"In our times," R. Laurence Moore wrote in his landmark 1994 Selling God: American Religion in the Marketplace of Culture, "it is hard to imagine a religious organization whose operations are totally outs a market model." The truth of that observation has not diminished in the intervening years. Things that once might have seemed overstated for effect are today quite literally the case. Moore wondered about a future where would-be prophets would have "to learn the ways of Disneyland in order to find an audience." That was metaphorical then. It is an actual practice now. The fastest-growing evangelical church in the United States in 2012 was Triumph Church, a multisite megachurch in Detroit, Michigan, with more than 11,500 in regular attendance. Staff and volunteers at Triumph are trained by Disney Institute. Twenty years ago, Moore speculated that religious leaders would struggle "to reach the many Americans who would feel perfectly comfortable at a prayer breakfast held under McDonald's generous golden arches." He was invoking the fast food franchise to make a point. Since then, more than a few Christian outreach programs have been model on Ray Kroc's ideas. One can, for example, find drive-thru prayer ministries run by Seventh-day Adventists in California, Pentecostals in Florida and Michigan, Independent Christian Churches in Arizona and Texas, Methodists in Georgia and North Carolina, and even Lutherans in Massachusetts.
These recent cases powerfully demonstrate that the embrace between American religion and market has, if anything, become even stronger and more encompassing over the past twenty years. Religious adaptation of market techniques and technologies is everywhere and is, despite how things appear from a distance, just standard practice. The commodification of religion is likewise a fact of contemporary American culture. There is a danger, however, that these and other glaring examples of current commodification of faith obscure not only the extraordinary complexity but also the long and diverse history of the relationship between religion and the marketplace in America. There is much more involved in the interaction of religion and marketplace than the straightforward declension narrative that is sometimes offered by journalists and critical adherents of the respective religious traditions. Indeed, the story of religion and the marketplace in America is one of manifold, mutual, and often highly contradictory forms of interaction that extend far back before the time of drive-thru prayer, televangelism, or even the advent of consumer capitalism. Further, these glaring examples are themselves more subtle, contradictory, and multidimensional than they first appear."
-- from the introduction
"Religion and the Marketplace in the United States offers a sophisticated and timely overview of the historical alliances between religious ideas and practices, on the one hand, and the variety of economic activities animating American life, on the other. Never losing sight of the contemporary relevance of this subject, a star lineup of scholars weighs in on the complexities, nuances, and historical contingencies of buying, selling, praying, and preaching. This volume furthers a much-needed scholarly discussion at a critical moment." -- Laurie Maffly-Kipp, Distinguished Professor in the Humanities, Washington University in St. Louis.