Monday, February 6, 2012

The Crystal Cathedral, Orange County, California

(In O.C. and want to meet other non-religious folks? Try Backyard Skeptics or Atheists, Agnostics and Rationalists at UCI.)

Those of us in Southern California know the Crystal Cathedral as that structure you see just to the west of I-5, just a mile from the jutting crag of Disneyland's Matterhorn. (Come to think of it the Orange County "skyline" is a bit odd.) To keep from getting bored while driving I always thought of them as the temples of rival Mayan city-states glaring at each other across the SoCal jungle of suburban roofing and mini-malls. But their relationship was probably less adversarial than that: Reverend Schuler opened the original church on the grounds of a drive-in theater in 1955, perhaps conicidentally the year that Disneyland opened. (Smart, to take advantage of the tourists flocking to Disneyland from the rest of the country, who wanted a place to worship the Sunday of their vacation.) The church grew and the tower was built in '81.

I'd long been wanting to get off the freeway and check it out and I finally did. The first of the two most interesting things to me: that beautiful tower is entirely a hollow facade - it's essentially a powerline tower with polished metal on the outside - but then again, it's more efficiently serving its function by separating architectural presence from function. (The worshippers meet in the smaller building you see next to it, which in fairness is still pretty big inside.) This of course leads to obvious comments by us atheists but I'll leave them unsaid.

The other thing I liked was this:

You want fries with that? (Apologies for the quality, it's an iPhone.)

If you follow SoCal news you know they've been in financial trouble for a while. Overtaken by better marketing from newer nearby megachurches? Who knows. Ironically, this weekend, just a week and a half after I finally got off the freeway to look at the thing up close, escrow closed and the Roman Catholic church has bought it. Boy, all those child abuse scandals seem to have barely touched the Church of Rome's tax-free bank accounts!

It's interesting that here's a building that receives the focused attention of the most powerful being in the universe, and yet it's subject to the same ruthless free market of the natural world as everyone and everything else.


Anonymous said...

Now if only the church would follow the "glass house" admonition. . .

Michael Caton said...

Where you sit for the sermon is surrounded by glass. That tower is polished metal. I guess "Shiny Cathedral" didn't have a nice ring to it, even if it's more accurate.

Anonymous said...

originally, the founding pastor preached from on top a drive in theater, and attracted many many people. Many people who could not attend church because of disabilities would come to listen to Robert Schuller preach because they could stay in their car, and could not get into a regular church pew or building. When they finally built a building, it was very important to Robert that those same people could continue to come to church, so they built the cathedral with gigantic barn style doors that would open. People could continue to drive up and attend church. I know, it's wierd in this era but that is why you see that sign.