Sunday, November 11, 2012

Fashion and Christian Identity: Introduction

It's "Fashion Week" here at Renewing Your Mind!  There will be a series of six posts this week on "Fashion & Christian Identity".
At the beginning of the month, I presented at a breakout session at a conference called "The Christian Evasion of Popular Culture", alongside the likes of Peter Rollins and Tony Jones, who were two of the keynote speakers.  Yes, really.  It was quite surreal for me, a stay-at-home mom who has little interaction in the academic and philosophical worlds these days.  I will state right up front that my presentation was decidedly less academic than any of the others.

When I initially started exploring this project right before the deadline to submit an abstract, I wanted to take this idea of Abraham Kuyper that I have heard a lot about since February:
“there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: 'Mine!'”
and explore how it might relate to fashion.  A few years ago, I briefly explored the idea of our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit as connected to fashion (in an attempt to write a magazine article) and so I wanted to combine these ideas in order to see what role fashion may have in the life of a Christian woman.

There is a lot that I did not cover, there is a lot that I do not know, and there is a lot that I don't know that I don't know.  So take this series as the first step in an exploration of the topic, and not my final thoughts on it.

I've been interested in fashion for a few years now, but there have been times that I have wondered what the connection is between fashion and my Christian faith.  I've kind of felt as if enjoying fashion was some kind of guilty pleasure to keep secret, like watching a soap opera.

There really are no explicit instructions in the Bible that we can use today about exactly how to dress.  I don’t think that when Paul wrote to the Galatians about newly baptized members having “clothed [them]selves with Christ” he meant it literally, like this.  When we do see the New Testament’s writers discuss how to clothe oneself, it is with our new self (Ephesians 4:24), or with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, and love (Colossians 3:12, 14; 1 Peter 5:5).  While I have no disagreements with wearing those, we still need to wear actual clothes too.

Ever since Adam and Eve donned fig leaves and were then clothed by God with garments of skins, we have had a connection with fashion, whether we acknowledge it or not.  Our fashion choices stem from who we are (or think we are) and make a statement about our identity.

As Christians, if our identity is in Christ, if we are considered a royal priesthood, and if our bodies are temples for the Holy Spirit, how should that impact our fashion choices?  What does it mean to identify with those tenets of our faith yet clothe ourselves with the fashion produced by designers who often look at fashion only as a form of art and income.  And fashion is often more art than “just clothing”.  Often what is sent down the runways is not ready-to-wear.  Even designer Luis Valenzuela has a category on his website called “art to wear”.  Decorating our bodies through clothing can be a way of honoring our Creator by directing our attention away from negative images we have of ourselves and our bodies and toward the positive image of our bodies as created by God and as part of His plan in this world.   If we are able to see our bodies not as irrelevant but instead actually see ourselves as priests and temples, we can use that to our advantage in order to work in advancing God’s Kingdom in a culture that often judges based on what is visible.

To Be Continued...

No comments: