Happy Sunday! In honor (honour) of the sabbath, a few links further to the discussion of US Megachurches and their differences from churches in the UK (and from more mainline churches in the US perhaps as well):
A scholarly work (from Scott Thumma, PhD) in which it is argued that:
- “If there is a common message shared by all megachurches, it is that they want to portray what they do as more vital than other congregations, somehow better than “ordinary” Christianity.”
If there is one take-home message from my personal experiences with the American megachurches it would be this one, and it’s from this attitude that I derive my distaste. Perhaps my comments about the church in the US and UK are quite specific to megachurches vs quite traditional C of E practices, as was pointed out, although I would argue that many smaller protestant churches in the US are now emulating the megachurches (especially with drama, praise songs and support groups).
The Christian Science Monitor also comments on the rise of the American megachurch. Noted both here and in the Economist article I linked to previously is the issue of the missing cross, which is one of my major problems with the phenomenon as a whole: the underpinnings of Christianity are getting lost in the shuffle. I have no doubts that in any church, anywhere on the globe, there are Christians with pure hearts and solid faith and I am not trying to argue that all that are involved with this phenomenon are corrupt in some way. But the fact that the megachurches are non-denominational–or effectively too large to be dominated by any traditional parish church structure–means that they are free to move away from doctrine at will.
I have two other serious qualms with the modern megachurch movement. One is with the taking on of a capitalist business model. One of the links from the previous post was to a website called “http://www.churchexecutive.com/” and I think if we have gotten to that point of the business model, then it’s time to take away the special tax status of churches in the US and treat them like any other business. They really become not that different than medical insurance companies in the strange grey area between being for-profit and not-for-profit. The other qualm I have is with the political involvement of churches in the US. Apparently again this has some bearing on a church’s tax status as is seen in recent news reports (here, here). I had not realized the convergence of these two issues onto American tax law until I started digging around on the web for links for this post!