I happened to be taking a walk on a recent Sunday morning, and I happened to pass a church where people were arriving for Sunday-morning services, and I admit it's been a while since I myself attended church, and I know things are a lot more casual these days, but I couldn't believe what these people were wearing. One woman wore a halter top, shorts and sandals. One man had on a pair of raggedy jeans and a Budweiser T-shirt. And everybody looked like they were going to a barbecue, not church. Far be it from me to criticize these people, but has it really gone that far? Does nobody put on his or her Sunday best anymore? When I was a kid, I had my regular clothes and my church clothes, and you didn't confuse one with the other. I'm not saying it was better back then. In many ways, it was worse. But what does it all mean? Anything?
Church Lady: Like all things having to do with religion, it means whatever you want it to mean. I, too, grew up at a time when you put on your go-to-meeting clothes to go to meeting. In my case, that meant a pair of dress pants, a dress shirt, a suit jacket, a pair of shoes that had fit my older brother a lot better than they fit me and a clip-on tie that was held up with safety pins. We didn't have much money, but we were well-scrubbed and wouldn't have thought of violating a dress code that was largely unspoken and not written down anywhere, certainly not in the Bible. This was the early to mid-'60s. In fact, I remember the day, in 1968, when my parents suddenly announced that, from here on out, we didn't have to leave our church clothes on for Sunday lunch. It was, in retrospect, the beginning of the end.
Soon after that, I went through the confirmation process and was formally invited to join the church as a full-fledged "adult" member. Once again, my parents had an announcement. As a full-fledged "adult" member of the church, it was now up to me whether I attended Sunday services or not. Needless to say, I never went back. And so maybe I'm not the best person to judge whether casual attire is suitable for the Lord's Day. ("Judge not, lest ye be judged.") Then again, judging is what I do. ("Judge early and often, lest ye be judged.") And in my humble-before-God opinion, Casual Sundays are the best thing to hit the church since padded pews. In both cases, the point seems to be comfort. It's difficult to focus your thoughts on the hereafter when safety pins are jabbing at your neck. But there are other points as well.
Vanity and humility, for instance. And now I would like for everyone to turn their hymnals to page 357 and sing along with me: "Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind." In other words, God not only doesn't mind whether we're dressed poorly, He actually likes it. And besides, if everybody else is blind, they're not going to see what we're wearing anyway. So, come in your halter top if you want. Mine eyes hath seen the coming of the glory of the Lord, so what's a halter top to me? And sandals? Jesus wore sandals! Surely Heaven, if it exists, is one enormous come-as-you-are party, and so why shouldn't we come as we are to the pre-party? From what I've read, most churches have made their peace with Casual Sunday, even embraced it in many cases. I salute them for it. And I look forward to the day when we all stand naked before....
To dress me down for dressing down, write to: MR. RIGHT, ISTHMUS, 101 KING ST., MADISON, WI 53703. OR CALL 251-1206, EXT. 152. OR EMAIL MRRIGHT@ISTHMUS.COM.