A friend responds to this post: One of the great things about many 18th century novelists (Balzac, Dickens, Trollope) is how much you learn about the societies and businesses in which the novels are set. I hadn’t realized until I read Trollope how the Church of England was in one sense just another one of the businesses and being a minister was just another profession in England at the time. There is scarcely any difference in Trollope’s The Warden about how the church operates and how local politics operate and how law operates and how journalism operates. The church doesn’t much discuss religion or God but rather focuses on the internal politics and the competition for advancement within the church.
What is more interesting is how that has fallen out of favor and how quickly.
When I was attended some twelve step meetings in the churches on Wilshire Boulevard in Hancock Park, I thought those imposing structures churches must have been built in the 10’s and 20’a of the 20th century, but I think construction, and expansion of the congregations reached their zenith in the immediate post war years when America was relatively prosperous, unscathed by the war and the old racial and religious proportions still remained with L.A. being overwhelmingly white and to a large extent Protestant. The deterioration and collapse in most of the country (it still exists in parts of the South) of the interrelation between organized religion and society as a whole is shocking.