Monday, June 21, 2004

Underground Atlanta

As I was wandering the area around Georgia State last week, trying to get my bearings, I got caught in a rainshower and sought shelter with a nice middle-aged woman under an overhang. I asked her what shops were in the area, and she answered "Underground Atlanta is right over there, honey." "Where?" I asked. She proceeded to peer around the corner and point to the big archway with "Underground Atlanta" emblazoned on it, not more than 100 yards away. "Ah," I said. "Thanks!" (Yes, apparently I am that oblivious to my downtown Atlanta surroundings. I think I'm still awed by buildings over three stories.)

I remember how friends from my tiny hometown in southeast Alabama would make a big deal about how they had made a trip to Atlanta and shopped at the Underground. However, in my two years of living in Atlanta I have never yet visited the place. I had a few minutes, so, I proceeded to find out just what all the hubbub was about. I would be dissappointed, however, to find it was nothng more than a large tourist trap with a few novelty stores and enough chains to consider the title of "mall." I only spent a few minutes gazing at the capitalistic shrine before heading right out and back up the steps toward GSU's campus.

On my way up, however, I noticed a store window display with books by TD Jakes and Paula White, and my curiosity got the best of me. Was there a Christian bookstore in the Underground? (Hey, with an almost exclusively market-driven Christian industry, and as many times as I've seen those titles under "bestsellers" in Wal-Mart, they WOULD be in the display window.) I couldn't see a door or a store name, so I headed back in to find the entrance. To my horror, I discovered that it was a large store devoted entirely to MegaFest, a combined conference by all the great health-and-wealth preachers of our era. Just look at the lineup listed on the Georgia Dome's website:

Mega Fest 2004, June 23 – 26 in Atlanta combines the Women, Thou Art Loosed! and ManPower conferences along with adding festive events for youth from ages 5-19. This will be one enormous event providing entertainment, fun and power-packed teaching and preaching sessions for all ages. Some of the speakers include: Dr. Les Brown, Prophetess Juanita Bynum, Dr. Creflo Dollar, Bishop Eddie Long, Joyce Meyer, Co-Pastor Paula White, Pastor Jamal Bryant (youth) and many more. The event will climax when the entire family joins Bishop Jakes at the Georgia Dome for the grand finale of the conference.

Needless to say, I ran screaming and never looked back. We've encountered a few people working in city-wide ministries who are attending Creflo Dollar's "seminary" and others who moved to Atlanta to sit at the feet of one of the various televangilist TBN preachers. It's just scary the unthinking devotion to a "cult of personality" that some people have. Exchanging the truth of God for a lie. I mean, just look at his name, people. Creflo Dollar. *Shudder*

So, all this to say that I think I discovered the "Christian" conference in Atlanta next weekend that is taking all the hotel rooms from the Association of Classical and Christian Schools Conference attendees. It's a darn shame, too.

I really have wanted to go to the ACCS conference, since I think it will be a fantastic supplement to my "large, public university" education courses-- to experience the study of teaching from a clasical Christian perspective. I was especially looking forward to hearing Nancy Wilson speak about teaching English. Ah, well. Circumstances prevent me from going this year, one being the amount of work I have for my graduate courses. (Which is why I'm up at 1am). It's disappointing not to be able to go, especially since it's practically in my backyard. Oh, well. There's always next year...

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