It happened this afternoon that I had tabs open to two different articles about clothing and social respect for (Protestant Christian) clergy as well as a Wild Hunt post about some kind of Pagan trying to prank the county commissioners in Escambia County, Florida, into abandoning their custom of religious invocations before meetings. (I am glad that around here we just pledge allegiance to the flag and then get down to business.)
I am not sure of the process here: apparently the guy in question just asked to be included in the list of religious invokers. But let’s move on.
One Wild Hunt mentioned his clothing — ” I would have worn something more like business casual dress”— and that dovetailed nicely with two pieces that I had been reading just moments earlier.
In one, Paul Walters, a Lutheran minister from Troy, Michigan, writes, “Pastors complain about the lack of respect they encounter in the world around them, and yet for some reason faded blue jeans and t-shirts are equated with work clothing . . . People will judge you based on your clothing every single time” (emphasis in the original).
Whereupon the commenters crucify him. One even says, “Being a pastor is not a profession.” (Huh?)
Protestant ministers are in a time warp, and in a reality warp. What they know of the new reality they have decided doesn’t apply to them because they don’t approve of it. Maybe the world has become more visual. Clergy don’t care, because they’re certain that words will solve social issues and save the world. Why should they wear heels and professional attire when a well-meaning slogan on a T-shirt or a big cross around the neck should communicate what they’re about to the public?
She makes another point as well:
Today, in 2014, the mainstream Protestant and Jewish and Muslim and progressive Catholic movements are all in a big pot together in the public imagination. We’re just “those religious people” in our houses of worship doing our Saturday or Sunday thing, and carrying on with our quaint ways while the world increasingly fails to notice us or care about us. We’re nice to have in the neighborhood, maybe, but mostly for when you want a nice wedding or a kind person to say some words when Uncle Milt dies. If we step beyond those roles, we are regarded as dangerous, and in the United States, accused of violating the sacred separation of church and state enshrined in our Constitution.
Read her post on “Subverting and Interrupting Unconscious Scripts [of power]“— it is more honest than you usually see.
So, if you are any sort of Pagan moving into the public sphere, how do you deal with this perception that religion is “dangerous” and at the same time irrelevant? And how do you dress up for the job?
Back in the late 1970s, Raymond Buckland tried to start a vogue for wearing clerical collars with pentagrams embroidered on them. That went nowhere.
Some people like the stole. Patrick McCollum’s ubiquitous saffron scarf is similar, but it was given him by a Hindu holy man, as I recall. It may come from a “scarf of office” worn by imperial Roman officials, and it may also been worn by high-ranking professors, such as Hypatia of Alexandria. (I welcome clarification, if there is any historical record of this)
Such a dilemma — especially in a culture where sloppiness = sincerity in some people’s minds.