There Are Worse Things Than McDonaldization

There Are Worse Things Than McDonaldization September 17, 2018

Twelve years ago, Richard Beck blogged about the McDonaldification of spiritual formation. There has been a lot about that in the years since then (sometimes labeled McDonaldization instead), drawing attention to the problems when the church resembles a one-size fits all corporatization, a franchise whose local form is predictably cloned across national and cultural divides, imperialistically spreading uniformity around the globe.

More recently, however, a blog post drew my attention to the fact that there are things that are far worse than McDonaldization/McDonaldification (HT Michael Roberts). And sometimes churches are guilty of them. The obvious place to start is that this fast food chain, whatever you may think of the wages it pays its employees, has rules in place to protect them from harassment and abuse, and also seeks to create a welcoming environment for customers and a safe and fun place for children. Clearly churches have not done that consistently or effectively. As a result, some people would feel safer in a McDonald’s than in a church. And if you are a churchgoer who is not disturbed by that, then something is very wrong…

Take a look at the post “Lessons from McDonald’s” for more things that McDonald’s does well that churches might be able to learn from. And see too the quote from St. Basil that Mike Bird shared, indicating that the ancient church was aware of the potential for clergy to abuse young people, and took it more seriously and dealt with it more directly than has been the case in many instances in recent years.


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  • John MacDonald

    People go to church to learn about Jesus, so you can give people standardized tests to see if the Pastors are teaching the material properly. Now that’s accountability!

    • GDunn

      What kind of standardized test would that be sir? Regarding the Text? No one interprets the plain words of Bible correctly, 99% wrong. Bible says Jesus is second-place elohim at the Right Hand of God. Robots say Jesus IS God. Bible says Jesus fulfilled the Law. Robots say the Law is moot and void. Bible says AND Jesus says Shema is the First Command. Robots did away with this Command 523 A.D. Justinian Code. Bible says the “free pass” is into COVENANT. Robots say this “free pass” is into HEAVEN. I could go on, but the historical Jesus is being taught WHERE sir?

      • John MacDonald

        If there is no assessment/evaluation of the congregation, then how do you know they are learning? (whatever the individual’s products to be assessed/evaluated may be: eg tests; mind maps; concept maps, charts, dramatic plays, interviews, etc – for more, see )

        • GDunn

          But, who evaluates the evaluators?

          I know personally if a Christian does not know WHO God is, he ain’t even got to square one. Big Macs or fish sandwiches makes no matter. And if he said “Holy Spirit and Jesus are equal Partners” he gets a big fat ZERO on my test score.

          • John MacDonald

            Well that’s the problem, isn’t it? lol

            One of my favorite Latin phrases is “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” (“Who will guard the guards?” – Juvenal, from his Satire VI, lines 347–348).

            Here’s a thought experiment:

            Imagine that we lived in an alternate reality where people worshipped the planets in our solar system. There would be a lot of consistency between the programs in the different churches, vary though they may, because there is a large amount of consensus-of-scholars agreed upon content material for the various denominations to draw upon. The pastors, as teachers use the best scientifically proven instructional/management/assessment-evaluation strategies to ensure congregation learning. So, if you were a “Mars-ian,” there would be a wealth of “Mars knowledge”(and planetary knowledge generally) to draw on.

            Now, in our reality, how do things stand in Christian churches regarding Pastors teaching the consensus of scholarly opinion about the historical Jesus?

            Not being an expert myself, I went to the Wikipedia page about the historical Jesus and this is the content material that I found:

            In addition to the two [universally agreed upon] historical elements of baptism and crucifixion, scholars attribute varying levels of certainty to various other aspects of the life of Jesus, although there is no universal agreement among scholars on these items. Amy-Jill Levine has stated that “there is a consensus of sorts on the basic outline of Jesus’ life. Most scholars agree that Jesus was baptised by John, debated with fellow Jews on how best to live according to God’s will, engaged in healings and exorcisms, taught in parables, gathered male and female followers in Galilee, went to Jerusalem, and was crucified by Roman soldiers during the governorship of Pontius Pilate (26–36 CE).”

            So, I guess the content material could be covered in church in a one time 30 minute session, so I guess the real question is why do churches need to be open year round?

            Or, maybe churches just cover the core curriculum in one session, and then spend most of their time expounding material that does not reflect the consensus opinion of scholars – although, I must admit, I don’t know any other discipline where teachers would be allowed to teach in this way.

            Teaching is all about accountability and assessing learning!

          • GDunn

            The answer ain’t so hard.

            Spiritual authority is the same today as it was in Jesus’ time.
            He SHOWED he was of the devil or God, by his miracles.

            Once the binary framed matter comes to plot/tension/and commonsense
            judgement, the ancient peers of Jesus made their choices and these were only two.

            Which means less than 1% of 1% today have inerrant true authority.
            What we have in essence is a plethora of opinions. And some are more
            true than others.

            Once the ancient peer decided Jesus was of God, the next step was to
            evaluate and apply his words. These are best recorded in NT Text.

            The more repeated things become normative and consistently said.
            The oddball things are seen as unique and isolated. Gospel is first normative. And, actually according to the Text not theoretically so.

          • John MacDonald

            GDunn said,

            Which means less than 1% of 1% today have inerrant true authority.

            I’m afraid I didn’t really understand your comment/response to me? Who are the “less than 1% of 1%” that have ” inerrant true authority,” and what consensus opinion do they have about Jesus?

  • markhh

    Is there any evidence that St. Basil’s instructions were ever followed?

  • I find it interesting about McDonald’s and sexual harassment: around 2005/2006, there was a major scandal involving harassment and assault at a McDonald’s. (A prank caller impersonated an officer and told a manager’s boyfriend to abuse a young woman employed at McDonald’s. Basically, Milgram in real life.)

    Has McDonald’s learned from this? If so, another thing the church can learn: when a scandal happens, see what you can do to make sure it never happens!