|From email conversations in 2002, slightly edited for clarity (my contributions only).|
[Mediaevalism has been] a source of legitimacy for nineteenth century churches and still is in some places, a hark back to a supposed golden time when religion was religion, what is called by Hobsbawm and Ranger an Invented Tradition (1983). We see it in the monarchy, eg the recent Queen Mother's Funeral, which did the "magic" unlike the soap opera approach of recent times, and this is also seen as a way of bolstering religious faith at a time when its general objectivity is in decline. Holy of holies, mystery or mysteries, and all in clouds of incense.
...Well there was across the board a greater sense of the arty mystery thingy of religion at the same time as there was Darwin making his impact, biblical criticism, a greater impact of other faiths, the secular and all sorts.
The contemporary equivalent is the well robed full works Anglo-Catholic who, when his (and now occasionally hers) views are examined, seem quite liberal. This is because religion becomes more and more undefined as the God of the gaps disappears and disappears.
But the mediaevalist may also be some strange lost-in-his-own-world traditionalist, the sort of theology where, because there is no objective reference, a mediaeval theology Christendom stance is as good as a secular stance. It isn't the daft quote-to-the-words fundamentalism, though it is traditionalism of a universe that has wrongly shrunk, they say. I'm thinking of John Milbank.
Either way, the myth of the Mediaeval lives on because it is a past when all was secure and known (though even then it wasn't) and carries the false idea that everything was stable and the same up to the Enlightenment, when the rot started to set in.
One aspect of postmodernity as I understand it is that it is less human centred than modernity. It is also part of the sense of dispersal. I'm only half convinced by the postmodernity thing myself, though I think it is useful in something so story based and imaginative as religion. I am sure that during the Enlightenment much was felt to be undefined and traditional as well as different. There was a big sense of loss and change throughout Victorian times when we might say, if only you could see it now - and as a counterweight to the loss and change there was this reinforcing of tradition and a great deal of double standards. An invented tradition always has within it something of the false and the double standard, always a hollowness at the heart because it is based on an imagined past for some present day legitimising purpose. People seek authority in some past condition. Fundies do it by referring to the authority of biblical times as in the text, and creating all sorts of monstrous certainties which fit their authoritarian and political outlooks, when it is just really a nineteenth century scientism plastered on to a text making it absolute, when in all probability at the time these texts were creative and imaginative ways of recreating experiences which the writers had heard about and had material at hand to use.