Monday, December 9

Exporting Christianity: Governance and doctrine in the globalization of US denominations

Modelling the spread of Christianity, fascinating study here.

In this paper we build a model of market competition among religious denominations, using a framework that involves incomplete contracts and the production of club goods. We treat denominations akin to multinational enterprises, which decide which countries to enter based on local market conditions and their own “productivity.” The model guides us in estimating how a denomination's religious doctrine and governance structure affect its ability to attract adherents. Using data on the foreign operations of US Protestant denominations in 2005 from the World Christian Database, we find that (1) denominations with stricter religious doctrine attract more adherents in countries in which the risk of natural disaster or disease outbreak is greater and in which government provision of health services is weaker, and (2) denominations with a decentralized governance structure attract more adherents in countries in which the pastor cost of connecting with congregants is lower. These findings illuminate factors shaping the composition of religion within countries, helping account for the rise of new Protestant groups. They also provide empirical evidence for the recent theoretical developments in organization and trade.

India is one of the countries where there is a pretty significant missionary push. Entire states have been proselytised out of their ancient Hindu/Animist background like Nagaland and as one has noted, that sometimes comes with a rather strong pushback. I quote from their conclusion:

The literature provides explanations for why strict religious groups have prospered in Israel (Berman, 2000) and Indonesia (Chen, 2010), based on Iannaccone's (1992) model of religious groups as clubs. Our contribution is to show theoretically and empirically how denominations compete for believers and how country characteristics affect the market value of a denomination's attributes, which is helpful for understanding the global expansion of Protestant Christianity. Strictness is more desirable in countries in which individuals are more exposed to shocks associated with natural disasters and disease outbreaks, and less desirable in countries with better health services. Weak governments and weak institutions may thus favor strict religious organizations. What may in part account for the recent globalization of Protestant Christianity is the lowering of state barriers to religion (Barro and Hwang, 2007), coupled with the slow expansion of state capacity in many developing countries, leaving individuals without adequate means to insulate themselves against risk.

So the pushback against missionary Christianity is not just in India but also in many other countries. Combine that with weak state power, bad infrastructure etc. etc. and then you wouldnt be surprised that the local populace reacts badly.

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