Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Charisma Goes to Church: ONE is the Only Number!

We would be hard pressed in attempting to determine how many charismatic leaders exist in the world. Not only does the amount represent an incredibly small number, the actual criteria that individuals confer on charismatic leaders are subjective and whimsical. Even if two individuals can agree on which leaders are charismatic, they tend to disagree on the degree of their charisma. While this shouldn't matter much (charisma is as charisma does), the extent to which one follows one charismatic leader over another resonates with: The visceral message of the leader; and when the adherent feels a connection with the leader and his message. An unscientific observation would be the ministerial styles of Bishop Eddie Long of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia and Creflo Dollar of the World Changers Church in College Park, Georgia.

Both Pastors oversee a congregation well over 25,000. Their messages have attracted a cross section of the same demographics, mainly African-Americans who are upwardly mobile who have found a cultural as well as a socioeconomic connection between the two ministers. Dollar takes a more overt stand in supporting a prosperity gospel whereas Long shares similar viewpoints covertly, but with a stronger emphasis on the youth and hipper issues. While the two may have some semblance of the "ole time religion," they largely have tailored their message and thus their mission to a current congregation with contemporary issues. Although the two charismatic clerics have shared the same platform together, it would be interesting to know how many congregants visit the others church? If either congregation does not experience “flip flopping” of visitation, then what would be the reason?

Invariably, there are differences in the religious styles between the two, which tap into their congregational base. At a cursory view, it would be an educated guess that there isn't a lot of "flip flopping." The societal dictate of choosing one brand over the other does not stop even when dealing with spiritual matters. Western culture is steeped in brand ‘A’ being better than brand ‘B’. Consequently, the adherents of charismatic leaders choose the dominant clergy as category giants just as he or she chooses the dominant product in cereal, soap and toothpaste.
And so the charismatic leader chooses one segment in a population or topic and builds his base on that platform. Consequently, the "one size fits all" notion is cannibalized in the church under charismatic leadership as it is in the marketplace. Charismatic leaders find one mission, idea or product and push and promote that idea to attract adherents. It is deemed un-charismatic to not be identified with a salient message. Donald Trump is the quintessential real estate developer and is connected with opulence and grandeur. Lee Iaccoca is the savoir to Chrysler Corporation. Ted Turner is the innovator of CNN and the Superstation. John Delorean is the maverick behind a sports car. Whether clergy or businessperson, the methodology is similar.

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