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One person, one church
Today I drove by the new Asbury Gigantic Methodist Church over on 71st and Mingo. That's prime real estate, right in the middle of the busiest shopping corridor in Tulsa. Its also quickly becoming a prime restaurant hotspot as well. The Asbury website mentions that they got the land for pennies on the dollar, which I don't doubt. But I guess what bothers me more than its location, is its size. Its a huge church, a style that's been gaining popularity around here. Its like there is a new trend in Supercenter Churches. The new location tops 250,000 square feet. As you can see its not so visually compelling and its mostly just a stack of bricks with a few angled roofs and a steeple jutting forth. It sure bears little resemblance to old style cathedrals.
I've heard it said on more than one occasion that Tulsa has more churches per capita than any other American city. I don't find that so far fetched. This is a city where you can frequently find a church across the street from a church, next door to a church. You think I'm kidding, drive down 11th street between 129th and 145th streets. That's not even counting the Vietnamese Church and the Korean Church, the big church up on the hill of the road and the church that used to be a mall.
I once joked to a friend that in some places people hang out at coffeeshops, here they go to church. They are the center of most social activity. Its not uncommon to ask a couple where they met and get "church" as the reply.
Church or work.
Tulsa has become the evangelical HQ, especially for missionary groups. There are two professions that see Tulsa as a top spot to hone their chops and prove their mettle, preachers and meteorologists. We also have some of the most challenging weather patterns in the country as well.
There might just be a correlation... or not.
I can always spot the evangelical missionary types. They have the bling bling. Fur coats, gaudy makeup and big ass rings on their fingers. Its big business and in my various jobs around town I know that they can drop some serious cash outfitting their operations. The other day I saw a white Lexus SUV with a matching gold fish decal mounted right above the license plate, just under the Lexus logo. To my christian upbringing this smacks of contradiction. But in a nutty "God has blessed us" mentality that passes for piety amongst some, it makes perfect sense.
Its hard for me to say that all the church building is a completely negative thing. After all, I know lots of decent tolerant people that go to church, including every member of my family but me. Simply going to church doesn't turn you into a raving right wing apocalyptic Bush lover. Going to some churches will. But I believe we choose our churches based on how well they mesh with our own biases, rather than the other way around. They also serve as a vital place to make connections. You meet people in church that might be useful to know in the outside world.
But I do wonder about all the time and energy put into churches and how that effects the quality of life in Tulsa. I can't help but wonder what life here would be like if we put just some of that time and effort into schools and education. And when I say schools I don't mean stadiums, which could spawn another rant on its own. It seems terribly inefficient that we have all these churches for different denominations. They get used for a couple of hours each week then sit empty for a majority of the time. That's lost real estate, its terribly inefficient if you ask me. It would be much better to have different congregations work out a church sharing agreement so that one nice church could server multiple groups.
But if we stop building churches, the entire industry of church construction and church service that has built up around this constant march for more and more buildings will collapse.
Not to mention the negative aspects of having one of your biggest business sectors be one that never pays taxes.
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