The Economics of Sainthood

Religious Change among the Rimrock Navajos


Kendall A. Blanchard deserves praise for attempting, as too few have done, a serious study of the effects of Christian ideals on the traditional Indian economy.

Rejecting Max Weber’s classic thesis that Protestantism provided the ethical underpinning for capitalism, Blanchard adapted S. N. Eisenstadt’s ideas in “The Protestant-Ethic Thesis in an Analytical and Comparative Framework” from The Protestant-Ethic and Modernization in creating his own two-dimensional model relating theology, ethics, and economics. One dimension compares the economic behavior of Navajos who still practice their traditional religion with the economic behavior of Mormon and Nazarene Navajo converts. The other dimension compares the degree of church activity of these Navajo Christians with the degree of their active acceptance of their religions’ ethics.

Using this model, Blanchard concludes that Nazarene and Mormon Navajos make more money, have better jobs, have more education and technical training, and consequently are more successful, from the white viewpoint, than those Navajos who follow their traditional religious ways. His research reveals, however, that the Navajo converts fail to internalize Nazarene and Mormon values, so Weber’s Protestant-ethic thesis cannot explain why they succeed economically. It is not the religious ideology, but the institutional activities of the two churches that causes the economic change, says Blanchard, as the converts accept not theological values, but practical benefits like better education, employment, and standard of living.



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Print ISSN: 2837-0031
Online ISSN: 2837-004X