Jim Wilson is now in Australia. He’s getting settled in nicely and had a few minutes to provide the following post:
Much of my life was spent in rather conservative and religious settings in the south and the Midwest. Often this meant interacting with other individuals, often from the World War II generation. These respected friends were judgmental and downright shallow when looking at members of younger generations. This was especially pronounced when it came to fashion.
They complain that people don’t get dressed up anymore, that men and women wear too many of the same clothes and those new fashions are detracting from Christian modesty. Especially, when the person being judged was sporting a look associated with one of the counter cultures that emerged after WWII: Punk, hippie, goth, skater, hip hop etc. They often lament that my t-shirt or basketball shorts would have been considered underwear in their day.
Young women are often criticized by the older generation for not wearing enough make-up, or more dresses, etc. Apparently, the older generation wants to go back to a time around 1953 when people simply had fewer options concerning how to look. Some propose the banning of certain articles of clothing as if a local government should have more say over what people wear than the people themselves.
This attitude is shallow, petty, and uninformed. The availability of practical, comfortable and affordable clothes that can be worn by everyone is a positive development, as is the wider array of choices. It is undesirable to hark back to a time when humans simply had fewer choices and had to live with a rigid, mind-numbing, socially imposed conformity.
The desire to turn back the fashion clock is commonly associated with a religious sense of morality. The religious are the first to complain that people’s clothing no longer reflects a person’s social position, profession, or even more fundamental characteristics such as sex and age. It is as if they believe that one’s identity is tied up in age, sex, and social status and should wear uniforms that reflect these things. Frankly, the modern t-shirts, jeans, tattoos, etc. are far more expressive of one’s real identity than stuffy suits and ties. This is especially true of t-shirts with strong messages or clothing that is in some way counter cultural.
I’d hate to live in world where I was expected to where a stuffy suit and tie all the time or my girlfriend had to wear a dress or we had to get “dressed up” every time we go out. Strange that so many people think this is what religious modesty entails. There is nothing particular modest about wearing suits and ties or dresses or make-up, jewelry, etc. Such traditional clothing is often pompous, impractical, and costly. On the other hand, what could be more modest than wearing comfortable, inexpensive, all-purpose, gender, and age neutral clothing?
Strange that Christians should be arguing for a return to modesty in fashion. Christianity is utterly at odds with modesty. It is immodest to claim a relationship with the creator of universe. It is arrogant to claim the universe and the world was created specifically for Christians. Furthermore, it is even less modest to believe that the creator permitted the execution of a flawless yet innocent man to benefit Christians. The belief that Christianity represents the side of good in some sort of celestial cosmic struggle between good and evil, and therefore gets to tell the rest of us how to dress, what kind of family to live in, and who we should go to bed with and under what circumstances is the height of ostentatiousness. Unsurprisingly, evangelists, ministers, and other religious leaders are often some of the least modest, most self-righteous, and arrogant people you will ever meet. This is only made worse by the fact that they view the rest of us as so vile that we are worthy of nothing more than eternal torment.
It is much more modest, yet a more inspiring view, to recognize that we are merely insignificant pieces of carbon floating precariously on an insignificant planet in the far corner of an insignificant galaxy, in a universe far grander and more amazing than any of the superstitious nonsense in the Bible. This is not to say that our lives are meaningless or insignificant to ourselves and those around us. The opposite is the case. There is more modesty in dressing practically and recognizing the likelihood that the universe was not made for us.