Join the happy throng at the newly rebranded California Community Church – it’s only $1,000 a month
And so to an exciting new trend in celebrity worship, which is suddenly making cult adherence look embarrassingly old-fashioned. Whereas yesterday’s directional star would become involved with Scientology, or latterly Kabbalah, today’s smart entertainer actually starts their own church. Think of it as the United Artists of Religion: a chance for the stars to creatively control the worship formats in which they feature, instead of being at the mercy of some exploitative owner such as the pope or David Miscavige.
As discussed frequently in this column, Mel Gibson has ploughed upwards of $68m into his own church, the Holy Family chapel, which operates out of a heavily fortified 17-acre compound in Los Angeles’ Agoura Hills. Mel is listed as the church’s CEO in federal tax records, and its last reported congregation numbered just 70 heavily screened worshippers.
Space does not permit a full rundown of its articles of faith, though suffice to say it does everything in Latin, and does not recognise any changes in Catholic theology post the second Vatican Council, which wound up in 1965. This includes the idea of marital annulment – even though Mel himself dissolved his marriage just a few years ago. That little schism caused a big scandal in his church, in which – maddeningly, but realistically – Mel was denied the Henry VIII option. It is all very well splitting with Rome because you’ve got your eye on someone else, but you can hardly split with yourself. Certainly not if it is the receptacle for tens of millions of your tax-free dollars. If the reports were correct, Mel resolved the matter by losing his rag in front of the altar and threatening to shut the place down if people kept badmouthing him.
But our primary business today is with the church founded by reality spider plant Kris Jenner, mother of Kim Kardashian and all the other endlessly proliferating offshoots. Are you aware that such an establishment exists? It used to be called the Life Change Church, but recently rebranded as the California Community Church – eventually no doubt to become the Kalifornia Kommunity Khurch. Its AD year zero was 2009, and its services seem to be a movable feast, mostly held at the Sheraton Hotel in … aha! … Agoura Hills. A location that obviously lends itself to idiosyncratic celebrity-founded churches.
The establishment is fronted, intriguingly, by a formerly disgraced pastor called Brad Johnson, who was forced to resign from his last post after an adultery scandal, and thereafter opined: “Regarding future ministry, uh no, can’t see it … Not qualified.”
For reasons that remain obscure, Jenner disagreed, and when seeking the perfect figurehead for her new religious venture, tracked Brad down to the Starbucks at which he was working. (I seem to recall that was how Jesus hired St Paul. Or was it Peter and Andrew to whom he promised: “I will make you baristas of men”? Either way, it’s been done before.)
Somehow, Brad found the strength he needed to leave the macchiato-making – one imagines the details are contained in his book entitled How to Forgive Yourself and Others (recently promoted by Kim Kardashian). He made his Keeping Up With the Kardashians debut officiating at the since-troubled marriage between Khloe Kardashian and Lamar Odom. He now heads up a church that insists its congregants donate $1,000 (£600) a month or 10% of their incomes. Opting for the latter tithe is a certain Ms Kim Kardashian.
Yes, you may recall that a few months ago, Kim self-deprecatingly accepted plaudits for her announcement that she gives 10% of all her earnings to charity – and took the opportunity to reveal that she had started giving them to this church, which obviously counts as a charity, after a fashion I’m sure you’d have to be a tax lawyer to have any sort of a view upon. Still, it is certainly one for the likes of Jimmy Carr and Chris Moyles to consider next time they wish to avoid paying out to those plebs at the revenue. Perhaps they could go in together on modest premises in north London, and St Jimmy’s and St Christopher’s could take its place as the most financially impenetrable religious establishment outside the Vatican.
As for where the business in Agoura Hills is all leading, the smart money would surely be on the late-21st century’s version of the 30 years war. Give it a couple of decades, and Lost in Showbiz envisages a dystopian faithscape ravaged by what have become two most powerful churches on earth – Mel’s and Kris’s. It’s not much to look forward to, but I’m afraid the best thing a speck of dust such as yourself can do is stockpile arms, and await news of a defenestration.