John Calvin famously said that the human heart is a factory of idols. What this means is that there is a yearning, a lust, to place some object, any object, in the position that only God Himself should occupy.
“Because they despised my judgments, and walked not in my statutes, but polluted my sabbaths: for their heart went after their idols” (Eze. 20:16).
Given the sinfulness of the human heart, this is a sin that we naturally gravitate to. And in the grip of the lust, the burden of proof inexorably shifts, such that the “iconoclast” who objects is asked to produce a passage of Scripture that says that we can’t kiss a picture of Jesus. The iconoclast, provided he has his wits about him, should say first that you can’t because we don’t know what He looked like and hence have no pictures; second, that you shouldn’t even if we did have a picture because God bans, prohibits, and excoriates the pagan tomfoolery of all such bowing and scraping; and third, the face of Jesus Christ is manifested in the preaching of the gospel (2 Cor. 4:6), and the response is to believe it, not kiss it. There is that time in Scripture when Jesus was kissed, but it was a Judas kiss.
Whenever the proclamation of the holy gospel is in decline, this kind of iconism is going to come back. First, it will creep back in and, provided nobody flips out, it will flood back in. Notice that I am assuming ostensibly Protestant churches, places where such behavior was once removed and the sanctuaries cleansed. But it is never enough to sweep a place clean and garnish it. Unless the Word of Christ is enthroned in power, and the pulpit becomes a place emanating the kind of awe that overwhelms everyone, including the frailty of the preacher, the returning corruption will be seven times worse than before.
There is no neutrality. Either we will make much of Jesus, the way the Scriptures teach us to, or He will relegate the chaff written by our ecclesiastical dastards to the blast furnaces of His wrath. He gave us Word and sacrament, but for some this is not enough. In their wisdom, they have substituted a cavalcade of mummery.
Of course, we come up with various misdirecting devices to hide what we are trying to do. Take for example the phrase Anglo-Catholic—what does that mean? It means only that when we make God angry, we do it in English. We want to make sure He understands. Oh, He understands, all right.