Faith at Altitude

Religion and spirituality in the shadow of Pikes Peak

Friday, March 16, 2007

Rumors from the Outside World

Sometimes folks call Colorado Springs the "evangelical Vatican." And sometimes people take that moniker a little too seriously.

Case in point: A recent letter to the Arizona Daily Star.

The letter was written by a guy named Bryan Scott in response to a story about Southern Baptist churches sprouting in Tucson, though many hide their affiliation. The letter writer assumed they wanted to distance themselves from the "bad press the denomination has gotten lately."

"But before Tucson embraces even more of these churches into our 'heavily unchurched' city," writes Scott, "we should remember their core beliefs: The Bible is the literal word of God, wives must submit to their husbands, homosexuality and abortion are inherently sinful, and prayer and the teaching of intelligent design belong in schools. Heaven help us from becoming another Colorado Springs, where evangelical religion has permeated almost every facet of daily life."

Some outsiders assume that Colorado Springs observes mandatory morning prayers and we name our streets after Bible verses: "Let's meet at Job 16:21 for coffee."

But, as I've written, Colorado Springs is statistically more secular than the average American city, and if you want to find evangelical influence around here, you've got to look for it.

Sure, it's there. Drive down I-25 from the north and you'll see a sign directing folks to Focus on the Family. To the east of the highway you'll see the arena-sized New Life Church. The city is home to lots of very prominent evangelical organizations (and prominent evangelicals, for that matter). And certainly many local evangelicals would like to influence the city more. Focus on the Family will be sending a voter guide to residents through their March 21 Gazette, as a matter of fact, telling voters what city council candidates think about issues such as abortion and gay pride.

But you can spend all day in a downtown coffee shop and not hear the name "Jesus" once -- unless it's someone cursing the temperature of the coffee. You can buy "Plan B" emergency contraceptives over the counter. You can see R-rated movies without the cuss words being bleeped out.

Faith is an important motivator in Colorado Springs, just as it is in most American cities. But around here, it seems the amount of influence religion has in our daily lives depends largely on how much influence we want it to have.


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