The PBS series “Civilization: The West and the Rest with Niall Ferguson” looked at six reason why Western culture flourished and dominated the rest of the world.
I caught only part of the second half of the show that examined how the Protestant work ethic was a major contributor to the West’s success and why Europe today is falling behind.
“If the West’s moment of dominance is ending, the good news, for American viewers, is that this is apparently Europeans’ fault, a point Mr. Ferguson makes in Part 2 while discussing the rise and possible fall of what Max Weber outlined as the Protestant work ethic.”
“ ‘Today there’s a schism at the heart of Christendom,’ he says. ‘Europeans these days work a whole lot less than their American counterparts. And they don’t only work less. They pray less.’ ”
“He adds, ‘That’s a real anomaly in a world where, everywhere else, religious faith is not just strong but growing.’ ”
Ferguson throws out a fascinating statistic that only only 2 percent of English families are going to church on Sundays! He suggests it’s because the Church of England is the state religion and not competing with other Protestant churches to bring people in. So the people aren’t staying interested. Where as in America, the Protestant churches have always had to compete to bring in the flocks (and their wallets).
In the show, Ferguson keeps focusing on St. Louis, Mo., and how many Protestant churches are there. I guess because he has stats from the turn of the century on the number of churches there. But it kept making me think about the South.
Think about the sheer number of choices Southerners have not only in branches of the Protestant church but also in churches outside the denomination.
So I am wondering if the volume of competing churches is the reason the church (and God) have remained to important in Southern life?
People out West don’t talk about God and church as much as we do in the South. And when we lived in Pennsylvania I was told I was rude for asking one woman where she went to church. She told me I was awful to assume that she was religious.
The only other place I have lived that was as focussed on religion as the South was New York City. And there it was the Catholics and Jewish folks who were most vocal.
So I am wondering why do you think church has remained such as powerful influence in Southern culture (do we all agree on that?)? Is it because of this great competition that people have stayed interested and committed?
Is it purely tradition or is the competition of Protestant churches that keep the Southern Family interested?