Saturday, March 24, 2012
I must be too bland...
Now I live in a city of some 150,000 people. Certainly less than 10 clergymen wear a clerical collar in this town -- probably closer to a half dozen. In general, clergy garb is not big in fashion in the South. In fact, you are more likely to see black clergy in a collar than any form of white Protestant ministers. So I would guess that I am part of a very, very small minority but apparently not a very visible one. It never occurred to my own physician that I was his only patient who regularly wore a clerical collar.
Normally you might think that less than a dozen clergy in black tab or full collar clerical shirts might just stand out in this sea of Southern Baptists, Church of Christ, Nazarene, and other assorted brands of Christianity more prone to be found south of the Mason Dixon line. At nearly ever ecumenical gathering I go to, the standard clergy garb is more likely a polo and khakis or a suit and tie. Frankly, I think that I am obvious to the point of ridiculousness. Maybe not...
Maybe we live in a world which has stopped paying much attention to such things. Perhaps distinctive clergy attire, like Christianity in general, is no longer a given in our culture. More than that, it just may be that in an ocean of tattoos, piercings, multicolored hair, and assorted odd dress, a clerical collar seems rather pedestrian and ordinary.
I wonder if this is not symptomatic of Christianity in general. We think we are distinctive but in reality we blend in rather well. Christianity was once a distinctive sort of religion but it seems to be less and less distinctive today. We Lutherans tend to be blander than most Christians when it comes to distinctives so it is even more likely we, among the many varieties of Christians, fade into the background.
I say this only because from our perspective we think we are so different. From the perspective of those on the outside of Christian faith, we must not be nearly as noticeable as we assumed. Which means that today, piety and Christian distinctiveness (not a hypocrisy of perfection or an arrogance of judgment but genuine distinctiveness of faith and life) needs to be more nurtured and deliberately taught among us. It is one of those times when Christian piety and practice becomes an issue of witness and confession as much as personal identity. How well can they know us if we are so easily overlooked or ignored?