[In the next exchange with young Rev. Bluejeans, he sez to me:]
"OK, I lied. I couldn't concentrate on anything else until I responded for real, so I got myself a diet coke, and here we go:Again our views of human nature diverge.
It's fascinating to frame this debate in the mythology of Eden; the fig leaf as the first fashion move is brilliant. You and I should co-author a book on this, seriously. We could title it "Spiritually Glamorous." Anyway, you point to A&E's first fig-leaf-accessorizing as the moment when humans had been "made aware of who we are and Whose we are," and that this caused them to decide," "we'd better get dressed up."
This is, I would think, a very optimistic picture of the Garden, and one that I am not at all inclined to imagine. Perhaps it's the weight of 30 centuries of Judeo-Christian interpretation, but I'm much more inclined to see the fig leaf as an implicit rejection of body and self in favor of a facade, a veneer, which takes the reality of human existence and hides it behind prettiness. I wholeheartedly agree that the fig leaf is a seminal moment in human fashion history. I just don't think it was a good thing. And that's why we should co-author a book.
You're moving into more familiar ground with your "this is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it" motivation for dressing up. Here in the South, this is the express argument for dressing nicely 98% of the time. We once had a dress-down day at the church, because we were having a picnic outside right after the service. A man in the church wore a tie, and was getting a fair amount of teasing about it (not from me). He said, with a great deal of dignity, "it's a sad day when you can't wear a tie in the house of the Lord." His point, and yours I think, is that church is a place which is worthy of our respect, and that respect is effectively shown through proper dress and decorum.
I don't buy it.
The entire thrust of the life and teachings of Jesus--the entire thrust--is away from religiosity and toward an interior life of faith. That is, Jesus shunned external displays of piety: praying out loud, being obvious with your gifts to the temple, bragging about your lawkeeping. He embraced a certain humility. I don't know how accurate the movies are about his clothing, but I do know he wore sandals (it's in the bible, of course), and whatever he wore was low-key enough that fit in just fine with lepers, prostitutes, and a ragtag bunch of fishermen from the Galilee. And then there's that whole "life is more than food, the body more than clothes...consider the lilies of the field" thing.
So I don't see a tie as a sign of respect for God. But I also don't see God as the sort of God who goes around needing signs of our respect, either. At the end of John, Jesus doesn't say "if you love me, wear Armani." It's all about feeding the sheep.
Alas...I'm out of time."
***Here's PeaceBang again, ladies and gentlemen.
Let me respond with a few more words to him and to you.
First of all, it's so funny that I was going to use the overly-pious thing with HIM but then I didn't, and he went ahead and used it on ME! Because to me, dressing all humble when you have the means to afford perfectly swell clothes is an expression of false piety -- but my correspondent there is saying that dressing UP is an expression of false piety.
There you have it: perfect evidence of how two smart ministers interpret the same exact teachings of our Master.
The other thing I want to say is that my faithful correspondent and I have two absolutely differing ideas about veneers and prettiness. To him, hiding behind the fig leaf was an original act of falsifying reality (i.e., laying a pretty exterior over a sinful, disobedient, suffering interior).
But to me, that fig leaf says, "Well, damn, we got thrown out of Paradise but honey, we can still look FABULOUS. I mean, we lost Paradise but we got the planet! Let's work
it!" In other words, it's not so much a rejection of body and self to me (although my correspondent gets the traditional Christian interpretation points there, certainly) as it is a brave little move to adorn the self out of recognition of blessing within the midst of existential loss. That is so
Matthew Fox of me, now that I think about it.
I thank my correspondent again for this really terrific exchange -- he and I probably should
co-author a book -- a sort of North-meets-South exchange on religion and fashion -- just because I like him so much, he gets to be the Rev. JeansBang!
As for the rest of you, you big smartypants heads, you've gone ahead and contributed more provocative and important insights to this conversation, proving once again that Beauty Tips For Ministers just seems
to be mere fluff, when we all know that we can get all brilliant and deep at the drop of a fig leaf.
Which is why I love ya'll.