According to the New York Times, the American clergy are suffering from the commercialization of religion:
The pastoral vocation is to help people grow spiritually, resist their lowest impulses and adopt higher, more compassionate ways. But churchgoers increasingly want pastors to soothe and entertain them. It’s apparent in the theater-style seating and giant projection screens in churches and in mission trips that involve more sightseeing than listening to the local people.
As a result, pastors are constantly forced to choose, as they work through congregants’ daily wish lists in their e-mail and voice mail, between paths of personal integrity and those that portend greater job security. As religion becomes a consumer experience, the clergy become more unhappy and unhealthy.
As religion becomes a consumer experience, the composition of the clergy will change. And this, in turn, will change theology in America. Instead of challenging the status quo of consumerism and polarized politics, Christian theology will come to support it. Our society needs good theology, and good theologians to develop that theology.
But why does this matter for economics? I think Shane Claiborne explains it well, in The Irresistible Revolution:
In addition to rooting simplicity in love, it also seems crucial that economic practices be theologically grounded. I am convinced that most of the terribly disturbing things that are happening in our world in the name of Christ and Christianity are primarily the result of not malicious people but of bad theology. (At least, I want to believe that.) And the answer to bad theology is not no theology, but good theology. So rather than distancing ourselves from religious language and biblical study, let’s dive right in, correcting bad theology with good theology, correcting distorted understandings of the warrior God by internalizing the slaughtered Lamb, correcting the health-and-wealth gospel by following the homeless Rabbi.