Churchlandia (portland)

I am fascinated by the culture clash that seems to be generated mostly out of BIG churches.

I was born in Ohio, raised in Chicago, spent 6 years on the Canadian prairies, married a girl from Montana before moving to NY  and then training for ministry in California.

It was in California that I encountered a kind of church I had not really seen before. Some call them mega-churches but I have developed a different name for them, since not all of the churches I am talking about qualify simply based on attendance figures.

After college I lived on the NY-Vermont border for over a decade before moving out to the Pacific NW. Arriving in Portland that first week was a reintroduction to these types of churches.

I call them Castle Churches. They can usually be identified them by three primary factors:

  • their building / campus is usually surrounded by an asphalt ‘moat’  (also called a parking lot)
  • they stand apart from the culture around them. Often they have a self contained sub-culture within. At many of these places you could drop your kids off at the day-care / pre-school, get a cup of coffee in the cafe, do aerobics, go to Bible study, buy Contemporary Christian Music CDs, ect. all at the same campus location. It is a one-stop destination.
  • They have a “battle” or “siege” mentality toward the world outside the walls. They use combat language and talk about a ‘war for the soul of our country/ children/ community’.

I have heard so often in the past 20 years that the Pacific NW is the most ‘unchurched region in North America’.  I think that there are two things to realized about this title.

  1. I have always contented the NorthEast United States (places where Boston RedSox games are the radio) is actually the most unchurched region and that the statistics get skewed by all of the life-long but disenfranchised members of the Catholic Church. The most recent census has proven me right!
  2. While the West Coast may be heavily ‘unchurched’ it is important to account for the presence of these KIND of churches that I do not find in many other places around the US and Canada.

This kind of Church is one that is both aggressively anti-culture and politically involved.

Here is what made me think of this [link to story here] (it will open in a new window)

This group called Living the Question took out radio advertisements on three Portland radio stations. The pushback from Christian groups was pretty potent.  You can read the story above.

What I think is interesting is the mentality behind it. For an area that is supposedly so thoroughly ‘unchurched’ … it is the presence of a certain TYPE of church (and church mentality) that is notable.

From now on… I propose that we should call this mentality Churchlandia.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Jimmy
    Jan 30, 2011 @ 00:03:34

    I was surprised when I moved to Portland. I also heard it called the “great unchurhed northwest” while I was in WNY. After a few months I started to think, “what is so unchurched about this place?” With large churches like Solid Rock, Imago Dei, and Sunset Presbyterian (to name a few), the label attached to this place seemed a little inaccurate. The churches are certainly different (especially from those in WNY), but mostly they all are still socially conservative, and fall into a Baptist/Reformed theological hybrid. The biggest difference is that in the NW the jeans just get tighter and the music louder. I’m wondering where the postmodern generation that ive come to associate myself with is hiding.


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