Does this qualify as a mega church?

We drove from LA up to Oakland today for the CR 10 Conference (Strategy and Struggle to End the Prison Industrial Complex) and got in this afternoon. As much as I wanted to attend the open plenary, I needed space from crowds of people tonight, needed time to reflect on last night's discussion (and still need more time to think about before writing anything).

So I spent the night walking around Oakland's Lake Merritt, where I lived when I first moved to the Bay years ago (and which is about a mile-and-a-half from the old Bitch office, for anyone interested). I loved and miss living in Oakland. I always feel grounded and comforted by the vibe of class struggle and resistance that remains today.

As my friends and I were walking around the Lake, we saw what looked like one of those shiny new bank buildings -- mirrored and arched and... well, very fancy. Curious, and we all swore it was calling to us, we walked over to find it's a church. The Cathedral of Christ the Light. On the inside it looks a lot like the Evangelical churches I've been in as a child with my dad's relatives. Where people spoke "in tongues" and collapsed in convulsions and sobbing breakdowns. 

On the outside, it looks like this.


Wow, huh?

We saw a flyer for the church's schedule and noticed they had services in English, Vietnamese, Tagalog, and Spanish and I was thinking to myself how effective churches can be at reaching out to their surrounding communities. And I was wondering to myself how in the world a church could convince people it needs a space like this. 

Sorry. I realize it looks like I'm setting up for a big Oakland church story here. I'm not. It was just that religion has come up in dialogues of feminisms I've been involved in recently, and it was jarring to see such a blaring example of it. 

Some of the dialogues about feminism and religion have revolved around a clearly articulated tension between, for instance, people who feel that religion is a root of our social ills and and others who feel familially/culturally attached to religion, even if they no longer pratice it. Some of the dialogue has centered on whether it's possible to build a social change movement based on a common vision while learning from and honoring religious/cultural differences -- and if so, how.

And then things like, How do we build a movement when what one person finds empowering another finds disempowering? How do we begin to dialogue with each other and unpack the layers of our identities, experiences, oppressions, and scars and help ourselves and each other heal? How do we hold ourselves and each other accountable? How do we be honest and open and risk making mistakes when it sometimes feels that people are ready to jump on us for the slightest mistake? When is it time to move dialogue to action? 

So many questions.

For now I'm happy to be back in my old Oakland home.  Tired but happy to be in dialogue about some of these issues, to be learning and listening, to be collaborating with others about vision, strategy, healing, hope, fighting, listening, learning, connecting our various struggles and victories... 


by Debbie Rasmussen
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6 Comments Have Been Posted


Wow that church is impressive. I have often wondered why it is that the Catholic church, and other churches for that matter build these massive expensive churches. I think it is missing Christ's message (although I am not Christian, but the Bible is still a book with a message that should be deconstructed).

I think the fundamental problem is that we are following a model that is thousands of years old, which was most likely designed as a means of bringing social cohesion among the people and some measure of political control. Ask any criminologist and they will tell you about the Panopticon and the deterrant that "constantly being watched" even if you're not, can be.

That being said, I am spiritual. I do believe in a higher power, whether that power be a being of some sort or some sort of mathematical/scientific force I don't know. I don't presume to know. It would ruin the surprise I guess. But, fundamentally, I conduct myself on a karma rule. I don't do or say things that I would not want done or said to myself.

Religion has been so abused, manipulated, changed, politicized, re-written, exploited, taken too literally, taken not literally enough, translated, books have been lost, books have been "found". And somehow Jesus is always depicted as though he's more likely from New England (in the sense that he's always white), not the Middle East. Meanwhile everyone has their own version of God or relgion or what have you.

The answers have to be buried in there somewhere, but to find it now is nearly impossible.

So I guess what I am trying to say is that we will never have the answers, at least until we die and find out.

Sorry, I watched Contact last night and I was thinking theology versus science when I woke up this morning so I jumped on this post..... which reminds me of something I had suggested to my partner in the past (and this is not meant to belittle anyone's religion or God, just an honest question from a writer):

What if the Bible was the first piece of fiction ever published?


I'm glad this has been posted about, as it is also something I have been thinking/challenged about recently. Sadly, I can imagine how the church convinces people they need a space like that (God is blessing us, growing us, etc) but as was pointed out in the comment above, it is by no means found in the message of Jesus.

As a christian feminist, these questions are constantly on my mind. 'How do we build a movement when what one person finds empowering another finds disempowering?' Exactly! In my opinion, I think as christians who are progressive, we need to be as transparent and open in our faith as we can be. I mean, I personally don't believe homosexuality is the root of all evil, that woman are to be silenced or that bombing abortion clinics is a good idea, but unfortunately there are a) people who call themselves christians who do believe these things and b) these are the ones that get the best media coverage.

Now, as a christian I could whine and get upset (which secretly I do....) about how unfairly christians are portrayed, etc. But in reality more often than not the church (Im talking about man-made stuff here, not God) has been the oppressor and so it is perfectly reasonable that people would react negatively to that. Also, because the church has played the as dominant/oppresive role, it is my responsibility as a christian to challenge that and live authentically as a christian where the message of Jesus only empowers. I think this is the best way fo 'progressive christians' to no longer be seen to be representing an institution that some see as inherently bad, but instead a belief system and message that I believe is inherently good.

i think the term "cathedral"

i think the term "cathedral" can only be used to describe catholic churches.

Wish I could have a more

Wish I could have a more thoughtful response to your post as it certainly deserves it (nicely written), but all I can think about this church (which is near my house) is that my friends and I all refer to it as "The Vagina Church". I can't decide yet whether I think it's beautiful or just plain weird to have this building on the Lake.

Va jay jay Church

I walk past that church almost every day.

One day, not long after it had been completed, I noticed a woman standing across the street from the church. She was posting a large image of the church itself. The image was set up at such an angle that you could view both the church and the photo of the church simultaneously. The only difference with the photo was that there was a giant pair of legs coming out of either side of the church. It was hilarious, the best piece of guerrilla art I've ever seen in Oakland.

I wish that I knew who did that. I would love to shake their hand. Sadly, the signs had been removed when I walked past the next morning. It's too bad. Oakland is desperately short on whimsy.

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