenberg helped set the conditions for the Reformation's challenge to the authority of the Church. . . .

"Now six centuries later, the print medium is being eclipsed by a new medium--television. In just thirty years, electronic communication has changed the entire way people conceptualize the world around them. In the process, it is dramatically changing the way people perceive Christian faith and doctrine. A revolution in Christianity is beginning to unfold, and it owes much of its impetus to television, just as the Reformation owed much of its impetus to print. The movement from print to TV has transformed the human mind. The sensual and experiential mode of instant television communications has replaced the objective and analytical mode of reflective print communications. Time and distance have been overtaken by spontaneity and immediacy. The individual no longer thinks as much as he acts. He no longer ponders as much as he experiences. This new conceptual mode will transform much of the Christian doctrine now and the turn of the century. The Charismatic phenomenon represents the first significant step in that transformation process." (pp. 113-114) [emphases added]

Modern technology is a perfect vehicle to transform the human mind, Rifkin is saying above, because it is "sensual" and "experiential." Rifkin foresaw that the new media had great possibilities for creating a manufactured revival in order for the Church to adopt the new doctrines of Dominionism. In his chapter "Evangelicalism and America" he discussed how "professional ministry" (fundamentalists, ed.] had been frightened by the "emphasis the revivals placed on inward experience over doctrine" (p. 134) and how this emphasis led to "hysterical outbreaks of anti-intellectualism." (p. 135) But that wasn't necessarily bad: Rifkin proposed using the Charismatics to launch a "reformulated theological doctrine for a new order and a new covenant"(p. 169) because it is "first and foremost, a movement of the heart over the mind, of personal experience over objective analysis. . . nonrational and subjective" (p. 228).

Rifkin's book contains an interesting case history of Dwight L. Moody, the great revivalist at the turn of the last century, which sheds some light on the marketing mechanics behind this emotive revival process:

"Moody was never ordained a minister, but this seems to have been no great obstacle in his successful efforts to bring the new infidels of the nation's great cities to God's kingdom. Moody fit the style of the new industrialized era. It is said that he not only looked and dressed like a businessman, but preached like one as well. In fact, his entire evangelical organization became the model of modern business practices normally associated with successful twentieth-century evangelism. Moody combined the showmanship of P.T. Barnum with the calculating financial acumen of Andrew Carnegie. Advance men, publicity agents, advertising campaigns, guaranteed gates, were all a part of the accouterments of the new big-city revivalism. And it worked. True to modern accounting procedures, his organization kept strict records of cost effectiveness in the field; 2,500 saved in Chicago, 3,500 saved in New York City, and so forth. This 'conversion' body count provided a sort of sales performance record from which to judge the effectiveness of the amount of investment put out. Moody even brought his sales and marketing techniques directly into his sermons: 'Who'll take Christ now? That's all you want. With Christ you have eternal life and everything else you need. Without Him you must perish. He offers Himself to you. Who'll take him?'" (p. 153-154) [emphases added]

Indeed, evangelism in the past century took on the elements of a formulaic sales ritual, including the unseemly practices of hyping, pressuring, cajoling, threatening, "nailing down the sale," and counting converts like tokens of success. And revivals began to rely more and more on drama, lighting, music, and other background multi-sensory experiences that played with emotions. The more the evangelical world borrowed these psychological techniques, rather than disavow them or separate from them, the more it opened itself up to being just as seduced by real world marketing. Rifkin writes about this vulnerability as a way to maximize a new transformation:

"Before World War I, people were satisfied with a little more than a chicken in every pot. After World War I, the cry was for a Ford motorcar (or even two) in every garage. Ours was to be the century of growth, of mobility, of expansion. We adjusted rather well to the new pace, all things considered. Overnight, Americans became obsessed with the concept of new, better and more. Telephones, refrigerators and radios were all for the taking. It was the new paradise. The consumer kingdom replaced the kingdom of God, and advertising helped cushion the turmoil of transition by reminding everyone that values are really styles. And, since styles change every season, woe to those who find themselves out of tune, out of touch and out of the running. Jefferson once said, 'Nothing is unchangeable except the inherent rights of man.' Madison Avenue quickly changed rights into wants, and announced that everything was, in fact, exchangeable--unless, that is, they were temporarily out of stock." (pp. 157-8) [emphases added]

So, when leaders of the New Apostolic Reformation (such as Jill Austin in yesterday's post) "prophesy" about a heightened use of the arts and media combined with modern technologies for bringing about a revival, the context is an increased ability to transform the minds and doctrines of the people in the pews. The Second Reformation is all about using new media and technologies (including especially psycho-social "technologies") to facilitate transformation. And, as historians like Jeremy Rifkin have observed, the leaders have had an entire century to practice on "what works" best for creating a optimal climate for mind-altering transformation.

The Truth:

"But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ." (2 Corinthians 11:3)