NY Mirror


With more Americans finding themselves shunted into exurbs, megachurches thrive, offering an unprecedented sense of community (the megachurch threshold begins at 2,000) and the means to put faith into action through Bible study, community service, self-help programs, marriage and parenting classes, even sports teams and aerobics. With the Hartford Institute for Religion Research’s megachurch database containing at least 600 known organizations and Orange County’s Saddleback Church, the megachurch paradigm led by Rick Warren, bringing in more than 15,000 congregants, the numbers add up to the 40 percent of Americans who describe themselves as born-again Christians—a stat exploited by the Bush-Cheney campaign to utilize church directories in getting out the vote. Though our founding fathers deliberately left out “God” or “separation of church and state” in our Constitution, that doesn’t stop pundits on both sides of the aisle from butting heads over abortion, gay marriage, the right to die/live, the display of the Ten Commandments in government buildings, etc. Across the pond, Europeans watch the debate over faith-based initiatives and wonder whether evangelicalism’s surge will fracture the Atlantic alliance. Anatol Lieven, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in D.C., and Andrea Boehm, journalist for Die Zeit, consider the megachurches’ breadth of influence both here and abroad.
Janet Kim