American megachurches use stagecraft, sensory pageantry, charismatic leadership and an upbeat, unchallenging vision of Christianity to provide their congregants with a powerful emotional religious experience, according to research from the University of Washington. "Membership in megachurches is one of the leading ways American Christians worship these days, so, therefore, these churches should be understood," said James Wellman, associate professor of American religion at the University of Washington. "Our study shows that -- contrary to public opinion that tends to pass off the megachurch movement as consumerist religion -- megachurches are doing a pretty effective job for their members. In fact, megachurch members speak eloquently of their spiritual growth."
Wellman and co-authors Katie E. Corcoran and Kate Stockly-Meyerdirk, University of Washington graduate students in sociology and comparative religion respectively, studied 2008 data provided by the Leadership Network on 12 nationally representative American megachurches.
Corcoran presented their paper, titled "'God is Like a Drug': Explaining Interaction Ritual Chains in American Megachurches," at the 107th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.
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