The decline and disintegration of Mars Hill Church last year may have surprised some, but to others it was predictable, and not without precedent. The Pacific Northwest has been home to numerous utopian communes and fanatical religious groups, from the radical to the deeply conservative. Since the arrival of European Christianity and its normative pall, outsider and fringe belief has been a staple of the local culture. From Eastern philosophies to the syncretic, the Pacific Northwest has been a site of religious demagoguery for ages, and the present is no exception.
An apparent paradise of both penitent and celebratory climate, the Northwest hosts a tenacious diversity of believers willing to glom onto charismatic figures who claim to be direct or unique conduits of esoteric knowledge. In spite of disgrace, tattooed-bro-Jesus preacher Mark Driscoll has recently re-emerged to speak his “word” to adoring audiences, while some of the bearded figures of the Aquarian Age still reign, albeit over much-reduced kingdoms of Love.
That these characters and their communities emerge from the Pacific Northwest may not be surprising, but they still warrant consideration. Here are six stories of the most interesting among them. SETH GOODKIND
Seth Goodkind is a Seattle-based illustrator, historian, and comic artist. He is a contributor to Intruder Comics, a resident of Push/Pull Gallery in Greenwood, and the host of Exterminator City: Underground Comics Market. Many thanks to Paul Bourgeoisie, Billis Helg, and Scott Grabinski for tips and leads on these stories, and to Seattle’s underground comics community for its support. You can check out more of Goodkind's work at www.sethgoodkind.com.
Information provided by the Community Chapel and Bible Training Center, Context Institute, It Takes a Cult (2010), Freedom of Mind Resource Center, History Link, KOMO News, Native American Netroots, Offbeat Oregon History, The Oregonian, Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment, The Seattle Times, and the Southern Poverty Law Center.