the god of shopping malls

I know it’s probably not exactly legal, but could one of you please email me the text of the article on exurbs and megachurches that’s in the new issue of Mother Jones? The beginning of the article is available on-line, but the rest is only available to subscribers. Here, in case you’re interested, is how it starts:

In South Barrington, Illinois, just northwest of Chicago, lies a 155-acre campus resembling a junior college or perhaps a manufacturer of something clean, like pharmaceuticals or computer parts. On one side of the main compound is a greensward, on another side is a five-acre reflecting pond, and out in front are vast black slabs of endless parking, where swarms of men wearing reflective vests and radio headsets assist drivers attempting to find an open space. Shuttle buses loop around the lots; sometimes it’s so busy that off-duty cops are hired to help direct traffic.

It looks like a mall on a busy holiday weekend, but it is the Willow Creek Community Church, and it could be any weekend. In almost every city or suburb of more than 200,000 there is a similar megachurch, as they are known, a product of suburban sprawl, religious marketing, consumer demand, the entertainment economy, and the good old-fashioned yearning for communal experience. Megachurches draw young, committed, and energetic members; listen to parishioners talk and you will hear a refrain of growth–“we’re growing”–as if it were proof of redemptive success. And they deliver a highly emotional product: the marriage of group affiliation and a conversion experience, complete with videos, pop music, and other modern dramatic flourishes…

Scholars call them “postdenominational churches” or parts of the “new apostolic reformation.” Their own laity call them “purpose-driven” or “seeker-sensitive” churches. Detractors call them McChurches or Wal-Mart churches…

Religion, it just occurred to me, isn’t about helping others anymore. It’s about helping yourself. It’s about consumption. It’s about feeling good. It’s about knowing that you deserve what you have and more. Religion is consumption, not reflection.

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5 Comments

  1. Posted March 29, 2005 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    I think the scariest thing is the term ‘postdenominational’. Does that mean that we’re about to have a ‘de-reformation’ followed by a ‘re-inquisition’?

  2. mark
    Posted March 29, 2005 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, I loved the term “postdenominational.” It’s so fucking ominous sounding.

  3. mark
    Posted March 29, 2005 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

    Someone actually sent me the article. How cool is that?

  4. mark
    Posted March 29, 2005 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    Also from that same article…

    “Megachurches don’t just physically resemble malls, they mimic the very essence of what a mall offers, consolidating convenience, entertainment, neighborhood, even employment. But in a larger sense, the megachurch resembles the Norman Rockwell town square

  5. Ken
    Posted April 1, 2005 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    The next step, of course, is for the churches to become little fiefs, or perhaps little sovereign nations. Down here in Atlanta they are getting ready for that step by making their own flags.

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