Victim of the US’s ‘evangelical recession’, California’s Crystal Cathedral is now under Catholic control

Victim of the US’s ‘evangelical recession’, California’s Crystal Cathedral is now under Catholic control

IN 1980 the Crystal Cathedral – a sort of Disneyworld for Christian evangelicals and a way-over-the-top expression of American excess – was dedicated by Robert H Schuller, once one of the country’s most prominent and influential televangelists.

The Crystal Cathedral – one of America’s largest and most celebrated ecclesiastical buildings – was replete with all the bells and whistles evangelicals in the US craved: livestock, silly costumes, lights, cameras, below-stage elevators, theatre-style seating, an indoor reflecting pool … and one mother of an organ, with 10,000 pipes.

The cathedral's enormous organ, pictured at a Yuletide past.

The cathedral’s enormous organ, pictured at a Yuletide past.

But things have drastically changed. According to this fascinating American Scholar report by Jim Hinch, American evangelicals are outnumbered by people of no professed faith ­ –  and in June this year, Schuller’s evangelical Christian ministry, founded almost 60 years ago amid the suburbs of postwar Southern California, conducted its last worship service and filmed its last Hour of Power in the Crystal Cathedral.

Robert H Schuller (Photo: Reuters).

Robert H Schuller (Photo: Reuters).

Hounded by creditors, the ministry declared bankruptcy in 2010. Last year Schuller resigned from the cathedral’s board, and the building was flogged for $58 million to Orange County’s Catholic diocese, which intends ripping out all the Disneyesque equipment and replacing it with the sort of crap Catholics regard as more palatable: a consecrated altar, bishop’s cathedra, baptismal font, and votive chapels dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe and other saints prominent in immigrant Catholics’ devotional lives. (There is a frightening number of immigrant Catlickers in the vicinity).

The building is scheduled to reopen for Catholic worship in 2016.

The most recent Pew Research Center survey of the nation’s religious attitudes, taken in 2012, found that just 19 percent of Americans identified themselves as white evangelical Protestants – five years earlier, 21 percent of Americans did so. Slightly more (19.6 percent) self-identified as unaffiliated with any religion at all, the first time that group has surpassed evangelicals.

Prominent figures in the evangelical establishment have already begun sounding alarms. In particular, the Barna Group, an evangelical market research organization, has been issuing a steady stream of books and white papers documenting the erosion of support for evangelicalism, especially among young people.

Contributions from worshippers 55 and older now account for almost two-thirds of evangelical churches’ income in the United States. A mere three percent of non-Christian Americans under 30 have a positive impression of evangelical Christianity, according to David Kinnaman, the Barna Group’s president.

That’s down from 25 percent of baby boomers at a similar age. At present rates of attrition, two-thirds of evangelicals in their 20s will abandon church before they turn 30. “It’s the melting of the icebergs,” Kinnaman told Hinch.

Young people’s most common complaint, he said, is that churches are too focused on sexual issues and preoccupied with their own institutional development  – in other words, he explained

Christianity no longer looks like Jesus.

A book making the rounds among evangelical pastors these days is called The Great Evangelical Recession. Written by John S Dickerson, a former investigative journalist turned evangelical pastor, it chronicles in unsparing statistical detail how evangelical Christianity is hemorrhaging members, money, and influence. He says:

The United States has shifted into a  … post-Christian age. No one disputes this.

17 responses to “Victim of the US’s ‘evangelical recession’, California’s Crystal Cathedral is now under Catholic control”

  1. marcus says:

    Hope the Catholics take on board the message that people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones … or even stow thrones 🙂

  2. barriejohn says:

    Schuller was an absolute idiot and shameless self-publicist:

  3. remigius says:

    marcus, it doesn’t really matter. Under current building regulations any house should be legally able to withstand manual bombardment of any object, whether a stone, or any other blunt heavy instrument.

    Safety glass should be fitted in all doors and other windows or glazed areas that are lower than 800mm from the floor level. Glass panels less than 250mm wide can be fitted with 6mm glass or laminated glass instead of toughened glass.

    As the safety glass is comprised of a plastic laminate it would preclude any shattering that could cause injury, therefore anyone who lived in such a house would be able to throw such an object without concern of injury to themselves, or others.

    I hope this is of use to you!

  4. remigius says:

    However stowing thrones is an entirely different matter. If it were a solid gold throne, as is wont to be utilised by many a despot, Saddam Hussein comes to mind, and his weird son Uday!, then I would suggest consulting a structural engineer.

    And one with experience in reinforcement of glass structures.

    Particularly the underpinning – cos that’s where any inherent problem would lie!

  5. marcus says:

    Bugger them ‘elf and safety fanatics, Remigius! I had hoped the Catholics would at least have kept the monster organ, and be kebab-ed with shards of glass the moment it let loose with “Holy, Holy, Holy!”

  6. charlie says:

    Yes he is/was. A slippery rat as well.

  7. barriejohn says:

    Charlie: I used the past tense as Schuller is now almost ninety years of age, and is a spent force anyway. He was a man totally in love with the sound of his own voice, and his vacuous message consisted almost entirely of “positive thinking” with a Christian slant anyway. Tony Robbins even borrowed the title “Hour of Power” from him for one of his courses – say no more!

    You won’t be able to stomach much of this, I’m afraid, but you can see where some others got their inspiration:

  8. barriejohn says:

    This is quite amusing, if you happen to be on the same wavelength!

  9. Stonyground says:

    I love the organ. I like pipe organs, I got to play some Bach on one once. If it was down to me I would put a botanical garden in the building.

  10. barriejohn says:

    Stonyground: Music is of the Devil, invented by one of Cain’s descendants – Jubal, “the father of all such as handle the harp and organ” (look it up if you don’t believe me!). Sorry, but you’re headed for Hell:

  11. sailor1031 says:

    Meanwhile it’s business as usual in the diocese of Orange County:

    after spending $58megabucks on a greenhouse there have to be some economies made.

  12. Stonyground says:

    I’m pretty sure that there are other bits in the big magic book that prove the exact opposite, there generally is with these things. Anyway, if there is no music in heaven why would I want to go there?

    Regarding the botanic garden idea, how about creating the Eden Experience. A couple of nudists, animatronic talking snake, a couple of magic trees that you are forbidden to eat the fruit of…

  13. barriejohn says:

    …and dinosaurs, of course.

    “Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp.

    “Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs.

    “Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.”

    (Psalm 150:3-5)

    No contradiction there.

  14. Robster says:

    Unlike nearly all the others, the crystal church is one of the few offering a degree of transparency, like the nonsense contained within, people with any more than two functioning brain cells can see right through it.

  15. Matt+Westwood says:

    @barriejohn: Not drums though, drums are completely out. That buggers up xtian rock bands a bit.

  16. Timothy says:

    I agree, child molestation is horrible! Better close the public schools.