This is something that really, really pisses me off.
The church in my previous post about Santorum is a perfect example of what makes me so damn livid. I lived probably one minute’s drive from it for years, so I got to watch it over a period of time, and was dragged inside it more than I’d like to admit.
These churches are HUGE. Charles Stanley’s church in Atlanta? I wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t have its own zip code. That’s all they do - eat funds and people and grow, like some bizarre weed. It displaces businesses, land that could be used to house people… and it just gets bigger and grander and fancier all the time.
First Redeemer (the church that was just visited by Santorum) is permeated by a sickening sameness. I can describe 99% of the families who go to it, and you can too, because it’s every picture of a “happy family” you’ve ever seen on TV. A middle-aged, trim white man in a nice suit, with a perfect, straight, white smile. His (usually blonde) white wife, who’s a perfect size, in her pretty Sunday best, with their kids, who are miniatures of their parents. You don’t generally see diversity of any kind… because I’ve seen what happens to people who don’t fit the “type”. Either they’re a person of color, or they’re not perfectly straight, or they’re not of the right class, or they don’t make much money - whatever their perceived “fault”, they’re shut out. Nobody would do it openly. Nobody tells them to leave. They’re just given the silent treatment until they decide that they don’t fit in, and they leave, at which point all the “perfect families” sigh in relief. That’s no hyperbole - I have seen it happen, and I have heard the talks that happen behind the scenes.
These people flood in to the church every Sunday, where they listen to some preacher give a sermon that’s tailored so that people don’t have to think. It’s all very gentle, and designed to be as inoffensive as possible, so that when they need to they can slip things in that go along with the church’s politics. For example, how gay is wrong. And how wives should be the “little woman”. And how sluts are ruining the country, and how abortion is the road to hell, and every other system of thought and religion and, heck, country on earth is EVIL. And a blank-faced mass of people just drinks it in. And then, when they’re told to, they give. And BOY, do they give. I will give (ha) them that - the people that attend megachurches are generous.
They never seem to ask where it GOES, though.
It goes to people like Santorum. It goes to all the far-right-wing political guests that come over. It goes to funding its own growth, and making the church prettier. It goes to programs that send their youth out to other countries to try and save the souls of those “poor people” that don’t know who Jesus is and who will therefore go to Hell when they die.
Where that money DOESN’T go? One exit down on the highway is a town that’s full of people who are struggling with real-world stuff, like feeding their families. There’s a school not ten minutes from that church where the teachers fund supplies from their own pockets, because the school is falling apart and it’s doing the best it can to pay its staff (who, by the way, are so underpaid it’s ridiculous). There is SO much that money could be doing; SO MUCH good - and it’s going into the pockets of GOP “guest speakers”.
Does this piss you off? It should. It’s a picture of a community that values how it looks over the people in it. This church rakes in the dough, and they choose to give it to politics over their own schools, over the hungry in their own neighborhood. They would rather pay someone to come in and talk about the evils of contraception and abortion than to fund programs to make adoption easier, or to help ease the burden of women who may find themselves in need of an abortion.
They wear those “What Would Jesus Do?” bracelets, but they never seem to ask themselves that very question. They forget about the dude who said “love thy neighbor”, and who flipped out over the bankers in front of the temple. But dammit, they can recite selected parts of Leviticus at you in a second!
I don’t hate Christianity. I don’t hate Jesus. The guy had some good things to say. I just don’t think that if he looked at these kinds of churches, he’d be too happy. And given that he’s not exactly talking at the moment, I’m going to keep giving my money to awesome groups like Planned Parenthood, who ARE addressing the parts of the community that First Redeemer is going to continue to pretend isn’t there.
And fiftysevenacademics NAILS IT.