Christopher Wynn visits a satellite campus of Fellowship Church, a north Texas megachurch led by controversial pastor Ed Young, who made national headlines a few years back by calling on married church members to have lots of sex for a week, and spending 24 hours in a bed with his wife atop one of his churches. This particular campus has opened in Highland Park Village, the fanciest shopping center in the most exclusive neighborhood in Dallas. Fellowship rents the shopping center’s movie theater for Sunday morning services. Look:
The screen darkens. A video with better special effects than most Syfy channel shows begins. It depicts a set of bones magically being enveloped in tendons, then flesh, then skin, until a whole man — naked and ripped, but shown in chaste tight shots — stands upright. Music swells. Cross-dissolve. Ed Young is now on-screen, live, at the Grapevine church, flanked by two medical-supply skeletons. The hashtag for today’s sermon and the handles of Ed’s Twitter and Instagram accounts remain posted in the screen’s lower corner. Want to accept Christ into your life at the end of the service? Hit #32898 on your smartphone and ushers will assist. Young wears a black hoodie with shiny zippers, snug rust-colored pants and chunky lace-up black boots. Later that morning, for the 11:30 service at the mother church, he will don a new outfit: blue oxford button-down, plaid vest, jeans cuffed at the ankles and wingtips with no socks. (One of Young’s side projects is a blog he started, called pastorfashion.com.) Ahead of his arrival? An elaborate production number interpreting “Radioactive,” an end-times anthem and hit song by Las Vegas rock band Imagine Dragons. A young woman on-stage sings the apocalyptic tune while laser lights slice through a thickening mist from a fog machine. Behind her, three jumbo screens flash disturbing images of gas masks. At stagefront, two breakdancers in yellow biohazard suits contort and gyrate, and simulate drum-beating on large toxic-waste barrels.
It gets, um, better. Wynn visits the fambly at home:
Welcome to the heightened reality that is life with the Youngs. Go ahead and compare them to a Christianized version of a certain other well-funded, camera-friendly family: the Kardashians. It is unavoidable — especially when you learn the Youngs are in talks to star in their own reality show. Last month, an L.A. producer pitched the project to A&E; meetings with other networks are scheduled. “We have not signed anything,” says Ed, stylish in a gray-and-plaid reversible shirt. Ed’s youthful appearance, at 52, aided by his constantly changing hair color and hairstyle, have made him a target for cosmetic-surgery chatter online. (He says he has tried only Botox.) The Youngs have been approached repeatedly over the years to do a show, and they feel comfortable enough with this producer and the production company to consider it — cautiously. The show’s angle is how the family says it lives out a message of God’s love. (Bonus ratings if there are any train wrecks along the way.) “If we would have some sort of guidance over editing” of the footage, Ed says, sounding both savvy and naive, “I don’t mind showing anybody anything.” All of the requisite glossy ingredients are in place for a show. First, there is the setting. The Youngs’ palatial manor — 7,100 square feet, arched windows, Spanish-tile roof — is a glamorous backdrop. Inside, the soaring ceilings and graciously sized rooms are both attractive to look at and ample enough to accommodate a camera crew. Photogenic details abound. In the formal living room is perhaps the ultimate coffee-table book: a bedazzling Bible. The heavy tome is adorned with ornate metal trim and costume emeralds, a gift from designer Kimberly Wolcott, whose jeweled crosses and Bibles are sold at Neiman Marcus. The walls and ornate woodwork in Ed’s study, where he writes, reads and prays, are painted a striking peacock blue. On one wall are two mounted fish, caught during Ed’s many saltwater fly-fishing trips. Over the mantel is a striking portrait of Jesus Christ. Ed sketched it with pencil, then painted it in, onstage, during an Easter service. (He is a capable artist, as are several members of his extended family.) Like the portrait? Prints of Ed’s Jesus are stacked up for sale at The Source, Fellowship’s bookstore and coffee shop at the Grapevine campus.
Read the whole thing, and know that there is only one Dallas.