Monday, May 16, 2005

What's the Matter with Colorado Springs?

I have always, it seemed, had family who lived in the Springs, and yet the city itself had pretty much failed to make any kind of an impression on me. You know, when you are a kid, you visit certain places and things stick with you. From childhood trips to LA, I remember palm trees, tall buildings, perfect weather. Minneapolis makes me think of large-scale art projects, friendly people, icy winters. Albuquerque calls to mind the spicy, burnt smell of roasting chiles and the creepy but interesting spirituality of such an ancient place. But the Springs . . . all I really remembered from our visits to Colorado Springs is my annoying cousin and suburban sprawl. It could be like any other city, really. But in reading the latest edition of Harpers, I was reminded that CS is really very different from cities of its size. Talk to the fundamentalists, they'll tell you it's the chosen land. Talk to anyone else, they'll tell you it's a city with plenty of problems.

Colorado Springs is home to the New Life Church, which is described as "a non-denominational, Bible-believing, charismatic church." But what's more is that it is headed up by a certain "Pastor Ted," who is one of President Bush's many "spiritual advisors." They are not the biggest megachurch, but they are undoubtedly among the most powerful.

Of course, Focus on the Family makes its home in the Springs as well.

But for all of its fundamentalists, Colorado Springs is a town that can't quite figure out how to be a city. Like the greater Red State contingent, it seems that the Springs is a place where the faithful live among the fallen . . . but almost entirely without interaction.

Infoplease tells me that the overall crime "index" of Colorado Springs, a number taken from the reports of crime and compared with the population of a city, is actually higher than that of Los Angeles. It is also higher than Denver.

Aside from crime, the city has its share of problems within the domestic sphere- divorce rates there are 34% higher than the national average. Domestic violence- and deaths related to domestic violence- is on the rise in El Paso County as well.

Maybe all the big-church people are too busy focusing (or beating) on their families to do any community outreach programs. New Life's website does not reflect any programs to quell drug use (except among its own members) or gang affiliation. Focus on the Family commends the efforts of other groups to help the homeless, but has no soup kitchens of their own. Do a search on "gang" on the FOTF site and you'll find advice on keeping your own kid out of a gang, but no links to outreach programs that work with gang members.

The condition of Colorado Springs is testament to the fact that these mega-churches are largely inward-looking. The focus is on the individual, the family unit, taking care of one's own. Their sole initiative is their perpetuity. Which, considering the sheer size and influence of these groups, is a huge squandering of opportunity.


  1. Hey Vestal,

    Congrats on the first column. Is there a way to view it on the internets or is it strictly an offline publication?

    I went to Colorado Springs once, to eat pizza at some place that was known for the largest diversity of pizza selections ever or something like that. Does that ring a bell? Could've been Idaho Springs...not sure.

    Good read on the mega-churches.
    Think about the Pope and the Vatican and the power they have. Think about what could be possible, and what is being done.

  2. reread that harper's piece - that "inward-lookingness" isn't so much navel gazing as it is consolidating and building on large swathes of exburban property; indeed, one of the big reasons for the so-called republican revolution of 1994 and a shift from blue-collar and/or multi-racial national politics is a shift in voter rolls out of the cities and into the expanding rings of burbs. mike davis pointed out in the "ecology of fear" that a number of the top natl repubs in 1994 were all from suburban corridors - where the jobs and the one-acre lawns went.

  3. and congrats on the column, too.

  4. I think the exurban "culture" expounds the isolation, if they never see what is going on in the cities, they begin to believe the fictions being fed to them.

    It's not navel-gazing, you're right, I think it's more of a philosophy that keeping one's family away from urban areas, away from social ills rather than actively trying to solve them, is the best way to live. The megachurches function on much the same assumption that the Republican Party as a whole does- that the poor simply don't try hard enough and are therefore not rewarded with big houses and big cars. The American Dream on one hand, the promise of Heaven on the other.

  5. Expounds=expands.

    word problems today . . .

  6. Vestal, Congratulations on your column. I liked your post, you do have a nice way of putting things in to words. Interesting to see this parallel, non intersecting world of fundies and of the rest. But there is an tendency to cloister amongst ones own kind whether based on religion, class and maybe race. I am not generalizing though. A lot of people do cut across these lines. But then this is a reflection on the polarizing times we live in with CS being one manifestation of it?