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The Revenge of the Idols

In the sixteenth-century, the Reformers (and especially the Puritans), determined to purge the churches of idolatry and Popish superstition, lashed out against the abominable screens that confined the laity in the back half of the Church, away from the altar, against the use of images in the church, and against the "vain repetition" of set prayers, among other things. Ironically, it seems that their hyper-Protestant successors are merely reintroducing the same things, in bastardized form. We attended an "Anglican" church recently that meets in a gorgeous neo-Gothic church building, one of the finest such structures in Edinburgh. But they had done their best to obliterate its beauty on the inside, going so far as to build new modern loft seating halfway up the walls, blocking out most of the beautiful stained glass that the builders had put there.

Worst of all, they had re-introduced a permanent screen, halfway up the nave, blocking from view most of the chancel and altar with its stunning architecture, carving, and windows. This screen, though, was no magnificently carved medieval rood-screen, but a massive projection screen for video and imagery. God's people are being kept from the altar, not for the sake of maintaining graded holiness, but for the sake of degraded ugliness, for the idol of the moving picture.
Which leads to my second point. The beautiful and holy images of the stained glass windows in the chancel are barely visible behind this screen, and what takes their place is the odd, meaningless, and artless imagery that was the constant backdrop projected onto the screen throughout the whole service. This imagery consisted of about a dozen green silhouettes of people in various random postures of everyday life--pushing a stroller, listening to music, etc. Instead of staring at the saints and the story of the Bible throughout the service, we stared up at vague shadows of ourselves in our ordinary, worldly pursuits. The most determined apologist might here find some good message about the breakdown of secular and sacred, but I'm skeptical.
Finally, projected onto this screen for nearly half the service were the words of various worship songs, all sung to basically the same vague and watery tune. And in these songs, we would quite often repeat the same vague and watery words over and over and over, sometimes singing the same line well over a dozen times in the course of a song. Though I tried my best to engage with my heart in the singing, I found myself constantly just repeating the words vainly, meaninglessly, an experience I have very rarely had in the most liturgical services. How ironic that we revolted against liturgy to avoid vain repetition, worship with the mouth but not the heart, and then reintroduced vain repetition in an infinitely less artful and much vainer and much more repetitive form.
How the glory hath departed!

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