Clericals watch, or "why bother?"

Did anyone else stay up to see Morrissey on David Letterman? The show “ran late” and so all the fans got was a single from his none-too-new CD. But Hubby and I saw him recently in concert, and so of course we were going to catch a reprise. But a word about his costume.

His wearing street clericals was a tad provocative, but topical since one of the songs off the new disk is “I Have Forgiven Jesus”. (It wasn’t what he sang, but rather “The First in the Gang to Die”.)

As some one who has been known to wear clericals, let me tell the garb is highly symbolic. You become the object of projection from both friends and strangers. Some will object; others wil be uneasy. Very, very few will defer or treat you nicely because of your public ministerial state. All of which is odd, given both that street clericals share as much in common with “lay” clothing as human DNA shares with the chimp.

But a public witness is a part of the vocation of a Christian, and clergy need to be the first ones “out there” to encourage the faithful and caution the distructive. The tendency in American religious practice — especially on the liberal edges — is to identify faith with public morality. The side effect is confusing one’s religion with accepted community standards, and the inheriting the biases and sins they foster. Conservatives do this too, but liberals (in my experience) become more marginal and self-congratulatory faster than convervatives, largly because the latter still have such a consiousness of sin. (Liberals, on the other hand, have a keen consciousness of huberis: a deeply needed contribution in its own right, but off the subject here.)

But Christian faith isn’t about being nice. It is about being in communion with God with and throug Christ Jesus. Playground morality doesn’t hold a candle next to human community and solidarity with a compassionate God.

Back to Moz. His garb is an ironic recollection of the western Christian establishment that’s all but dead. Ironically, that’s why it isn’t too shocking, and will probably not register much of a protest. We know what he stands for through his music and politics. We know what he believes, but for us poor blighted non-rockers it makes as much sense to identify ourselves publically in word and deed with what we believe. Rather than hiding in a cosy “one of the team” laicism, I feel clergy should step up and be the first to identify themselves as Christian in word, deed, manner, and dress.

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