What does your religion look like?
A suit and tie? A skirt that covers your knees?
That was the appropriate attire to wear to a Baptist service as outlined in the book How To Be a Perfect Stranger: The Essential Religious Etiquette Handbook. It’s pretty true. Most Baptist churches I’ve visited make the jeans-and-polo-shirt guy the odd man out.
(Why the author made Baptist its own religion is understandable to me even though she’s wrong. But that’s another topic.)
The point is, the radical right wing conservative churches of the Bible belt (Independent Baptists) can be described by their outsides.
My dad prefers to wear a suit to church. He is a dignified man and likes to dress up for appropriate occasions. My mother always looks beautiful. She dresses up to go to church and her skirts always cover her knees. (They’re Presbyterian.)
My brother wears a t-shirt and jeans. (He’s non-denominational.)
My sister wears a dress. (Baptist.)
My skirts never cover my knees. (Not telling.)
None of that matters. I love that the church I attend has a member with dreadlocks and multiple men and women with multiple facial piercings.
The church catholic shouldn’t be describable. Ideally, that book would have had a chapter called “Christian,” wherein the author struggled to group or describe these people at all.
Because what should set us apart is that we all get along, despite being so different.
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.
God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
Does that sound like arguing over what to wear to church?
Mary, of John 12, disregarded every social expectation with her worship of Jesus. Displaying her hair like that was the sluttiest thing she could have done. And Jesus commends her for it.
The easier way is to follow a specific set of regulations. The easier way is to say long skirts are ok, short skirts are not. The easier way is to say put on a tie to go to church.
But there is a better way.
As Milton says toward the end of Areopagitica, “How many other things might be tolerated in peace and left to conscience, had we but charity.”
That should be the church’s main descriptor. We are unified because we are clothed in love.