1. Religious practice, in United Methodism (and other Protestant traditions) has become a tangible asset. Many forms of religious experience are treated like a tangible economic commodity to be packaged, branded, and sold.
2. A monetary-like value is attached to certain forms of religious expression and experience. These “valuable” experiences become the gold standard for determining the value of all other religious traditions, expressions, and experiences throughout the global religious marketplace.
3. As with the free-market capitalist system it mimics, competition for the most valuable resources leads to scarcity and uncontrollable market driven forces. Some churches are seen to “have” certain commodities and resources while others do not.
4. Churches with the majority of resources have the ability to define the value of the faith experience, thus monopolizing the ability to grow their churches even in a so called free-market religious environment. A small number of large churches determine the practices to be followed by denominations and churches all over the country. This forces small churches to spend money they don’t have to keep up with new trends. In many instances, the products which the new faith experiences are marketed and sold by the larger churches themselves. Thus the resource and income gap grows wider. As these trends quickly change, so does the need for small churches to spend more of their limited resources.
5. When the United Methodist Church is entangled with the status quo, one which treats faith as another socio-economic commodity, we cease all prophetic witness and ministry. We become mirrors for the income inequality and economic divisions demanding our prophetic voice. How can we call out a system we’re helping to maintain?
6. The church is called to be a counter-cultural alternative to the consumer driven norms dominating our society. It doesn’t matter how wonderful our programs are if we’re implicated in the economic dysfunctions haunting America’s middle class.
7. The economic stratification our faith and religious resource inequality is destroying the church’s ability to witness to the love of Jesus Christ; not because God’s love requires money to be shared. Instead, our churches are churches are paying too many salaries for too many people who they’ve never met.
8. We’ve bought into the lies which say money feeds missions and Christian service costs money. How much did you spend on your last mission trip? Will the mission money be freed up from elsewhere if we weren’t marketing a product, fighting over distribution, and ultimately who will reap the profits? Someone always makes a profit from the product. If our religious practice has become a material commodity, who profits most. Who suffers? Whose voice is never heard?
9. Jesus rejected the wealth we seem bent on embracing. His grant application process was notoriously brief. What money came his way went back out again very quickly.
10. The packaging, branding and selling of his own religious tradition was of great concern to Jesus. Shouldn’t it be for us?