I have been interested by the response to my question about the Baroque.
One intelligent email suggests that the English have a particular problem with the Baroque, and links this with the emotional side of it and the Incarnational. I think this is dead right. The Reformation taught the English to be wary of the Flesh; "Spirituality" has to be etherial and other-worldly. A "spiritual" girl is one with an unhealthy washed-out complexion and vague watery eyes. Mind you, English medieval art was intensely emotional and Incarnational. You can find faded murals in medieval churches, revealed after the removals of layers of whitewash, showing in lurid (Oh dear! Would I have used that philologically inapposite adjective if I were not English?) detail the lacerations of Christ's flesh. It's all a bit like Guinness: we tend to think of stout porter as an Irish beverage, while until the first world war it was made all over the Atlantic archipelago: it's just that it is in Ireland, because of historical accidents, that it has mainly survived. Or bagpipes: they were common to most of Europe until the twentieth century, but in most places they have disappeared, leaving a popular impression that they are mainly Scotch. There's nothing inherently unEnglish about Emotion and Incarnation in ones spirituality; it's just that since the cultural schisms of the sixteenth century, they have been phased out of English religion: leaving them to appear foreign and alien. Yes? And since the Baroque is so superbly capable of expressing the emotional and the Incarnational - and is foreign and papist - the Baroque magnetically attracts to it all the suspicions generated by 450 years of religious and cultural heresy.
Remember Dr Dawkins' illuminating diatribe in the Washington Post: for heavens sake read it if you haven't already. I mean it; you'll learn more from that one interview than from volumes of history, sociology, or psychology. It is so revealing because it shows that it's not religion as such or belief in God as such that gets under his skin, but that horrible thing Catholicism. Dawkins is your typical ignorant English bigot. Honest: scratch nine English out of ten and you'll find Dawkins just under the surface.
Those of you who are within reach of London and have not yet done the excellent NG exhibition of Spanish religious art: can I ask you, after you go, to report back on the reactions of the viewers to the realism with which emotion and suffering are portrayed? I recall one arty historically gent peering down at an alarmingly realistic dead Christ and addressing his companion on the views of Vasari. A defence mechanism - contrived dispassion - against the danger of actual response? A friend of mine picked up a rumour that the attendants had been warned to be on the lookout for nutters who might try to damage the exhibits ... or to pray before them! If I'd known before I went, I would have tried it (the prayer, I mean, not the vandalism) to see what happened.