Deliver Us From Evil: Photos from the megachurch capital of the world
Twenty-four years ago, in 1994, Los Angeles Times writer Louis Shagun wrote about how the increasing migration of evangelical Christians to Colorado Springs was changing the city’s landscape. Then, the comparatively smaller city about an hour south of Denver was one that “prides itself on a tradition of live-and-let-live libertarianism” but has been “unnerved by a recent influx of fundamentalist Christian organizations that have made this community of 306,000 people the evangelical capital of the United States.”
The article was written 10 years after Ted Haggard began his spiritually guided reign over the city — once leader of the National Association of Evangelicals and founder and former pastor of New Life Church (until it was revealed he had used methamphetamine and often sought homosexual solace with male prostitutes).
His New Life Church, what many dub a “megachurch,” is still host to over 10,000 members every week and is the cornerstone to the mega-culture of religious fanatics attending stadium-styled places of worship in Colorado Springs.
In the 24 years since Shagun turned in his article to the LA Times editors, things south of Denver appear to be God’s business as usual.
According to The Hartford Institute for Religious Research, a megachurch “generally refers to any Protestant Christian congregation with a sustained average weekly attendance of 2,000 persons or more in its worship services, counting all adults and children at all its worship locations.”
In 2005, pastor Ted Haggard told NPR, “The mega suburban churches weren’t (in Colorado Springs) at all,” when he moved there in 1984, “and there was a high percentage of New Age and satanic type of activity.” One year later, in 2006, his meth-fueled gay sex scandal broke.
Despite having dozens of religious mega-organizations calling Colorado Springs home (including Focus on the Family), a 2013 Gallup poll found that 35.3 percent of residents actually describe themselves as “very religious” — well under the national average of 40 percent.