I attended a worship service at New Life Redlands Church. The church identifies as Pentecostal and is vastly different from the Catholic Church I attended as I was growing up. As Pastor Dennis Evangelisto states, “the congregation’s purpose is to “embrace God’s love for your life, live with God’s love to those around you, learn God’s love to be solid, and share God’s love in practical ways”. My church at home claims to “strive to grow in a relationship with God and one another through prayer, sacraments and service”. The difference between these two churches was one that I could compare to the difference in the two churches in my case study book, The Spirit’s Tethered. The more traditional church was more like my church at home and the more casual one was like New Life Redlands.
Sacred Heart Church at home is very much like Our Lady of the Assumption in its traditional aspects, from attire to ritual to beliefs. Meanwhile, New Life Redlands was more like Saint Brigitta, open to social interaction, casual attire, and held more progressive beliefs. At Sacred Heart, religion is more about the ritual and beliefs that are incorporated into the service, whereas New Life is more about the community and welcoming environment that was created by and for the congregation. It is evident that each way is a valid form of religion that caters to the different needs of different people, but both focus on God and His kingdom.
In the early 2000s, Erwin McManus authored several bestselling books, saturated the Christian conference speaking circuit, and grew a distinct church in Los Angeles, CA called Mosaic. He became known as a leading voice among Christian creatives and religious innovators during that time. In 2008, at the height of his popularity, Erwin McManus retrieved back into the shadows and stopped writing books, attended fewer speaking engagements, and held far less public interaction. Six years later, McManus decided to reemerge with the release of a new book, “The Artisan Soul: Crafting Your Life into a Work of Art.” In this book, his message is simple: people were created to be creative. This became a controversial idea in the church, since those who were not conventionally creative felt like they were “just there,”. Therefore, it is important to recognize how this idea applies to those who aren’t naturally artistic, and why McManus retreated from public life to begin with. In an interview, McManus explained that his brief period of absence from the Xian scene was due to many variables and factors. One of these was that he wanted to affect the world outside of the church and be a voice to an unbelieving world. McManus describe, “we so often focus on Sunday and hope we are changing the world. I felt compelled to tell great art and tell great stories and allow beauty to point to truth,” (2014).
After having heard about the history of Calvary Chapel and Hope Chapel today in class, I decided to look further into their current conditions since the text being presented was 21 years old. I have found that both of these churches have gotten themselves into some trouble, in recent years, and have had lawsuits filed against them.
The family of the former pastor and founder of Costa Mesa’s Calvary Chapel filed a lawsuit against the church, claiming elder abuse and wrongful takeover of his property. Founding Pastor Chuck Smith had been suffering from lung cancer and died in October 2013. The suit, filed in September of 2014, says Smith’s illness and resulting death was exacerbated by the negligent care of a nurse, chosen by his son-in-law, Brian Broderson. The suit also states paramedics told Smith’s family that not calling 911 was a mistake, as it likely would have helped to save his life and prevented his suffering. Broderson is Calvary Chapel’s president and chairman of its board of directors. Broderson and several others on the board used Smith’s failing health as an opportunity to take control of the church, including ownership and rights to The Word For Today (a nonprofit outreach of Calvary Chapel that receives donations and sells various products). Kay Smith, who had been receiving a monthly annuity from the church of between of about $10,000 to help support her and her husband, was not paid for one year after he died, and was not awarded any of Smith’s $1 million life insurance policy. Smith was pressured to change the beneficiary from his wife to Calvary Chapel several years prior to his death.
Meanwhile, Hope Chapel parishioners sued their ex-pastor for church investment fraud…
I believe part of the reasons as to why this became so corrupt is because of the initial way in which it was founded. As we mentioned in class, it was all very entrepreneurial, which made it inevitable that it revolved around money and so it was only a matter of time for it to be motivated by greed.
As we know, religious practice and affiliation has greatly declined but more importantly, religious practice and belief have changed in the U.S.. These trends can be observed and identified in the Pew Research Center’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey.
For example, one trend that was identified is that belief in god has wavered: according to a Gallup survey, in 1966, 98% of Americans said they believed in God, and when Pew Research surveyed Americans in 2014, the number had dropped to 89%.
Another trend is that overall Christianity has declined and new groups have emerged. In 1948, Gallup found that about 91% of Americans identified as Christian, and in 2014, that number fell to 70.6%. Nearly one in three Americans under 35 today are religiously unaffiliated, as a whole, these “nones” make up the second largest religious group in the U.S., after evangelical Protestants.
In addition, although religious practice has declined, spirituality appears to be stronger than ever. The term “spiritual but not religious” has emerged in recent years to describe how more and more Americans identify. Even among the “nones” and there are those who say religion is important; spiritual sentiment is strong and growing. According to Pew Research, between 2007 and 2014, the percentage of atheists who said they felt a deep sense of wonder about the universe on a weekly basis rose a full 17 points from 37 to 54%.
Lastly, there has been a slow, but steady rise in non-Christian faiths in the U.S.. Pew Research predicts that by 2050, Muslims will surpass Jews as the second largest organized religious group after Christians and that Hindus will rise from 0.7% to 1.2% of the U.S. population in 2050.
In class this week, we discussed several forms of organized religion, one of these ways being “charismatic” organization. As we know, in the United States, there has been a decline in the number of people who attend organized religions services over the past few years. Speaking from personal experience, I would have to say that this phenomenon could be attributed to the lack of entertainment that church provides for younger generations, and sometimes even older ones.
Growing up, I remember going to church and my parents always walking up to the pastor and thanking him for his beautiful sermon. Eventually that pastor left our church (for reasons unknown) and we got a new one, who my parents weren’t so fond of, he was older, slower and not as entertaining; he had no charisma. My family, along with many others, actually stopped going to mass because he was that boring. When presented with the idea of a charismatic polity on class, I realized that, for my family, church isn’t about the story that is being told, but rather, HOW it is being told and the emotions that the speaker evokes from their audience.
It is interesting to see this pattern repeated over and over again throughout the US. In Lakewood Church, Texas, Lakewood Church, one of the flagships of the megachurch phenomenon in America, more than 40,000 member each week attend service, and yet when asked what denomination it belongs to, the typical answer would be “none”. There is a uniquely American quality to the new post-religion spirituality that is emerging in the US. The Big Round Church that is replacing America’s Little White Churches incorporates Christian themes into a consumer-oriented experience and the authority of religious denominations is being replaced by the magnetism of a charismatic pastor.
As we discussed in class this week, religion comes in various shapes and sizes, so to speak. Perhaps the most popular answer to the question of why there are so many religions is that we are each seeking our own path to God or enlightenment, and our paths vary because we vary. Christianity, Hinduism and Judaism are all examples of religions, but , as mentioned in class, religious systems come in a wide range of forms. For example, to a certain extent, sports could be considered a religion. People often say that some of the things these religious ideas have in common that makes them a religion is that they involve rituals, sacred spaces and commitment to a particular idea. When we think about sports, there are some elements of them that are similar to our ideas about religion.
In Christianity, Judaism and Islam, their constituents regularly visit their respective church/synagogue/mosque to think about and practice their religion. In football, it can be said that a stadium or a home ground is the equivalent. It is a place where people go to participate in their group activity and to cement the ideas of that group within their lives and their ideals. Going along with that, a common feature of religion is that they are usually exclusive: a person is a member of one religion not many. Similarly, people often support one particular sports team, not many, and they remain committed to them whether they do well or not.
It is safe to say, that a reason as to why some fans are highly committed to their favorite sports stars and teams is because it gives focus and meaning to their daily lives, just as any other religion would.