In response to an old adversary on W&T who heard that I enjoyed Easter at Saddleback Church this year (and juxtaposed that with his knowledge of my increasing theological liberalism), I replied to say that I did enjoy Easter at Saddleback. I’ve been to Saddleback a good few times (I don’t live too far away and I’m often in the area). I don’t remember blogging on it, although I definitely tweeted a couple of times from the service which was broadcast on Fox News, the Armed Forces network around the world, and reached about 50,000 people who were there at Easter time.

I thought it was the best primer on evangelicalism I’d ever heard. Warren’s message was to retell the evangelical account of the history of everything in five acts: God created everything, we screwed it up, Jesus came and died to correct it, now it’s our choice to accept, then he comes again. Between each ‘act’ there was a response in music, a fabulous guitar-drum-keyboard band backed by a full orchestral brass and string section and a large choir. It was the best of evangelicalism, period. The fact that I don’t really consider myself much of an evangelical didn’t matter to me (though of course it would if I was there every week). Outside the huge glass doors on each side of the auditorium there are waterfalls and pools they use to baptize people after the services, something they were doing liberally for everyone who said they had ‘committed’ that morning. Hundreds of people were doing so at the service I was at, one of 23 services total.

Easter at Saddleback is an experience, for sure – this was the 30th anniversary of the church which started in a local school assembly hall on Easter Sunday 1979. I like Warren, and I can see why his church grew. It was wonderful to be in the company of so many joyous, beautiful Southern Californians celebrating the beliefs they hold dearest… even if some of those beliefs are erroneous.

Getting belief ‘right’ isn’t everything, you know. As I walked past the hundreds of people walking to and from the various parts of the gorgeous campus gardens, without formality or liturgy or solemnity, smiling and laughing and eating and drinking together, I felt quite at home and content with my thoughts that, no matter whether or not these people were ‘right’ about the many points of theology that formed the foundations of their activities on that day in that place, the world would simply be better if everyone was behaving exactly like them.

In the episode of South Park entitled, All About The Mormons, a Mormon family moves to South Park. Gary, one of the children, is the target of mocking and a plan to beat him by Cartman, Kyle, Stan and Kenny. The episode goes on to soundly lampoon the theology of the LDS Church, before the big finale: Stan finally realizes that what they believe is not necessarily the most pertinent facet of Gary’s family: its the fact that they are good people, have good family values and have compassion for others.

As Richard Dawkins asked in his interview with William Crawley: “Whats so special about belief?” Saddleback Church sent home 50,000 shopping bags that day with the people who showed up, and at least 20,000 were expected to return full of food so that the church could send them out to people struggling in the recession.

If that’s what they’re doing, what’s so important about theological belief?