by James T. Richardson


MOST OF THE Scholarly literature concerning new religions does not attend adequately, if at all, to the question of how the new religions support themselves and use their financial resources, partly because many scholars studying the new religions are not addressing the problems from an organizational point of view. They instead focus on why and how people join such groups, or on the beliefs and individual behaviors propounded by such groups. Questions such as these are important, but they cannot be answered properly without understanding the economic policies and practices of the groups, and noting the interaction of important elements of group life with fund-raising and internal allocation schemes.

Many historical and contemporary religious groups have made financial contributions and participation in fund raising and other "investments" in the group an integral part of the recruitment, commitment, and resocialization process (see Kanter, 1972,1973; Richardson,et al, 1979; Bromley and Shupe, 1979b; Bainbridge, 1978; Beckford, 1975; Rigby, 1974; Nordquist, 1978, among others). Some groups have allowed their theology or beliefs to develop in ways that justify what have been found to be successful fund-raising techniques. Bromley and Shupe (1979b: 120) discuss how the Unification Church members justified, after the fact, the successful street solicitation methods they developed almost accidentally. Richardson and others (1979:100-101) quote some of the scriptural justification for a totally different approach to financing developed by the group they studied (a large Jesus movement group the authors call Christ Communal Organization - CCO). That approach entailed raising much of their own food, selling agricultural products, and working for others for salaries which were given to the organization to be redistributed as needed by the members. Johnston (1980) describes how financial considerations have been nearly totally determining in the way that the Transcendental Meditation (TM) movement organized itself, affecting both the interpretation of the ideology and recruitment practices of the movement.

* This paper is reprinted, in slightly revised form, from the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (Fall 1982). The paper was written during a Fulbright Fellowship spent at the Psychologisch Laboratorium of Katholieke Universiteit, Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Grateful acknowlegment is made for this support. Appreciation is also expressed for valuable comments by Frans Derks, Jan van der Lans, David Bromley, Anson Shupe, Jr., and Tom Robbins on an earlier draft.

If researchers on new religions would routinely take such economic factors into account, as is regularly done in studies of communes (see for examples, Rigby, 1974; and Kanter, 1972; 1973; Stein, 1973; Richardson, 1977a; Abrams and McCulloch, 1976; Shey, 1977; Zablocki, 1971; Kephart, 1974; Mowery, 1978) then the literature produced would be of more value in helping inform other scholars and the general public about the new religions. This latter point is important because there is such public controversy about the new religions. The controversy in the popular literature seems to swirl about two major issues: (1) recruitment tactics used by the new movements, and (2) methods which are used to finance the new movements (and the ways they use their resources). The area of recruitment has been addressed at considerable length by scholars in the field of new religions (see, for example, Richardson, 1978) although some works have not been fully informed of organizational variables.

The area of economic policies and practices of new religions has, however, been relatively neglected as a research area and few studies have dealt in any depth with the topic (see Nordquist, 1978; Bromley and Shupe, 1979b; Lofland, 1977; Davis and Richardson, 1976; Messer, 1976, Johnston, 1980; Richardson, et al., 1979; Bainbridge, 1978; Lester, 1978; Welles, 1978; for a few examples that incorporate substantial discussion of economic matters). What solid research there is has usually focused on one particular group instead of on more broad questions, and seldom has there been any kind of comparison made between groups on the question of economic policies and practices. This has meant that discussions of this issue have usually been less than fully informed.1

Therefore the recent contribution by Bromley and Shupe (1980) on one method of financing the new religions was a valuable addition to the area of new religious studies. Their paper does an excellent job of discussing the development of street solicitation as a major tactic of fund raising by two of the newer groups - the Unification Church (UC) and the Hare Krishna (HK). Their use of the "resource mobilization" approach from the literature of social movements aids understanding of how this high-profit tactic of fund raising became so central particularly to the UC for a time. Further, the paper offers a valuable social psychological analysis of the solicitation episode, helping us grasp why UCand HK members were so phenomenally successful at gathering funds this way.

There are some problems with the paper, however, and there are some other economic issues of import that could not be addressed by Bromley and Shupe in one article. One problem area is conceptual and concerns the use of "world-transforming movement" as a major explanatory device by Bromley and Shupe. Another problem is that the paper may inadvertently be subject to overgeneralization, because the uninformed reader may get the impression from the article that public solicitation is the major way that new religions raise funds. Such is not the case. In fact, public solicitation was not used as the major method of support for the HK and the UC during most of their history. Public solicitation was the major method used by the UC to finance their large property purchases and other activities in recent times, but, as will be discussed, other methods of support have also been important.

1 It must be admitted that the growing literature about conversion processes clearly showing that nothing like classical brainwashing occurs in the new movements has not deterred a number of people and groups from assuming that such is the case and using that assumption in their efforts to get people out of the new groups and to affect the groups in various ways. See Robbins and Anthony (1979) for a good discussion of this problem that puts the situation in a historical perspective. It should be noted that some studies of "less new" religious groups have taken economic matters into consideration (see Klassen, 1964; Leone, 1979; Barclay, 1969; Hostetler, 1963, 1974; Bennett, 1967; Beckford, 1975; Zablocki, 1971; Andrews, 1963, for examples). However, the popular literature in particular has treated new religions as "something new under the sun," and has not referred to this material.

This paper will address the issues mentioned and will also attempt to relate economic policies and practices of the new religions to broader theoretical questions, deriving mainly from the literature of commune studies.2


Bromley and Shupe did not set out to discuss all the fund-raising tactics and economic policies of all new religious groups over their entire history. They were not even trying to give a complete fund-raising history of the two groups discussed in their paper. Instead they were trying to analyze one major tactic of fund raising used by a general type of group they call "world transforming." But the title of their paper is very general, and uninformed readers could be misled. This problem is compounded by a seeming lack of conceptual clarity regarding the notion of "worldtransforming" movements. Bromley and Shupe define worldtransforming movements (1980:228) as those which "seek to institute total rather than limited change (either societal or personal) and at the same time rely on a strategy of persuasion rather than coercion to bring about that change." 3

Given this definition, some scholars might disallow the designation of the UC and HK as world-transforming movements, and others would perhaps expand the category to include different communal groups, or even some noncommunal ones. It would have been useful for the writers to have characterized some of the major new religions, especially those that have received much attention from scholars and popular writers alike. Bromley and Shupe mention the Children of God (COG) along withthe UC and the HK in the opening sentence of their paper, but there is no systematic relating of their dichotomy to the general field.

2 A later paper will address other key economic issues, such as how funds are used by the groups, the level and type of support for individual members, the relationship of economic policies and practices to government agencies (especially taxing authorities), and the impact of spending policies of new religions on the general economic activity in society and in certain locales.

3 One reason why this would have been useful is that Bromley and Shupe are unclear on whether they consider movements intent on radical individual change to be "world transforming." As indicated, they include total change of society or the personality structure as part of their definition (1980:228). But in their recent book ( 1979b:22) they define world-transforming movement as "one which seeks permanent structural change of societies across all institutions," a definition they also employed in their latest book (Shupe and Bromley, 1980:14). They also distinguish between movements which seek to restructure institutions and those "whose goals are to transform individuals" (1979b:24), which raises a question of how they would apply their definition

The point about the classification of the UC can be illustrated from Bromley and Shupe's book on the UC (1979b) and from the work of Lofland (1977) in his "Epilogue" section which summarizes the history of the UC since the original edition of Doomsday Cult was published in 1966. Both of these works, particularly the Bromley and Shupe book, indicate considerable accommodationist activity by the UC, in an effort to "clean up its act" and gain more public support and a better image. Thus the degree of adherence to their "world-transforming" ideology may be less than suggested by UC rhetoric, and even the rhetoric may be lessening. Similar comments can be made about HK, which operates what is reputed to be the largest incense company in the world, producing a line of shampoos, oils, incense, soap, and similar products with millions of dollars (see Judah, 1974:43; and 1975). The HK are quite skilled at soliciting money from peddling books at airports and other places, but this is not their only way of gathering money. Their involvement in the world of commerce with their publishing and the incense company also suggests some degree of accommodation to the world.

On the other hand, there are some newer groups which are or have been at least partially communal in nature and that may fit the definition of world-transforming that Bromley and Shupe offer, yet they are not and have not been involved to any great extent in street solicitation for funds. Three well-documented examples of this type of group are the Ananda "Cooperative Village" (ACV) studied by Nordquist (1978), the Divine Light Mission (DLM) studied by Messer (1976) and Pilarzyk (1978a),and CCO, the group studied by Richardson and others (1979). The first and second of these examples are well known Eastern-oriented new religious groups, and the third has been one of the major groups in the Jesus Movement (JM). 4 In the following section the fund-raising methods of these three groups will be briefly described, after first discussing whether or not such groups could be considered "world transforming."

4 Degree of communalness" might even be considered a variable of importance since the three groups mentioned in the paragraph are only partially communal. ACV is a cooperative village with many communal aspects. CCO was initially completely communal, but changed within a few years to a situation in which a majority of the members lived noncommunally, mainly because they could then afford to live as nuclear families. DLM has varied in the proportion who live communally, but the best estimates seem to be that about twenty-five percent usually live communally.

Some might argue that the DLM and other Eastern-oriented groups such as ACV are not really world transforming because they lack a "radical ideology." The individualistic experiential orientation of the DLM (Messer, 1976) and of the ACV (Nordquist, 1978) might even suggest to some that the groups are supportive of the political and economic structures of society. Further evidence for such a characterization might come from the involvement of ACV and to some extent the DLM in small capitalistic enterprises to furnish sustenance to the organizations. However, others would suggest that the heavy emphasis on the experiential is itself radical. Certainly the way of interpreting the experiences of DLM and ACV members differs radically from traditional Christian interpretations of peak experiences. Also, Bromley and Shupe say (1979b:93) that the DLM is viewed as one of the "extreme" movements in the field of new religions, and as indicated (footnote 3) they also state (1980:228) that world-transforming movements can seek total change in "either societal or personality structure" (emphasis mine).

Groups and movements that seek to change the world by first changing individuals can be considered radical, especially if they aggressively press their ideas on society. This point would seem to hold for both the Eastern-oriented groups such as DLM and ACV, and it would also seem applicable to some communal groups within the Christian tradition. CCO has been very aggressive in promoting a utopian kind of lifestyle and an apocalyptic ideology during its history (see Richardson, et al., 1979:82-89). Thus it can be viewed as somewhat radical, even if it has obvious ties with the dominant religious culture.

The question of the necessity of living communally to the world transforming definition must also be raised. Some groups that might be considered rather radical (especially if societal reaction to them is any measure) are not communal or are only involved in communal living in a limited way. Scientology and TM are two such cases that are both financially successful, but which have evoked considerable controversy (particularly Scientology). Also, as indicated, some groups may be communal at the start, and evolve in a noncommunal way (or vice versa). Thus it seems that the communal nature of new religious groups, while plainly of significance, should be treated independently of overall characterizations of such movements.


Messer (1976) goes into some detail about DLM finances, and her findings are substantiated by Pilarzyk (1978a) and Stoner and Parke(1977). Messer notes that the DLM receives many donations from outsiders, but that most funding comes from donations by members who work outside the ashrams (communes) or who live noncommunally and work at outside jobs of one type or another. Funds are also received from service-like businesses (such as janitorial services) operated by individual ashrams. The only solicitation used by the DLM seems to be sometimes asking merchants or other people for old possessions to sell in rummage sales and small secondhand stores. This method can be lucrative, of course. For example, the former DLM leader in The Netherlands claimed that the group gathered and sold over five hundred thousand dollars of goods in their most fruitful year. Also, this same informant claimed that a high-level decision was made by DLM leadership in America several years ago to have fewer ashrams and more festivals, because the festivals, which are the major ritual events for members of the DLM, are moneymaking events. The participants, most of whom are members, must pay large amounts of money (fifty to one hundred dollars) to participate, and sometimes the festivals attract thousands of followers. 5

Nordquist's (1978) study of the Ananda group (ACV) located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains in California reveals another pattern of support that has not incorporated public solicitation in any large degree (also see Kriyananda, 1972). A large amount of financial support for the first few years of this more inwardly focused cooperative came directly from the founder, Swami Kriyananda, who spent a great deal of time giving courses to people in order to raise needed funds. Other founding members worked at outside jobs and contributed earnings to the group. Sizable membership fees are now charged to new members and a monthly fee is also expected. The money is usually earned by working in the "cottage industries" that the group has established and which operate on a capitalistic basis and pay salaries to worker-members. Most of the property of the group is owned collectively and community building projects are funded by the collective.

The Jesus Movement group, CCO, (Richardson, et al., 1979) has been very aggressive at spreading its message of fundamentalism in a number of different ways and, as indicated, might also seem to qualify for the category of world-transforming. But even if CCO is not included in the world-transforming category the group is of interest as a large communal

5 This information on the Netherlands was furnished by Jan van der Lans and Frans Derks, from their research on the DLM in the Netherlands, (see Derks, 1978, and Derks and van der Lans, 1981, for reports from this research).

organization which has not used street solicitation as a support method, even though it might have found more support for such tactics than the UC and HK because of the more acceptable fundamentalist Christian ideology of the group. Instead of depending on public solicitation the group evolved fairly quickly from a situation of dependence on others to a "mixed" economy that depended not only on outside agencies and other assistance, but also on the work of members at jobs outside the group. CCO adopted a scripturally-justified "work motif" that led them to a situation of nearly total independence of others (see Richardson, et al., 1979:100-101). They developed large work teams in several agricultural enterprises and sometimes the teams were hired out to private individuals and firms or to government agencies. Large amounts of money were generated in this way, and none was raised through public solicitation such as was done by the UC.


As indicated, it can be argued that some noncommunal movements are world transforming. That point will not be pressed here because the thrust of these comments is not so much definitional as it is to illustrate that public solicitation, while it is the most visible and controversial of the fund-raising techniques used by the new religions, is not the general mode of support for most of the groups, whether they be communal or noncommunal. There are a large number of noncommunal newer religious groups and movements and their financial methods usually differ considerably from those of groups which are communal. There is generally less overhead cost for noncommunal groups because the groups are not required to care for members and participants on a twenty-four-hour basis. But some such groups may develop elaborate services to offer affluent constituencies, and they can successfully charge sizable fees for the services offered.

A good case in point is the Scientology movement that generates considerable money through its course fees (Wallis, 1976:179; Straus, 1979; and Bainbridge and Stark, 1980:132, for some discussions of the cost associated with becoming "clear"). The organization is not communal, although during one period of its history it operated a fleet of ships known as Sea Org, which, of course, meant that those on the ships were living communally. Straus's (1979b) informative analysis of life on Sea Org reveals that approximately 1,000 people were involved in thisoperation at one time, and he also says that some Scientologists live together "on land" but only because they share common interests and world view, and not because the organization requires it. The organization itself is a large network of Scientology churches which sells services to interested members of the public and to regular participants in the auditing the organization offers. This service organization is the major source of funds for this organization and estimates of gross income range up to 100 million dollars a year in the U.S. alone (see Weldon, 1975:420).

TM is also a well-known but noncommunal organization which has become financially strong. Johnston (1980) insightfully discusses how the organization has become a "marketed social movement" because of the willingness of its leaders to orient the movement totally toward the selling of TM techniques to the general public. 6 The deliberateness of those leading TM's development seems to be a contrast to the accidental and unplanned nature of the development of funding mechanisms in some of the other groups discussed. The very rational tactics used to attract members of several target populations have been successful and, apparently, large amounts of money have been generated. Weldon (1975) claims that more than 60 million dollars was collected by TM in the U.S. alone during 1970-1975.

Groups such as Scientology and TM seldom get involved in direct street solicitation but may use various advertising techniques and make use of personal contacts for recruitment. Apparently because of considerable interest in techniques for self-improvement there is a very large market for groups like Scientology, est, TM, Silva Mind Control, and other such groups that offer courses for a fee (see Westley, 1978, for a discussion of functions served by such groups). Thus some such groups have been able to amass large sums of money through this approach to financing.

Gerlach and Hine (1970:50-55) have a brief discussion of fund raising for the Neo-Pentecostal movement (NPM), which differs significantly from TM or Scientology, but is mainly noncommunal. However, again we find that public solicitation is not a primary means of gaining funds. Perhaps the NPM should not be considered here on the grounds that it is not "world transforming," but many members of the movement would argue about such a designation, citing ideological factors and growth rates to counter the idea that they are not engaged in something world transforming. Gerlach and Hine point out that the NPM is funded mostly through internal sources. Tithing (giving ten percent of income) is the chief source of money, although special "love offerings" provide money for special causes. People involved in the movement also sometimes make large personal financial sacrifices to promote the cause of which they are a part.

6 New religious groups are not alone, of course, in their use of modern marketing techniques. See the interesting and revealing discussion of this issue in Ashton (1977) of Mormon concerns with their public image and their efforts to do something about that image.


As indicated, the Bromley and Shupe paper, because of its focus on public solicitation, may inadvertently mislead about the history and variety of fund-raising methods used by the HK and UC. Other discussions of the UC's public solicitation in particular may contribute to this partial picture of UC fund-raising methods (see Welles, 1978; Lester, 1978; and Underwood and Underwood, 1979). However, Lofland points out (1977:282) that for the first twelve years theUCdepended nearly totally on contributions from members who had outside jobs. The group also started a few small businesses, but these were not major elements in UC funding at that time. After 1971 money was received from a number of sources (Lofland, 1977:289-91). Some apparently came from Moon himself (his business enterprises), or from other branches of the movement, particularly in Japan. There were also some allegations that the Korean and American CIAs were involved in some funding (see U.S. Government, 1978), although this has not been proven and the allegation has been scoffed at by one UC critic (see Welles, 1978:246). Lofland suggests that the largest amounts came through the street peddling of handcrafted items made or obtained by the UC, but he allows that some funds still came from the many small business ventures operated by the local UC groups (restaurants, janitorial services,gas stations, and so forth, and that new members and the parents of members still contributed significant amounts of money. This general picture of the diverse history of UC fund-raising is also supported by Bromley and Shupe's book on the UC (1979b), by Welles (1978), by Mickler (1980 - a member of the UC who did a master's thesis on the early history of the group) and by information on UC development in England. Some comments about the other funding sources for the HK have already been mentioned (incense). Besides these the HK has apparently also been the recipient of some donations of land, buildings, and money that have been used to develop temples and ashrams in various parts of the world (Judah, 1974:44-45).

The fund-raising history of a group most like the UC and HK in its use of public solicitation - the COG - has, with a major exception, followed a similar pattern to that of the UC and HK (see Davis and Richardson, 1976; and Richardson and Davis, 1982). Funds and donations of property and other support have been received from members and sympathetic outsiders. Some methods of obtaining support have been quite ingenious - "house-sitting" for financial institutions in England, for one example. But many of its operations such as its music businesses and special youth-oriented "night clubs" have not usually been money making. These have been a drain on the coffers of the group because they were developed primarily as efforts at evangelism. The COG has realized most of its money in recent years from its "witnessing" (street distribution of literature), but public solicitation has by no means been the only source of support for all the COG's colorful history.

Another group that might be considered "world transforming," even though it is a "psychotherapy cult," is the Power described by Bainbridge (1978). This satanist group used public solicitation (referred to as "donating") during part of its history, but it also experimented with several different ways of supporting the organization. New members were required to give up their possessions and inheritances and all members of this mainly communal group were required to turn over a tithe of their outside income if they were working. The group also begged for food and other things (referred to as "retrieving"). The group charged fees for psychic readings and similar activities. But earlier in its history, during its formative years in England especially, the Power practiced a variant of psychotherapy and was able to support itself in this way. The public solicitation phase was developed later, once the group had come to America.

This history of many different fund-raising methods being tried by the HK, the COG, the Power, and the UC is probably similar to that of other communal organizations that must find a way to support their life-style. Zablocki's thorough discussion of Bruderhof economic matters indicates such a pattern of experimentation for them. It was only after they received the toy business as a part of absorbing a smaller group that they oriented themselves completely in the direction of this profitableindustry (see Zablocki, 1971:130-138). Ofshe (1980) discusses similar patterns for an "old" organization, Synanon, which has made a deliberate effort to become accepted as a new religion in recent years. Experimentation was the key to Synanon economics, and sometimes that meant massive street solicitation (that is, raffle ticket sales) but often it did not. Thus we see that public solicitation is just one of many ways to secure funding for communal religious and quasi-religious groups, and it may not even be the most important. It does gain considerable attention and even notoriety, however, as the history of the UC, the COG, and the HK demonstrates.


The Bromley-Shupe paper is informative, but it does not relate to relevant theoretical ideas of some commune theorists (see earlier citations). Here a few selections from the commune theory literature will be discussed in brief to offer ideas for those studying new religions. Also, it is hoped that these works will demonstrate the need for researchers of new religious groups to gather data on financial considerations.7

Kanter offers a lengthy introduction to the section on "Work and Property" in her edited volume Communes: Creating and Managing the Collective Life (1973:223-30), in which she proposes a three-part classification scheme for communes in terms of their "primary economic stance." Economic generalists attempt to be economically self-sufficient and are often "comprehensive villages;" economic specialists develop one or more "specialized enterprises" which allow them to sell something for the public for needed funds; and economic dependents do not develop internal methods of support and must depend on participation in "external enterprises."

7 This section does not mean to imply that the ideas from the literature on communal groups can only be tested and applied to communal new religious groups. Certainly some of the ideas are specifically applicable to communal groups, but a great number of the ideas (and the general questions about raising and allocating funds) plainly are applicable to all of the new religious organizations. As Richardson, and others (1979:94-97) note, commune theorists could also benefit from paying more attention to religious groups instead of following tendencies in the commune literature which lumps all "religious" communes in a residual category that is not dealt with in depth. This tendency derives from the fascination of some commune theorists with the hippie or left-oriented communes that have proliferated recently. Particularly the commune literature is deficient in explaining much about federations of communes or organizations such as those developed by the COG, CCO, HK, and the UC. Kanter's (1972) discussion of Synanon is a major exception to this comment.

This seems a useful way to categorize new religious groups. For instance, the HK seems now to be more of a specialist organization, especially when one considers its emphasis on the incense business. The ACV group seems to be an effort at a generalist approach, as does CCO during most of its history. The UC focus in recent years on public solicitation may make it a dependent organization now, but it is making some efforts to become a specialist group that can live off its own businesses (see Bromley and Shupe, 1979b:237, and Welles, 1978). DLM, the Power, and COG have been mainly dependent (with some qualifications), an orientation also found by Pilarzyk and Jacobson (1977) in their study of the Milwaukee Jesus People. The classification scheme of Kanter would classify groups like Scientology and TM (and the Power, at first) as specialist organizations which sell something to the public.

Just classifying the organizations is not enough, of course, and the Kanter scheme suggests more. For instance it might be fruitful to examine the patterns of change from one category to another in such groups. CCO moved from being a dependent organization initially to become more of a generalist and specialist group, but then evolved into a dependent one again, but at a different level of support and affluence (see Richardson et al., 1979). Why and how such changes occur a re important questions. It might also be possible to discern propensities for certain types of groups to become any one of the three types and to examine reasons for such tendencies. For instance, Kanter suggests that contemporary rural hippie communes and urban communes are usually dependent. She also notes (1973:225) that religious groups frequently get involved in "group enterprises" because their theology can give a special meaning to work as a part of the commitment process, a finding of Richardson, and others (1979), who also cite social-psychological reasons for the "team" approach.

Kanter's comments on the social meaning of work and the various practices developed by some of the groups she studied are also suggestive. She mentions several schemes that have been used to insure the contribution of work to the social aspect of communal life, including such things as job rotation, the development of dual specializations to allow variety, and using a team approach to much work. She discusses the way that children have been integrated into work patterns in communes, and the general reintegration of work and life that takes place in communes, and she claims that communes deliberately choose certain types of work to further social and spiritual goals and thereby make a statement to their members and the world about "what they are."

In her discussion are a number of testable ideas that could be examined in new religious groups. Her ideas on the meaning of work and how that relates to group goals are significant notions demonstrating that we need research on the various ways that group goals are implemented in the new religious groups. The relationship of work to ideology can be examined, and the meaning of rituals surrounding work (including fund raising) ought to be more carefully studied. Questions about the relationship of life and work and the integration of children into the occupational and social life of the organization can be examined in the new groups as well, both to use the groups as a "testing ground," and in order to find out more about the groups themselves.

Abrams and McCulloch (1976:173) indicate that some deliberately choose asceticism when they do not have to and collectively decide not to earn as much as they could if desired (Zablocki's study of the Bruderhof illustrates this point - see Zablocki, 1971:35). Why and how such decisions are made can and should be investigated in the new religions, if for no other reason than the fact that some people and groups have been so critical of the economically deprived life-style alleged to be the norm in such groups. Also, since public solicitation is, as Bromley and Shupe point out, so "easy" and so fruitful a method of support, we are left to explain why all new religious groups do not choose to use the tactic. Some (probably most) of the groups decide not to use public solicitation and thereby apparently choose to live a somewhat more ascetic (or at least different) life-style by virtue of the decision. The circumstances of such "vows of comparative group poverty" and radically different approaches to the world are of both theoretical and practical significance. For instance, explaining why and how the two Jesus Movement groups - CCO and the COG - chose different approaches to group support is of interest. CCO chose the route of physical labor and self-support (see Richardson, et. al., 1979) whereas the COG chose a path that emphasized public solicitation through aggressive distribution of their literature, known as "Mo letters" (see Davis and Richardson, 1976) and more recently, the use of sex as a way of gaining at least some support. 8 Both groups achieved considerable economic strength, but the support methods chosen seemed to contribute to making them very different organizations, even though both were communal and shared a somewhat similar ideological base.

8 Both CCO and COG derived from fundamentalist Christianity, and both are glossolalic and evangelical. However, there are significant differences, including the liberal approach to sexual matters that seems to be the case in the COG (see Wallis, 1979; Davis, 1981; Richardson, 1982), and the fact that the COG developed such a large international organization (see Davis and Richardson, 1976).

Abrams and McCulloch offer other intriguing ideas on financing that could be examined with newer religious groups. They suggest (1976:173) that the real economic efficiency of the commune is not realized unless some of the members are earning low incomes, an idea that seems counter to common sense. They also suggest, in their analysis of internal allocation schemes (1976:171-73), that perceived equity is more important than formal equality in any resource allocation scheme, an idea that raises questions about how such perceptions are developed and managed within the group. They mention that all communes have implicit or explicit notions of an internal wage paid to members who do a disproportionate share of the domestic chores, a notion that could be tested and extended to incorporate implicit wage rates for any member or leader doing any special task (including fund-raising) assigned by the collectivity or its leadership. How such implicit and explicit wage rates are developed within the group would be significant information to compare with perceptions of outsiders. Since some, especially Delgado (1979), have in all seriousness raised the issue of whether or not members of the new religions fit a legal and constitutional definition of a slave, more attention to internal allocation schemes, questions of equity, and implicitly accepted wage rates seems to be needed.

Stein (1973) relates the type of distribution system in communes to the level of affluence, and also suggests that economic success can lead to tension and possibly to group schism. He says that this tendency toward schism with increased affluence develops because of pressures to move back to a more capitalistic mode with the increased material affluence. He says communes usually are forced to start as socialistic ventures out of necessity, but that increased affluence allows the adoption of a form of humanism in allocation of rewards, and that this evolution can then continue (if more affluence develops) to bring back some elements of capitalism, such as differential rewards. His analysis suggests that communes (or new religions) that are less than completely successful on the economic front may well have a better change to survive because the pressures to return to capitalistic economic arrangements are lessened. He mentions efforts of groups like the Bruderhof and the kibbutzim movement to deal with increased prosperity and says that any economically successful group must attend to this crucial problem of the effects (unintended) of affluence.

Stein's analysis is replete with ideas that can be applied to both communal and noncommunal new religious groups and his work also seems related to the classical question from Weber (1930) about the relationship of religious ideas to economic practices. The interesting study by Barclay (1969) of a communally organized group of Mennonites which was able to suppress the tendency toward capitalism suggests, at least, that Stein's ideas are in need of some qualification. Some of the new religious groups, especially those related to theJudeo-Christian tradition, would seem to offer excellent contexts in which to address this important issue.

The case of CCO seems instructive in this regard. Richardson, and others (1979) described in detail the rapidly developing affluence in CCO and the reasons for it, and stated (p. 64), "A most interesting question concerns the ability of the group to withstand the pressure of the newfound prosperity - pressures that might well lead to dramatic but as yet unforeseen changes in the organization." Since that comment was written there have been difficulties within CCO, and the group has apparently divided into at least two major segments over issues related to the increased rationality of the group. One segment has reaffiliated with the large youth-oriented and "hip" church from which CCO initially came, and one remains in charge of much of the property amassed by the group. Full details are not yet available on what led to this schism, but Stein's ideas are suggestive. 9

Stein's ideas also offer some interesting questions to pose about some of the other groups. For instance, one would expect that the tendency Stein posits would reinforce the anticommunist ideology of the UC (and vice versa), whereas in some other groups trying to live a communistically oriented life (based, say, on early Christianity, as with CCO) the tendency toward capitalism and group ideology might conflict. It would indeed be ironic if members of the Jesus Movement communes who joined at least in part to flee the contradictions of capitalism could get so easily drawn back into a capitalistic way of life through the very success of their communal ventures.

9 Information is being gathered about this division in an effort to relate it to the issue just raised and to factors on which data has already been obtained; we also want to test some notions from the small literature on schisms in religious groups (see Wilson, 1971, and Wellis 1979, for instance).


The thrust of this paper has been to build on the good beginning by Bromley and Shupe (1980) on research concerning economic policies and practices of the newer religious groups. Their work is valuable, particularly in offering more understanding of public solicitation as a method of financing. However, their paper may have implied a greater reliance on public solicitation by such groups than is actually the case, and thus may have left the impression that public solicitation is the most prevalent and significant method of financing such groups. This is probably not the case. Also, there seemed to be some conceptual problems with their paper in its use of the "world-transforming movement" idea.

In the present paper an effort has been made to elucidate the conceptual difficulty of the Bromley and Shupe paper and also to demonstrate that public solicitation is only one of many ways that new religious groups support themselves. Most groups go through a multistep history of experimentation with support methods and select the ones that seem most successful and acceptable to the group ideology. 10

Also in this paper an effort has been made to tie the study of new religions into the related area of commune studies. Plainly, many of the same issues confound scholars in both areas and sharing information could very well result in a cross-fertilization of ideas. This paper has presented a few specific ideas that have developed out of the considerable study that commune theorists have made of economic policies and practices in communal groups in order to demonstrate both the applicability and testability of such ideas within the new religions.

An appendix to the paper offers a modification of the "economic" part of an earlier-presented "data frame" for the study of communal groups (Richardson, 1977a). The modifications incorporate several issues that have developed in the study of new religions and also attempt to insure that the proposed data frame will be useful for groups that are noncommunal or which have only some communal segments. It is hoped that researchers will find this data frame valuable and that further improvements in the proposed approach can be offered. If this approach is found to be useful, then it will help redress the pervasive problem of lack of information about the economic policies and practices of the newer religious groups which have caught the interest of the public, government agencies, and scholars. 11

10 This does not mean that ideology determines fund-raising methods, of course, but it does mean that any fund-raising method used must eventually be integrated into the belief system of the group, something that may not be difficult to do, given the flexibility of most large systems of thought.

11 This "data frame" is also designed to incorporate the issues alluded to in footnote 2, above, which will be developed in a later paper.


The following is a suggested "data frame" for gathering data on economic policies of the new religions. Detailed information on the considerations listed would be useful in dealing with the theoretical questions mentioned and also in helpinggovernment officials and the general public to understand better the economics of the new religions. This data frame is a modification of part of the data frame suggested for commune studies in Richardson (1977a).


A. Organizational Or Federation Level (if a "federation" of communes or of branches of a noncommunal or partially communal organization)

1. Method(s) of economic support for organization as a whole

a. "Entrance fees" and/or regular "dues" or fees for individual members and/or clients and/or special communes or groups
b. "Welfare" (public and private largesse)
c. Gathering or scavenging for goods and food
d. Working for nonmembers (by individual members, teams of members, or even entire specific communes or branches)
e. Producing goods, services and/or agricultural, livestock products for sale and/or barter to nonmembers
f. Producing goods, services, and/or agricultural products for use within the organization

2. Degree to which organization is self-supporting

a. Totally self-supporting
b. Partially self-supporting (to what degree and type of support)
c. Totally dependent on outside "unearned" income

3. Level of support available, for the organization as a whole, from all sources

4. Variations (if any) in level and type of support for specific communes or branches

5. How economic support is administered and how such decisions are made

a. More centralized system
b. Specific communes or branches autonomous and more self-supporting
c. Mixed system

6. Division of economic functions by commune or branch

a. Involving all communes or branches
b. Involving some communes or branches
c. Not present

7. Organization's position (and variations) on private ownership by specific communes or branches, and by individual members, and members and/or families

8. Organization's economic priorities, including way in which leaders are supported

9. Effects of economic considerations on other facets of organization life, and vice versa (ideology, recruitment and resocialization and organizational structure, especially)

10. Ways in which "surplus funds" available to group are invested, and information on economic impact of such investments on locale or specific industry (or area of investment)

11. Tax status of organization, anddescription of relationship the organization has had with tax and/or other governmental agencies

12. Changes in (or plans to change) any of above considerations over time

13. Other economic considerations of import

B. Specific Commune On Branch Level (see section A for details)

1. Methods(s) of support

2. Degree to which commune or branch is self-supporting

3. Level of support available for commune or branch from all sources

4. Variations (if any) in level and type of support for individual members (or families), by commune or branch

5. How decisions about economic support are made for commune or branch

6. Division of economic functions within commune or branch

7. Commune orbranch position on private ownership (and any variations by class of member) for members and member families

8. Economic priorities of commune orbranch, including economic support for leaders and "investment policy"

9. Interplay of economic considerations with other aspects of commune orbranch life

10. Any problems with government agencies that affect economic life of commune or branch

11. Change in (and plans to change) any of the above over time

12. Other economic considersations of import

C. Individual Level (and family level, if "families" allowed)

1. Method(s) of support both direct and indirect, for members (and families), by category of membership (if differentiation exists), and tax status of support

2. Degree to which each member !and family) is self-supporting, and any withincommune or branch variations

3. Level of support available from all sources for individuals (and families), and variations by marital status, leadership status, or other variables

4. Methods of administering economic support and making such decisions within commune or branch, and any relationship this has to level of support

5. Hou much private property is allowed for individuals (and families)

6. How economic considerations affect a person's life in the commune or branch

7. What skills are taught to members or clients that are of possible economic benefit to members in the future?

8. What is "refund policy" for members or clients who leave organization or no longer participate in its activities?

9 What economic alternatives are available to members or participants outside the group?

10. Changes in lor plans to change) any of the above considerations over time

11. Other economic considerations of import


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