“Evangelicals are good at whipping people up into a frenzy, and then you’re like, ‘What was that?’ ” Bell told me. “I was the pastor of a megachurch, and lots of people came, and I did book tours and interviews and films. That’s fine. But I’ll take seeing God every day, which is washing dishes with my kids and walking my dog and interacting with someone I just met.”
In other words, the future of the evangelical church as glimpsed from Orange County might be no church at all. Robert Schuller’s brand of worship might just turn out to be nothing more than a spiritual fad. As the generation that embraced it—middle-class, baby-boomer whites flocking to car-based suburbs—dies off, their spirituality dies with them. This is not to say that the church will go away. The Crystal Cathedral still stands. But its name is now Christ Cathedral. And Schuller’s vision of a glittery surface reflecting himself and the suburbs where he preached is gone.