Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Adapting to change

In the last week of class, we will discuss how religious groups adapt to their changing environments. This news article (via Associate Press) describes how one religious sect has undergone tremendous changes in the last few decades. The Church Universal and Triumphant, once an assault rifle amassing, armored vehicle driving, apocalyptic group, has transformed itself into a publisher and online distributor.

The group's adaptation is described in the article. They no longer hoard guns, in part a result of pressure from the federal government. They no longer teach of an immediate end of the world, although that basic idea still permeates the teachings. After an earlier prediction of the world's end did not materialize, many people left the group while others stayed, and the earlier claims have been reinterpreted to maintain the credibility of the group's leaders.

We can interpret these changes as the group responding and adapting to the tension, trying to find the optimum. Pressure from the federal government meant tension was too high, for example. But the group is also trying to use online resources to expand their presence. And recent economic and political events are interpreted as evidence of the leaders' claims.

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