2008-09-08

Fundy or Trendy?

I've just been reading a rather famous and controversial Christian blog posting that's been floating around the net for the past few weeks. I haven't read it all, but this part of the post stands out:
A recent cover story at World Magazine about "NextGen Worship" inspired a strong desire to smack the pastors depicted in the article and in the photos. The cover photo alone enraged me, with the pastor wearing baggy jeans and untucked button-up shirt with flip flops and an ear microphone. Later, the same guy is shown out front of a church holding a paper Starbucks-like cup of coffee. Could he try any harder to be lame?

I'd have liked to have taken that cup of coffee and dumped it on his head. But it's nothing personal against that guy or his beliefs or sincerity. It's an anger at something else.

I'm not going to be one of those starched-collar Christians who, based on personal preference, say that this is a sign we're going to hell in a handbasket and that all things are wrong unless they are done as they were with the Puritans. What I'm saying is that I can't stand the phoniness, or trendiness, or sameness -- or whatever I'm trying to say here -- that the church seems to catch onto at the tail end, not even aware of how lame it is. The fact that this is not only actually successful in appealing to people, but attracts them, also disgusts me.

It makes me want to throw up.

It's buying into some kind of lie or substitution of cool culture as being relevant when it isn't.

If I see another cool Bible college student or pastoral studies major wearing the hemp choker necklace, flip-flops, open-at-the-collar shirt that's untucked, and baggy jeans, saying words like "dude" and "sweet", I will kick their ass. It's like the Christian version of annoying hipsters, an overly-studied and homogenized "with-it" faux coolness.
Right on sister! I hate it when Christians get all trendy and "with it" to try to attract people. I quite often see "hip young youthworker types" wearing the clothes of young people. It makes me sick. Young people don't respond to adults wearing their clothes or listening to their music - they respond to honesty and genuineness.

Nevertheless, the comments above can also make us wonder about the appropriateness of wearing the standard fundamentalist "suit and tie" to church. Being Fundy is just as bad in my book because it adds a "dress code" to public worship - something that is not legislated in any way in the NT and is, in fact, prohibited.

The church that I go to - Charlestown Presbyterian Church - does not have a dress code. By this I mean that there is no explicit or implied code that people should abide by when it comes to what they wear. People come in wearing baggy pants, and in summer some people wear thongs (which, for shocked Americans reading this, is what Australians call flip flops). A friend of mine is often seen wearing heavy metal or skater T-shirts.

But, remember, there is no "code" that we are abiding by. The reason why people who attend our church with the clothes that they wear (and many older people dress more conservatively while at the same church service) is NOT because we have some far-out hippy trendy get-with-the-times sort of attitude emanating from people. We just wear what we wear because its comfortable.

To me, and for many Australians who attend conservative Reformed churches, we neither enforce a Fundy suit and tie dress code nor have a trendy get-with-the-times dress code. What people wear when they go out shopping is the sort of thing we do - but without any sort of explicit reason. We just do it.

Part of the reason for this is the influence of Sydney Anglicanism. The Anglican diocese of Sydney is the strongest evangelical diocese in the world. Anglicans, or Episcopalians as you call them in the United States, often wear robes and cassocks and dog collars. Back in the early 1970s, some evangelicals began not to ask questions like "how can we be more trendy" but "why should we bother wearing this garbage?". Since then there has been a revulsion towards dressing in ways that communicate self-importance.

But the other reason for this in Australia is that fundamentalism - the American variety - has never really been strong here. In the US, evangelicalism is broken up into three broad groupings: Pentecostals and Charismatics, Arminian Dispensational Baptist Fundamentalists and Calvinists and Reformed. That is a very broad group - many churches and people fit into multiples groupings. But of that group, the Baptists are the strongest while the Calvinists are the smallest. Here in Australia, the Arminian Dispensationalist Baptist Fundamentalists are the smallest group. The Pentecostals and Charismatics are the biggest group, and Calvinists are second in line but are stil substantially large. Here's a summary of that breakup:

America: 50% ADBF, 40% P/C, 10% C/R
Australia: 10% ADBF, 55% P/C, 35% C/R

This means that the whole "suit and tie" culture was never really a central part of Australian evangelicalism.

Of course, this is not to say that Australian churches don't suffer from the trendy hip get-with-the-times problem. Many do. But wearing informal clothes to church is only an issue when it is an integral and explicit part of the church community. If a pastor gets up and says "I wear baggy pants so I can get hip with da yoof!" then I have a problem with it. If a pastor gets up and says nothing about his baggy pants then that's fine. Wearing baggy pants is not the issue - having some stupid, extra-biblical cultural reason for wearing them is. Moreover, it's the same issue with wearing suits and ties.

2 comments:

Coffee Bean said...

I go to a church where the pastor dresses casually. There is no dress code but anyone in any kind of dress is welcome. You see it all at our church... suits, dresses, casual, trendy, clean, and dirty. When I invite someone to church the first thing they almost always say is that they have nothing appropriate to wear. I always tell them that isn't a problem at our church and that they will not feel out of place at all, no matter what they wear.

I do think that it is important for the youth pastors to understand the current youth culture and be able to reach them where they are at. I think it would depend from person to person whether they were enacting some sort of hip to be Christian kind of persona or if they are just trying to relate and reach.

BLBeamer said...

I'm all for dressing comfortably, but I do find my hackles raised when men wear t-shirts with suggestive slogans on them and baseball caps into the sanctuary. It's one thing if they are visitors who don't know any better. I wish that was the case....