Tuesday, May 17, 2005


Blogger JBJ said...

Thanks for linking this, Hayden. I was a fan of Jeff Sharlet's to begin with, and this piece adds to my appreciation.

As somebody who's been attending traditional Protestant churches all my life, I find megachurches pretty damn odd. Besides reading about them, I once attended a service at a well-known megachurch, Willow Creek near Chicago, and it didn't feel like church to me at all, more like attending a slickly-produced stage show. It was a spectator event, not a participatory event. The genius of megachurches is their appeal to consumerism: to people's desire for comfort and convenience.

Willow Creek is a little older than New Life, the church in Sharlet's article, so doesn't ride the wave of religious-right politics the same way. The comments at The Revealer contain some discussion of Ted Haggard's political agenda and influence. I can't add much to that.

I like the way Sharlet connects these large conservative churches to exurban migration. It's the "white flight" mentality. I know a scholar of African-American religion who simply attibutes the recent growth of white evangelicalism to racism -- to backlash against the civil rights movement. That's perhaps simplistic, but when you read these New Life members talk about how the inner city is dangerous and "confusing", it fits pretty well.

May 18, 2005 4:11 PM  
Blogger Hayden Childs said...

I hear you on the stage-show. When my parents lived in Birmingham, I went with them to their church, which seemed like the Vegas version of church. There was a band, pre-recorded music, gold banners everywhere, very odd lighting, and the service was strangely designed. I kept expecting a Robert Evans-like Jesus to pop out from behind the current to chat with the preacher.

And consumerism is exactly what it was about. The part of that article that may chill me the most is the whole "thrill over switching toothpaste brands" comment. I can't even imagine the mentality of a man who would find a thrill in switching toothpaste brands, let alone compare his religion -- his life's work -- to offering a similar choice. What's most chilling about this is the utter lack of connection I might have with the guy. I always think that there is a possibility for common ground between myself and evangelicals, but this statement makes me aware of just how soulless and alien (and utterly like Lovecraftian id monsters) these people can be.

May 19, 2005 9:25 AM  
Blogger Hayden Childs said...

Brain not working. I meant "curtain" but wrote "current" for some reason. Also, use of syntax from me read like not good.

May 19, 2005 9:27 AM  
Blogger JBJ said...

BTW, there's a big write-up on megachurches this week in ... wait for it... Business Week magazine.

May 19, 2005 12:47 PM  
Blogger JBJ said...

The whole thing is now up at the Harpers website:


May 27, 2005 12:28 PM  

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