Saturday, April 16, 2005
Religious scholar Donald E. Miller, who studied Calvary Chapel for his book Reinventing American Protestantism, found its congregations to be dominated by blue-collar Americans. Only 20% of church members had a college degree. Over half of the pastors Miller surveyed had grown up, or spent parts of their lives, in single-parent homes; 70% had parents who abused drugs or alcohol. The numbers were similar for the congregants, almost a third of whom claimed to have been physically and/or sexually abused...
What liberals might have learned from visiting Livermore, listening to K-Wave, or reading Calvary Chapel-inspired web sites is that "morality," at least as they imagine it, is beside the point. In fact, Calvary Chapel-style Christianity is a complex system with intricate rules. Think of it as God's game. Instead of X-Box's MechAssault, this is GodAssault.
If you play the game correctly, you'll receive that change in fortune. If not here, then in the after-life.
The guidebook to the game's moves is the Bible; the key steps to winning are in the Book of Revelation. Conventional notions of "morality," in which people adapt standards of right and wrong to an ever-changing world, don't hold here. Neither do the teachings from my childhood, which emphasized enlightenment and a sense of knowing God through your mind and heart.
In GodAssault, your conscience is not your guide.
The Bible is.
Like many evangelical forms of Protestantism, Calvary Chapel preaches that everything a Christian needs is written, word by holy word, in the Bible. In Miller's surveys, everyone from Calvary Chapel's pastors to its recent converts said they took the Bible literally. If you read the Book of Revelation as the physical, material truth, then you come to see God's game as one played in a swirling, planet-devouring vortex of blood and violence.