Anyone who knows me personally probably already knows about my Megachurched project, but for those that don’t, let me summarize (people in the know, you can skip this part).
Last summer I went on a trip from Massachusetts to Florida, stopping at some of the country’s best known megachurches and documenting my experiences there, helped by tons of lovely people who donated to the project via Kickstarter. Megachurches are churches that have an attendance of 2,000 or more per week. Their services are punctuated by loud(ish) Christian rock music and pastors with the charisma of a late night talk show host. The experience sometimes seems more like a rock concert than church, which is the particular appeal of these types of places.
I became obsessed with the idea of the megachurch after reading an article in The Independent while I was in England. It seemed such a bizarre concept at the time to blend entertainment and spirituality, especially growing up in the Catholic church, which isn’t exactly a non-stop party. The more I looked into it, the more I understood how American the concept of a megachurch was. Our stores had grown bigger with the takeovers of Walmart, Target, and Home Depot. Our cars had grown bigger with the emergence of SUVs. And of course our waistlines had grown along with all of this. It seemed only natural that our churches would grow as well. And just as news has turned into entertainment, church would too. In our society if you’re not entertaining then you won’t be listened to. Make of that what you will, but I found it pretty interesting in a country dominated (and founded) by religion.
I documented the details of our trip and posted (part) of the journey at the official Megachurched site. I should probably mention that Megachurched is the title of the book. And I should probably also mention that I’m writing a book based on my experiences. That was a Pulp Fiction paragraph, with the information out of order, but I think you get the point.
Megachurches turned out to be a lot more nuanced than I could have expected. Some featured the cartoonish hucksters that appear in every movie featuring a crooked pastor. Those people do exist, but they’re not the majority. There was also many churches that were thoughtful in their reading of the Bible and were truly helpful to their communities. I didn’t intend for this project to be a hit piece on big churches, so I’m including the good along with the bad.
Writing the book has been fun but much more time consuming than I could have expected. I’ve read over 100 books as part of the research, which took about 6 months alone. I stalled on writing a few times since I returned in August, but picked back up again in November. As of now, I’m writing the fourth chapter, which focuses on the Prosperity Gospel, Joel Osteen and the bunch. If you want to know what I’m talking about more in detail, please check out the site here.
I was shocked to see that my last update to the site was back in August. I was going strong with it all through the trip, ducking out to Starbucks, uploading my files in roach-filled hotel rooms. But once back home, the site went to the back-burner. So if nothing else comes out of this site, at least I got back to updating the site.
And thank you again to all of you beautiful Kickstarters, who I couldn’t have done this without. None of you will ever be forgotten, and neither will your stickers, which will come, I promise : )