Year of Sundays

Year of Sundays


Beaverton Four$quare Church

posted by Amanda P. Westmont

The first thing you should know about Beaverton Foursquare church is that it has a logo. Which is funny because I thought Christianity was doing just fine there. The cross ain’t so shabby. It’s clean. Simple. Sleek. It’s easily recognizable and even comes with a juicy back story. But apparently that just wasn’t good enough for the fine people of the Beav because they went and made some improvements. I mean, high quality brand identity is usually the first thing I look for in a church.

Nothing sells God better than stock photography!

Foursquare isn’t your grandmother’s church. It’s not Presbyterian or Catholic or Baptist or Orthodox or ancient in any way.  It was actually made up by some chick named Aimee during a Pentecostal revival in California during the summer of 1922. I’m not making this shit up, I swear! I got it right off Foursquare’s National website:

To a crowd of thousands, Aimee Semple McPherson explained Ezekiel’s vision in the book of Ezekiel, chapter one. Ezekiel saw God revealed as a being with four different faces: a man, a lion, an ox and an eagle.

To Sister McPherson, those four faces were like the four phases of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In the face of the man, she saw Jesus our Savior. In the face of the lion, she saw Jesus the mighty Baptizer with the Holy Spirit and fire. In the face of the ox, she saw Jesus the Great Burden-Bearer, who took our infirmities and carried our sicknesses. In the face of the eagle, she saw Jesus the Coming King, who will return in power and victory for the church.  It was a perfect, complete Gospel. It was a Gospel that faces squarely in every direction; it was the “Foursquare Gospel.”

The second thing you should know about Beaverton Foursquare is that there is NOT an app for that. Much to my disappointment, this is not the foursquare where I am mayor of Fantasy Video (which I totally am). This isn’t the foursquare where you check in at 3AM to let the world know how much you’re enjoying the deliciously tender beefy center of a whiffie pie. There is no mayor of Beaverton Foursquare.  Or is there? (There totally is and he also has some interesting reading recommendations! )

The third thing you should know about Beaverton Foursquare Church is that it is enormous. Behemoth. Over 5,000 members and counting. They literally have rent-a-cops directing traffic into the parking lots. And the overflow parking lots. They have to give three services every Sunday or the flock won’t all fit into the pews at once.

This is the epitome of the Mega Church. The McChurch of Jesus Christ: a million souls saved and counting!

And they are definitely counting. I swear I could almost make out the rumble and ping of the cash registers as I entered the room. Comfy pews, track lighting, a rock-and-roll sound stage and a band that sounded like Celine Dion and Sarah McLauchlan had a love child and named it Jesus; it all made me feel like I’d just walked into a free Lilith Fair concert.

Can you absorb Jesus better through your palms or something?

Until they passed around the fancy velvet tithe bags. Then all I could think about was that scene from Scarface where they count all the money. Push it to the limit!

It’s a good thing we didn’t bring our children because that would have been a problem. A rather large problem. A MEGA problem. Young Foursquare disciples don’t get to sit with their parents. Instead they’re herded off into their own age-appropriate Sunday school corrals. In separate buildings. Forgive me if I sound like a broken record, but this is a deal-breaker for me for me. I only have my kids every other week, so even the two hours I get to spend with them in church on Sunday is precious to me. Of course, that’s a much SMALLER problem them than the real issue, which is, WHAT THE HELL ARE THEY TEACHING THEM IN THERE? No way in hell am I dropping my kids off into the loving care of compassionate lunatics. ANYTHING could be happening in those outbuildings and I’d never know about it until it was too late. I mean, they could be getting touched. By the lord.

I was super disappointed that the main pastor was on sabbatical. I mean, not that substitute teacher Rick Fry didn’t BRANG it, because his performance knocked it out of the park, but I was really looking forward to shaking hands with another person who had legally taken their porn name. Reverend Randy Remington and I should totally start a club!

When the good pastor Rick Fry slid onto the stage like Tom Cruise in Risky Business (only with his pants on and carrying a bible instead of a candlestick), he asked us to start by turning to something called “revelation two, verse one.” Thank God (ha) Joel was sitting beside me because otherwise I would have had to raise my hand to ask, “What page number is that?” Because I’ve never read the bible. I’ve tried, but I could never get through the first few paragraphs of begats. So shoot me. I haven’t read Moby Dick or Pride and Prejudice or The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, either.

There are how many books in the library of Congress? And this particular one caused Rick Fry to build an altar out of pillows in his closet and bring his high school friends in there to pray for their souls. That idea – of being saved at the age of 15 – gives me the heebie jeebies. If my kid did that I’d start googling around for the best deal on a straitjacket.

The longer I listened to the sermon, which made me feel a like I was being sold a timeshare in the sky, the more uncomfortable I got. Physically uncomfortable. It felt rather similar to how squirmy and itchy I get whenever my kids bring home a notice from school saying one of their classmates has lice. Because according to Rick Fry’s interpretation of the word, God is waiting for me to wake up in the morning. So he can follow me. And LOOOOOVE me. He’s watching everything I do and hoping, just HOPING, I will love him back.

So God is a stalker.

But wait! THERE’S MORE! He went on to share a story about a creepy pre-teen girl with a maniacally Hi-Lited Bible and how she led a prayer for the healing of a boy’s broken leg during a junior high school meeting. The next day, the kid (who was not a born-again) (yet) returned to the church with a story about how that girl’s prayer made his leg feel like it had been filled with liquid honey. He was healed! Hurray!

Let me repeat: I’m not making this stuff up. I swear.

Why does God perform such miracles, you ask? Because “he takes pleasure in TOUCHING YOU. He LIKES YOU.”

(I’m not even REMOTELY paraphrasing here. This is the gospel right from Rick Fry’s mouth.)

So not only is God a stalker, but now he’s a sex offender too.

Absolutely NO PART of me wants to be touched or watched or loved by some make-believe pervert in the sky. And I think we all know I have a relatively high tolerance for perversion. Rick Fry should just adopt “Every breath you take” as his theme song. I bet they could find a way to make it sound like Christian rock too.

One thing I’ve tried to avoid thus far on our little religious journey is the “How stupid do you have to be to believe this shit?” line of thinking. I want to be careful where I tread on this particular path because faith and intelligence are separate forces of nature. And it can go both ways. I know a christian or three who will read this and think, “How stupid do you have to be NOT to believe?”

But Foursquare seems to be praying upon the mediocre. Church for the American consumer. You’re buying an experience that FEELS like spirituality because it’s prettily packaged and perfectly delivered, not because it’s real. It reminds me of the last meal I ate at Olive Garden. You might not find any real FOOD in that all-you-can-eat soup, salad and bread sticks deal, but it still fills you up. Foursquare feels similarly overpriced.

I’m not sure there’s a better way for me to say this, but I feel a genuine sadness for the people who attend this church. They are being bamboozled. But here’s the thing – I honestly and truly believe that they all BELIEVE it, the enigmatic Rick Fry included. It’s a collective bamboozlement. As an outsider looking in, I watched a short line of parishioners approach the pastor after the service to ask for specific prayers. They would throw their arms around each other, butt their heads together in a circle and pray.

When I saw this, I turned to Joel and told him my stomach liked the sight of those prayer huddles even less than it liked the Ultimate Breakfast sandwich we’d gotten at Jack in the Box that morning. Cornering the pastor to ask him questions afterward did nothing to alleviate my discomfort. He literally IS a radical for Jesus. The more he talked about how much He! Loves! God!, the worse I felt. That man scares me.

I’ve had two days to figure out what it is about the foursquare church that bothered me so much. I’m not doing this to mock Christianity just for the shits and giggles. I want to GET it. I want to understand it. I think it’s pretty clear that I’m still on the beginning of that path. The blind enthusiasm at Beaverton Foursquare made my stomach flinch. Yes, BLIND. I chose that word carefully. There is no possible way to have faith other than BLINDLY, is there? Correct me if I’m wrong, but no one actually SEES God. That’s the definition of faith – believing in something you can’t see. But for someone who lacks that faith, it’s very difficult – painful even – to sit in a room with a thousand people who all stand up and wave their hands for an idea that is no more real to me than a snuffleufagus.

It’s CREEPY is what it is. And terrifying.

When you’re talking about a church movement as well-funded and contagious as Foursquare, it’s also DANGEROUS.



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Anonymous for now

posted September 2, 2011 at 5:54 pm


Interesting you found these things at this church. Some I love and very close to me was abused there and this church has been covering it up for years. This is going to be made public very soon but many many kids who are now in theirs 40s and 50s have been abused by this man and the church still won’t reach out to victims or admit they knew this man was a pedophile-they encouraged kids to go to youth events at his home. I am just now checking out your blog and am not sure if you guys believe in God or what not but this is sad to me-I do still believe in God and actually like the church I grew up in (a much smaller and definitely not Pentecostal church) but I agree with a lot of what you are saying and find it interesting you picked up on this stuff.



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Pat

posted July 17, 2011 at 2:33 pm


Hi Guys,

I attended B4SQR for 13 years while Pastor Ron Mehl was head pastor. Yes it is different now than it is now that Pastor Randy is the head pastor. Pastor Ron Mehl was a great pastor, but the music would put you to sleep. The music that is played now isn’t exactly what I like but it is better than it was before. I like Pastor Randy! Pastor Ron Mehl choose him to take over the church on his death bed. We all can complain about what we like or dislike about churches. God is interested in your heart, not some churches logo or music. By the way I would not eat at 5guys burger and fries. My son worked there for over two year and I remember his story about the green burgers. Yuk!



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Danny (Just Out) Boy

posted July 12, 2011 at 6:42 pm


As a recovering foursquarer, I think that the FS church is dangerous in its interpretation of the scripture. In all of the years of attending (25!), attending summer camp every year, winter retreats, mission trips, etc., I look back (now 5 years since I stopped going) and think that it is a fraud. The worship is overly emotional designed to whip people into an emotional pseudo-spiritual frenzy. Prosperity theology creeps up every now and then. Finances never seem to be very transparent. “Healing” services and other “Spiritual gift” services are the same way. I can’t say that I can think of a single case where someone was actually cured of a real injury by prayer alone. And as much as they like to think they are all-accepting, they are not. Especially the homosexual community. Acceptance does not mean, “We accept you through our doors the first time, maybe even the second time, but we require you to change a core part of yourself if you wish to continue coming here.”



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Martin

posted May 18, 2011 at 11:34 pm


Ouch. Yes, B4SQ was different when Ron Mehl was the pastor, but at the heart of my experience, I have found real people helping encourage real people. The other outreaching that takes place behind the stage is far too much to write about. But one thing is for sure, no matter how you try to explain it, no building, stage, performance, nor sharp looking “guest speaker” can contain the unfathomable desire that one God has for so many lost and lonely people. At the end of it all (not 05/21/11), I can say that B4SQ tried, as we all do. Thats all there is to do… try.



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phil

posted April 16, 2011 at 1:58 am


Greetings Joel and Amanda. It is nice to know of your project of surveying various churches and giving your opinion on them all (based on what little I read – I could be totally off mark on your purpose / agenda – sorry about that). Quite honestly this is the very first time I read anything that you guys have written (in fact I should say – Hi guys nice to meet you .. did not know that you guys exist on this planet earth :)
Not sure if I am going to read any of your future articles either. I think I may not be missing much even if I dont read. What would be different in each of the article will be the facts about place, people etc. However you opinion (or dare I say judgement) about spirituality would be any different from what it was before you started on this journey. Quite honestly I dont think you really have to go thru this painlful journey to discover what you are totally convinced about already!
Anyways I guess this whole exercise is not about you guys but is about ‘us’ so that we dont have to go thru what u guys have been enduring. Thanks for that.
Just re-read what I wrote and felt may be I may be sounding sarcastic (or should have say – postively negative). To be fair I dont think I or anybody needs to pass any judgement on anything or anybody. But I wanted to acknowledge the fact that I did enjoy reading your article. Why did I read this article in the first place – because I have been going to BFC for about 2 years now. What do I think about BFC – well all I know is that the folks here are humans just like anybody else. What do I think about thier brand of spirituality? All I say is that it is as unique as yours and my brand of spirituality. Do I approve or disapprove this brand? I dont feel the need to approve or disapprove anybody’s spiritual experience. Spiritual experience is so deeply personal, that there is no point in trying to identify a common brand.
Am I a Christian or Athiest – I dont know if I would want to be classified as one or the other because of the many connotations associated with these categories. But yes I do believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ and the reality of His person. This one statement I know will put me in the gang of the “Church goers / Christians”. I dont mind this because it does not have any impact what my true spiritual experience is. I dont feel complled to fight the various notions that get associated with me being a Christian. Because at the end of the day what really matters is, who one as a person is. Who or What defines a person. As for me I say Jesus defines me – Some agree with this many disagree – but does that matter :)
Thanks again for giving this platform to air our opinions just as you shared yours. Will try to say hi to you again if I happen to be in the mood to come back here to see any responses.

Take Care and God Bless you.



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Lucas Adams

posted March 17, 2011 at 9:51 pm


As an Atheist, you really should read Moby Dick.



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The Reformer

posted March 15, 2011 at 5:51 pm


If you think Beaverton Foursquare is bad, please go check out City Bible Church in Portland (http://www.citybiblechurch.org/) and their counterpart in Seattle, The City Church (http://thecity.org/). These places are a money-grubbing paradise. I’m surprised they don’t have ATM machines that only allow deposits in the sanctuaries. Be interesting to hear the take of an outsider on these places (since our website is mostly filled with comments from people who have at one time or another been members.

Anyway, what you are doing is great. Always good to hear an outside perspective. I think it puts a reality check on these people who live in a bubble and really do think their church is the greatest thing in the world. They are oblivious to the fact that no one (outside of their bubble) gives a damn.

http://www.citybusinesschurch.org/blog



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Dawn K.

posted March 10, 2011 at 9:03 am


I’ve been reading for a while now, and really enjoy the perspective you give on how churches appear from the view of newcomers.

Something I’d like to point out about your response to Rick in the fact that there are many ways to worship. I completely agree with you. I was raised Catholic, and now attend Methodist church. Our church offers a traditional service, as well as a contemporary service. The contemporary service isn’t my bag (being raised Catholic I’m still getting used to the idea of clapping repeatedly in a church service), but I’m so glad it’s there for those who use this way to connect to God and their faith.

Our church also offers numerous classes, groups, and out-of-worship activities. For some, it’s not always during a service where the best connections to the fellow faithful or God are made, but these peripheral groups. While I’m guessing it sounds like the huge group is the model for all worship services at BFS, it might be good to notate in your visits if you’re attending an institution where different worship styles are offered in other services.



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Rick Fry

posted March 9, 2011 at 5:10 pm


By the way coud you please make a correction to your article. My hair is not promise keepers…I have a cop haircut, I look like LAPD and always get asked if i’m a cop. The gel in my hair is a must…if I don’t put it in I look like an angry Chia Pet. I was not blessed with that great hair…it’s either 80′s long which I have done, in the 80′s or it’s cop.

Thanks,

Rick



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Rick Fry

posted March 9, 2011 at 12:57 pm


Hey Joel,

Thanks for the remarks. I hear ya. The impression that I believe worship is only loud and demonstrative is not true. I have many times of prayer and worship that are quite and reflective. I’ve preached thousands of messages and they are certainly different If you would like to hear other messages from me, I could hook you up.I don’t just preach about being radical but that’s the message that’s in my heart for this day. We need to pray and love people take care of the hurting, we need to get on the stick. There are many different churches and lot’s of people that God uses…there is not one way to do church. You should find a church you like or better yet start one. That’s not said with sarcasm…I don’t like some churches and even some people. That’s ok. I irritate some…probably a lot. I’m just gonna love God and people the best I can and let God keep me on track. I in no way want to be a hypocrite…God knows my heart, I love Him and I love people.

Bless you man,

Rick

P.S. If I’m ever in the Portland area maybe we could hook up and have lunch at Five Guys? That place is great!

Here’s something to chew on. The people that Jesus was referring to in Matt…were insincere and only prayed to be seen. Not me, don’t care if I’m seen. I pray more alone by a long shot then publicly.

We must pray in secret before we pray in public (v. 6). It is not wrong to pray in public in the assembly (1 Tim. 2:1ff), or even when blessing food (John 6:11) or seeking God’s help (John 11:41-42; Acts 27:35). But it is wrong to pray in public if we are not in the habit of praying in private. Observers may think that we are practicing prayer when we are not, and this is hypocrisy. The word translated closet means “a private chamber.” It could refer to the store-chamber in a house. Our Lord prayed privately (Mark 1:35); so did Elisha (2 Kings 4:32ff) and Daniel (Dan. 6:10ff).
We must pray sincerely (vv. 7-8). The fact that a request is repeated does not make it a “vain repetition”; for both Jesus and Paul repeated their petitions (Matt. 26:36-46; 2 Cor. 12:7-8). A request becomes a “vain repetition” if it is only a babbling of words without a sincere heart desire to seek and do God’s will. The mere reciting of memorized prayers can be vain repetition. The Gentiles had such prayers in their pagan ceremonies (see 1 Kings 18:26).
My friend Dr. Robert A. Cook has often said, “All of us have one routine prayer in our system; and once we get rid of it, then we can really start to pray!” I have noticed this, not only in my own praying, but often when I have conducted prayer meetings. With some people, praying is like putting the needle on a phonograph record and then forgetting about it. But God does not answer insincere prayers.



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Joel Gunz

posted March 9, 2011 at 10:20 am


Hey Rick,

Thanks for checking in here. Our review and the comments that followed might have made you feel a bit like the odd man out, so please know that I respect your courage for showing up here. Your response to this post and any other is always welcome.

Your question, “What would you have done if you walked into the church and every one just sat there?” gets to the heart of our disappointment with the Foursquare service we attended. If we had walked into that church and found everyone sitting sitting quietly, we might have assumed there was a solemn moment of silence being observed. If it were a Buddhist church, we would have assumed everyone was meditating. If it was a Quaker church, we might have observed a congregation observing its Holy Silence. The point is, Rick, that there are many, many ways to worship, or to “praise God” if you will. What troubles me about the Foursquare church is that it assumes that there is one way to worship: loudly — and, oh by the way, the Foursquarers know it best. I have to say that that assumption strikes me as a bit, well, self-centered, even arrogant.

When, during the service, you did things like instruct everyone to stand up and put their palms out in a “receiving gesture,” you demanded a conformity to your particular way of worship that, frankly, creeped me out. As far as I could tell, Amanda and I were the only ones who didn’t participate in that ritual, and it made us feel awkward–not because we are less spiritual, but because we felt the weight of peer pressure — something that, IMHO, has no place in church.

True, the Psalms extol praising God with trumpets and tambourine, etc., and we have had rich spiritual experiences at churches that promote a highly expressive form of worship. But Jesus also recommended a quiet form of worship that repudiates grandiose public displays like we felt we saw at Foursquare:

Matthew 6:5, 6 (NAS): 5 “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”

To answer your question, “do you believe there is a God?” Let’s just say that I am a spiritual person observing the varieties of religion in the Portland area. If I come across as combative, it’s not that I’m fighting God, but, rather, hypocrisy and what I take to be religious counterfeiting. If I’ve done my job right, I will have fought FOR God, not against him. Or her. Or them.

Rick, I urge you to read our review of The Bridge, due out today. I’d love to hear your take on what we found there.



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Rick Fry

posted March 9, 2011 at 8:17 am


Just a comment about “Can you absorb Jesus better through your palms or something?” Although I laughed because your both witty…I like that. What would you have done if you walked into the church and every one just sat there? No clapping, no singing or expression of worship? What would the joke be? How about ” WOW these people were the church of the frozen chosen” or “These people were lifeless and boring” or “There’s more fun at a old folks home”. I was watching a show this morning and they showed a bunch of people freaking out, clapping , crying, raising there hands… going cray…100 more times then Beaverton’s service. It was a country singer on stage, that’s called worship. Football games, basketball games, rock shows and hockey games are wild out of control worship. God made us to worship…He deserves worship that has expression. Just clarify for me, do you believe there is a God and your searching? Because if your stance is there is no God…you sure spend a lot of time and energy fighting something you don’t believe in. I think your searching…trouble is we want Jesus on our terms, He’s God and we come to him and live on His terms. By the way He made us and knows whats best for us. I now it creeps you out that God loves you and pursues you…but He does. Have a great day and stay warm (Portland is one cold place) summer is just around the corner!



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Rick Fry

posted March 8, 2011 at 11:21 pm


Hey Amanda & Joel,

Great meeting you guys in Beaverton a couple of Sunday’s ago. So sorry your experience was a bad one. I will pray for you that God would lead you to the right place that say’s it and does it in a way that you can receive and understand His great love for you. Thanks Joel for stating that what I mean by radical is not condoning with violence, because I certainly do not condone violence. Your both right about one thing…I truly do believe and yes, I want to live my life all out for God. Bless you both and maybe will run into each other sometime…and by the way I’m not talking about stalking you…LOL

Be Cool,

Rick Fry



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Michelle Watson

posted March 6, 2011 at 11:56 am


Hi Amanda,
Hi Amanda,

I am deeply touched by the things you wrote here about Beaverton Foursquare. I actually have been a part of this church for over 15 years and am one of the worship leaders there. I was gone last Sunday (in Disneyland!) so was just looking up Rick Fry to see what I missed and up came your blog (I’m a first-time reader).

First, I want to say that I can hear your sincerity when you write, “I’m not doing this to mock Christianity just for the shits and giggles. I want to GET it. I want to understand it. I think it’s pretty clear that I’m still on the beginning of that path.” I think it’s awesome that you are a truth-seeker and are open to searching for things beyond what you currently know. There’s such beauty in that kind of honesty. I think you are right that it can be so easy for Christians (myself included) to settle into comfortable spiritual niches and routines without it being alive and fresh, where church can be done by rote and habit. I’m constantly challenging myself to connect with God in real ways by inviting him into my brokenness and it’s my desire to live a life of integrity from that place. I know I fall short but that really is my hearts desire.

Second, I had to ask myself as I read your post if you and Joel felt love at all when you were there last Sunday. I believe that we all have the same universal needs: to feel and be loved, to have impact, to be known, to connect with others, etc. I didn’t read that you saw or felt love in the place. I have to wonder if love was there (towards you or if you saw it being exchanged between those around you) if it would have felt different to you. I am saddened that you weren’t able to feel love despite any of the differences or creepy things you were feeling and thinking. I wish you would have felt loved and could know that Jesus’ love is as real in 2011 as it was when He walked the earth.

Third, I have been chewing lately on the idea of not wanting to be a mediocre Christian where I am “doing church for the sake of doing church.” I can only speak for myself here when I say that I have an extensive trauma history, and when I say that “I was blind but now I see” I am being honest about the way Jesus has met me on my healing journey. By saying this I’m not trying to “package Jesus” in such a way that provides a pat answer to someone who needs a quick fix but am saying that the intensity of the Godhead (Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit) has matched and continues to match the intensity of my woundedness. He has been and continues to be my Healer. If this whole Christianity thing were all just a hoax or placebo, I don’t believe the truth of who God is would bring lasting healing to me, someone who has been very broken inside, to now to live from a place of vibrancy and hope! (still imperfect, of course, but life is so much more stable and real and good now).

I so appreciate your honesty and find it refreshing that you can be bold and authentic. My desire is not to be defensive in any way but to thank you for what you wrote as you have provided a mirror for me and for us as a church. I also want to say that I wish I could hug you and Joel and tell you that I’m glad to “meet you” (even if only from a distance here in this forum) and look in your eyes and say that even if Beaverton 4 feels weird and goofy and unfamiliar and strange that the same Jesus who has met me in my life loves you too. My desire is not to cram anything down your throat or take anything from you but simply to let you hear my heart and communicate love to you. I’m saddened that you left our church last Sunday without experiencing this. Yes, that can be a reality of life within a large church but I can say that real people with real stories and real hurts and real love have come alongside me and loved me well there. Many have gone the extra mile to invest in my life far beyond what I could have imagined for.

All this to say, I don’t know if it’s something you’re wanting or needing or open to, but if you’d ever want to meet for coffee and “just talk” and be real and share stories, I’d love to do just that. Thanks for opening this dialogue!



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Sara

posted March 4, 2011 at 6:50 am


Hey Amanda, if you make it down to CA to visit your parents this year (or any time, really) I’d be curious about your take on Cathedral of Faith in San Jose.



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Jules

posted March 3, 2011 at 2:03 pm


i am noticing that-though I don’t think you need to feel sad for them. They are most likely VERY content with their faith.



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LizP

posted March 3, 2011 at 9:36 am


Ahhh … Judy Blume … I think just about every pre-pubescent girl read her!

As for Gone with the Wind – it starts kind of slow, is good for a while then slows down at the end. It wasn’t one of my favourite books but I felt obligated to read it in high school. I preferred the North & South books by John Jakes.



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Danell

posted March 3, 2011 at 7:17 am


Just cracking up at one of the ads or banners or whatever they’re called on blogs promoting BOLD CHRISTIAN CLOTHING…because, what, exactly, would that be? An extra wide habit? Crosses with extra bling? Dunno. And also because, um, I read your blog and was pretty sure you are NOT in fact sporting anything extra “christiany”. (FWIW, I’m agnostic. Find religion in general to be a bit strange….so, tell me again why we’re believing in “Him”? And we got this information where? A really old book…oooooh, ok. I believe I will be sticking with the “I don’t know” for now, thanks.)



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Amanda P. Westmont

posted March 2, 2011 at 10:09 pm


Ha, Jules, I’ve seen a lot of the miniseries! I just can’t get through the book…

I hope you’re noticing that while we might make fun of the staff, Joel and I both have a lot of respect for the worshipers at the services we attend. I truly believe they are sincere in their faith. It still just freaks me out! It’s possible to go overboard with the glory.



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Amanda P. Westmont

posted March 2, 2011 at 10:05 pm


Thanks, Bethany. I’m totally with you. This idea that you can just FEEL your way into spirituality doesn’t fly with me. I need a little more substance. Actually a LOT.



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Amanda P. Westmont

posted March 2, 2011 at 10:04 pm


Nope! I have Gone With the Wind on my Kindle, but haven’t finished the first chapter. Meh!

Are you there God? HELL TO THE YES, I’ve read that. Poor Margaret.



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Amanda P. Westmont

posted March 2, 2011 at 10:02 pm


Thanks, Christina! I’m dying to see this Gatheria!



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Amanda P. Westmont

posted March 2, 2011 at 10:01 pm


This was the church of Fox News. And I say that as a concerned conservative.



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Amanda P. Westmont

posted March 2, 2011 at 9:58 pm


Hahaha! I laughed, Cherie. Mostly because that was funny.

But also because Joel did his senior thesis on existentialism in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Which just makes me love him that much more.



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Amanda P. Westmont

posted March 2, 2011 at 9:56 pm


My clothing is generally UN-Christian. On purpose.



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LizP

posted March 2, 2011 at 7:19 pm


It was funny to me too! The next you know she’ll be telling us she didn’t read Gone With The Wind or Dear God It’s Me Margaret!!! ;-)



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Erin

posted March 2, 2011 at 6:02 pm


Today, I am atheist, but I grew up at Beaverton Foursquare in the 80′s and early 90′s when it was Pastored by Ron Mehl (who passed away in 2003). It was a very different place back then, very much unlike most Foursquare churches, and it breaks my heart to see what it has become. “Foursquare International” is a money-making machine, where little real Christianity resides, at least at the organizational level. However, I had to chime in and say Beaverton Four wasn’t always this way.

Thanks for what you are doing here. I find it a fascinating study of the role of spirituality in Portland.



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Danell

posted March 2, 2011 at 4:52 pm


Yes, but are you wearing BOLD CHRISTIAN CLOTHING?



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Cherie Beyond

posted March 2, 2011 at 4:50 pm


(That comment was funnier in my head. Mostly because I typed everything correctly.)



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Cherie Beyond

posted March 2, 2011 at 4:49 pm


I agree with LizP. No Htichhiker’s Guide?!?!?!

Well! I never! *flounce*



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Rachel R.

posted March 2, 2011 at 1:11 pm


You mentioned that the church was made for the American consumer. The crux of this particular type of church also seems custom-made to Americans considering one of its primary philosophies panders to American patriotism. The idea behind the “Four Squares” is that Aimee Semple McPherson interpreted them with an American bias: “In the face of the eagle, she saw Jesus the Coming King, who will return in power and victory for the church.” In America, an eagle represents a king with power but not in every region, particularly the Middle East where Jesus was born. I’ll agree that the Scriptures’ context most likely means something that is “coming” or a messenger, since it is a winged bird. But the whole congregation is based off of this woman’s interpretation of four faces, and one is only representative of a subjectively American point-of-view. I have never understood how religions get created based on an individual’s interpretation, and this is no difference, especially given Ms. McPherson’s limited frame of reference.



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Sara

posted March 2, 2011 at 1:08 pm


By the way, you are always welcome to keep your kids with you, at least at every church I’m familiar with (and I’m a lifelong Christian myself). The Children’s Churches or Sunday Schools are generally just there for the convenience of the parents – to enable them to better focus on the message, while the children have activities that are better suited to them than having to sit still for so long. You should never feel as though your kids *have* to go to Sunday School – if you would prefer they sit with you, I doubt anyone would object. =)



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Joel Gunz

posted March 2, 2011 at 1:06 pm


Oh, krikey, Christena! We are SO there! Tampa, here we come!



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jen zug

posted March 2, 2011 at 12:34 pm


What Bethany said. :)



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Christena

posted March 2, 2011 at 12:19 pm


Long-time follower, first-time commenter. Before I get into the church comment, I want to say that I have followed you for a long time at both Mandajuice and The Naked Ledger, but only read your posts in a reader. I didn’t start reading comments until recently and wow! I may not always agree with you, but your life is your business not mine. I wouldn’t want you telling me how I should live and I’m not going to tell you how you should live. I don’t understand these people that stalk you online just to spout hate. If it seriously bothers them that much, they need to stop reading. Personally, as a mother of 3 and a small-business owner, I don’t have the time or energy to spend on things that bring negativity in my life. I have enough stress as it is. They come across as “holier than thou,” shrill, and are most likely miserable in their own lives and choose to take it out on you. In the end you need to do what is best for you and your children, even if others don’t agree with your decisions. Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox now :)

I have a varied religious background. Started out Catholic, then my parents converted to Baptist when I was 6. My dad went to Bible school and was a pastor for over 20 years. His church was an “Independent Fundamental Baptist” church. I was raised with a very long list of what not to do. I was told that if you are a Christian you won’t do this, or you will do that. It was more about works and appearance than it was about faith. Because of that, I still deal with a LOT of guilt because I don’t follow those rules anymore. These days, we don’t really go anywhere to church. We have tried to find a few, but I absolutely hate it because most churches only seem to want you for what you can do for them. Once they find out I play the piano relatively well, the requests for help start rolling in. Can you lead the children’s choir? Can you play for a service or two? Can you play full time at every service we have? When I tell them I would rather not, it’s like we are no longer of any use to them. At this point, I would characterize myself as Protestant in general. I still believe wholeheartedly in the Bible and it’s teachings, but have not found a church I can actually be comfortable in. None of this really applies to your church visit this week, but it gives you some background.

We did visit a church here in Tampa once that was similar to what you described. I am impressed that you made it through the service. I couldn’t. We were no more than 10 minutes into the service and I told my husband that I had to get out of there. Some people really like that type of emotional service, and that is perfectly fine for them. I, however, can’t get past the hype to learn anything.

If you ever decide to take a vacation on our side of the country, there is a church here that puts BF to shame. The formal name is Idlewild Baptist Church (affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention), but they call themselves “Exciting Idlewild.” They had 11,000 members last I heard. Their campus is 145 acres and they have their own youth sports leagues – baseball, football, soccer, etc. They even have a Starbucks in the lobby. Speaking of the lobby, it is called the “Gatheria” and is 35,000 sf alone. We visited a few times and it is overly large, but they have a nice enough service. None of the emotional hype, but definitely conservative. As a musician, I really did love their music program. Very professional.

I really enjoy reading your posts on both blogs!



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LizP

posted March 2, 2011 at 11:53 am


You haven’t read Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy??? Seriously? ;-)

If I am going to go to a Christian church service, I prefer to go to the older version, Catholic or Lutheran. My husband likes to go church hopping occasionally and I usually end up being disappointed. I really resent being told I am going to hell because I am Jewish. Don’t they know I am one of the CHOSEN PEOPLE??? A few years ago the Pope decided that due to our “chosen people” status that we didn’t have to be proselytized. I appreciate that sort of consideration. I am not overly concerned where I go, but I like to be accepted for who I am.

There’s a foursquare church here in the EUG that seems similar to the one you went to. It really turned me off too. I found a lot of people who “talked the talk” but didn’t really “walk the walk”.



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bethany actually

posted March 2, 2011 at 10:56 am


I know people–good intelligent people–who go to churches like BF, who are genuine believers and are not blind in their faith. That said, however…

I agree with you almost 100% about that type of feel-good megachurch. I’m a lifelong Christian who knows that faith and intelligence go hand in hand. Did you know the Bible itself actually urges everyone to examine its claims for themselves, and see whether it is true? And that the disciples who wrote the epistles in the New Testament, in several places, point out that they’re not asking them to believe things that never happened, but things for which there are witnesses, events to which people can testify really happened? Of course, we have to take them on faith because it was two thousand years ago. But the point is, the Bible does NOT encourage people to just FEEL that there is a God, or at least not only to feel. It pretty much requires you to use your brain.

That is why the kind of church you’re describing makes me so uncomfortable. I believe God can use whatever means He wants to reveal Himself to people, but the kind of emotional, swept-up-in-feelings experience you’re describing, tends to be a lotta flash and not necessarily much substance. But then I’m a Lutheran. ;-)

I love that you’re genuinely open to seeing what you can find in visiting all these churches. I’ve done something similar on a much smaller scale and it was so eye-opening, both on a personal level about myself and just for learning about the way religion is practiced and viewed in this country.



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Nell

posted March 2, 2011 at 10:39 am


I will comment here too (b/c I left one on the other side): I love your blogs!! This is a super interetsing experiment and while I don’t always agree with you two, your writing is amazing. It also offers a great challenge which religious leaders and their followers should ALWAYS be up to meeting. Keep up the Great work!



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Jules

posted March 2, 2011 at 9:56 am


Heh-i was waiting for you to attend this type of service. Your reaction is exactly as I predicted. Yes-you’re right-faith is blind-but not stupid. While I also have issues with this type of worshiping (it just makes me a little uncomfortable)- I have friends who are like this. And they’re wonderful. I’ve even attended a weekend women’s retreat that would probably send you screaming out the door-but I’ve never felt so accepted and self-contemplative in my life (with the exception of a silent retreat at a convent which was amazing-but another story). These folks have grown up like this, have no problem praying out loud, praising Jesus to the rafters. And you know-if it makes them better people, more loving, then that’s great. The only problem I see is when it cuts them off from the rest of the world and other people who don’t share their exact brand of faith. I don’t know if that’s happening at Foursquare (hope not). And I hope you were welcomed by the congregation-or maybe it’s so big they don’t recognize newcomers?

P.S. Did you know that you can sing the line “every breath you take” over and over in that song? Every phrase of that song is the same length. Try it, It’s fun! ;) Every breath you take. Every breath you take. EVVVVVERRRY breath you TAAAKE. Every brea-eth you take . . . . (is it stuck in your head now? good.)

P.P.S. For crying out loud-if you won’t at read P&P, at least check out the BBC miniseries! Colin Firth. Rawr!



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