Sacred Companies: Organizational Aspects of Religion and Religious Aspects of Organizations

Sacred Companies: Organizational Aspects of Religion and Religious Aspects of Organizations

Sacred Companies: Organizational Aspects of Religion and Religious Aspects of Organizations

Sacred Companies: Organizational Aspects of Religion and Religious Aspects of Organizations

Synopsis

Religion is intrinsically social, and hence irretrievably organizational, although organization is often seen as the darker side of the religious experience--power, routinization, and bureaucracy. Religion and secular organizations have long received separate scholarly scrutiny, but until now their confluence has been little considered. This interdisciplinary collection of mostly unpublished papers is the first volume to remedy the deficit. The project grew out of a three-year inquiry into religious institutions undertaken by Yale University's Program on Non-Profit Organizations and sponsored by the Lilly Endowment. The scholars who took part in this effort weree challenged to apply new perspectives to the study of religious organizations, especially that strand of contemporary secular organizational theory known as "New Institutionalism." The result was this groundbreaking volume, which includes papers on various aspects of such topics as the historical sources and patterns of U.S. religious organizations, contemporary patterns of denominational authority, the congregation as an organization, and the interface between religious and secular institutions and movements. The contributors include an interdisciplinary mix of scholars from economics, history, law, social administration, and sociology.

Excerpt

In 1971, the late Leonard Bernstein went to Washington, dc, for the premier performance of "Mass," a theatrical oratorio commissioned for the opening of the Kennedy Center. the drama begins with an empty stage and then a lone religious visionary, whose prophecy ultimately produces a grand ecclesiastical edifice; it ends with the same religious visionary exiting stage left in heartbroken retreat from the churchly pomp that has overwhelmed the prophecy itself. Bernstein joined the cast on stage for repeated curtain calls, saying over and over that he was "deeply moved" by the performance and its reception. As a member of the audience, Demerath wrote a note to Bernstein, saying that, to his knowledge, no sacred composer had ever consulted a sociologist of religion, but "Mass's" sociological poignancy suggests that such consultation would be superfluous. Once again, the maestro (or his secretary) replied that he was "deeply moved."

The tension between the religious spirit and the organization that encases it is timeless. the theme is a staple of religious literature, whether musical, Biblical, theological, or, indeed, social scientific. Religious organizations and institutions have always represented the darker side of the religious experience. But like the proverbial underbelly, it is no less indispensable for being so vulnerable--and often unpresentable.

Because religion is not only intrinsically social but irretrievably organizational, we must be wary of treating it as a purely individual quest. Bernstein's image of the lone prophet mirrors George Santayana's definition of religion as "what the individual does in his own solitariness." of course, it would be folly to deny the individuality of religion, not to mention the religious fecundity of individual duress, isolation, and bewilderment. But once socially rendered, one is never truly isolated again, though we each re-

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