9.12.08

The Golden (Chevy) Cavalier?

Yesterday, Reuters reported one of Detroit's largest churches, Greater Grace Temple, rolled three hybrid SUVs (a Chevy Tahoe, Ford Escape and Chrysler Aspen) onto their altar, just in front of the choir.

Reverend Charles Ellis then lead the congregation in prayer, asking that Congress bail out the struggling Detroit automakers.
"We have never seen as midnight an hour as we face this week," the Rev. Charles Ellis told several thousand congregants at a rousing service at Detroit's Greater Grace Temple. "This week, lives are hanging above an abyss of uncertainty as both houses of Congress decide whether to extend a helping hand."
Like the photo of evangelicals praying for our economy by laying hands on a bronze bull, this report comes across as, to put it mildly, off. While a Chrysler hybrid lacks the bile-rising imagery of an actual golden calf, it's still a church seemingly putting their trust not in God, but in American industry.

But the auto industry is the lifeblood for much of the Midwest. For the attendees of Greater Grace Temple, the failure of the Big Three means an even more rapid decline for a region that's been faltering for years.

Beyond that, Greater Grace Temple is in a different world, culturally. As a white, middle-class male from Portland, Oregon, how could I pretend to criticize a predominantly African-American, Pentecostal church in a city with one of the highest violent crime rates in the nation? At the same time, that chasm between white and black churches seems like one of the problems with race relations. If we're brothers and sisters in Christ, shouldn't we be calling each other out, regardless of race? Is the church praying for a bailout even that bad? After all, the church is ostensibly praying to God for assistance.

I emailed Greater Grace Temple with an interview request, and they responded. I'll be sending them some questions soon.

(For a slideshow and audio clips of the service, click here.)

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