Consumer Capitalist Christianity — Render unto Caesar EVERYTHING!

August 23, 2011

So, I go looking for the particulars about a job at Baylor University. The link to the job descriptions for that department is broken, so I try another link to see if the problem is theirs or HR’s.

I hadn’t really focussed on it too closely, but the link I clicked was for a job in the Department of Family and Consumer Studies. As I hit the “back” button, I think, “Wait! Did I see that right?” So I went back to the page, and I did in fact see it right: Family and Consumer Studies.

Went to their web page (another bad link: really, how hard is it?), and, lo and behold, these are the divisions in that department (in alphabetical order, of course):

  • Apparel Design
  • Apparel Marketing
  • Child and Family Studies
  • General Family and Consumer Sciences
  • Interior Design
  • Nutrition Studies (the area in which they’re hiring)

Ahem…

Um…

Really? How much plainer can it be, in this era of collapsing all distinctions in a frenzied race to disemploy as many people as possible, that, for the Baptists of Texas, the family isn’t traditional, it’s economic, and it’s not souls but bucks that they make their priority. Capital is their god.

Here’s their mission statement:

The Department of Family and Consumer Sciences at Baylor University prepares students to become professionals in business, education, and service careers that use the family and consumer sciences knowledge base and to assume individual, family and community roles as Christians in an increasingly complex global society.

Here are the careers that Child & Family Studies prepares its students for:

  • Youth and Children’s Ministry
  • Pre-kindergarten or Head Start teacher
  • Child care teacher
  • Family support specialist
  • Special needs coordinator
  • Health-related agencies
  • Event Planning
  • Family advocate
  • Early childhood intervention
  • Child life specialist

One is, of course, a bit boggled by some of the trendy positions in which these Baptists might find employment — “Child Life Specialist”? Meaning … ?? “Child Care Teacher” without “Early Childhood Education” (to which you would think the Education Department is hanging on tenaciously — turns out not to be the case) sounds exceedingly odd to me.

Oh, okay: it’s in “General Family & Consumer Sciences” that you get the teaching certification:

Students in General Family and Consumer Sciences receive a broad education in all areas of family and consumer sciences. Upon graduation, students are prepared to teach in middle and high school programs or work with individuals and families in a variety of settings.

Certainly the Baptists aren’t alone in tossing wildly disparate programs into one administrative toybox. The institutions that rank departments for quality are a bit annoyed, as these jumbles of programs mean that it gets really hard to even rate the departments within such hodgepodges (which may limit the longevity of this bizarre notion).

Yet it is quite revealing in this case of an ideology that you’d think would be at odds with Christianity: families are consumers, and children must be shaped into good consumers. So whether you’re teaching toddlers or advocating for them, or marketing clothing or curtains or some kind of industrialized foodesque substance, you’re in essentially the same domain. And there’s no conflict among them: I can advocate for a child by marketing industrialized foodesque substances or making sure they get sweat-shop-produced clothing from Walmart, and just wash my hands of possible conflicts of interest, doubtless from a very shiny spigot in my very nice house.

I have often wondered at the pick-and-choose-which-scripture-to-heed attitudes of a lot of “Christians” (and, in my experience, particularly Baptists), but this conflation of consumer capitalism and “the family” is weird enough to be just plain Freudian, not to mention … unbiblical and unchristian.

So THANKS, BAYLOR! for making the evangelical “Christian” conflation of capitalism, conformism, and Christianity even clearer to me. And for saying out loud in front of God and everybody that you are of the world and in it, rendering all unto Caesar, and serving Mammon as your God.

Postdatum 31 August 2011
Reading * “Beyond Alarmism and Denial in the Dominionism Debate,” by Sarah Posner and Anthea Butler. (A journalist and a scholar of religion share notes on Rick Perry, the New Apostolic Reformation, and the recent brouhaha in the press about how much importance to accord to right-wing religion. AT: http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/atheologies/5026/beyond_alarmism_and_denial_in_the_dominionism_debate) on Religious Dispatches:

All of the groups are enmeshed in a symbiotic web. These evangelists’, apostles’, and leaders’ messages are the commodity, and you have to buy the books, conferences, and other materials in order to get the blessings. I know that will seem distasteful and a caricature to some, but these events are well-attended, and at a hundred bucks a person, revenues from book and DVD sales. Conferences and meetings like Lou Engles’ The Call are not just prayer meetings, they are Christian marketplaces, with all sorts of spiritual wares being sold.

Makes me want to read up on Calvinism and the new “Prosperity Gospel.”

Addendum 20.x.11:
This from Joan Walsh at Salon.com, “Buchanan admits defeat” —

And while he spends a lot of space lamenting the decline of Catholicism in the U.S. and globally — Islam has officially displaced it as the world’s largest religion – he has to acknowledge that the church continues to grow in Africa, Latin America and Asia. But somehow, they’re the wrong kind of Catholics: “With the number of bishops and cardinals from Latin America, Africa and Asian inevitably rising … [the] Church may be more orthodox on theological and moral issues, but it will be far less receptive to capitalism and Western concerns.” Clearly capitalism trumps theological and moral issues for Buchanan. That’s good to know.

Yes, much becomes clear . . .

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