Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Sun Apr 29th 2007 at 7:00am UTC

More Religion and the Creative Class

Bruce Reyes-Chow provides an interesting take on the ongoing discussion of religion and the creative class:

There are clear correlations between Florida’s explanation of
urban economic success and the possibilities for mainline
congregational physical and spiritual vitality.  I believe that in the
end mainline urban congregations see themselves as possessing all
characteristics of urban Creative Centers.  But, I also believe there
is often a large chasm between how a congregation sees itself and the
realities of who they are.  …

Tolerance and Diversity: In this case, I suspect that most congregations at any location on the political/theological spectrum claim to hold tolerance and diversity
as important.  More often than not however, this is not lived out
beyond tokenism or superficial markers of diversity.  Florida argues,
and I would agree, tolerance must be more than numbers, it must also be
a way of life.  Just as universities will fail to attract the Creative
Class because they pay diversity superficial lip service, highly
concentrated areas of the Creative Class will not simply tolerate
difference, but will truly appreciate what diversity brings to the
larger community.  The church needs to take on the approach as well if
we hope, not just attract this particular group of people, but to
actually live into the idea that tolerance and diversity matter.

Creativity and Innovation: … I suspect that this is one more difficult characteristic
for an established church to do after developing great history and
traditions.  Still, without these attributes, liberal or conservative,
we will remain mired in a particular time and context without even
knowing it and will again, fail to live into who we claim to be.

Introspection and Evaluation: Florida models one aspect of
this culture that is often underappreciated, this group engages in
critical self-reflection.  I think this is an intrinsic aspect of the
Creative Class’ ability to innovate and appreciate diverse worldviews,
that is no one is complete or isolated, so by default we are in the
process of discovering who we are to become.  If that is not the
church, not sure what is?  Unfortunately however, this way of being too
often produces reactions of defensiveness and resistance rather than
self-reflection and transformation

And while I would severely critique mainline churches regarding
these three areas, I firmly believe that because we hold these three
areas up as ideals – which not all communities do – we have the
greatest potential being transformed into communities that are not just
succeeding, but thriving.

Lastly, if I had the research chops to do something like this, I
think this book could easily be done in the form of something like
“City Churches and the Creative Class” and I would suspect that we
would find very similar characteristics in healthy and thriving urban
congregations.  This book, in terms of my particular project will
provide the documentation and analysis to support my theory that
mainline churches are equipped to, and if freed to, will attract this
unique cultural community.

6 Responses to “More Religion and the Creative Class”

  1. Charles Rostkowski Says:

    In my hometown, Ogden-Clearfield (UT)MSA the diversity in mainline churches is already being lived. Catholic, LDS, Lutheran, Epsicopalian and Presbyterians have all made the committment to remain in the central city and over the last ten years have developed congregations that are truly diverse as Hispanics transform the area. Only the Methodists have decided to sell their central city church and move to the suburbs. Hispanic evangelicals have created storefront churches all over the central city while caucasian evangelicals have built their mega churches in the suburbs. I guess they need the parking and land is much cheaper there. But your idea of congregations living diversity (a word I don’t particulally like because it is so loaded) is, I suspect, happening all over urban America and may be an element that helps to stem the decline of mainline denominations.

  2. breyeschow Says:

    Charles, good points. I also don’t like “diversity” much, but alas, guilty as I used it in my review. In fact, the church I serve here in San Francisco does not use the language, but reflects the ethnic diversity of the city.

    You can see my blog for my bio, but I think I have some background to say that while some places may live out some parts of being diverse – ethnicity/race -, many congregations, stop there are and do not live out diversity around economic, theological and sex orientation.

    Peace – B

  3. Brian Says:

    Religious tolerance/diversity does not and cannot exist. Period. Anyone arguing otherwise is simply trying – in their typically tortured way – to reconcile 21st century values, sensibilities, and dispositions with 2000-year-old bronze age philosophies and dogma. Instead of going through the motions of this futile exercise, why not just jettison religion and the bronze age entirely and instead embrace the present once and for all?

    Sam Harris and Bertrand Russell sum it up for us — certainty about the next life is not compatible with tolerance in this one. End of story, no further arguments. Russell points out that religious belief systems (Christian, Judaism, Islam, etc) are mutually exclusive – if you believe in one, you cannot believe in another. Therefore, one is correct and all else are wrong. If my belief system is the only “true” one and by believing in it ensures my soul’s entrance into heaven for all eternity, there is no prospect that I can “tolerate” other religions. These other people believe the wrong thing, and therefore must not be going to heaven, and my entrance into heaven is entirely predicated on my intolerance for them. And, again, arguments I’ve seen against this logic essentially wind up being reflections of the disjunctures between that logic and our contemporary sensibilities. Most people all throughout history would have completely agreed that someone from a different religion is going to hell. Any movement away from that comes from outside religion, not from inside it. (As an aside, it is also worth pointing out, as Russell does, that the above logic entails that probabilistically, everyone is going to hell, because everyone is a non-believer with respect to all other belief systems. Try to work your way out of that one.)

    Religious institutions are by definition intolerant.

  4. Charles Rostkowski Says:

    Whew, what a rant! I would remind Brian that the three most egregious mass murderers in the last century were Stalin, Mao and Hitler (in descending order of their crimes). All three were atheists who lacked the mitigating effect of religion which stems from the core belief in the sacredness of human life. On reading the above I was reminded of Stalin’s sarcastic remark: “How many divisions does the Pope have?”. Of course, his descendents found out when Pope John Paul II went to Poland as Pope for the first time. If ahteists like Brian would have Christians take responsibility for the Inquisition and the post Reformation religious wars, then he needs to take responsibility for Atheism’s crimes of the 20th Century. Look to your own baggage, Brian

  5. guiroo Says:

    “Religious tolerance/diversity does not and cannot exist. Religious institutions are by definition intolerant.”

    Tolerance = Official recognition of the rights of individuals and groups to hold dissenting positions, especially on religion.

    For toleration to even occur, two differing positions must exist. Today’s “21st century values” have redefined the word “tolerate” as something to the effect of, “to accept all positions as equal truth.”

    I submit that religious tolerance could not even be possible without differing religious institutions.

  6. Eric O Says:

    I would echo Brian’s observation that the travesties of the last century cannot be blamed for the influences of religion on public life but in the rise of secularized nationalism…the child of the Enlightenment we are still seemingly unable to temper.

    Moreover, “religious toleration”, in this country at least, sprung first not from the Enlightenment, but from a very deep-seated appreciation for the value of freedom of conscience…an ethic brought by religious minorities fleeing Europe to this soil. So this too is a religious ethic, in fact, a sentiment that arose to heightened pitch during the Great Awakening. People forget that George Whitefield (one of the great evangelists of the Great Awakening) was kicked out of Churches, and that people had to forsake their assemblies and take to the fields and town squares to hear him preach. The sight of cross-denominational fellowship had no small part in helping the ethical thinkers of our early republic (such as Ben Franklin) to have a very low regard for the fetters of denominational jealousies. Those who claim that the Enlightenment has to take the credit for the “separation of church and state” may in fact be only selling half of the story.