Sunday, December 4, 2016
Skinny jeans or not. . .
My Mom took us to the store and we had suit, tie, overcoat, and even a fedora like Dad wore. Every Sunday we were allowed to dress up like an adult and we were expected to act like the adult while wearing those clothes. For example, we were not allowed to crawl around on our knees. We were not allowed to play in those clothes. We were expected to act like a grown up -- to sit, to listen, and to behave.
The clothes we wore were often hand me downs from older cousins. We were not the only ones who dressed up like an adult or who were expected to behave like one (especially in Church). It was the culture of the day (though we did not know it was something that could change or would change; we assumed it had always been that way and would always be that way).
After looking at pictures of my father growing up and some of his family before him, there seemed to be a similar distinction between children and adults -- in dress and behavior -- and children then seemed to want to be more like an adult the way my brother and I did.
When I was headed to Milwaukee this summer, my daughter-in-law told me that I should probably wear skinny jeans to fit into the culture the city is noted for. My response is that nobody ever wants to see me in skinny jeans. I wore clericals and suits every day.
At some point in time things changed. Today we live in a culture in which adults try to look, act, and sound like children, well, youth at least. Look at how we adults dress today. On Sunday morning you are more likely to see cargo shorts, jeans, polos, tees with logos, and such as you are to see dress pants, a freshly pressed shirt, a necktie, or a suit jacket. This is not the odd domain of the Church but typical of the way adults dress, act, and talk elsewhere.
The problem is that this does not focus on dress or even vocabulary. It also focuses on behavior. Adults act like children and children act like children and there is no one left to act like an adult. Parents don't want to be parents but friends to their children. Adults want to be cool and presume that only kids are cool. They smoke pot, ditch work, look at porn, litter their words with vulgarities, and lust for anonymous and uncommitted sex. All the things that youth were thought to want to do (or do) but grow out of when they became adults.
Video games, the current toys of our modern technology, the cars we drive, the things we do, the music we listen to. . . instead of growing up and becoming an adult, we look to the youth to signal what is in and what is out, what we should wear and what we shouldn't, what we should do and what we shouldn't, etc... We complain that men act like boys and boys have no incentive to act like men but then we have women who act as if adulthood means career and self over marriage and family -- in essence as childish as they men who never get out of their parent's basements!
Worship in the Church has catered toward this youth orientation -- we sing songs that sound like the radio and say hardly anything of substance and we do things that are fun and we assume if we are happy, God is happy. We orient the whole mission of the church toward happiness, fun, pleasure, and fulfillment of felt needs (even when the definitions of happiness, fun, pleasure, and felt needs is rather adolescent).
Perhaps we need to simply bite the bullet! We need to grow up and look and act and sound like adults. Maybe the kids in school would respect the teachers and administrators more if they dressed and acted like adults instead of trying to meet the youth on the ground of their own adolescence. Maybe the Church would be more successful if we did not try to meet people at the place of their prolonged adolescence and instead called them to be the grown ups God expects them to be. Perhaps children would want to be adults if adulthood did not look like a skewed version of their own awkward adolescence and young adulthood. We could try it!
Even St. Paul talks about the need to grow up. No longer be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ... Eph. 4. Even St. Paul calls us to maturity. Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature. I Cor. 14 and I Cor. 13 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.
Funny how we cling to the childish things we ought to abandon and refuse to trust like children as adults! It is not a new problem. But in the past the culture was encouraging us to grow up as well. Now it seems culture is telling us to act like a child.