Friday, October 13, 2006

A mega-church like community of liberals.

Peter Bowden at Live From UU Planet says that the guy behind “Daily Kos” would like to start “mega-church like communities of liberals” across the red states.

From the Wired interview that was Bowden’s source:

“And once he gets his network of sports blogs ramped up, he'll turn to building communities in the real world, a chain of giant meeting places "replicating megachurches for the left" – complete with cafés and child care. Moulitsas has shown he can harness people's enthusiasm, but he says he doesn't want a leadership role in these "democracy centers."”

My first reaction was “Please, please, Daily Kos man, finish your hockey blog and do this. Because if everybody who wanted a ‘mega-church like community of liberals’ started by a guy like this left UUism, we might actually get some theology done and start attracting people who are looking for some depth and substance. The initial drop in membership would suck, but I think there would be a huge long term gain.”

Naturally Bowden sees things differently. He seemingly would like the UUA to BECOME the “mega-church-like community of liberals.” He seems to think that the UUA is against becoming such a place, which is weird to me because as far as I can tell, Bowden is describing exactly what the UUA wants to be.

Here are his suggestions:

We need to...
• Have a viable brand name that can be remembered by the children.
• Have a vision, mission, and/or purpose and principles that adults - including professional leadership - can articulate clearly.
• Know that you have to have an environment and coffee that rivals starbucks.
• Have a clear pathways for personal growth and development
• Offer leadership development that goes beyond either you're a lay person or your a fully trained ordained called and salaries minister with more debt and responsibility than you'd really like.
• Develop organizational processes for making statements and taking action that are not so brutal that people choose to leave to find a more efficient and nimble organization to work through.
• Get clue about youth . Yes, youth want to be empowered, but they want to be empowered to do something that matters.

The thing is, I don’t object to any one of those suggestions individually. Actually, assuming we don’t use all of these vision statements as creeds, I pretty much like them all outside of the rivaling starbucks bit, especially if we start making some statements and taking some actions that are more than political.

But I sure don’t like the idea of where those suggestions might take us.



Joel Monka said...

My first reaction was much like yours- but then I thought of the small groups at my church. We've just finished our first six-month trial of small groups, and funny thing-all the politically-based groups failed within a few months. The groups that thrived were special interest hobbies or the ones discussing spirituality. I think an attempt to build a mega-church out of the politically liberal rather than the religiously liberal would suffer the same fate as Air America- those that care enough to attend regular meetings already belong to political organizations.

Early Riser said...

hmmm... wouldn't you think that if there was truly demand for this sort of thing it would already exist?

Remember all of the hype concerning Air America and how they could become this huge force for progressives? Remember the talk about growing a large network of progressive radio listeners just like the Right? It didn't work... progressives don't listen to talk radio in large numbers.

Kos has a huge following of outraged, Bush-haters that spend a great deal of time venting their frustrations on-line. There are several other large, progressive on-line communities. The people that frequent these communities are not the type of folks that are going to get involved in a real-life mega community.

PeaceBang said...

Mega-churches ALL have hugely charismatic, authoritative, unequivocal religious leaders in their pulpits. They preach simple, persuasive messages and they aren't available for splitting hairs with their congregants: they're CEO types. Unitarian Universalists are generally quite hostile to religious leaders who are (a) convinced of one religous truth and unafraid to pound the pulpit to persuade others to take their point of view and to live by the values they're espousing and (b) not incredibly adept at navigating through at least a half dozen wildy divergent theological and philosophical perspectives in a one-year preaching and program cycle.

I notice that Air America just filed for Ch. 11.

Chalicechick said...

And neither the Kos guy or Bowden speculates on what the theology of such a church would be.

I suspect the Kos guy doesn't even care.


Doug Muder said...

early riser writes:
Kos has a huge following of outraged, Bush-haters that spend a great deal of time venting their frustrations on-line.

I suspect you haven't spent much time on DailyKos. The right wing has created this stereotype of the Bush-hater, and they brand any critic with it -- as if no thinking person could oppose this administration's policies for rational reasons.

DKos is not a set of followers of Kos or anybody else. The community has many thoughtful voices and a great deal of interesting discussion. I frequently get new insights there. But like any community, you can also find rabid voices if that's what you're looking for.

Kos himself has done something exceptional: He's made space for a community to grow, and then gotten out of its way. He may not even be the most influential voice on dKos these days; you could skip all his posts and still get the community experience.

Chalicechick said...

For all the good qualities you report, Doug, Kos still doesn't seem to know what church is for.

And I really do think that if a new megachurch promised to essentially preach the gospel of liberal politics, some UUs would leave. Not to pick on an frequently-picked-on group, but I've certainly seen a few ex-evangelicals who seem to want to be TOLD they are free, by a charismatic leader who will then tell them what to believe.

I think this is more common than we UUs like to think, and it's not good for UUism.

If he wants to take those people off our hands, I ain't gonna cry about it. I think we can more easily build a better church without them than with them.


Anonymous said...

I suspect Markos Moulitsas isn't thinking about any theological significance to churches at all. He's noticed instead that in the overwhelming majority of new suburban and exurban communities in the United States, no civic institutions exist -- no Kiwanis clubs, often not even fully functioning school systems. But megachurches, planted by growth-oriented Assemblies of God or Southern Baptist or independent entrepreneurial pastors, quickly become the civic institution in town. They generate political and cultural clout. And that, along with the social capital of the community itself, is what interests Kos.

The dismal fact is that mainline and liberal religious communities are almost entirely locked in to long-established, often increasingly elite communities. We aren't planting churches. Neither are any other "liberal" denominations. Not in any real numbers. And liberals in general are losing all of their social groups, from unions to voluntary associations of all sorts. I think Moulitsas is much more concerned about social capital than anything else.