PZ’s Podcast: Protestant Interiors (Whistling Dixie)

EPISODES 31&32 You can say all you want about a certain thing, yet people won’t […]

Mockingbird / 2.7.11


You can say all you want about a certain thing, yet people won’t believe you. They will simply not believe you. You can present old documents and ancient photographs, accompanied by diaries and essays by people who were “there”; and they still won’t believe you. For whatever reasons of their own, they won’t believe you.

That’s the experience I have had for almost 40 years in trying to convince people that Anglican Christianity is a Protestant phenomenon, or at least was once Protestant.

The fact that this is an empirical fact, which can be proven from the evidence and with no difficulty, seems to make no difference. It ‘can’t’ be true because most people don’t want it to be true.

PZ’s Podcast this week is an exercise in futility, and I give it no hope of success. But I really was asked to talk about this, or at least one more time before keeping silent forevermore.

Episode 31 relates the Prayer Book history of Anglicanism, in England and America, from the reign of Queen Elizabeth to about 1980. This episode tells that story in terms of the interiors of church buildings: where the pulpit was positioned in relation to the altar, the arrangement of the seating, the color of the glass in the windows, the Sunday service that was customary (i.e., Morning Prayer with Sermon), the position of the clergy during the service, the location of the galleries, and so on.

Episode 31 offers some examples of the “Prayer-Book church”, which is the formal term to describe the 200 or so protestant interiors that survived in England after the Victorian-era Oxford Movement swept them all away. Almost every church mentioned PZ has visited in person, often with other members of the Mockingbird team.

Episode 32 (up on Thursday) takes a little trip down the East Coast, from Boston to Charleston, surveying the Prayer-Book churches, almost all of them dating from the Colonial period, which survive in this country. They are fascinating survivals and tell an interesting story.

But look, it’s really not important. You can bay and whinny and hold up books and pictures on this subject ’til you are blue in the face. No one will believe you. Whenever I used to talk about The Protestant Face of Anglicanism, I felt like the man in CCR’s “It Came Out of the Sky (Landed just a Little South of Moline)”. No one really believed me. In fact, the vision of what had once happened — Anglicanism as an inherently Protestant phenomenon — became divisive. I felt like the little boy in the classic ‘Twilight Zone’ episode “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street”. He saw the saucer, no one believed him, but then they started killing each other. (See that one!: It’s vintage and will never date.)

Please don’t listen to these two podcasts. They’re a little funny, but you won’t like them. Next week I’ll return to something important, like maybe the 1997 Viennese musical “Tanz der Vampire”. Nothing funny about that — “Total Eclipse of the Heart”.