Saturday, December 5, 2009

An earlier era?

Back in the 1950s, the Big Three automakers offered Americans a choice between owning a Ford, a Chrysler, or a General Motors car. And so it was with religion -- the "big three" were being a Protestant, a Catholic, or a Jew. They held the franchise.

Since then, we've seen a period of hyper-evolution in automobiles, along with the meteoric rise of independent, nondenominational churches. Some are in small storefronts or in homes. Some have 15,000 members. But the message of too many traditional churches reflects the 1950s, along the lines of, "We like our Fords, Chevrolets, and Chryslers, and everyone else should like them, too."

Alas, many traditional churches tend to believe that those Toyotas, Hondas, and hybrid cars in the parking lot do not exist. Or if they do, surely they are of an inferior quality to what we offer.


  1. ...not so, they may have been big three but these are the guys who invented the notion of target markets: Merc, Olds, Caddy, Dodge, Plymouth, etc.. a car suited to every stage of life, much like my mega church has a small church within targeted to every stage of life.

    The big three of Protestant, Catholic, and Jew face far different problems.

  2. PS My mega Church meaning the one in my neigborhood...not "my Church" which is far from a mega Church

    Churches, and especially liberal Churches, face problems; but they're not similar to what faced the big three.... and God help us should they seek bailouts from the Administration.

  3. Actually, you have it backwards- there were far more choices of American-made cars in the 50s than today. I have fond memories of my father's Hudson, and my best friend's father's Studebaker Lark. And there was also Packard, Nash, Rambler, Kaiser-Frazer, and Willys. And while International Harvester is more famous for industrial vehicles, they did build passenger vehicles back then, what we today would call SUVs. Of course, half those companies folded, but the other half merged together to become AMC, which lasted into the 80s- surely you remember the Javelin, Gremlin, and Matador?

    The same is true even of religions. Some churches folded, some merged (like Unitarians and Universalists!) but there were lots of choices in the 50s: Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses were around then, as were Christian Science and Islam, which arrived with the slaves from Africa. The first Sikh Gurdwara in America was built in Stockton, CA, in 1912. The Bahai have been here just as long. The only religious choice available today that wasn't then is NeoPagan.

  4. Interesting posts. Yeah, as a child of that era, I do remember those old cars, which I miss, now that I think of them.

    In general, though, I'm going to suggest my point remains reasonably valid. Those cars were a small slice of the automobile market compared to the Big Three, and they're not around anymore; similar to the number of people who were Jehovah's Witnesses and Christian Scientists compared to the Big Three religious franchises.

    To me, the more important point is that too many mainline churches today reflect the 1950s, with no major changes in worship or music for five decades. The late 1950s is when the exodus from mainline churches began, for literally millions of churchgoers. Younger generations often wish to create the new and not perpetuate the old, and that's why they often don't have much interest in the church (or the Buick) of their parents and grandparents.

    Thanks for writing, Mike Durall