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The Roots of Religious and Social Opposition between Catholicism and Pentecostalism Essay

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Updated: Apr 16th, 2019

The question of opposition between religions is rather controversial because religions are based on the system of beliefs which are associated with the human spirituality, but not with any rationales and efforts to achieve the definite goal. In reality, religions in their association with such institutions as churches have more similarities with the market brands than with the aspects of the people’s spirituality.

From this point, modern churches compete within the market of the people’s beliefs, and this statement is not a metaphor because the victory in the competition guarantees the progress of the church not only in the religious sphere but also in the social and economic fields. Today, churches are closely connected with the social aspects of the people’s life within communities. As a result, it is possible to speak about ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ of the religious competition.

This idea is discussed in detail in the book The Churching of America, 1776-2005: Winners and Losers in Our Religious Economy written by Finke and Stark. According to the authors, traditional religions or mainline denominations lost their positions when upstart sects developed in the field as ‘winners’ (Finke & Stark, 2005).

Although Catholicism is one of the largest and most popular religions in the USA, it is losing its position because of conservative ideals and norms which cannot be relaxed immediately with the help of definite reforms; on the contrary, Pentecostalism develops and attracts more followers because of the orientation to the people’s interests.

In spite of the popularity with the public and a great number of followers, Catholicism in the USA can be referred as the ‘loser’ in the rivalry of religions and churches which become “competitive organizations prepared to seek souls” (Finke & Stark, 2005, p. 75). Catholicism can be discussed to be effective as the traditional religion oriented to help people save their souls.

As a result, the principles and strategies of Catholicism are ineffective to compete within the church market. In their work, Finke and Stark explain the causes for the decline of those religions which were popular during a long period of time as, for instance, Catholicism which was the first religion spread by the Europeans at the American territories.

The authors state that the mainline denominations “were failing to offer credible religion … they had become so accommodated to the secular culture that people could no longer satisfy their need for the sacred by attending services” (Finke & Stark, 2005, p. 245). On the one hand, Catholicism remains to be one of the largest religions in the country, and it is a controversial point to speak about its decline.

On the other hand, the Catholic Church in the USA undergoes a lot of transformations and reforms associated with the necessities to respond to the social changes or people’s vision in relation to the religion’s function. Today, Catholicism is not stable, and many new currents appear along with the significant assimilation of the church within the society. It is possible to speak about these factors as contributing to the religion’s progress, but Catholicism in its pure form is declining.

Catholicism is based on the strict developed doctrine, and much attention is paid to the church’s organization. The main focus is on stability and tradition. Finke and Stark state that these features are characteristic for the mainline denominations, and the concentration on these aspects is the first step toward the decline because present-day energetic sects have more chances to become popular with the public.

The problem is in the fact that many sects are at risk of declining when they become the mainline churches (Finke & Stark, 2005). The Catholic Church operates the beliefs and norms which are shared by the significant part of the American population because it focuses on the human dignity and moral principles which are valued within society. Nevertheless, Catholicism is characterized by the definite features which are discussed by the public as too conservative.

During a long period of time, the services in the Catholic Church were strictly organized and regulated, and priests’ speeches were performed in Latin. These aspects were reformed later in order to meet the interests of the religious communities. However, there are a lot of aspects associated with the religious and moral principles which are rather difficult to follow in the modern society.

For instance, Catholics are against abortion, euthanasia, and death penalty which are supported in the modern American society by a lot of people (Ahlstrom, 2004). Focusing on the ideals of the human dignity, moral fairness, and family life, Catholics may be challenged by the realities of the American society.

Today, many people join the definite religion in order to receive the support. From this point, Catholicism provides more limitations than support (Corbett & Hemeyer, 1997). As a result, people are inclined to choose the modern sects according to their interests and principles.

The Catholic Church does not provide the effective ‘promotion’ for the organization and religion in general. Thus, people choose to follow the religious movements which organizational principles are correlated with the rules typical for the market or which are more close to the aspects of the social life.

The next important factor is the ‘market value’ of the church. According to Finke and Stark, “the high membership costs and clear group boundaries produce these collective goods by example and exclusion” (Finke & Stark, 2005, p. 250). People need to feel the exclusion of their church and community. Following the market patterns, the cheapness of the services, including the religious services, can provoke questions about their reliability.

Pentecostalism in the USA is the religious movement which developed from the sect, and it can be discussed today as one of the ‘winners’ in the religious market. Pentecostalism differs from Catholicism not only in the aspects of the religious vision because the followers of Pentecostalism emphasize the role of the Holy Spirit but also in the approaches of organizing the public’s meetings.

According to Hemeyer, “the experience of highly emotional worship and religious ecstasy is the foundation of Pentecostalism” (Hemeyer, 2010, p. 198). The followers of Pentecostalism are not afraid to demonstrate their emotions because their religion is the way to understand their role in this life and society. Pentecostals believe that their actions are directed by the God with references to the Holy Spirit. From this point, it is important to listen to oneself and follow the inner intentions.

The religious vision is studied through experience, but not through much consideration. Focusing on these few details, it is possible to state that Pentecostalism can be more effective in the modern society than Catholicism because of the connection with the people’s contemporary approaches to organizing their life.

Thus, it is possible to determine two main factors which can explain the decline of the mainline denominations and popularity of the new churches not during a long historic period, but today. Modern people are used to think according to the market and business categories, and their life is more dynamic than it was earlier. From this perspective, it is not enough today to declare religious norms and interpret the Bible in order to treat the soul.

It is more effective today to state the value of the religion with references to the membership costs. Moreover, the Bible should be interpreted in relation to the public’s interests because joining the definite church, people seek for achieving the certain purpose. In modern churches, God as well as priests is closer to followers (Hemeyer, 2010).

The main belief shared by Pentecostals is that the Holy Spirit can contact them even physically and provide with the definite knowledge. God is close to believers and can be felt with references to experience provided. That is why, action is necessary during the worship. Hemeyer states that “Pentecostal worship is emotional and enthusiastic” and it is based on the energetic action which is associated with experience (Hemeyer, 2010, p. 204).

Pentecostals feel that they belong to the community which is directly ruled by God. The choice of Pentecostalism as the religion to follow is based on the decision of a believer to follow God’s will and share the knowledge provided by the Holy Spirit. Adult baptism supports the idea of the conscious choice.

The upstart sects became the leading religious movements in the USA because they connect the idea of innovation with spirituality. In spite of the fact Finke and Stark’s argument is rather controversial and provocative, it is correlated with the modern social tendencies. The number of people who join the church in the USA increases each year.

Is this the reason to speak about the growth of the public’s spirituality? It is possible to state that people need concentration on their spiritual life and morality, but the real causes for the process can be more ordinary. People join the church because the modern church satisfies the needs of the community in relation to the spiritual and social life (Ahlstrom, 2004). Furthermore, modern churches are more flexible in their doctrines and principles as any other contemporary institutions.

Catholicism is grounded on stability, and it is rather difficult for this religion to reform the basic norms and services to respond to the modern people’s needs (Corbett & Hemeyer, 1997). The life changes and those churches succeed which can change along with the followers to meet their interests. From this point, it is possible to speak about a lot of similarities of religions with market brands which develop according to the rules of the market economy.

The opposition of Catholicism and Pentecostalism can be discussed as the opposition of the outdated and new approaches to regulating the spirituality of the public. Although Catholicism is followed by a lot of believers, it cannot compete effectively in comparison with Pentecostalism because the strategy of attracting new followers is not correlated with the modern tendencies.

It is inappropriate to speak about the decline of spirituality in the US society. People need to join the church and become closer to God, but they are inclined to choose churches which ideals are more understandable for them.

References

Ahlstrom, S. (2004). A religious history of the American people. USA: Yale University Press.

Corbett, J. M., & Hemeyer, J. C. (1997). Religion in America. USA: Prentice Hall.

Finke, R., & Stark, R. (2005). The churching of America, 1776-2005: Winners and losers in our religious economy. USA: Rutgers University Press.

Hemeyer, J. C. (2010). Religion in America. USA: Prentice Hall.

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