An Afternoon In Court

I spent some of Wednesday afternoon in a federal courtroom in uptown Charlotte.

(Sadly, a friend of mine was there for a sentencing hearing.)

The hearing was sparsely attended; in fact, aside from the court officials, I was the only one there.

Yet as I sat in that courtroom something about the surroundings seemed vaguely familiar . . .

  • A man up front wearing a robe seemed to be in charge.
  • He was perched behind an imposing wooden structure.
  • The room dimensions were long and narrow — the back row of the empty seats was considerable distance from the man in the robe behind the big wooden desk.
  • The ceiling was vaulted — I’d say 20 feet or more.
  • The lighting was neutral.
  • The man in the robe used phrases and terms that his cohorts understood but that I found incomprehensible.
  • The walls were covered with wood paneling.
  • Finally, I sat on a long wooden bench with no cushion.

As I took all this in, I realized where I’d seen this before. In church!

The attire of the leader, the size and shape of the room, the feel of the furniture, even the built-in intimidation of the proceedings — all of it felt exactly like dozens of church services I’ve been to through the years.

The guy in the robe is the preacher, the desk is the pulpit, the back-breaking seats are the pews, the design and scope of the room feels like most traditional church structures built between 1940 & 1980, and the incomprehensible language is what much of preaching and liturgy must sound like to uninitiated church-goers. The parallels were so precise it left me numb.

All of which led to a question I coudn’t answer: who copied whom?