From Scientia Ritus to Consumer Rites
This chapter looks at a little-known episode in church history to think about how ritual became such a market force. In the nineteenth century, the Anglophone world was caught up in a crisis defined by a debate about right ritualization. In this elite squabble, the label “Ritualist” was deployed as an epithet to describe a revival of interest in church sacraments. Anglican and Episcopalian Ritualists advocated “High Church” ceremonialism to counter what they perceived as secularization. This secularization was not an irreligious force as much as it was—to the Ritualists—a diminished ritual force. The term scientia ritus is coined to describe the way in which the literature produced in the crisis offered a certain exacting diagnostic technology for right ritual behavior and ritual analysis. This chapter focuses on the depiction of these debates about ritual as indicative of a broader pattern of religious life in the emergent modern American consumer culture. This is not to suggest that rituals vacated their content to become commodities; rather, it is to argue that the debates about ritual became articulated through the mediated marketplace that formats religion.
Keywords: Ritualism, Anglo-Catholicism, purity balls, evangelicalism, Public Worship Regulation Bill, Michel Foucault, scientia ritus, Gothic Revival, Gilded Age