The Mall as a Secular Cathedral

Welcome to Church
Bentall Centre, Kingston Upon Thames.

The layout of this temple has architectural echoes that hark back to medieval cathedrals mammoth religious spaces that can absorb all kinds of different religious activities all at one time. And so one might say that this religious building has a winding labyrinth for contemplation, alongside of which are innumerable chapels devoted to various saints. As we wander the labyrinth in contemplation, preparing to enter one of the chapels, we’ll 
be struck by the rich iconography that lines the walls and interior spaces.

Unlike the flattened depictions of saints one might find in stained-glass windows,
here is an array of three-dimensional icons adorned in garb that—as with all iconography—inspires us to be imitators of these exemplars. These statutes and icons embody for us concrete images of “the good life.” Here is a religious proclamation that does not traffic in abstracted ideals or rules or doctrines, but rather offers to the imagination pictures and statues and moving images. While other religions are promising salvation through the thin, dry media of books and messages, this new global religion is offering embodied pictures of the redeemed that invite us to imagine ourselves in their shoes—to imagine ourselves otherwise, and thus to willingly submit to the disciplines that produce the saints evoked in the icons.

…Perhaps we need to confirm the identity of this religious site: as most of you have by now
guessed, it is embodied in your local mall. Any generic, suburban mall will do, since the catholicity of this religion means that one will find an overwhelmingly uniform gospel preached at all of them.

James KA Smith, “Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation”

To most, it is no surprise to learn about the proposed changes to Sunday Trading Laws, putting at end to currently in place limits allowing the completion of British Society’s final descent into Worship of another kind. The problem is not that people are refusing to worship the Triune God – which they are – but that they are exchanging Him for another.

Although, we can argue that the Sabbath laws are no more, since Christ declared them to be made for man rather than the other way round, the principle still however holds. To abolish them will be to deny the God imposed limitation on man, he must rest because He doesn’t.

Below is a video of a talk based on the book quoted above, you can download a pdf sample here.

James K.A. Smith – Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation from Calvin College on Vimeo.


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