Architecture and Anthropology

A New Anthropology

From "An Icon of the Kingdom of God, Part Two: Liturgical Art" Andrew Gould. Presented at the 2015 Climacus Conference.

I slightly edited the text for readability.

Modern churches now have pews in many cases; and pews go that much further toward representing that the church is a sort of theater. Once you have pews, you now have a new anthropology added into the church that states there are two kinds of people at services. There are those who are "doing the church service" and those who are "watching the church service" and never will the two meet: the one is up on the stage and the other is sitting in the pews.

This sense of a new anthropology, two kinds of people --the doers and the spectators--is a terrible thing for Christianity. It causes bad attitudes: an attitude of sloth, of division, of pride, and of artifice on the part of the congregation.

People feel, "If I'm going to treated by the architecture like a privileged guest, like it's all about me and where I sit and what I'm looking at then I expect everything in church to be all about me. I expect everything to privilege me. And anything that makes me uncomfortable I am going to complain about."

That attitude would have never existed in the medieval church because there was never the slightest suggestion that anything in church was for you. It was always for God.

At this point there was applause which seemed to surprise Mr. Gould.


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