McPrayer Closets in your McMansions?

eyesore 200101 01What a week. I am finally back at work and I feel the need to unload some short items from the past week on the road. So — warning — here come some short, punchy (I hope) posts while I try to dig out my desk and travel bag. Prepare to scan and click.

Looking back, it’s hard to believe that I seriously considered not posting an update on my original “Mansions on a Hill” post. The follow-up post — a sort of “Would Tony Campolo own a McMansion?” debate — is still drawing a few new comments. Thus, it is with fear and trembling that I post the following link to a Wall Street Journal feature by Troy McMullen that, in effect, suggests more McProtestant people are building McPrayer Closets in their McMansions.

Actually, that isn’t really fair. There isn’t much evidence that this prayer-closet phenomenon has a class angle.

As religious themes grow more important in American culture — in an April Gallup poll of 1,003 adults over 18 years old, 42 percent of respondents described themselves as evangelical Christians — a handful of interior designers have begun to market themselves as experts in merging home decor with religion. Their influences run the spectrum: subtle touches, such as using colors taken from a client’s favorite Bible passages, and more overt ones, like the installation of altars and large cast iron crosses in some homes. …

These designers say they’re simply filling a niche — helping Christians and others guided by religion who want to tap into their faith without turning their homes into chapels. Still, there’s another reason interior decorators are striving to set themselves apart: The field has never been more crowded. The American Society of Interior Designers, a trade group, says its membership hit a record high of 35,000 this year.

Perhaps the story behind this story is that evangelicals are beginning to feel the need to do something that the ancient churches have done for centuries and centuries — urging members to bring sacramental objects into their homes. In my Eastern Orthodox neck of the church woods, we call these blessed zones “icon corners.” I have heard that Roman Catholics do this from time to time, as well.

Meanwhile, try to find a photograph online of a Protestant “prayer closet.” Let me know what you find. OK?

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • http://www.getreligion.org/?p=2 Douglas LeBlanc

    This may not be what you’re looking for, tmatt, but the World Prayer Center in Colorado Springs, which is part of Ted Haggard’s New Life Church and is indisputably Protestant, offers a Prayer Closet for visiting intercessors at $5 a day. Extended Prayer Rooms and Extended Prayer Suites, which both include beds, also are available.

  • http://www.getreligion.org/?p=2 Douglas LeBlanc

    I should also mention this: Rob Moll recently wrote a great cover story for Christianity Today on “The New Monasticism.”

    The opening spread of Rob’s piece features a photo by Erik Stenbakken that shows Amber Christis, a member of the Simple Way in Philadelphia, practicing contemplative prayer in that community’s basement. The basement’s wooden studs are filled with prayer requests, and Ms. Christis is surrounded by candles as she reads from the Bible.

    It’s a luscious photo, and I wish I could reproduce it here without violating copyright. For people with ready access to Christianity Today, see page 38 of the September issue.

  • tmatt

    I saw that Haggard thing and simply could not believe it.

    What makes that particular desk, chair, lamp and air conditioner a unique environment for prayer? Before you flame me, readers, I know that people can pray anywhere. But, well, the wailing wall is different. St. Peter’s is a bit different. Etc. etc.

  • SEV

    The Boston Globe ran a piece in their Life at Home section about people having worship spaces in their home not too long ago. I don’t remember the exact phase they used but it was essential just such a thing. It covered people of different faiths.

  • http://www.physicsgeekjesusfreak.blogspot.com Matthew M.

    As a former MickeyD’s employee, I must point out that the proper syntax is probably “Prayer McClosets”. :^P
    That Haggard thing is so strange. It looks no different from a Holiday Inn. I don’t get it either, and it smells that they charge for it.
    Do you all have a sense of how evangelical Protestant churches do at serving as open houses for prayer? I get the sense that cathedrals (Catholic primarily) are more often viewed as 24-7 “prayer closets” than the typical aesthetically-miniature evangelical churches. I’m curious to hear what everyone thinks of this.

  • David

    “Do you all have a sense of how evangelical Protestant churches do at serving as open houses for prayer?”

    It varies widely (naturally). The ministry that is probably the most influential in those circles is the International House of Prayer (http://www.fotb.com/ihopkc/ihopkc.asp) in the Midwest.

  • http://guildedlilies.tripod.com/index.html Steve Nicoloso

    ) iconoclastic nature doesn’t seem to correlate well with human nature. It would appear (based on virtually every major world religion) that humans have a basic need for sacred space, sacred art, icons, and representations of the transcendant–needs that are not met in the stereotypical Evangelical church. Such needs are not long or widely well met by mere blown up nature pictures with Bible verses plastered across them.

  • http://guildedlilies.tripod.com/index.html Steve Nicoloso

    … ACK what I meant to say was….

    All, even relatively nominal, Hindus in my acquaintance have shrines in their houses. That’s GOT to be a fairly big market (at least in NJ).

    I suspect Terry’s onto something with “evangelicals are beginning to feel the need to … bring sacramental objects into their homes”. Evangelicalism’s (literally) iconoclastic nature doesn’t seem to correlate well with human nature. It would appear (based on virtually every major world religion) that humans have a basic need for sacred space, sacred art, icons, and representations of the transcendant–needs that are not met in the stereotypical Evangelical church. Such needs are not long or widely well met by mere blown up nature pictures with Bible verses plastered across them.

  • http://blog.kevinbasil.com/ Basil

    I once saw a photo of Solzhinitsyn’s icon corner. The memory of the photograph is deeply moving, if that tells you anything.


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