Affected Authenticity

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When we talk about the way we dress, we often forget that we are speaking about language. That is, we use the full force of language to get what we want to get, and when called on it, we “plead the dictionary,” to use my earlier example.

Suppose a young rebel in your church were out in the parking lot after services, loudly yelling what we euphemistically call the f-word. When someone, Mrs. Grundy say, remonstrates with him, he retreats to the study of etymology, and linguistics, saying that the original AngloSaxon was entirely innocent, and that in Chinese these particular sounds mean something like doorknob. Shouldn’t nobody have a problem, sez he.

Yes, says Mrs. Grundy, legalism banging away on all eight cylinders, but that is not what this word means here.

Every culture has “good clothes,” clothes you wear to a wedding or a funeral, or when the queen asks you to sing for her. Whatever those are (and I don’t care what those are), wear that kind of thing to church. That is appropriate. Every culture has the equivalent of coveralls for changing the oil in the car, or carrying honey buckets. So don’t wear that. Just like different cultures have different languages and combinations of letters and sounds, so they have different ways of communicating respect and honor. Those who wear the clothing of rebellion, precisely because it is rebellious, and then try to pretend (in certain settings) that this just stitched fabric, nothing more and nothing less, are showing how deeply the lies of lowlife authenticity have affected us. It is manifestly not true, and everyone conspires to act as though it is true. This is why affected authenticity just drives me up the wall. You want to see a Pharisee with widened phylacteries? Look for someone who bought jeans with the holes already in them. And then ask yourself the question — what would Jesus do? From all available evidence, He would laugh and make fun of it.

So when Christians gather for worship, which indicates their submission to God, they ought not to be wearing clothes that proclaim (as everyone knows they proclaim) rebellion. Sure the Bible never says that we can’t wear goth and paint our fingernails black. It also never says that you can’t give Mrs. Grundy the bird, as you lay rubber out of the parking lot.

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