Note: This is a selection from Network Politics, a tdaxp series.
“The Power of the Mustard Seed: Why strict churches are strong,” by Judith Shulevitz, Slate, 12 May 2005, http://www.slate.com/id/2118313/?GT1=6443.
Pre-Modern Politics (PMP), also called 0th Generational War (0GW), is hierarchical and family-based.
4th Generation of Modern Politics (4GP or 4GW) is flat and ideology-based
When PMP and 4GP forces combine, they are very powerful
Judy Shulevitz starts by wondering by stricter faiths — religions harder to observe — have been growing while more licentious churches have been failing
It isn’t easy to explain why some people submit enthusiastically to religious law, especially when you’re talking to people who have never had the slightest desire to do so. Why limit yourself to a “theology of the body,” as the late Pope John Paul II called it, when birth control and stem-cell research promise relief from two of the most painful vicissitudes of bodily existence, unwanted pregnancy and degenerative disease? Why restrict yourself to kosher food, when kashrut relies on zoological classifications that went out of date thousands of years ago?
Then Shulevitz describes a Laurence Iannacconne essay — Why Strict Churches are Strong…
According to Iannaccone, the devout person pays the high social price because it buys a better religious product. The rules discourage free riders, the people who undermine group efforts by taking more than they give back. The strict church is one in which members with weak commitments have been weeded out
What does the pious person get in return for all of his or her time and effort? A church full of passionate members; a community of people deeply involved in one another’s lives and more willing than most to come to one another’s aid; a peer group of knowledgeable souls who speak the same language (or languages), are moved by the same texts, and cherish the same dreams.
In exchange for hardship, the worshiper gains fellowship and gets to share in a great future worth creating.
To see the kind of amazingly strong networks it creates, first take a standard family, or “Pre-Modern,” network
Solid lines connect siblings and parents, dashed lines connect in-laws
All of the lines in the chart show first-order relations: brother, sister, mother, father, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, mother-in-law, and father-in-law. Even without showing how aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, grandparents, etc relate, the network is very thick. There are so many connections it almost becomes unreadable.
Now imagine every family member — ever node — being connected with every other one because they are part of the same active church. The cohesion, the control, the rule sets, and the belonging grow exponentially when families are part of the same church.
And now imagine the church isn’t just active, but has an ideology — such as anti-abortion, anti-homosexualism, etc. Graft onto the church’s internet of Pre-Modern networks one 4G network.
This PMP/4GP hybrid is a major reason for Republican success in the United States. It is why the libertarian factions of the party largely tolerated the Schiavo debacle. Because the Religious Right is a large and because of its internets, disproportionately powerful segment of the party. And the Left, with its anti-religious bent, has nothing against it.
Network Politics, a tdaxp series
Introduction: Net-Attacks and Counter-Attacks
Part 1, 0GW / 4GW: Iraqi Sunnis
Part 2, 0GW / 4GW: Christian Conservatives
Part 3, 1GW / 4GW: George Soros
Part 4, 2GW / 4GW: Social Security
Part 5, 4GW / 4GW: John Kerry