The Business Turn in American Religious History
Beginning with the intertwining of commerce and Christianity in the colonial era, the Introduction offers a historical framework for understanding the evolving relationship between American religious organizations and consumer capitalism. From the move toward parity between religious and commercial organizations under the aegis of contract law in the early American republic to the infusion of business practices into religious organizations beginning in the nineteenth century, and finally to recent equations of religion and prosperity and the strategic use of religion as a marketing tool for business growth, this chapter identifies business practices and economic theories embedded within the history of American religious organizations. The chapter calls for more attention to the business side of religion as not only a neglected aspect of American religious history but also a new way of understanding that history.
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