The cultivation of a single crop in a given area.
In the early part of the twentieth century, Mainline Protestants began reforming the church. They took the church in new and powerful directions. They were on the cusp of the future, and they hoped to accomplish great things. Yes, they wanted nothing less than to help usher in the Kingdom of God with great power and zeal. To gain this great power, one of the things which they did was to begin organizing on a higher level. Business was doing this, and it was experiencing powerful gains in this way. The church, much like business, gained a higher hierarchy. There was more overhead, there were more offices, and, with these things, there came more opportunity. For one thing, advocacy was now more easily facilitated. Laws trying to make a more just society could be pushed for. The church was entering a new time. And, as we all know, in entering a new time in one’s life, there is much that has to be learned over time.
One of the unintentional consequences of this move, of this push for a certain type of power, was the loss of local diversity. This can be seen in our VBS programs. There was once a day and age when the valuable volunteers of a church-community pasted together, through their collective creativity, a unique and non-replicable experience. Now, though not always the case, it is more common to find a boxed program or one that literally comes in a can [really, you can’t make this stuff up!]. Of course, these pre-packaged, processed goods are convenient. They can save one many a headache, and time can be spent doing other important things. But, like a good home-cooked meal versus a TV dinner, it just does not compare in flavor and uniqueness [and heart].
Though uniformity can be great for accomplishing large-scale tasks (a great example of which is Malaria relief), the church, as always, should be aware of the things which we, either purposely and accidentally, imitate. It seems that, in some ways, in our imitation of business, we have created something that they too have created; we just have not done it as obviously and openly.
Behold, the Monoculture!
The problems of monocultures have been sung far and wide. Although they produce large quantities and may require less work than a diverse field, they also deplete the soil. They suck up all of the nutrients. They also, in taking up such great spaces, drive out the native plants. There is only room here for more of the same. They, perhaps not intentionally, wipe out that which is truly and uniquely local. And, yeah, they’re kind of boring.
Furthermore, monocultures are heaven for the animals and insects that can eat their crop. Monocultures are prone to attack from these “pests.” Monocultures are vulnerable in that everything within them is the same. All of the plants have the same weaknesses. So, when one monoculture field is being destroyed by some plague of locusts or another, is it really a surprise that the neighboring field is or will soon be under the same plague? Is it a surprise that many of them are facing the same problems? It makes me wonder if the situation would be different if the field were more diversified. After all, we’d still be growing crops. We just wouldn’t be growing all the same plants in all the same ways.
I believe that it’s worth thinking about: the church as monoculture – as opposed to – the church as a system of various, diversified fields.
What do you think?