Are relationships with brands problematic or beneficial to Christian faith? An investigation into the role of faith brands in the faith development of members of some East Midlands churches
AffiliationUniversity of Derby
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AbstractThis study is a work of Practical Theology aiming to create an interpretative paradigm within which to evaluate faith brands theologically and identify whether faith brands are problematic or beneficial to Christian faith. The research used qualitative research techniques – five focus groups drawn from a church in the East Midlands, triangulated with interviews with practitioners in both marketing and ministry, and documentary analysis of faith brands. An element of comparison was possible between focus groups by grouping those church members who self-identified as “charismatic/evangelical” into three groups and examining how the data generated in those groups compared with the other two groups, drawn from a more “central Anglican” tradition. The importance of relationships and the motif of the faith being a journey and a process are validated by the data. Some of the problematic issues that faith brands raise for Christian faith – including challenges of ecclesiology, and the risk of a reductionist approach to faith – are considered both from the perspective of faith brands (such as the Alpha course) which might be considered as “McDonaldising” the faith, as well as the perspective of more “localized” faith brands, embodied within the “Fresh Expressions” movement. The results suggest that whilst faith brands do pose risks for Christian faith – including the danger of reductionism, or challenges to traditional ecclesiology - they can also be beneficial where they are utilized in ways that are sensitive to the context in which individuals are relating to them. This PhD makes an original contribution to knowledge through by exploring in detail the impact of faith branding upon some members of East Midlands Churches, in itself an original focus of study. It also makes an original contribution by utilising the insights of Rational Choice Theory to interrogate the data and extends the field of Practical Theology in also beginning to develop a constructive theology of branding. Tracing the contours of an emerging theology of branding, the Apostle Paul’s contextual missionary flexibility is noted alongside an acknowledgement that creation is both fallen, and yet also nevertheless pregnant with goodness and grace. It is suggested (through drawing on insights in the work of Cavanaugh) that faith brands can be located comfortably within an Augustinian framework with respect to notions of choice and desire. Within a theological evaluation, faith brands could be seen to offer a way of seeking to influence the will towards to God – and as such, offer a counterpoint to consumer brands, because they are a means to what is understood theologically to be a true end (God), whereas in consumerism, the end is simply to continue desiring to buy. Finally, the notion of the missio Dei and Bosch & Sherry’s theology of the work of the Holy Spirit are offered as ways of understanding of how God works through human culture and human creativity.
CitationHodder, C. (2017) 'Are relationships with brands problematic or beneficial to Christian faith? An investigation into the role of faith brands in the faith development of members of some East Midlands churches', PhD Theses, University of Derby
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