The New Life Church
2005 – USA
- Personal project supported by a 3P Grant, 2005.
Colorado Springs is a peaceful and conservative town of 300 000 inhabitants, located at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. It is also a sort of “Vatican for the Evangelicals” : over a hundred Christian evangelical and/or evangelistic associations have set up their main office in Colorado Springs, thanks to attractive tax policy. In 1984, pastor Ted Haggard settled in the city, at the time renowned for its hippies, bikers and others of the kind…He experienced visions, praying and fasting – became a pioneer, aroused by an unshakeable faith in his mission: bring back the Gospel into this city, chasing away evil cults ( such as hippies ! ).
Pastor Ted’s New Life Church of Colorado Springs is one of the most important evangelical congregations of the country (a megachurch of approximatly 11.000 members). A congregation becoming very influential in the USA because of its modern ways, adapted to nowadays religious needs and behaviours. New Life Church is turned towards young people – the essential leaven of changeover (all evangelical congregations own their “Youth Ministry”) – aware of the importance of preparing future generations on a biblical basis. Moreover, Ted Haggard is head of the NAE ( National Association of Evangelicals ), the powerful Christian lobby of the “Born Again Christians”, of which president W. Bush is extremely dependant.
Is it a sign or pure chance ? Five days before the Bush administration actually looses its political domination on the Congress and Senate during the midterm elections, pastor Ted Haggard, close to President W. Bush on religious and moral issues, was falling from his pulpit because of a drug and sex scandal. « In the first week of November this year Mike Jones, a former male prostitute in Denver, came forward to claim he’d had a three-year sexual relationship with Haggard, a vocal critic of gay rights. Married with five children, Haggard initially denied even knowing Jones. But then Jones produced recordings of a voice that sounded like Haggard’s asking Jones to help him secure some crystal meth. (…) New Life’s Board of Overseers had determined Haggard was guilty of “sexually immoral conduct” and dismissed him as a pastor of the church » – (Newsweek November 13, 2006).
On the church’s website, one can now find a letter of excuse and repentance from the fallen pastor who admits his fault, his “monstrous sin”.
2006 – USA
- Personal project supported by a 3P Grant, 2005 and assignment from Elle France magazine.
Purity Balls are an initiative of the Clearinghouse Abstinence Organisation in South Dakota, and represent one of the concrete examples of sexual abstinence among American youth. The balls are exclusively reserved for young girls escorted by their fathers.
During the ceremony, the father commits to being the protector and guardian of his daughter’s virginity, with the Christian community, his daughter and God as his witness. His daughter makes her own commitment – that of staying pure until God puts on her path the husband he has chosen for her. Everything is organised to make the young girls believe that marriage is the most beautiful dream that could ever come true. As a result, the good old fairytale hero, prince charming, sneaks his way into their unconscious. The young girls usually wear a purity ring to remind them of their commitment when faced with the inevitable temptations to come.
Aside from this ceremony, the religious message of the abstinence advocates is hidden behind the smokescreen of public health campaigns warning about the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases. This facade is mandatory in order for them to intervene on college campuses and schools, and to collect federal funding – in the U.S., one must respect the separation of church and state.
Their meetings and conferences are based upon the manichean stigmatisation of relationships out of wedlock… If you listened to them you would think that all relationships outside of marriage are doomed to be unhappy and destructive, and that emotional suffering and sadness is the only outcome. True love simply cannot exist without being married.
The promotion of sexual abstinence before marriage is one of the many wars waged by the ultraconservative religious right. Since they believe that traditional American family values are in danger, they are often the same people that want to ban abortion, the birth control pill, and who reject homosexuality.
Controlling the sexual activity of young people, and young girls in particular, results in having control over a woman’s freedom, and therefore her position in society. At home, voluntarily admitting their inferiority to men, women become safe-keepers of the return of family values.
To read the captions check the gallery hereunder
Embassy of God
2005 – Ukraine
- Personal project supported with a 3P Grant, 2005.
Founded by the Nigerian pastor Sunday Adelaja in Kiev in 1993, the Embassy of God has become the biggest megachurch in Europe, with almost 25,000 members in Kiev alone. Present in 32 countries, with 425 churches, the goal of the church-goers here is to attain a thousand churches in 2007. The pastor Sunday doesn’t hide his desire to evangelize muslim countries, or his political ambitions.