christ died for your convenience.
December 6, 2005 9:37 PM   Subscribe

Wait. What?
posted by keswick (119 comments total)
 
I blame the secular humanists.
posted by ford and the prefects at 9:41 PM on December 6, 2005


Them "Happy Holiday-ing" libruls has won! They is destroyed Christmas!111!

(And Matt, why do I have to pass a Catpcha on my first login attempt?)
posted by orthogonality at 9:42 PM on December 6, 2005


May I commend you on this well described post of a fascinating article on a rarely browsed website. Kudos, sir. Kudos.
posted by drpynchon at 9:46 PM on December 6, 2005


No problem whatsoever.
posted by keswick at 9:52 PM on December 6, 2005


"This is a consumer mentality at work: 'Let's not impose the church on people. Let's not make church in any way inconvenient,' "

Have you ever been to a megachurch? It's anything but convenient. I imagine the main factor here is the huge overhead required to run one of these suckers - parking attendants, audiovisual personnel, musicians, power and heat.
posted by MrZero at 9:53 PM on December 6, 2005


I am extremely offended by this. By not holding church during Christmas, these churches are imposing their liberal beliefs on the rest of America.
posted by gagglezoomer at 9:54 PM on December 6, 2005


Appropriate tag.
posted by SirOmega at 9:55 PM on December 6, 2005


The Dark Lord will be very pleased to hear this news.
posted by Balisong at 9:56 PM on December 6, 2005


I finally got what I wanted for Christmas! Thanks Santa!
posted by loquacious at 9:56 PM on December 6, 2005


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posted by dhartung at 9:58 PM on December 6, 2005


Why do these churches hate Christmas?
posted by caddis at 10:00 PM on December 6, 2005


I think dhartung's picture grabs the essence of this post perfectly.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 10:07 PM on December 6, 2005


dhartung wins.
posted by Rothko at 10:10 PM on December 6, 2005


Using this logic, I expect to be able to vote sometime in the week before election day which will probably feature ill-attended polls.
posted by Cranberry at 10:14 PM on December 6, 2005


"Megachurches" are disgusting behemoths completely devoid of any true spirituality that exist solely to generate money. They can close Christmas or any other day of the year, I don't care.
posted by kjh at 10:15 PM on December 6, 2005


I'd look forward to having Christmas mass on a Sunday. It would kill two birds with one stone, but then again I was raised Catholic.
posted by drezdn at 10:17 PM on December 6, 2005


It is pretty funny because at many Catholic churches you have to get tickets in advance for the Christmas services, Sunday or no, because they are so crowded.
posted by caddis at 10:20 PM on December 6, 2005


I blame The Reformation.
dezdn & caddis: Ditto.
I was an altar boy waaay back when, and although the church wasn't as full as it had been for Midnight Mass, a decent crowd still came out the next morning for the Sunday service.
Of course, that wasn't enough to keep the diocese from shutting down the church and incorporating the parish into a neighboring one a few years later...
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:31 PM on December 6, 2005


Never having been anywhere near a megachurch, I always picture a big white building labeled GOD*MART, filled with people milling around and trying to wheedle salvation out of the occasional depressed-looking usher because the pastor never comes in.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:31 PM on December 6, 2005


fugly
posted by sourbrew at 10:33 PM on December 6, 2005


These are the churches that compete for congregants by having amenities like health clubs, bookstores and restaurants, right?

If the mall's going to be closed on Christmas it only makes sense that these churches will be too.
posted by Opposite George at 10:33 PM on December 6, 2005


Exactly. Growing up Catholic, Christmas mass was the go-to mass. It was the see and been seen event. It was the Super Bowl of masses, especially if it fell on Sunday.

Working Christmas mass as an altar boy was kinda like a minor leaguer getting called up to the bigs. Midnight mass? Even better.
posted by shecky57 at 10:33 PM on December 6, 2005


Do you hear what I hear?

Yep, that's Jesus rolling over in his grave.
posted by MasonDixon at 10:38 PM on December 6, 2005


These are not Catholic churches. As such, "Most normally do not hold Christmas Day services, preferring instead to mark the holiday in the days and night before."

There are plenty of churches where Christmas Eve mass is the big one. Our family almost always goes then. I don't even know if they have masses on Christmas.
posted by smackfu at 10:40 PM on December 6, 2005


(Or whatever they call them. Grew up Catholic, call everything a mass and all the priests fathers.)
posted by smackfu at 10:41 PM on December 6, 2005


It just makes sense -- when Christmas falls on a Sunday, the megachurch must close. Otherwise, they would have to pay all of the church employees double-time to come in and work on Christmas.
posted by teece at 11:03 PM on December 6, 2005


Hahahahahahahha. Ahahahahaahahaha.

Sorry. That's all I can really come up with.

Bwahahahahahahaha.

/reformed Southern Baptist
posted by ryoshu at 11:05 PM on December 6, 2005


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posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:06 PM on December 6, 2005



posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:10 PM on December 6, 2005


teece,
Otherwise, they would have to pay all of the church employees double-time to come in and work on Christmas.
That, my good man, may be the most insightful comment EVAR.
posted by Opposite George at 11:13 PM on December 6, 2005


My church (which has lay clergy, and thus doesn't have to worry about the employees or anything of that sort) is having an abbreviated meeting on that day, so that church members can spend more time with their families. This, I think, is a good thing.

Disclaimer: I don't attend a megachurch, and really have no idea what such a thing is, but it seems to me that having a shorter or even no church on Christmas makes sense because holidays should be spent with the family. In my opinion.
posted by Fontbone at 11:13 PM on December 6, 2005


I've been to the Willow Creek Church (lost a bet). I saw some type of religious play in their surround sound theater that would put most modern theaters to shame. It was like a rock concert. If I remember correctly, there was a Starbucks inside too, or some gourmet coffee place. I still get the willies thinking about it.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 11:19 PM on December 6, 2005



posted by notmydesk at 11:29 PM on December 6, 2005


"I think what this does is feed into the individualism that is found throughout American culture, where everyone does their own thing."

Hm. God forbid.
posted by brundlefly at 11:29 PM on December 6, 2005



posted by rob511 at 11:51 PM on December 6, 2005


MegaChurch == Cathedral - (icky catholicism)
posted by shmegegge at 11:53 PM on December 6, 2005


MegaChurch == Cathedral - (icky catholicism)*


*Wherein (icky catholicism) represents any form of aesthetically pleasing architecture.

Seriously, my main objection* with "megachurches" is that they are eyesores. unfortunately, a lot of American churches are as well.

*Well, the blatant mixing of corporatism and spirituality creeps me out too.

teece,
Otherwise, they would have to pay all of the church employees double-time to come in and work on Christmas.
That, my good man, may be the most insightful comment EVAR.


No kidding.
posted by kosher_jenny at 12:04 AM on December 7, 2005


Disclaimer: I don't attend a megachurch, and really have no idea what such a thing is, but it seems to me that having a shorter or even no church on Christmas makes sense because holidays should be spent with the family. In my opinion.

That's an interesting perspective for a Christian to take, Fontbone. Because as an atheist, I'd always had the impression that Christmas wasn't so much a holiday, but a day of religious observance established to mark the birth of Christ.

And don't the rest of your family attend church with you?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:28 AM on December 7, 2005


Yep, that's Jesus rolling over in his grave.

That's funny because he isn't supposed to be in one.
posted by srboisvert at 2:10 AM on December 7, 2005


Not exactly the faith that called Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees.
posted by jadepearl at 2:17 AM on December 7, 2005


srboisvert, jokes are so much funnier when someone explains them.
posted by Plinko at 2:24 AM on December 7, 2005


Well, it's like this...

Jesus was never buried. Does that help Plinko?
posted by srboisvert at 2:43 AM on December 7, 2005


Obligatory Onion links - Worship Santa, not God! or Religious cousin ruins Xmas
posted by magpie68 at 2:57 AM on December 7, 2005


Can we all chip in and buy srboisvert a sense of humor for Christmas?
posted by EarBucket at 3:12 AM on December 7, 2005


This War on Christmas is shaping up to be the easiest war I've ever fought!
posted by Jon-o at 3:23 AM on December 7, 2005


Can we all chip in and buy srboisvert a sense of humor for Christmas?

I'll set up a paypal account and get back to you.
posted by srboisvert at 3:29 AM on December 7, 2005


KevinSkomsvold: We used to live near Willow Creek in the Land Beyond Schaumburg. What's really ironic is that by inserting the word "god", that religious dinner theater does not pay taxes. Otherwise, it would just be another Drury Lane.
posted by SteveInMaine at 3:34 AM on December 7, 2005




My church of over 3000 members (closer to 4000 now but I don't know the exact number) will be open on Christmas. You are all welcome to show up there. We do have a small coffee bar, if it helps.
posted by konolia at 4:19 AM on December 7, 2005


I've said for years that everybody has to believe in something. Quite a few of the Snarkers here believe in The United Federation of Planets, Warp Drive, The Dallas Cowboys, The Republicans or the Democrats, The Right or the Left or their own personal moral/intellectual superiority, and get their panties twisted up like schoolgirls on laundry day if their own personal sacred cow gets punched.

Which just goes to show how enlightened these superior beings of intellect actually are. Right up there with the Taliban and Pat Robertson. Snark back atcha.

For the more reasonable - or at least more forebearing - this story is in fact worthy of some sensible discussion and religious consternation.

As has been pointed out earlier, Christmas (and don't think for a minute that I of all people have any illusions about it) is not a "Holiday." The 4th of July and Martin Luther King Day are "Holidays." Christmas is the alpha top religious observance of Christianity, a theology that a crapload of people absolutely believe to be their ultimate truth.

These Christians have developed a siege mentality as of late. Partially out of their righteous little dudgeon, and partly out of the fact that athiests feel a burning desire to poke at the monkey instead of acting like adults and leaving people believe what they want to believe. (I don't care who started it, children...)

To have a church movement that surrenders the faith lynchpins of a) Christmas and 2) Regular Sunday Services, because Christmas falls on it, can - and I think should - be seen as a serious threat to the strength of the religion. If Christmas is not sufficient a reason to go to church, then certainly Superbowl Sunday should be immune - the line for ordering Buffalo Wings is brutal. And while we're at it, if I want to go to the beach with my family on July 17th, well, then I should take advantage of a perfect summer day to be with my family, shouldn't I?

Natch, the athiests agree with all of those points straight out, and sure, why not. The why not is simply because Christians are not athiests. If it would be unfair to cancel Sunday football because it's a Christian Holy Day, than it would be equally unfair to cancel a Christian Holy Day because it's the day for football.

Or, to break it further down for our scientifically enlightened, the shields of the Enterprise are predicated on energy weapons while the Empire has plasma based weapondry - but since they are two different geek shows, it doesn't matter who you think would win in a fight - their paths won't cross.

The cancellation of church on Christmas and on Sunday would set a disturbing precident for a religion which has long held that these two events are key to their belief system. And it would be fair and right to see these churches as not only no longer churches representing that belief system, but as direct threats to the established religion itself.
posted by Perigee at 4:48 AM on December 7, 2005


Christmas is the alpha top religious observance of Christianity,

No, Christmas isn't. Easter is the the alpha top religious holiday. Closing a church on Christmas isn't a big deal -- the usual service is at Midnight, the supposed time of birth, so you've already gone.

No, the big deal is that they are closing the church on Sunday. You know, the Lord's Day? Remember it and keep it Holy? Worse, they're doing so because it costs money.

If they had half a clue, they would have done what the Catholics did when they built the big cathedrals. There's lots of times when your congregants need services, but only a few of them. So, you have other rooms. They call them chapels. You'll find one open in every major cathedral, even when the place is full of tourists, for free, specifically for prayers and services. You want to get married in a major cathedral? You better bring a bunch of people. You can't? No problem. You won't get married at the high altar -- but there's several different chapels, and you don't have to pay gobsmack thousand for a hall that seats 5,000 when your wedding is thirty people.

The idea that these big buildings are expensive to run isn't new.

I do understand not wanting to open the nave for thirty people, and I'll bet there will be lots of basically shutttered and dark cathedrals all through Christendom. But the ones who are actually trying to follow the commandments will have a chapel open, with a priest saying mass at least once, since that's what a church does on Sunday.

That's the point. The only secular equivalent I can come up with is malls closing on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. (The equivalent of the Friday after would be closing on Easter.)
posted by eriko at 5:10 AM on December 7, 2005


My reading on the condescension meter is at about... 8.
posted by Slap Incognito at 5:11 AM on December 7, 2005


Christmas is the alpha top religious observance of Christianity

Are you sure Easter isn't bigger?
posted by alumshubby at 5:21 AM on December 7, 2005


Clearly the solution is to convince Mr. Snow Miser to bring winter to Southtown, and Mr. Heat Miser to warm up the North Pole.

Then, Santa will see his shadow and we will have six more weeks of Christmas before he sacrifices himself on the cross for us.
posted by First Post at 5:57 AM on December 7, 2005


Saturday or Sunday? Does it really matter?
posted by Roger Dodger at 6:08 AM on December 7, 2005


Holy Crap! It does matter!
posted by Roger Dodger at 6:13 AM on December 7, 2005


Enough with the God Damned Master Card bit! I'm sick of it!
posted by Scoo at 6:25 AM on December 7, 2005


Whoops, I teleported in to the wrong thread somehow... my bad.
posted by Scoo at 6:26 AM on December 7, 2005


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posted by funambulist at 6:28 AM on December 7, 2005


We do have a small coffee bar, if it helps.

I don't have exact change, will that be a problem, or will they provide a service whereby I can get my money changed?
posted by Space Coyote at 6:28 AM on December 7, 2005


The last time Christmas fell on a Sunday, the big church (fsvo big-about 500 members, seating about 400 in the sanctuary, usual attendance about 250 ) we were attending at the time had the Sunday service in the Chapel. Only about 60 people showed up, although many people had gone to other churches with their extended families. There were two services on Christmas Eve, and the church was full for both of them. The tiny church we currently attend (usual attendance about 50) is having a service on Sunday. (I expect that there will be about 15 people there, of whom 4 will be our family.)

Easter is the alpha religious observance. Christmas is the alpha secular observance, given "legitimacy" by its association with a secondary religious observance. (There'd be no point in celebrating His birth if He hadn't risen.) But still, closing the church on Sunday is Very Not Good. So much for "keeping it holy". (What?! You mean Christmas can fall on a Sunday? Who'da thunk it! Apparently not these "church" developers.)
posted by jlkr at 6:47 AM on December 7, 2005


Megachurches have about as much in common with Christ as an Elks lodge has with an elk.
posted by eustacescrubb at 6:48 AM on December 7, 2005


Metafilter: sacred cow gets punched, poke at the monkey, order buffalo wings.
posted by badger_flammable at 6:50 AM on December 7, 2005


Jesus was never buried

Poor fella must be cold - he's probably roaming the Cosmos looking for his blankie
posted by CynicalKnight at 6:52 AM on December 7, 2005


About the most incredible headline I've ever seen on CNN.

At least they didn't just move the date.
posted by If I Had An Anus at 7:21 AM on December 7, 2005


Is this a problem with all of religion or just the eight or so named churches?
posted by dios at 7:24 AM on December 7, 2005


just the named churches
posted by caddis at 7:46 AM on December 7, 2005



Is this a problem with all of religion or just the eight or so named churches?

It is a sympton of the fact that Megachurches are bastions of spiritual vacuity and middle class conformity, whose MO is to comfort anomic suburbanites with the bland theology, clever marketing, and creature comforts of a shopping mall.

All in the name of God/Jesus/Salvation, of course.
posted by MasonDixon at 7:49 AM on December 7, 2005


This is just sad. I was raised Southern Baptist. I was taught that the church is the bride of Christ and we are the children. To close a church on Christmas so that people can spend time with family goes against that teaching.

Having vendors in a church is worse. There is one example in the Bible of Jesus getting mad. It was when he threw the money changers out of the temple.
posted by whatever at 7:51 AM on December 7, 2005


Late to the party, but this is such delicious irony. And in the tradition of srboisvert I feel compelled to explicitly point out that the joke is that they're closing on Sunday because they'd have to pay extra overtime because the religious observance of "the Sabbath" has been codified into the laws of our supposedly secular state.

The loopiness is a little reminiscent of Godel, and a little more reminiscent of that old Stan Freberg joke about Columbus not being able to cash a check upon landing because the banks are all closed for Columbus day - or the hundreds of similar Jesus/Christmas riffs made in the intervening 45 years.
posted by soyjoy at 7:56 AM on December 7, 2005


This is just sad. To close a church on Christmas so that people can spend time with family goes against that teaching.

I agree. I just think it is important to note that is a limited issue with regards to named churches; indeed the overwhelming number of churches are open on Christmas. It seems rather spurious, then, to use this story as a pretext for the condemnation of all of Christianity.
posted by dios at 7:59 AM on December 7, 2005


Is this a problem with all of religion or just the eight or so named churches?

While only the churches named in the article are definitely closing on Christmas, all the named churches seem to be mega-churches, and mega-church attendees represent a growing percentage of the number of overall church-goers [via]:

The overall percentage of Americans who get their religion in a big way is still small compared to those who get it in a more traditional setting. But small is only relative when congregations number in the thousands.

Of the 300,000 to 400,000 churches in America, between 5 percent and 10 percent average more than 1,000 members, according to numerous studies.

Not all of them fit the mega-church mold, leaving the number of Americans who regularly attend a mega-church between 2 million and 5 million, instead of the 6 million to 12 million that might be expected.

The growth comes as overall church attendance has slipped nearly 20 percent in the past 10 years, according to Barna research, a polling firm that focuses on religious issues. Barna says 40 percent of the nation goes to church on a typical Sunday, down from 49 percent in 1991.


Therefore, if the article points to a trend of mega-churches closing on Christmas (or recognizing that Christmas has now gone from a pagan celebration, to a Christian celebration, and is now a purely secular one), then it would be possible to impute that trend to 'all of religion'.
posted by ND¢ at 8:05 AM on December 7, 2005


There is one example in the Bible of Jesus getting mad.

You forgot the fig tree.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 8:07 AM on December 7, 2005


It seems rather spurious, then, to use this story as a pretext for the condemnation of all of Christianity.

Good thing hardly anyone is doing that then, since we're all talking about these Churchzilla monstrosities specifically.
posted by Space Coyote at 8:08 AM on December 7, 2005


(There'd be no point in celebrating His birth if He hadn't risen.)

I disagree. But then, I always thought we could learn more from his life and his teachings than the story of what happened after his death. But I'm not the target market for such stories.
posted by Space Coyote at 8:11 AM on December 7, 2005



posted by The Jesse Helms at 8:12 AM on December 7, 2005



posted by ericb at 8:12 AM on December 7, 2005


I don't care who started it, children...

That's great perigree, then you'll be the first to decry the attempt of christians who are continually attempting (and, in many ways, succeeding) to foist their own particular value sets on the secular population through political means? This bickering, perhaps childish, is not without a sound basis. Your pathetic comparison to trekkies is just as insulting to theological belief as you seem to think it is to atheism. After all, even trekkies understand their hobby is fiction.
posted by IronLizard at 8:13 AM on December 7, 2005


Space Coyote: I disagree. But then, I always thought we could learn more from his life and his teachings than the story of what happened after his death.

But who would listen to the teachings if He hadn't risen? How many people can tell you the teachings of the lesser Old Testament prophets? No-one remembers them, because they just died. People remember (fsvo 'remember') the teachings of Jesus precisely *because* of what happened after his death.
posted by jlkr at 8:21 AM on December 7, 2005


Or, to put it another way, he is reported to have risen because people listened to his teachings.
posted by soyjoy at 8:33 AM on December 7, 2005


It seems rather spurious, then, to use this story as a pretext for the condemnation of all of Christianity.

I agree. I wasn't making a blanket statement. I would be interested to know what they preach in these churches. WWJD? I don't think he'd be visiting these mega-churches. Or maybe he would. His spent time with the folks who needed it most like tax collectors and prostitutes.

Opening the doors of a church based on the cost of operation is not in line with the teachings of Christ. Has anyone told Bill O'Reilly about this attack on Christmas?
posted by whatever at 8:38 AM on December 7, 2005


Is this a problem with all of religion
If the problem is the ritual of closing for the holidays, then yes. As religion consists of rituals which are being observed here.
posted by thomcatspike at 8:45 AM on December 7, 2005


One minister had the chutzpah to mention in the article that "you don't need a church to worship" in defense of the closings. Which brings up the obvious question...
posted by kozad at 8:57 AM on December 7, 2005


How many people can tell you the teachings of the lesser Old Testament prophets? No-one remembers them, because they just died.
Isaiah prophesied Christ coming, death & rising like most too. The true prophets were all about God and proving one a false prophet entailed having one of their prophecies not happening. Adding, Christ is a prophet to the Mormons & Muslims - God the Son to the rest...
posted by thomcatspike at 8:58 AM on December 7, 2005


As a apostate who grew up on a rich brew of Italian and Irish Catholicism, this story makes me feel a strange nostalgia and pride in once being part of something that didn't get it's values mixed up with a shopping mall. I mean hell....at least I had something real to rebel against, but these megachurches, how the hell do you rebel agianst preproccessed consumerized shite? I never ever thought I would feel lucky about having grown up Catholic. The irony is too rich.
posted by Skygazer at 9:10 AM on December 7, 2005


I would be interested to know what they preach in these churches.

I suspect that it is largely the same thing as in every other church. That they are big is probably perceived by their leaders as a double-edge sword: they feel they are getting more done because they are able to reach a much broader audience (in that sense, they are "spreading God's word); the downside is that they are so large that operating costs force decisions to be made from a financial angle or for reasons other than pure spiritual basis. Are these churches spiritually bankrupt? I don't know how to answer that question. I am sure from their perspective they feel they are spreading God's word and bring salvation to people who wouldn't otherwise give it a thought. I am not sure there is objective way to judge their spiritual worth. I personally don't care for their version of religion, but it is something to some people who don't find solace in millenia old ceremonies. That the churches aren't traditional enough, or conservative enough, or doctrinaire enough seems to be an interesting critique, especially coming from people in this thread who are opposed to religion anyhow.
posted by dios at 9:13 AM on December 7, 2005


One minister had the chutzpah to mention in the article that "you don't need a church to worship" in defense of the closings. Which brings up the obvious question...
posted by kozad at 10:57 AM CST on December 7


That is a liberal perspective in religion (the sort of Gospel of Thomas view). I suppose the obvious question you are alluding to is why the church exists then? My guess is that the answer is: while being in a specific building isn't necessary to worship, there is a community of faith that can provide some benefits to the followers. Thus, the fact that it isn't necessary doesn't mean it isn't a Good. Necessity is not a precondition to existence.
posted by dios at 9:17 AM on December 7, 2005


That the churches aren't traditional enough, or conservative enough, or doctrinaire enough seems to be an interesting critique, especially coming from people in this thread who are opposed to religion anyhow.

All I ask is that you practice what you preach, regardless of what your beliefs are. I'm not opposed to religion but I am opposed to hypocrisy. What makes this discussion relevant is the fact that there are people who rail against the notion of taking Christ out of Christmas, and now we see some Christian churches doing just that. Where's the outrage?

while being in a specific building isn't necessary to worship, there is a community of faith that can provide some benefits to the followers.

Exactly, it is the spirit of family. In this case your family has told you that you're on your own for Christmas, it would cost too much money. Many people find this time of year depressing. Finding the doors of your church closed on one of the most significant religious days is sad.
posted by whatever at 9:25 AM on December 7, 2005


dios: Thus, the fact that it isn't necessary doesn't mean it isn't a Good.

Sure, but having a building was mainly a way to organize and communicate and to store the loot. Now you don't need buildings and face-to-face meetings to do that. Redirect all that money currently spent on church real estate to something better.

Churches (and the like) should become like... what was the name of that silly trend with the phones? Mob-something, I think. The priest/pastor/rabbi/poobah (or one of the congregants) should just send out a message and the people should gather. Church in a field on a sunny day. Church in a warehouse. Church in people's homes. Church in the art museum. Church hikes. Road trips to places where a little charity work is needed.
posted by pracowity at 9:31 AM on December 7, 2005


What makes this discussion relevant is the fact that there are people who rail against the notion of taking Christ out of Christmas, and now we see some Christian churches doing just that. Where's the outrage?

I think the article mentioned some outrage. Whether there will be more is something we will have to wait and see. It seems sort of speculative or premmature at this point to start calling out hypocrisy before the evidence is there, does it not?
posted by dios at 9:34 AM on December 7, 2005


I would be interested to know what they preach in these churches.
posted by whatever at 11:38 AM EST on December 7

I suspect that it is largely the same thing as in every other church.
posted by dios at 12:13 PM EST on December

I read an article about the Mega-church phenomena in Mother Jones that disputes this assumption. Mega-churches are not really very 'religious' in terms of their sermons:

In a reiteration of the medieval morality play, the Willow Creek service often kicks off with a playlet illustrating a workaday problem before the pastor, Bill Hybels, takes the stage. Well-scrubbed and casually dressed, he speaks about "virtue development" or "life at the boiling point" or some other general theme.

... The weekend seeker services, however, are aimed at the skeptical. Hence Hybels' focus on a nurturing, forgiving God eager to help with the stresses facing most families...
posted by ND¢ at 9:35 AM on December 7, 2005


Dios:That the churches aren't traditional enough, or conservative enough, or doctrinaire enough seems to be an interesting critique, especially coming from people in this thread who are opposed to religion anyhow.

It's not about any of those things. This is about what is clearly a pragmatic materialistic decision that undercuts the validity of their dedication to matters of the spirit. That they cannot see the contradiction in their actions and would justify it by blaming "individualism" is further proof of how little they truly know about faith and about the teachings of Jesus. In other words it reeks of h-y-p-o-c-r-i-s-y. You know Jesus didn't shy away from dying for man's sins cos it was inconvienient, hell even I know that and I'm not even a practicing anything.
posted by Skygazer at 9:37 AM on December 7, 2005


Sure, but having a building was mainly a way to organize and communicate and to store the loot.

Forgive me, but I find that characterization baseless and suggestive of a concept of church in general as a scam for money. If that is indeed your view, then I'm not inclined to get into a discussion about the value of a brick-and-mortar church with you. If it is not, then please let me know.
posted by dios at 9:38 AM on December 7, 2005


Mega-churches are not really very 'religious' in terms of their sermons:

It seems rather curious of you to suggest they aren't very religious because you are holding them up to a standard that they are not reaching for. That is, if the whole point behind them is that they don't agree to the doctrines of the "old" sects and want a more progressive view of faith, it seems hardly fair to beat them over the head with it and to suggest they are religious because they don't follow the traditional practices. They are based on the same book and faith, but the practices of religion can vary greatly. One form or another isn't more "religious."
posted by dios at 9:42 AM on December 7, 2005


Skygazer, tell me where you see the hypocrisy here:

1. Believe in the Bible and God and Jesus, etc.
2. Do not believe in the traditional Christian practices and ceremonies.
3. Believe that while church isn't a necessity for worship or faith, it can provide good fellowship.
4. Believe that by having a non-traditional worship place and have a really big one, they can reach many more people than if they use only the local rec center.
5. Understand that the operation of an enormous church has the downside of forcing some decisions to be made for financial reasons.
6. Feel on balance that the mega church is a net positive because of the numbers of people reached.
7. Recognize that at times they can't be open, but believe that it isn't necessary to be open to worship.

If you are operating in their sphere of belief, where is the hypocrisy? You can only hold them to be hypocrtical by their own standards.
posted by dios at 9:46 AM on December 7, 2005


Not to say that 'workaday problems', 'virtue development', or 'life at the boiling point' couldn't have been titles of sermons at my church growing up, or that a focus on a 'nurturing, forgiving God eager to help with the stresses facing most families' is in any way not religious. It just seems that these mega-churches have a more secular focus than any church that I have ever been a part of.

I was not trying to denigrate the content of the sermons of the mega-churches. I may even enjoy those more. I am just pointing out that the way that they practice religion is different than it is practiced in many mainstream churches. By saying that they worshipped differently, I was not intending to say that what they were doing was wrong. My use of the word 'religious' in quotes may have given that impression though.
posted by ND¢ at 9:47 AM on December 7, 2005


IronLizard is totally right. Accusing atheists of pushing their beleifs onto others is probably the most rediculous thing I've ever heard. Of course some atheists do try to bully religious people. But give me a fucking break! Are you totally blind? Atheism is pushed into people's faces about 1 billionth as often as Christianity is. To assert otherwise is pure foolhardy. How many atheists get captured by revolutionaries in South America because they went on a mission with food and medicine and only offered it to those who renounce belief in god? None, of course. The notion of an atheist mission doesn't even make logical sense. The point of Chrisitan missions is to save other people's souls by giving them Christ. Meaning the Christian involved actually believes that he is doing to the convertee a favor. Atheists don't believe in "saving souls for heaven" and thus would have absolutely no reason to try and convert people. Atheists certainly think they are right, but unlike Christians, we don't think that the other guys are going to hell for being wrong. The simple fact is this: atheists do not wage war on religions, only against the missionary aspect of religion. It is ironic in the extreme that Pedigree accuses atheists of pushing their beliefs when all they are really doing is trying to convince religious people to stop pushing theirs so obnoxiously. Less like the pot calling the kettle black as it is like the pot calling the table cloth black.

And here's something to chew on... as an atheist, I don't mind Christmas displays or sales or carols or whatever. Why don't I mind? Because Christmas is a secular holiday. Christians trumpeted the parts of Christmas that people liked (giving presents, eating a feast, etc.) to try and make their holiday, and thus their religion more popular. Well they succeeded in the kind of stupid way that religions are good at recently. Christmas is now everybodies favorite holiday, and of course since no one is shallow enough to change their religion for the holiday, they just all adopted the holiday and thus secularized it. Christians have no one to blame but themselves for the secularization of Christmas.
posted by Farengast at 9:49 AM on December 7, 2005


To take this further, the irony that these Born-again Megachurches would be the deciding factor in a presidential election is ridiculious. But it makes sense this is certainly the facile "faith" and convenient "commitment" of our President. That they would have anything to say about a war and it's repercussions or how certain adults want to live is also not only equally absurd but laughable. . Hmmm...If it's possible to OD on Irony I am dangerously close too it.
posted by Skygazer at 9:49 AM on December 7, 2005


WaPo had a piece on the Bush's secular "holiday cards" this morning.

Christmas is now doomed, so suck it hatas.
posted by bardic at 9:58 AM on December 7, 2005


Dios: If you are operating in their sphere of belief, where is the hypocrisy? You can only hold them to be hypocrtical by their own standards.

Four words for you: What would Jesus do?

I believe that on Christmas he would celebrate his birthday and want his followers and friends (his "flock") to gather and celebrate it under the same roof.

Also, why do I have to understand them and judge them accountable to their own standards when most born agains (including the Chief hypocrite) do not respect the beliefs and values of others? I'd say that's darned right unchristian of them to do that. Something about throwing stones etc...
posted by Skygazer at 10:01 AM on December 7, 2005


eustacescrubb wrote: "Megachurches have about as much in common with Christ as an Elks lodge has with an elk."

Exactly. I see no problem with them closing on Dec. 25th all businesses are generally closed that day.

My beef is this: if they are going to run themselves as a business, hawking McJesus to the masses, then they for damn sure should start paying taxes.

The Catholic faith isn't perfect by any means but there's something to be said for not allowing the church leader to profit from the churchgoers*. I doubt you would see a megachurch anywhere if the religious leaders weren't taking a healthy cut of the intake.

*Of course the farther up the food chain you go, well... Vow of poverty notwithstanding, I can't pretend that the Pope couldn't take a bath in gold coins if he felt like it.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:08 AM on December 7, 2005


It seems rather spurious, then, to use this story as a pretext for the condemnation of all of Christianity.

I'm starting to see the point of the "religion is dumb" approach. I mean if that's the level of discourse, where you're not even supposed to be sarcastic about megachurches or creationists or the like otherwise you're "condemning all of Christianity" then yeah, let's go at it with a hammer and say all of it is stupid. That thing about reaping what you sow, is that supposed to be just a way of saying?
posted by funambulist at 10:27 AM on December 7, 2005


But who would listen to the teachings if He hadn't risen?

*cough* Unitarians? *cough*
posted by maryh at 10:33 AM on December 7, 2005


As a rock-solid atheist, I am all for Christmas being taken back by the Christians.

I think it is utterly stupid that Christians have allowed their second-biggest celebration to be hijacked in the name of crass commercialism. Any thinking Christian ought to be outraged.

(I do recognize the delicious irony in what is happening, though: a pagan festival that was hijacked by Christians is now being hijacked by everyone else!)

Let's hold our gift-orgy some time in late January, when we otherwise have nothing good going on. Let's hold our family-get-together in October or November, on Thanksgiving.

And let's give Christmas back to Christians.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:37 AM on December 7, 2005


"If our target and our mission is to reach the unchurched, basically the people who don't go to church, how likely is it that they'll be going to church on Christmas morning?" she said.

This is really pretty reprehensible. What if just one person were to show up and realize that maybe churches do think differently than businesses and therefor there's something real about the churches message?

Jesus talks convincingly about the value of the 'one' in Luke 15:4. "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?"
posted by scheptech at 10:44 AM on December 7, 2005


It seems sort of speculative or premmature at this point to start calling out hypocrisy before the evidence is there, does it not?
posted by dios at 9:34 AM PST on December 7 [!]


Wow, you really like to set 'em up like a shooting gallery, don'cha?
posted by Balisong at 10:52 AM on December 7, 2005


Merry Christmas, everyone!
posted by kozad at 10:57 AM on December 7, 2005



posted by ed at 11:00 AM on December 7, 2005


But who would listen to the teachings if He hadn't risen?

Me. And, if the Gosepls are even partly historical, there seemed to be a few people interested in his teachings while he was actually teaching them.

How many people can tell you the teachings of the lesser Old Testament prophets?

You mean like Moses or Isaiah? At least 14 million.
posted by eustacescrubb at 11:08 AM on December 7, 2005


Also: a least a billion Muslims give heed to Old Testament teachings, since many of them were incorporated in the Qu'ran. Never mind that they all seem to pay attention to the teachings of Mohammad who did not rise from the dead.

And half a billion Bhuddists pay attention to the teachings of the Bhudda in spite of his lack of resurrection.
posted by eustacescrubb at 11:14 AM on December 7, 2005


This megachurch is right by the highway, and has these three huge crosses (look in the desktop wallpaper section of the website for a good pic) overlooking the site. We like to call the place "Six Flags over Jesus". There are more crowds there on Sunday morning than some NFL events on Sunday afternoon. go figure.
posted by Woney at 12:09 PM on December 7, 2005


Cancelling church on Christmas has nothing to do with materialism, convenience or finances. Most of these contemporary style churches have mid week services that focus on the in depth worship for regular members, but the Sunday service is specifically geared to be more of an event for seekers or non members. Thus, to cancel a Sunday service is logical since most of the target audience will not be there.

Also, most megachurches operate from a small group/cell based model where the real fellowship and growth occurs in the context of an intimate gathering in the home and not in the church building on Sunday morning amidst thousands of people. This is a major philosophical shift from how church is "has always been done", which is what makes these churches non-traditional and apt to do things like cancel Sunday morning church service.
posted by roaring beast at 12:50 PM on December 7, 2005


I would be interested to know what they preach in these churches.

How to get research mutual funds, how to have better sex, how to keep the kids in line, how to serve God better ...
posted by mrgrimm at 1:03 PM on December 7, 2005


roaring beast: to cancel a Sunday service is logical since most of the target audience will not be there.

But doesn't this just underline sone of the critiques of megachurch christianity offered above? Why, for instance, does church have to be run 'logically', as though it's a production line? Why refer to the congregation as the 'target audience', thus totally absorbing spirituality and fellowship into the bleak and secular language of marketing?

Also, most megachurches operate from a small group/cell based model where the real fellowship and growth occurs in the context of an intimate gathering in the home and not in the church building on Sunday morning amidst thousands of people. This is a major philosophical shift from how church is "has always been done"

This isn't a 'major philosophical shift', though is it? It's just a return to a strand which has always been an aspect of Protestant christianity (and, I guess, Catholic in non-tolerating countries and times) -- conventicling. And anyway, since when has church 'always been done' in giant assemblies 'amidst thousands of people'?
posted by Sonny Jim at 1:28 PM on December 7, 2005


Wait. People using religion for financial ends?!?!?! At Christmas?!?!?!? They won't be getting a card or present from me.
posted by MetaMonkey at 1:31 PM on December 7, 2005


Beat me too it, eustacescrubb. And not only that - the Buddhists are big on Buddha because he not only died - he stayed dead. Jesus was just doing a showy form of the reincarnation that everyone gets laden with. Ptui on that.
posted by Sparx at 2:09 PM on December 7, 2005


sonnyjim: This isn't a 'major philosophical shift', though is it?

good point, sonny. i think that's really the point behind a lot of the small group movements, that it's closer to the practice of the early church which normally met in small meetings. most megachurches are intentional about connecting people into those smaller groups to restore the fellowship and growth.

i agree that a lot of the use of marketing in church is really shallow (and out of hand), but it has been to an extent effective in reaching a lot of people that the church normally would not reach, which of course is either good or bad, depending on how you feel about the church reaching people. also, i think its too quick an assumption to think that just because a church reaches a lot of people necessarily means that it is compromised. i think there are "good" megachurches, and "bad" minichurches, and vice versa.
posted by roaring beast at 9:06 PM on December 8, 2005


Nicely put, rb.
posted by Sonny Jim at 1:18 AM on December 9, 2005


Sorry, I expressed myself badly (and was then off for a day due to household complications).

Jesus ben Joseph was the leader of one of many Messianic cults. The only reason that it didn't disband when he died is that he didn't -stay- dead. (And then Saul had his roadside conversion, and started organising things the way -he- thought they should be....) If his cult had disbanded, there would be very few, if any, records of his teachings. So you wouldn't be able to follow the teachings. (And I wouldn't consider Moses or Isiah to be 'lesser prophets'. I was thinking more of Zacariah or Obadiah.)
posted by jlkr at 7:00 AM on December 10, 2005


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