"Evangelical America" (Special Report, May 23) correctly establishes that the "megachurches" have done an outstanding job of attracting new members. But I'm confident that the fine pastors you referenced would be the first to tell you that attracting new members is not the goal. The goal is reaching "the least, the lost, and the dying." Bringing people to a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ is the goal. That modern churches have to employ a multitude of creative marketing methods to put people in a place where they can hear God's word is nothing unique. Jesus turned the world on its ear. He was not shy, hesitant, or reluctant to do whatever it took to present His message. The fact that these churches are such a success is a testament to God's blessing on their outreach efforts.
Stephen A. Young
Christ, in his ultimate wisdom, indicated that one cannot mix money with spirituality, and Jesus skirted politics entirely. Evangelicals know this, yet they skirt this message of Christ for monetary gain and political power to the church's detriment -- those outside the church may view Christianity as no different from any other business.
Many of these so-called Christian evangelicals appear to proudly flash their materialism and vaunt their so-called political clout, do they not? Christ never did this. The pursuit of lucre, in whatever form, is just that...and God is not in it.
I loved "Earthly empires," but I am afraid that William C. Symonds got it backwards: Business has been borrowing from Biblical principles for decades. The church is just now gaining understanding of the application of Biblical principles in our modern world. The best business book on the planet is the Bible.
Harvey F. Lloyd
Regarding the use of corporate tools by evangelical leaders to increase attendance and growth, it seems to me that a similar phenomenon happened many centuries ago when Christianity was new and was seeking to grow and appeal to the population at large. In that case, Christian leaders co-opted pagan traditions and integrated them into the new religion to keep a connection with the familiar while making the transition to a new religious concept. As disturbing and dangerous as I may find the mixing of religion and politics, as brash and tasteless as I may regard our modern culture and its introduction into religion, I think what is going on is the way all things in society evolve if they are to stay alive and relevant.
What is going to weaken America as a world power is not the perceived decadence of secularists, gays, and liberals but the superstition, ignorance, and intolerance of evangelical crusaders. We cannot compete in a global economy under the yoke of a monolithic culture in which science instruction in our schools is replaced with Biblical mythology, and civil liberties and political power are reserved for the chosen faithful.
I am a conservative evangelical pastor (with an MBA). It is an indictment when a prestigious magazine of your stature has to outline for us "evangelicals" what is now considered by many as the necessary way to "do church." It is crucial that evangelicals remind themselves of the standard set for them -- and that standard is the Bible, first and foremost, not the mass-marketing techniques of Harvard or Yale. The power of the church lies in the likeness to Christ, godliness, and righteousness, not in a striving for profit.
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Through all the millions of dollars, all the hundreds of thousands of members mentioned in "Earthly empires," where is the mission of giving -- money given to clothe the naked, heal the sick, feed the hungry, house the homeless, and visit the incarcerated? If Catholics and mainline Protestants are not "growing a market share," perhaps it's because they send their money out into the world rather than hoarding it for the faithful.
Laura A. Clawson
The pictures of the evangelical megachurches remind me of Las Vegas gambling palaces. I don't know who is more gullible -- those betting on a life hereafter or those betting on amassing a fortune in this one. In either case, it isn't the winners that build those places.
Your article should have been titled "Evangelical corporations," because that is really what they are. How they have been able to maintain tax-exempt status is an utter mystery to me. We have some here in Milwaukee. They buy large tracts of land -- often more than 25 acres -- and immediately have the land removed from the tax rolls. All the municipalities here are struggling for new tax revenue, and this prevents some of the last prime parcels from ever coming onto the tax rolls. I'm sure this is another "third rail" issue for politicians, but someone has to speak up and end this unfair practice.
Robert C. Dufek
It's nice that people can enjoy getting together, feeling good, and being entertained, but the big question is: "Is salvation that easy?" What about authority from God? When Charles Wesley separated ecclesiastically from his more famous brother John over the latter's decision to ordain without authority to do so, Charles wrote, with a smile:
How easily are bishops made
By man or woman's whim:
Wesley his hands on Coke hath laid,
But who laid hands on him?
Re "They backed Bush -- and they expect him to deliver": What does President Bush owe the evangelicals? History has shown that every war President has been reelected to complete the war mission or, in the case of President George W. Bush, get us out of the mess he got us into. Thus, where is this myth coming from that Bush owes the evangelicals? The evangelicals and those promulgating such a myth as "gospel" had better wake up to reality and history. The President owes them nothing.
The difference between modern politics/economies and past history is the separation of religion from politics, albeit not completely. It is definitely a decent business model to plan niche marketing and such when you consider the huge number of Christians as a "market." However, I hope the U.S. won't lose its religious or spiritual principles. It would then turn into a country that is hypocritical and superficial -- and one that totally takes advantage of the human spirit if that makes tons of bucks.
I read with dismay "Culture wars hit Corporate America." Men (and women) like Reverend Hutcherson exasperate me with their hypocritical, anti-Christian bullying. If I read things correctly, those on the so-called "moral right" and in the American Family Assn. (AFA) are Christians, are they not? If this is truly the case, then why do they not follow and live their lives according to the spirit of the teachings of Christ? If Jesus were alive today, I feel sure that he would be dismayed by these so-called followers who interpret Christ's teachings and Biblical events (especially Old Testament teachings) to their own bigoted and narrow-minded ends. I was taught that Jesus stood for love, tolerance, understanding, and caring. These admirable words have been given a whiff of "perversion" by the likes of Hutcherson!
Although I am not a religious person, I do know that the study of Christianity is a decidedly contemplative and individual experience. It is a shame that intellectual religious curiosity and self-reliance are being replaced by opportunists preying on insecurity.
This expression of "religion" is indeed the "opiate of the masses." How dare we prove Karl Marx right?
Ellicott City, Maryland
I'm writing on behalf of my father, John Coffey, regarding a reference to him in the story "The kings of class actions" (Legal Affairs, May 16). BusinessWeek said my father "worked little." I disagree. I would like to give a more complete picture of John Coffey. He has a long-established reputation as a hard worker. Since immigrating to the United States. he often worked six-day weeks, for many years at two jobs, to provide for our mother and their seven children. My father's sacrifices allowed the family to move to Garden City, Long Island, to attend the best private schools, and all seven of his children to complete a full college education. Indeed, many others count my father's ethos and influence as key in their lives, including Nassau County District Attorney Denis Dillon.
Jersey City, N.J.