Jeitschko, Thomas D. and O’Connell, Séamus and Pecchenino, Rowena A.
Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself:
Community Formation and the Church.
Faith and Economics, 55.
The church has played a central role in establishing and maintaining, as well
as undermining, communities throughout modern history. In this paper we
explore some of the mechanisms through which the church can coordinate individual
behavior to achieve improvements in individual and social welfare, and
reveal the ways in which the church can fail, causing established communities
to founder or dissolve. In our model inherently religious individuals may become
trapped in a secular equilibrium that is strictly dominated by a religious
equilibrium in which individuals’ actions bestow positive external benefits on
other community members. The church, via its teachings, clergy and ministries,
reveals the benefits of coordinated behavior, both in this world and in the world
to come, and the costs of uncoordinated behavior, separation from God and
one’s fellow man, to induce community members to take actions which are
both individually and socially beneficial. External forces, such as the state and
secular society, and internal forces, such as doctrinal disputes, inconsistencies,
and incoherence, can reduce a church’s ability to coordinate, to the detriment
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