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Churches and the Corporate Org Chart

(Today, I’m pleased to have a guest post from Richard S. Russell, an atheist from Wisconsin and commenter at this blog.)

In these difficult economic times, you may have heard more than usual about GDP. It’s short for “Gross Domestic Product” and is the dollar value of all the goods and services produced within a given country (or state or region) in a year. “Goods” are products, material objects that customers want; “services” are procedures, actions performed to help customers. Together, these products and procedures reflect the wealth generated by the economy.

In the U.S., a lot of goods and services are produced by big corporations, which are organized to do so effectively and efficiently, using those techniques much beloved of Econ 101 courses, division of labor and specialization.

Here’s an organization chart for a typical manufacturing corporation, one that produces material goods:

And here’s what goes on inside each of those little boxes:

(1) Management makes decisions, tells everyone else what to do, and handles investor relations.

(2) Internal Services support the rest of the company in general; the category includes accounting, info tech, personnel (human resources), labor relations (employment relations or ER), safety, maintenance, regulatory compliance, and legal.

(3) Research and Development (R&D) investigates new ways of doing things and tests them out.

(4) Purchasing acquires raw materials, equipment, and property.

(5) Manufacturing (the biggest part of the company, employing the most people) generates actual useful products.

(6) Inventory Control deals with both raw materials and finished products and includes transportation, warehousing, shipping, delivery, and quality assurance.

(7) Marketing uses media to spread the word that people should buy the company’s products.

(8) Sales works directly with individual customers to get them the products they want in exchange for their money.

(9) Customer Service works directly with customers who are having problems with a product.

The chart gets slimmed down a little if we’re talking about services instead of goods. Here’s an org chart for a typical service corporation:

Notice that manufacturing has vanished altogether (no goods being produced), and that the bulk of the people working for the company are the ones directly helping customers. You still have Purchasing and Inventory Control, but these are much smaller operations (since they now deal mainly with furniture and office supplies instead of heavy machinery and raw materials) and so are generally subsumed under Internal Services.

Finally we have the kind of organizations that produce neither goods nor services, namely churches. Here’s how they work:

There are still lots of entries under Management (bishops, archbishops, abbots, cardinals, popes, etc.), since these guys (by which I mean “men”) are really into hierarchy.

There’s the normal array of Internal Services, with the diminished activity under ER (no unions, heavy emphasis on conformity and obedience) and regulatory compliance more than offset by the need for lots of work under legal (discrimination, pedophilia, etc.).

Nothing under R&D. (Create something new?!)

Nothing under Purchasing. (Spend? Contribute to the economy?!)

Nothing under Manufacturing. (Useful products!?)

Nothing under Inventory Control.

But tons and tons o’ time is devoted to (or, more properly, “wasted on”) Marketing and Sales. In fact, in the absence of goods and services, it’s the only thing religion does at all. In other words, the priest class spends all its time pushing companionship with themselves, in return for nothing useful or even (as in the case of more traditional prostitutes) pleasurable.

The most telling part of the chart, though, is Customer “Service,” where the ironic quotation marks emphasize the difference between what a church does and what an actual contributor to GDP does. A responsible, reputable company assumes that, if you’ve got a problem, it’s their own product’s fault, or the result of shoddy service from one of the company’s representatives. But in the case of religion, any counseling they provide for people with problems is designed to show, first and foremost, how the religion itself is never, ever at fault, that the problem is entirely the customer’s, because he or she didn’t follow directions properly. In short, the motto of Customer “Service” for a church is “The customer is always wrong.”

In effect, since religion never solves any problems (not even those of its own making), Customer “Service” is just another mechanism under Sales and Marketing, which is why it’s shown as subsidiary to those activities on the skeletal org chart above.

You know the short word for any activity that’s all talk and no walk (or, as they say in Texas, all hat and no cattle)? Scam!

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