The Crystal Cathedral, best known as the home for a “positive-thinking” gospel that ignored sins and preached happiness, has now re-opened as a Roman Catholic Church.
Completed in 1981, the Orange County structure was renown for its beauty and unique design. With more exterior-to-interior glass ratio than any building of comparable size in the United States, the building quickly became one of the most recognizable houses of worship in the world, especially as it was featured each Sunday Morning during its founder’s “Hour of Power” television program.
The message of Robert Schuller was simple: If you can think it, you can achieve it. A role model and mentor to Rick Warren, Schuller was pivotal in popularizing (although he did not invent it) the “power of positive thinking.”
Schuller’s god, if he really believed in him/her/it at all, wanted whatever you wanted, loved whatever you loved, and was whoever you wanted them to be. And the Crystal Cathedral, a massive monument to this false god, was a monstrosity of Schuller’s creation.
However, reports began to circulate as early as 2011 that the Cathedral was dying as Schuller’s charismatic influence waned and the church began to suffer under power struggles of his children.
Beginning as the “Garden Grove Community Church,” Schuller’s non-Christian but yet Christiany message resonated with those who desired religion but not god and blessing but not worship. Schuller was a master at giving people exactly what they wanted, being famous for pioneering the “drive-in church” model in the 1950s, allowing “church-goers” to pull into a spot and worship from the car, without the hassle of meeting anyone.
The 128-foot glass-and-steel structure that was eventually built by Schuller could seat over 3000. As one writer put it, “The Crystal Cathedral combined consumer culture with Christ.” It in many ways was the popularization of the mega-church.
However, a number of things changed in Orange County. Although numerous articles have been written about why the Crystal Cathedral collapsed, most center on demographics. Orange County grew largely Hispanic, and it turns out that hippy positive-thinking religion isn’t as popular in that ethnic group as it is among aging, white suburbanites. Orange County also—surprisingly to most people who don’t live there—became an increasingly more conservative area in what is otherwise a sea of liberalism in Southern California. Conservative Bible colleges and churches began to thrive in Orange County, and that did not bode well for the Crystal Cathedral, which was nothing if not liberal politically and a-doctrinal theologically.
By 2011 the Cathedral was bankrupt, and sold to the Diocese of Orange County for 60 million dollars because the aging congregation simply could no longer finance itself by positive thinking alone. The Roman Catholic Diocese actually put more money into fixing it up—73 million dollars—than in buying it.
The facility will now be shared by the 62 parishes that comprise Orange County. The facility boasts a one-thousand-pound crucifix with an idol of Jesus affixed to it. Catholic iconography and idolatry litter the sanctuary. It is now called “Christ Cathedral.”
In some ways, the Cathedral hasn’t changed hands at all. The Prince of this World still resides there.