[Buddha-l] Fwd: mega-church & proselytising

Richard P. Hayes rhayes at unm.edu
Sun May 15 22:31:31 MDT 2005

On Sun, 2005-05-15 at 17:53 -0600, Sally McAra  wrote:

> If the construction of a "megachurch" close to the airforce base was 
> strategic, then that relates to my research interest in the construction 
> of large religious complexes to attract interest & thus potential 
> converts.

The pastor of the congregation is, not surprisingly, convinced that God
directed him to build in the location he chose. God apparently wants the
US Air Force on his side. (Who can blame him, since the USAF bombs the
billy jesus out of everyone they don't much like.)

> I'm rather fascinated by the whole concept of "holy objects" from an 
> anthropological perspective, as well as the fact that on a personal 
> level I feel pretty ambivalent about lavish temples etc.

I've tried to feel ambivalent about lavish temples, but I just can't
seem to cultivate ambivalence. They really disgust me. The megachurch
phenomenon is especially disturbing, since many of them acquire property
by bullying people into selling at artificially low prices. There is not
much about their modus operandi that inspires one to believe in the
goodness (let alone the holiness) of the spirit who is guiding their
decisions. In these times, I doubt it makes much difference whether the
instantly big church or temple is Christian, Buddhist or Hindu; the
methods of attack seem to be pretty much the same for every religious
outfit, and the methods of aggressive acquisition are hardly different
for a religious organization than for a commercial giant such as Wal-
Mart or Home Depot or Costgo or Ikea. (I hope you kiwis have no idea
what I'm talking about, for that would assure me that you have been
spared this ghastly phenomenon.)

> So, if you have the reference for the Harpers article I would be curious 
> to look it up. (I think I missed your earlier post, I don't read all 
> posts, just for time management reasons).

Probably the best way to save time is to read NONE of my posts, since I
am as long-winded as I am short-tempered. But do read the Harper's
articles if you get a chance. There are three of them in the May 2005
issue: "Inside America's most powerful megachurch" by Jeff Sharlet;
"Feeling the hate with the national religious broadcasters" by Chris
Hedges; and "The evangelical roots of economics" by Gordon Bigelow. 

> Do you know any more about the actual building etc - eg if it was 
> designed in some way to attract attention? 

There is quite a bit of detail about the building, both inside and out,
and the artwork. It sounds pretty wild. Here's a teaser from the
article: "Metallic and modern, the sanctuary is built like two satellite
dishes clapped belly to belly. It was designed, I was told to 'beam'
prayer across the land."

> A lot of megachurch buildings are rather plain, at least here in NZ. 

If you'd like, I could ask God to send a few dozen American evangelicals
to New Zealand. They'd probably brighten the place up a bit. You know,
get rid of all those ugly trees and meadows and replace them with
shining steel and glass buildings surrounded by concrete parking lots
the size of forty football pitches. A gang of American pastors would
probably love having some New Zealand sheep to herd around. Let me see
what I can arrange.

Richard Hayes
Department of Philosophy
University of New Mexico

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