There was an interesting post today on the Slacktavist blog, "‘Christian bookstores’ and the unsustainable bubble of the evangelical subculture.
It discuses how the Southern Baptists "gatekeepers" are still trying to legislate morality in the Southern Baptists subculture. One leader was offended that a Southern Baptist bookstore was selling the video The Blind Side because it contains a few swear words. The movie is about a woman and her family that took in a homeless black youth who, with their care and encouragement, went on to be an NFL first draft player. He made demands and the bookstore crumbled. However, the article points out that people will now spend their money elsewhere because the gatekeepers no longer have the power they once had.
LifeWay Christian Bookstores is a large and still-influential chain with 165 locations across the country. But which do you suppose sells more DVDs — LifeWay or Amazon? Do you think it’s even close?The article reminded me of the Church of God over the last several decades. The COG ruled with a heavy fists for many years until cracks started appearing in the structure of the organization. The leaders started losing power in the early to mid 1970's when people started waking up to the abuses around them. Mass defections occurred and money flew out the window. Immediately a crack down happened to regain control. At that time all they had to do was command the members to not read the books or buy the magazines and people did it. The few books that detailed the abuses in Armstrongism that came out at that time never had much of an impact on the COG.
More people shop at Amazon. More Southern Baptists shop at Amazon. More conservative, evangelical and fundamentalist Southern Baptists shop at Amazon. Southern Baptist evangelicals are still buying and watching The Blind Side, but LifeWay no longer sees any of the revenue from those sales.
The walls are gone and no one — not even conservative, sheltered, evangelical-leaning-fundamentalist Southern Baptists — needs to go through the gates or the gatekeepers anymore.
Mass media — from television to FM radio — chipped away at those walls for decades. Then the Internet came along and bulldozed them to the ground. (See earlier: “The evangelical bubble cannot be sustained, part 1” and “The evangelical bubble cannot be sustained, part 2.”)
But even though those walls are gone and cannot be rebuilt, the gatekeepers still maintain some of their power — partly through inertia and custom, partly through demagoguery that convinces their intimidated followers to pretend the walls are still there.
Then things changed with the power of the internet. Information began to flow swiftly around the world instantaneously. The COG leadership no longer had control. People hungry for information read unlimited articles and participated on newsgroups to glean any information they could. People could read, buy books, and see videos about the corruption and false teaching of the COG in the privacy of their own homes, without COG leaders ever knowing. The COG started to implode rather quickly at this point and has never recovered.
The article also includes this:
But even though those walls are gone and cannot be rebuilt, the gatekeepers still maintain some of their power — partly through inertia and custom, partly through demagoguery that convinces their intimidated followers to pretend the walls are still there.The gatekeepers of Armstrongism will never be able to reign in members as they did in the past. Sure a few will bloviate and bluster trying to act like real macho men, but their hypocrisy is exposed to the world now for all to see.