Sunday, May 22, 2005

Cowboy Christianity, etc...

As usual, clippings from the Telegraph -
Firstly, a piece on American churches aimed at cowboys:
"Hallelujah," exclaims a man in the third row. "Praise the Lord," murmurs another. From somewhere further back comes a whinny, a few snorts and a little contented equine snuffling.
It is a typical service at the Carolina Cowboy Church in the rural community of Midland, North Carolina, where worshippers are more at home among hay bales and sawdust than in the pews.
In place of flowing robes or Sunday best there are denim jeans, cowboy boots and Stetsons. Instead of a choir, there is a foot-stomping hillbilly band playing bluegrass and Christian country music.
In England the the Methodists are moving further from their teetotal heritage:
Methodist leaders have infuriated the teetotal among their ranks by applying for a liquor licence for Westminster Central Hall, their Edwardian headquarters in central London.
Ever wondered where the name Methodist came from? According to the Catholic Encylopedia:
On his [John Wesley's] return to Oxford (22 November 1729) he joined the little band of students organized by his brother Charles for the purpose of studying the Scriptures, and practising their religious duties with greater fidelity. John became the leader of this group called in derision by fellow-students "the holy club", "the Methodists". It is to this that Methodism owes its name, but not its existence.

And in honour of the today's feast

Disputation over the Trinity by Andrea Sarto.
As the linked article notes the theme of a theological dispute involving the saints is not at all rare for early 16th Century Italy. What I find surprising however is the choice of saints. With the exception of St. Augustine on the left none of them are noted theologians. The deacon (in a most delighful red dalmatic and holding a grid iron) is St Lawrence, next to him is a Dominican saint (presumably St Dominic) and next to him is St Francis (note the stigmata). (Why not Aquinas and Bonaventure??? Did Sarto's Augustinian patrons want their protector to have no opportunity of losing the debate on Trinitatian theology?) Kneeling in the foreground is St Sebastian (note the arrows) and I thought the kneeling female saint might have been St Catherine of Alexandria (famous for her theological acumen) holding a book. However, closer examination reveals her to be St Mary Magdalene holding a jar of oil. (She's a very restained depiction of the Magdalene - the artist has resisted the tempation of giving her long red hair and a plunging neckline.)
Have a look at the Trinity floating in the sky - we see the Father and the Son in the usual Italian manner. But where is the dove of the Holy Spirit? Is the suggestion of wind or the billowing red fabric meant to indicate the Paraclete's presence?

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