Saturday, December 30, 2006

Speak To Us of Jewelry

I just received this letter from a reader:

"Dear PeaceBang,

Speak to us of jewelery.

Are flaming chalice earrings ever okay? Pendants? (It always strikes me as a little like wearing the company logo and I think it's tacky).

What about the menfolk? Being from a Mediterranean background, I am prone to wearing crosses, fish, and/or a blue bead against the Evil Eye in my open-necked shirt. Displaying the ample hair on my chest, of course.

Will I become one of those sixtysomething guys with giant turquoise and silver pinky rings and necklaces from Santa Fe? In seminary, boys and girls wore big honking crosses over whatever they were wearing (sweaters, t-shirts, even shirt and tie) and I thought they looked ridiculous.
I think they were having a not-so-subliminal "mine is bigger than yours" contest.

Forever yours, ATFC"

Dear ATFC,

Sweetpea, if you want to ask about jewelry, first you have to spell it correctly. But I forgive you, for I know who you are and you can spell jewelry ANY WAY YOU WANT!
Also, I still have your book about discipleship (A Long Obedience In the Same Direction) and I've written all over it, so I totally owe you a fresh copy.

To address your inquiry:
Chalices can be a nice way to get a conversation going, as in "What's that symbol you're wearing?" leading to discussions about Unitarian Universalism and so on. But as I have written before that chalice earrings AND a chalice pendant is just overkill on the clergy. It's like, We get it! We get it! You are SO TOTALLY a Unitarian Universalist!!

On laypeople, au contraire, I find it a charming expression of associational loyalty. Call me inconsistent, but there it is.

PeaceBang is very fond of large pendants, but not Message Pendants. She does have one ginormous peace sign made of fake diamonds, but that's just ironic bling and she hopes no one thinks she is taking herself very seriously when she wears it. And she would *never* wear it in to a religious gathering.

Let's think together about pendants on men. Does any leader you know and respect wear big pendants? Does a large pendant put you immediately in mind of any particular era of United States sartorial history?

PeaceBang hates to say this, but she thinks that pendants on men are just queer, and not in the good way. A male religious leader wearing a big pendant says to PeaceBang, "Hi, everyone! My name is Theophilus and I'd like to welcome you to New Spirit in Christ Retreat Center for your Mary Magdalene Womynspirit Experience! Mine will be the last male face you see for the next 102 hours, so let me just give you some quick housekeeping information and I'll get my testosterone outta here!"

And then Theophilus would go gather the youth group for the trip to the organic farm. He brought his guitar for the bus ride, and he's going to sing "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" the whole way down. He's not a BAD guy at all, he's just a little bit caught in 1974.

All that said, PeaceBang thinks that green man pendants on Pagan men can be really hot. A green man pendant on a leather string. With an open shirt and a VEST. And leather pants. With long, flowing hair riding on a horse and ...

.. my goodness! Where was I before I got carried away with that little Renn Faire fantasy?

As far as specifically religious symbols go, PeaceBang has seen a lot of alarmingly large crosses adorning the bosoms and chests of seminarians on campus of late. She wonders if it might be the whole new religious leader phenomenon, where eager future clergy are so excited to be present in the world in a pastoral way that they look for the biggest cross they can find and stick it on their chest every day as a way of saying, "I am SO SUPER Christian, you can't believe it! I am SO SUPER Christian that I am actually studying for my master of divinity degree and may someday be an ordained minister! So go ahead: Ask me about Jesus! Ask me to pray with you! Test my knowledge of Bible verses! Yell at me for all the harm the Church has committed in the name of God over the past 2,000 years! I am READY! BRING IT ON! HERE AM I, LORD!"

PeaceBang has been given some very large crosses as gifts over the past years, and she really loves them and wears them when she's on vacation (they're really too much for a New England Unitarian setting). However, by "large," she means approximately 4" vertical and 2.5" horizontal -- not 8" high. Having seen crosses upwards of half a foot high lately, she feels it might be time to advise a bit of restraint in the cross department. Given that the vast majority of us will make extremely minor sacrifices in our ministerial lives compared to Jesus's ultimate sacrifice, it seems a bit misguided to don a Cross that some may regard as an attempt to compete in size with His.

In short, pigeons when it comes to Crosses, bigger is not better. Take it easy out there. The burdens of ministry are great enough without you throwing out your back dragging around a huge pendant of any kind. Religious is as religious does. You don't need enormous symbols on your person to convince people that you're on call for God. Just be on call, and that's enough.

And ATFC, mon chere, NO HAIRY CHESTS WITH OVERTLY OPEN SHIRT. Remember the commandment from Leviticus: Let he who is hirsute adorn himself with modesty and keep all but that top button done up. Hairy chestedness is to men what cleavage is to women: neither one need be ostentatiously shared with the public.
And if I ever see you wearing a chalice earring, you can kiss that earlobe goodbye, because I'll quick as a flash bite it off.



Blogger The young fogey said...

Very funny and good point about showing off (ordinands with humongo crosses - in proper Western Catholic usage those are for bishops and abbots/abbesses) but:

Does any leader you know and respect wear big pendants?

Why, yes, Orthodox bishops. The pendant with an icon of Mary on it is called a panagia (all-holy) after her.

Happy Christmas and a blessed new year.

1:50 PM  
Blogger juniper68 said...

Speaking of jewelry reminds me of a question I had on my way past Claire's yesterday.
Can I get a nose ring? If I'm 38 years old? Is it still no, even if I live in Seattle?
Ok, how about a second hole in my ear?
Just wondering

11:30 PM  
Blogger PeaceBang said...

juniper my sweet potato, I would advise against putting accoutrements in your nose. They're just distracting, and what kind of statement do you really need to make through adorning your schnoz? To my eye, nose rings are just bovine,and the studs always look like a diamond zit at first glance.

Double piercings are less distracting. I should think that a second ear piercing would be just fine, if you feel so inclined.

10:01 AM  
Blogger juniper68 said...

Shucks. I figured.

Well worth the asking to be called a sweet potato on new years day, though.


4:10 PM  
Anonymous madgebaby said...

In div school, the big wooden cross around a fellow student's neck said one thing to me:"cross the room and avoid that person--he (always a guy in my experince) is either socially unaware or sanctimonious in a way that is outside the norms of even the seminary community"

Closed minded of me, perhaps--but there you go.

I personally have a "one cross rule", meaning I only wear one at a time.

6:39 PM  
Anonymous Geetha Balachandran said...

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11:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dearest PB and Juniper,

I must say that I disagree with our guru of fashion regarding the noise piercing. If your personality sparkles, why can't your nose? Yes, I am in Southern California, but I'd warrant that Seattle is even more fabulously open than where I reside in "The OC" and I have nose ring!
Most rarely even notice it, and those that do always have a positive comment. I think for other Gen Xers it shows I am authentic to our generation! I've never received negative feedback!
So pierce away my pastoral friend!

9:30 PM  

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