Lately I have been growing more and more interested in Christian material culture. Our stuff. What does our stuff say about us and our beliefs. There aren’t two separate realms, our Bibles and our closets, our theology and our shopping bags, our minds and our bodies. The shape of our life reveals the shape of our theology. I posted recently about The Uniform Project, and here’s a new one…
My mom just told me about this project called The Great American Apparel Diet. A group of women got together and decided not to buy new clothes for one year. This is what the website compellingly offers, “You see, like most women we are attached to our wardrobes in some form or another…We all have our reasons for embarking on this project but it all gets down to this…who are we without something hip and new in our closets? We shall see.” The profiles of the women who started the project are intriguing. It’s definitely worth a look.
This is great on so many levels, but on a basic one it teaches us to be content with what we have. Not to base our identity on our level of stylishness. Obviously this can turn into a reverse, and just as bad, form of pride (though I think most of us could use discipline rather than freedom in this area). Even worse, perhaps, programs like this and the Uniform Project (much like actual “diets”) can become merely that– a program, something you do for a year, maybe to get attention, and then stop. Something that does not connect with other parts of your life or bear fruit in the world. Even not buying clothes can be a withering on the vine (though that does not mean the converse is true: buying all the clothes you feel like can be evidence of fruitfulness).
I’m not suggesting that everyone run out and wear a black dress for a year, or not buy clothes for a year. But I do want us to THINK about it. To think about our purchases and what our shopping bags say about where our heart is. Our theological beliefs are not the words we say but the lives we live. (The words are important, but, for example, if a wife says that she loves her husband while she’s having an affair, the words are essentially rendered meaningless, or at least deeply, deeply problematic.) Christians in our country right now are living in a crisis. We have set up a system in which we are encouraged to say pious words, condemn ‘perverse’ sexualities, and construct theological systems that show how we are inside and those people are on the outside. All while driving our Lexus with the Jesus fish on the back. Our clothes are theological convictions. Our closets are creeds.
All that is to say, I’m not posting about these programs so that people will do a program (though I think not buying clothes for a year would behoove pretty much every one of us). I am writing about this so that people might start thinking about the shape of their lives and what that shape reveals about the real theology going on underneath all of the orthodox words and pretty songs to Jesus.