(Prompted by those who want Anglicans to
adopt the style of tub-thumping evangelists.)
So long as I can remember, Protestantism in the U.S. has been trying to shed its anti Catholic past. Candles have sputtered their way onto Methodist holy tables, albs and colored stoles have displaced the judgemental indignation of black robes, and a yearning for sacraments that look, taste, and feel like themselves has called evangelicals away from their tub thumping and slatternly disorder to the beauty of holiness. They find their way from Wheaton and Tulsa to gothic revival churches, where they kneel now for real holy communion, and forget their sedentary respose, their Wonder Bread cubes and their Welch's grape juice in shot glasses, burped after breakfasts fit for trenchermen.
Early on this tendency was incisively identified as effeminate--but let us defuse that word from its pejorative uses. Feminine is what it was and is. The Church became more womanly and less a jock, or a brute, by way of the Anglo-Catholic movement. Praise Goddess! We began to call the Church our Mother, and Mary, too.
It may be true that this is social climbing, as indicated in Richard Niebuhr's "Social Sources of Denominationalism". It may be a part of the class struggle, or at least of the bourgeoisie struggling to get a religion as good as that of their betters.
We can however call it an evangelical process--for the "denominations" and the "conventions" serve as the recruiting ground of our own Episcopal Church. This is where Episcopalians come from, for we are not usually "converts" from secularism, but "proselytes" from the denominations. (Baptists, strictly speaking, do not form denominations; they are individual congregations allied in conventions as may bathing-suit them.)
It seems inappropriate now (as well as unnecessary) for Anglicans to adopt the style of TV evangelists, or tub thumpers in the mold of the Billy evangelists (Sunday, Graham, Bob,et. al.). We should be obliged ere long to take the taste in music of bellowing George Beverly Shea and the taste in neckties of the Reverend Jimmy Swaggart, or the troglodyte opinions of Dr. Pat Robertson as part of the parcel. But there is no need. Statistics laid down (as St. Oscar said) for our guidance tell us that a good many of those who were set upon the Christian path by these hucksters will eventually bypass their way off the Oklahoma freeways to the quiet lanes that lead to the Anglican village church.
"If the body were all ear, how could it smell?" St. Paul asks, in his discussion of the spiritual gifts.
The evangelist with his duck's ass haircut and snorting voice, may be the nose of the Christian community, and like the nose of the camel can get into the tent of revivalism and smell out the provincial provender. The rest of the camel, the church of ears and eyes, the church that listens and sees, can wait. Once swallowed and digested, the provender sniffed out by the nose will nourish them, too. When the whole of the camel gets in, saddle bags aflap with the Lambeth Quadrilateral, the collapsed revivalists tent will form a lovely caparison for the dromedary homeward bound.
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