Hollywood Faith: Holiness, Prosperity, and Ambition in a Los Angeles Church

Hollywood Faith: Holiness, Prosperity, and Ambition in a Los Angeles Church

Hollywood Faith: Holiness, Prosperity, and Ambition in a Los Angeles Church

Hollywood Faith: Holiness, Prosperity, and Ambition in a Los Angeles Church


In Christianity, as with most religions, attaining holiness and a higher spirituality while simultaneously pursuing worldly ideals such as fame and fortune is nearly impossible. So how do people pursuing careers in Hollywood's entertainment industry maintain their religious devotion without sacrificing their career goals? For some, the answer lies just two miles south of the historic center of Hollywood, California, at the Oasis Christian Center.

In Hollywood Faith, Gerardo Marti shows how a multiracial evangelical congregation of 2,000 people accommodates itself to the entertainment industry and draws in many striving to succeed in this harsh and irreverent business. Oasis strategically sanctifies ambition and negotiates social change by promoting a new religious identity as "champion of life"-an identity that provides people who face difficult career choices and failed opportunities a sense of empowerment and endurance.

The first book to provide an in-depth look at religion among the "creative class," Hollywood Faith will fascinate those interested in the modern evangelical movement and anyone who wants to understand how religion adapts to social change.


Situated on a busy street in metropolitan Los Angeles, and with most of its congregation participants in the film business, the Oasis Christian Center strategically interacts with the Hollywood entertainment industry and negotiates social change by providing a religious identity as overcomer and champion that anchors its members’ difficult career choices and failed opportunities. By focusing on outreach to the entertainment community, Oasis creates spaces of community for ambitious people who find their personal goals frustrated, systems overwhelming, and relationships fractured. Here, they can achieve great confidence in a God who wants to use their talents to fulfill cosmic purposes. in the end, Oasis emerges as a way to resolve tensions of modern, urban life when ambition outpaces the ability to accomplish. To deal with their desire to succeed, individuals subsume themselves to a moral system that sanctions ambition and provides handles on how to work through failure, cope with challenges from overwhelming social structures, and manage exploitation and injustice. This new religious option fits a life context increasingly common among workers in the United States and allows for the continued strength of religion in the modern world.

Hollywood Faith falls squarely into the emerging scholarly tradition labeled by R. Stephen Warner (1993, 2004, 2005) the new paradigm approach to American religion, which encompasses the work of such notable scholars of religion as Donald Miller, Nancy Ammerman, Rodney Stark, Roger Finke, Daniel Olson, Lynn Davidman, Andrew Greeley, James Davidson Hunter, Wade Clark Roof, Meredith McGuire, and Mary Jo Neitz. the term “new paradigm” embraces the unexpected, entrepreneurial forms churches can take and is now the dominant approach taken by scholars of American religion. Congregations, it turns out, are excellent vehicles for capturing and expressing social change. This perspective recognizes that congregations are free to adapt their operation to local cultures, and a growing number of scholars are taking notice.

The intense interaction among the people of Oasis Christian Center contributed immeasurably to my own growing understanding of religion in our contemporary world. With warmth and hospitality, Pastors Philip and Holly Wagner, staff, and members generously shared their life experiences and insights into the church. I thank them for welcoming this stranger into their family.

At Davidson College, special thanks to my Sociology of Hollywood seminar students for our interactions in 2005. I especially thank Justin Hartanov, Ellen Oplinger, and Kristen Shields for their permission to work with some of the . . .

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