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Where Are the People?
December 16, 2013 6:16 PM   Subscribe

The waning influence of evangelical Christianity can be seen through the story of Orange County's Crystal Cathedral.
posted by reenum (59 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
My wife (now a confirmed atheist) says that the Christmas pageant at Crystal Cathedral was a unique spectacle and a thing of wonder. Personally, I've only seen the place from afar, across a fast swath of industrial urban mass from the 5 freeway. I don't see the evangelical influence diminishing very much at all in the south county, however.
posted by Brocktoon at 6:26 PM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Maybe in California.
posted by T.D. Strange at 6:29 PM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Were that it was so.

California's evangelical population is not usually a predictor of the evangelicals of the red states. They are firmly entrenched.
posted by tafetta, darling! at 6:51 PM on December 16, 2013


Interesting article. We've still got Calvary Chapel and Mariners Church holding down the evangelical front. Orange County is a strange place. If you get bored with the Christians, you can always hang out with the Neo-Nazi's
posted by Arbac at 6:54 PM on December 16, 2013


I suppose you have to be an atheist raised Baptist who went to a Catholic high school to be as thoroughly amused as I am by the thought of a Catholic diocese trying to convert the Crystal Cathedral campus into something passable as an actual Catholic cathedral.
posted by localroger at 6:56 PM on December 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


I am sure that the priests of Jupiter in Rome believed with all of their hearts that the temple rituals would continue forever. But then in a heartbeat they and their entire religion vanished forever. The same thing will eventually happen to every single religion humans currently believe in. The interesting thing is not that these religions are collapsing, but the degree to which they are being replaced with no organized religion at all.
posted by 1adam12 at 7:06 PM on December 16, 2013 [9 favorites]


Orange County is a strange place. If you get bored with the Christians, you can always hang out with the Neo-Nazi's.

"O.C. Nazis. I hate O.C. Nazis."
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 7:17 PM on December 16, 2013 [12 favorites]


Yeah, Brocktoon, it's doing just fine in North Orange County too. This opened up in the city where my Dad lives, and if you look at the programs they offer, they're booming. And there's plenty of smaller, store-front style places scattered around, like this one. That's where all the people are. (And I haven't even mentioned the Korean evangelical churches.)
posted by benito.strauss at 7:20 PM on December 16, 2013


No, evangelicalism’s dilemma stems more from a change in American Christianity itself, a sense of creeping exhaustion with the popularizing, simplifying impulse evangelical luminaries such as Schuller once rode to success.

I would suggest that American evangelicalism began to decline when it became a political force opposed to food stamps under a banner of family values. It was more than just being off message by raving hypocrites, it was the thematic vehicle that carried a major political party's hopes and dreams for world war and global corruption.
posted by Brian B. at 7:24 PM on December 16, 2013 [11 favorites]


But then in a heartbeat they and their entire religion vanished forever.

That "heartbeat" lasted a couple of hundred years after millennia of relative stability, and the pagan Roman religions didn't collapse from within so much as they were stabbed in the back for political reasons. By contrast US religious orthodoxy has always been quite fluid, and the precipitous rise and fall of the superchurch Evangelicals quite spectacular.
posted by localroger at 7:26 PM on December 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


The most recent Pew Research Center survey of the nation’s religious attitudes, taken in 2012, found that just 19 percent of Americans identified themselves as white evangelical Protestants—five years earlier, 21 percent of Americans did so. Slightly more (19.6 percent) self-identified as unaffiliated with any religion at all, the first time that group has surpassed evangelicals.

That seems like a positive milestone. News like that gives me some hope for this country.
posted by octothorpe at 7:33 PM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Charismatic preadhers trumpeting "prosperity gospel' in their self-serving minstry-building hoardes have much to answer for in foisting fraudulent, even heretical, Christianity upon nice young people who were just looking for a way to feel good about their lives and have a church community without having to think too much about the hard questions. One could hope their popularity is waning but I fear it will stick around the middle for quite a while like too much ice cream. Selfishness is perennially popular.
posted by Anitanola at 4:11 AM on December 17, 2013 [8 favorites]


1adam12 they are being replaced with no organized religion at all

The irony is that Jesus did not want an organized religion.

"Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. " (Mark 10:42-44)

That wasn't empty words, he washed their feet, made no objection to others not in his group using his name (Mark 9:38-41), and to drive home the point he let his enemies kill him. Jesus opposed the "worship some great man" idea because he followed the law of Moses, where the high priest has no authority to tell you anything, and prophets are nearly always outsiders. Sadly the apostles loved power, "who shall be the greatest" and as soon as he was dead they accepted the mocking title "king of the Jews" - the opposite of what Jesus wanted.

tl;dr Crystal cathedral lying empty? Jesus would approve.
posted by EnterTheStory at 4:44 AM on December 17, 2013 [28 favorites]


And nobody has mentioned the real reason a crystal cathedral fails in California:

The Simpsons (fast forward to 1:20)

Californians all saw that episode. They can no longer take a crystal cathedral seriously
posted by EnterTheStory at 4:52 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


"O.C. Nazis. I hate O.C. Nazis."

"No Christians, either."

Whoops, different movie.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 4:56 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is the Crystal Cathedral evangelical?

The mega-churches I am familiar with are prosperity Christianity and the preacher's sermon rarely uses the name of Jesus or the title of Christ. Robert Schiller's wikipedia page uses the name of Jesus but I never saw him preach. It does specify he avoided the word sin.

Maybe I am confused on my definitions but if they aren't using Jesus at least five times in a fifteen minute sermon I am unsure describing them as evangelical is accurate. I am not being pedantic here. It is a fascinating problem of practical theology. If I don't need forgiveness for my miserable sins, what the hell do I need Robert Schiller for?
posted by bukvich at 5:04 AM on December 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


What the hell is with that interstitial? Can those wane any time soon?
posted by panaceanot at 5:08 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hmm, the OC Catholic diocese can afford a 58 million dollar glass building? So much for the Pope Like Jesus worship. Don't they have some sex abuse settlements they could pay with that money?

Tax churches for true social justice.
posted by spitbull at 5:24 AM on December 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


But it was not a cathedral. It was never consecrated by a religious denomination. The building is not even made of crystal, but rather 10,000 rectangular panes of glass.

Oh dear.
posted by OmieWise at 5:32 AM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hmm, the OC Catholic diocese can afford a 58 million dollar glass building?

I'm guessing they expect to generate some revenue from this facility. The article mentions hosting symphony orchestras and conventions and a lack of similar facilities in Orange County.

There's a few congregational churches around here that have become very intertwined with the folk music scene because their "venues" are perfectly sized to fill the gap between coffee shops and performance halls and have great acoustics for non-amplified performances.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 5:37 AM on December 17, 2013


Oh, PLUS 53 million for renovations!

That's 111 million dollars. Nobody tell me the new f'ing pope is a "Marxist" who cares about "the poor." He could resettle thousands of CAR or Syrian refugees for 111 million clams.

And as I thought the OC Diocese is still very busy fighting lawsuits and making settlements for a horrific record of harboring pedophile priests.

Evangelicals, at least , don't pretend they weren't in it for the money, power, and sex.
posted by spitbull at 5:41 AM on December 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also, the idea that a facility will make money hosting "symphony orchestras" shows utter cluelessness both about the economics of a dying classical music industry and the acoustics of an all glass building.

When was the last time you attended a secular business convention (in a global industry full of nonChristian executives, let's say) ) held in a church full of crosses and plastic Jesus dolls?
posted by spitbull at 5:45 AM on December 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


Just based on how full the parking lots are when I drive by, my money is on the growth of the kinds of churches that are family friendly and promise a "relevant" and connected experience. Sort of small, local versions of the Rick Warren kind of church, I think, with billboards and ads using the same visual language as internet startups and hipster clothing labels. The "not your parents' kind of church" places, non-denomenational and probably with a strong blending of prosperity gospel -- teachings relevant to family budgets and relationships, rather than social issues, hellfire, and politics.

Every one of those I go by has a packed parking lot on Sunday and advertises multiple services. The mainline churches, not so much. The article says evangelical numbers are going down, but I suspect a lot of the "unaffiliated" are still going to church, just not old-school evangelical places. The article describes them as having an urban sensibility, but I'd add those with a suburban sensibility also -- places that seem to be genuinely trying to meet people where they are.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:49 AM on December 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


Related: Pope Francis sidelines American Cardinal who was outspoken on gay marriage and abortion (NYT)

It will definitely be interesting to see if the Pope's aggressive move to change the tone of the Catholic Church's message as ripple effects to other denominations.
posted by dry white toast at 5:59 AM on December 17, 2013


Hmm, the OC Catholic diocese can afford a 58 million dollar glass building? So much for the Pope Like Jesus worship.

What do you think would be an appropriate amount to pay for 34 acres of central OC commercial property and a set of buildings large enough to serve usefully as a central diocesan facility for a diocese with 100,000+ congregants?

Are you objecting just to it being, at least to some people, pretty? Or at least gaudy? Because that comes awfully close to saying that poor people don't deserve someplace "pretty" or awe-inspiring to worship in.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:15 AM on December 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


One could hope their popularity is waning but I fear it will stick around the middle for quite a while like too much ice cream.

Politicized evangelicalism bears zero resemblance to too much ice cream.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 6:24 AM on December 17, 2013


It's my prediction that the increasing histrionic volume of outrage against the "horrors" of our increasingly progressive populace is just the death rattle of a burned-out failed ideology. The older generations have utterly failed to communicate their take on the faith to their children, and of those, the ones who don't just walk away will be (and are already) practicing a quieter, more humane flavor of the faith. Information is illumination, and roachy rhetoric flees in the glare.

Mind you, it's going to get a lot louder before the last hysterical fanatics fall, but then—
posted by sonascope at 6:40 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


local versions of the Rick Warren kind of church, I think, with billboards and ads using the same visual language as internet startups and hipster clothing labels

You seem to be writing this particular product line of megachurch off as harmless (and non-evangelical), but you might want to look into the Emergent movement before you're so sure.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:49 AM on December 17, 2013


A quick skim of googling "Emergent Movement" seems to be Christian criticism of "Emergent" churches as being too wishy-washy" (One used the word Pagan)...What's the real skinny on Emergent Churches?
posted by Cookiebastard at 7:02 AM on December 17, 2013


If you want to understand churchy trends (at least among Protestants), then Stuff Christian Culture Likes is a good (and hilarious) primer. She has a Facebook page with more recent updates too.

Number 229: Sufjan Stevens
Christian culture are suckers for a reworked hymn and a banjo and as such they cannot get enough Sufjan. Between his spiritual allusions, mandolin usage, meaningfulcore vibe and altbro stage costumes, it is their firm belief that he is relevant Christianity personified.
posted by emjaybee at 7:06 AM on December 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


The main building is beautiful and architecturally significant, and I'm glad somebody's interested in buying it, fixing it up, and refitting the interior and surroundings to a more tasteful setting. I imagine the initial layout is being done on credit, and they probably will bring in a fair chunk of change renting out space.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:07 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


You seem to be writing this particular product line of megachurch off as harmless (and non-evangelical), but you might want to look into the Emergent movement before you're so sure.

I don't think any churches, outside of weird cult situations and that awful "church" that protests at military funerals, are actively harmful. It's not something I'm personally interested in, but people are welcome to seek their meaning there if it resonates with them.

Re: emergent movement, from a quick look at google that sounds like exactly what the churches I've noticed would fit into. Explicitly trying to be culturally relevant and reach people who are left cold by both mainline congregations and old school evangelicalism, with an emphasis on being welcoming and mainstream? I'm just not seeing a big dark side to people spending their Sunday mornings at a "relevant" church with contemporary music and some prosperity gospel. Like I said, not my thing, but more power to them, and I'll take that over the "moral majority" inanity of the 1980s any day of the week.

My actual point was simply that those (and the Catholic church at Spanish-language mass) are the places I see with full parking lots, no judgement expressed beyond that observation.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:11 AM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


The main building is beautiful and architecturally significant

It is. Even more beautiful is the little chapel high up in the Tower of Hope designed (like the original main church building--still extant, too) by Richard Neutra. Whatever else you can say about Schuller, he knew good architecture when he saw it. Sculpture, on the other hand...well, let's just say "cheesy" is about the kindest thing you can say about most of it.
posted by yoink at 7:31 AM on December 17, 2013


I'm just not seeing a big dark side to people spending their Sunday mornings at a "relevant" church with contemporary music and some prosperity gospel.

I'm with you on the contemporary music not being anything to worry about, and I'm a theist anyway so a church wouldn't worry me in the first place (I look at what they do rather than what they believe).

Prosperity theology, though, does have me a little uneasy; it sounds like it's taking a little from the "The Secret" playbook and a little from the Wall Street "greed is good" playbook. Okay, yeah, they say that charity towards others will lead to God increasing your own wealth, but come on.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:39 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's 111 million dollars. Nobody tell me the new f'ing pope is a "Marxist" who cares about "the poor." He could resettle thousands of CAR or Syrian refugees for 111 million clams.

While I can't object to the thrust, I do have to point out that the Crystal Cathedral was sold to the RCC in February, 2012, and Francis began his papacy in March of 2013. By the time he even aware that it happened, most of the money had been spent.

So, I'm not particularly willing to condemn him personally for "allowing" the $57 million purchase when he didn't have any way to either agree to or stop the purchase, nor the extensive renovation costs already paid to get the weather seal on the building back into shape, given that the only person who could have ordered the Bishop of Orange to not do this was called Benedict, not Francis -- not even the Archbishop of Los Angeles, who the Bishop of Orange is suffragan bishop of, could order that, because RC metropolitan bishops have very little power over their suffragan bishops.
posted by eriko at 8:22 AM on December 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


Prosperity theology, though, does have me a little uneasy

Prosperity theology makes me a lot uneasy because it's like nobody involved with it has actually read the Bible, especially the words printed in red.

The "preacher" at the mega-church cult that is currently wrapping its tentacles around my town drives a goddamned Aston Martin and makes at least half a million a year from his snake-oil.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:42 AM on December 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Prosperity theology makes me a lot uneasy because it's like nobody involved with it has actually read the Bible, especially the words printed in red.

Yeah, this exactly. Prosperity theology is the exact inverse of everything that I personally understand Christ's message to be.
posted by KathrynT at 9:01 AM on December 17, 2013


The author of the article seems to have a little confusion about the categories "evangelical" and "fundamental". They are not mutually exclusive, as he suggests; they are orthogonal. There are a great many fundamentalist evangelicals, who believe both in inerrancy of scripture and centrality of proselytizing. The Southern Baptists are a prime example.

Indeed, the missionary movement has many fundamental evangelicals and it accounts for the fast-growing Protestant "Southern church" movement in global missions (not to mention why some places like Nigeria are being overwhelmed by a particularly virulent strain of fundamentalism).
posted by darkstar at 9:09 AM on December 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's hard to think this article has anything worthwhile to say about trends in evangelicalism when they don't seem to realize the #1 reason the Crystal Cathedral went under. It was a church built around the personality of Robert Schuller and began to decline immediately when he died.

There are a bunch of big evangelical churches (and bukvich is right that it's really questionable whether it makes sense to label the Crystal Cathedral "evangelical") that have a somewhat similar reliance on a single, charismatic pastor, but not even Saddleback is nearly so reliant on Rick Warren. I'll wager Saddleback will keep going pretty well when he dies or retires.

And then there are a whole lot of evangelical churches that don't have any or much of a personality cult going around the pastor. So it's really questionable whether the Crystal Cathedral is a meaningful symbol for whatever decline is going on among evangelicals right now.
posted by straight at 9:20 AM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was rather intrigued by the water-feature mechitzah down the center of the Crystal Cathedral:
"A reflecting pool ran the length of an aisle between rows of folding, padded theater seats."
posted by Dreidl at 9:21 AM on December 17, 2013


[Come on folks - keep on the topic of the thread and not "Oh hey a thread about religion, let me put on my robe and invisible sky wizard hat!"]
posted by jessamyn at 9:32 AM on December 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


There are a great many fundamentalist evangelicals, who believe both in inerrancy of scripture and centrality of proselytizing. The Southern Baptists are a prime example.

As somebody raised Southern Baptist (now atheist/agnostic), I came here to say this very thing. Seeing the author's misunderstanding of the two terms as mutually exclusive made me suspicious of the whole article. That, and the feeling I get that while evangelicalism may be getting less popular in terms of numbers of self-identifiers, it's still as powerful as ever as a political force, which is probably more dangerous.

I'm hoping the well-deserved beating the Tea Party deserve (following the shutdown/budget fiasco) comes to pass this next election cycle, but until they get their legs knocked out from underneath them politically somewhat, they're still pretty powerful. Not to conflate the Tea Party with evangelicals and fundamentalists too much either-- but ask your average War-on-Christmas, anti-science Jesus lover who they like in Congress, and the overlap is pretty close.
posted by Rykey at 9:35 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


The author of the article seems to have a little confusion about the categories "evangelical" and "fundamental".

Those words have multiple meanings.

"Fundamentalist" can mean a particular Christian movement in America beginning in the 1920's reacting against modernism, or any religion that is reacting against modernism, or simply any religion that demands strict adherence to orthodoxy.

"Evangelical" can mean the Christian movement in America beginning with Methodism, through the Great Awakening, through Fundamentalism, to the Billy Graham revivals. Or it can mean the specific group of people around the time of Billy Graham who called themselves "Evangelical" in reaction against Fundamentalism. Or it can refer to a wide variety of churches in various denominations that have certain common beliefs and practices about the Bible, salvation, and evangelism.

So Fundamentalist was originally a subset of Evangelical, but then Evangelical was used later by some groups to mark themselves as not Fundamentalist.
posted by straight at 9:36 AM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Dip Flash: I don't think any churches, outside of weird cult situations and that awful "church" that protests at military funerals, are actively harmful.

I, on the other hand, see them as actively harmful. Take your pick: creationism (teaching people that the whole structure of modern science is in error), prosperity gospel (see above), political influence (using "conservative" values to attack families and especially women), various cult-like behaviours too numerous to mention. I'm probably paranoid, but I think weird cult situations are more common than most people imagine.

What concerns me is that in my community we've had several representations from big churches and Christian think tanks who have said things like, "You know, we think we deserve a larger role in the city - in decision-making, in public spaces, and in public dialog." Why? "Because we're Christians, and this is a Christian country, and we're the default belief system." Are there any other belief systems that might also want to be included at the public table? "No." On the whole, people accept this stuff because what can it hurt, and besides who wants to be accused of being anti-religious?
posted by sneebler at 10:33 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


In other California religious news:

The World Finally Ends for Infamous Doomsday Preacher Harold Camping
posted by zombieflanders at 10:46 AM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


America will not become like Europe, where ossified state churches proved unable to compete against the inherently secularizing forces of market capitalism.

This is a very peculiar statement: out of Western Europe, only Greece and parts of Scandinavia have state religions, and possibly also England (but within the UK, which also has no state religion). It wasn't market capitalism that has lead to the relative decline of religion in Europe, it was social democracy and the welfare and education services that it provided.

I also struggle with the notion that Orange County is uniquely diverse. He says that a third of the population was born overseas: not an unusual proportion for modern metropolitan areas the world over. The argument seems to be as much one for American exceptionalism and its gathering-of-the-tribes fantasy, which is certainly an ideology with a specifically evangelical lineage.
posted by GeorgeBickham at 10:52 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is a very peculiar statement: out of Western Europe, only Greece and parts of Scandinavia have state religions, and possibly also England (but within the UK, which also has no state religion)

True enough, but some of Europe only disestablished their churches in living memory (Bulgaria, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Spain, Sweden).

And some European countries, while they don't have fully established churches, do have religions that enjoy some special legal benefits or protections (ie state-run or -funded parochial schools).
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:08 AM on December 17, 2013


Re: the different and similar meanings of "Fundamentalist" and "Evangelical"

If there's one thing religions do well, and instill as second nature in those brought up in them, it's create super-detailed, subtle definitions of terms, creating distinctions that don't matter in the slightest to either laymen or members of other religions. They're even better at it than the military.

I once made the mistake of arguing the meaning of a term a religious person was throwing around, and I knew it was time to get out when she started saying what a shame it was that they didn't get some real experts like [Some Author of 1990's Book on Religious Fulfillment for Women] or [Eerily Smiling Missionary X] to write new editions of The Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary and Encyclopaedia Britannica so that they would finally have ACCURATE definitions of words related to Christianity. "You can't trust those mainline churches to know what being a Christian is all about."
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:16 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is a very peculiar statement: out of Western Europe, only Greece and parts of Scandinavia have state religions, and possibly also England (but within the UK, which also has no state religion)

True enough, but some of Europe only disestablished their churches in living memory (Bulgaria, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Spain, Sweden).

And some European countries, while they don't have fully established churches, do have religions that enjoy some special legal benefits or protections (ie state-run or -funded parochial schools).


Also true enough, but those countries don't add up to 'Europe' either. There's an implicit free-market argument in the article - that religion flourishes outside of state oversight - that is unexamined. Is it true? For a counter-example, consider Christianity and Rome. On the other hand, certainly, the partial separation of church and state in the US seems to have helped the establishment of large evangelical/fundamentalist churches , but again only in some regions and in the absence of comprehensive, national welfare states. I'd also add the specifically American combination of long distance internal migration, as well as immigration, to the mix with capitalism's unrivalled ability to up-end established kin and other social structures. Others upthread have highlighted the extreme localism of the piece: it's no surprise to see geographical provincialism and historical exceptionalism hand-in-hand again.
posted by GeorgeBickham at 11:34 AM on December 17, 2013


If there's one thing religions do well, and instill as second nature in those brought up in them, it's create super-detailed, subtle definitions of terms, creating distinctions that don't matter in the slightest to either laymen or members of other religions.

But if you want to discuss whether and why Evangelicals are declining, it kind of helps to have some idea of who you're talking about.
posted by straight at 12:35 PM on December 17, 2013


But if you want to discuss whether and why Evangelicals are declining, it kind of helps to have some idea of who you're talking about.

I don't disagree. I just don't hold particularly high hopes for that idea ever being more than rough, for any group of discussers with any kind of diverse backgrounds. Or, at least not without a whole heap of beanplating first. Then again, I'm a natural pessimist.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:49 PM on December 17, 2013


the waning influence of television can be seen in the decline of Crystal Cathedral
posted by parmanparman at 1:15 PM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's 111 million dollars. Nobody tell me the new f'ing pope is a "Marxist" who cares about "the poor." He could resettle thousands of CAR or Syrian refugees for 111 million clams.

Um, keeping in mind the calendar problem mentioned above, as well as the fact that diocesan finances are generally pretty independently managed, this actually seems like a bargain in the cathedral game. The apparent newest cathedral in the US, Christ the Light in Oakland, cost $190M (but despite controversy over its cost, there was no effect on $350M of annual social program spending), or the Los Angeles diocese's Our Lady of the Angels built a decade ago for roughly $250M including some lavish furnishings^.

But yeah, I just think you're taking an ignorant pot shot. The budgets aren't set in Rome, and the Catholic Church is a vast enterprise with a great deal of inertia. Even if they were to start a new policy today of vows of poverty and drab, inexpensive storefront worship spaces, with every possible penny going to the poor, it would take years before that came into practical effect given the existing global real estate holdings. You could even take the theoretical position that the historically and architecturally significant works of centuries are too expensive to care for and should be sold or allowed to deteriorate if you wanted to.

I think it should be clear that the church is not a purely charitable enterprise, some sort of religious UNHCR, or Save the Children but with Sunday worship in thousnads of local memberships around the world. It's a social enterprise, built around a community of believers, and those people need a facility that befits their point of view. If that's a beautiful, albeit expensive, building, I'm not sure where we come off saying they don't have a right to it.
posted by dhartung at 2:42 PM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


@justsomebody… "Politicized evangelicalism bears zero resemblance to too much ice cream."

The popularity of those who preach that the privileged deserve all the bounty heaven heaps upon them, a strong note in prosperity theology -- that popularity is as perennial as, for example, too much ice cream and and the effects just as lingering around the middle--meant to suggest the idea that this phenomenon is prevalent among the middle and aspiring middle classes.

(Sorry my analogies fail so utterly! I never know if it's because I am being too cryptic or am just bad at it.)
posted by Anitanola at 3:16 PM on December 17, 2013



Just wanted to comment about the building being used as a possible concert venue. Back in the late 80's the community youth band I was in did a summer tour in California. During these tours we'd play in all sorts of places.During a European tour for instance we played at a boxing festival in this 5 building farm town in Belgium. lol Anyways the highlight of the California one was marching in the Main Street parade in Disneyland. For some reason we ended up doing a gig as part of morning service in the cathedral. Not sure why, we weren't religiously oriented in anyway but whatever, I suppose it was a novelty because we were a 'youth band from Canada."

The place was 'awesome' and it's the only other gig I remember from that trip. Contrary to what you'd might think, being a glass building and all the acoustics were amazing and it was a beautiful place to play. I would definitely go back and listen to a concert there again. The atmosphere was quite unique. I don't remember much from the actual service with the exception that we were all pretty wide eyed at this American style, mega church thing that we only saw on tv. I spent most of my non-playing time just being amazed by the building itself. I'm actually glad to hear that the building is still going to be used and may see some more secular use as well as it's religious uses. It's a damn cool building in and of itself. It really did have a cathedral type atmosphere similar to ones I've visited in Europe, except in a modern way.
posted by Jalliah at 4:44 PM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


It wasn't market capitalism that has lead to the relative decline of religion in Europe, it was social democracy and the welfare and education services that it provided.

Well, that's being dismantled now that they don't need to fear Soviet-sponsored Communist revolution from below (and because we need to compete in “the global race”, where quality of life for non-elites is a fatal hindrance), so perhaps the poor will soon depend on religious charity for their alms again.
posted by acb at 5:41 PM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


But then in a heartbeat they and their entire religion vanished forever.

except, of course, for centuries of western art, literature and music, some of which take their roman and greek paganism very seriously

not to mention the substantial bits and pieces the catholic church took for their own and various folkways and traditions

and then of course, you have modern-day revivalists ...
posted by pyramid termite at 6:40 PM on December 17, 2013


Main link was featured in today's Omnivore, as well as The Intellectual Civil War within Evangelicalism: An Interview with Molly Worthen and Frank Schaefer, Phil Robertson and the Myth of Christian Unity and many more.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:20 AM on January 10


the man of twists and turns, that "Myth of Christian Unity" piece is really interesting, and is something I've given a great deal of thought to before.

There seem to be a number of very vocal Christians in the U.S. (it's difficult to say whether it's only a few among all the noise) who are more than happy to insist that since Christians are a majority in the nation, there should be no objection to things like prayer in public school, preference for Christian displays on public property, Bible verses in courthouses, etc.

But when it comes to other matters, they're quick to insist that every other denomination but their won aren't real Christians, shouldn't even be referred to as such, and will even correct you if you casually refer to them as such in conversation, the same as if you had called the cat an alligator.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:56 PM on January 12


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