Abstract

Protestant Nonconformity has, since the establishment of the denominations and permanent places of worship, adapted and adopted religious artefacts as aids to evangelism, teaching, church and domestic decoration, commemoration and devotion. Collectively, they represent the visualization of popular piety, and the emergent iconography of large ecclesio-social groups (Evangelical in theology) which are drawn from the working and middle classes. These groups have seceded from, and actively define themselves against, the ethos, organization and liturgical traditions of the High Church. In this respect, the commercial kitsch—which largely comprises these artefacts and mediates the visual culture of Evangelicalism—reflects a confluence of Low Church religion with low-cultural forms, and of mass religion with mass production. This article examines examples of what might be termed Evangelical ‘tie-ins’ in the context of the movement's promotion of identity, and of its culture of scriptural memorization, teaching and proselytizing. Using late twentieth-century examples, the discussion focuses on the relationship between the artefacts' combination of image and text, and addresses Evangelicalism's choice of imagery, its deployment of the visual as a conduit for memory and for internalizing the textual (percepts as pretexts for precepts), and the associative function (as opposed to the intrinsic worth) of such imagery. The article also traces the historical precedents for these principles to eighteenth-century Protestant emblemature.

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