I went to a Christmas party last night – my wife’s company Christmas party. I had a wedding rehearsal dinner earlier in the evening, and after that I went directly to the party. I was, therefore, dressed in a clerical collar. It wasn’t a black clergy shirt, although that is my preference, but rather I had intentionally chosen to wear a burgundy clergy shirt so that no one with an anti-catholic bias would assume I was Roman Catholic, get offended, and call their baby sitter to make sure no pedophiles were around. The last important detail was that my wife works for a health care company that employs chaplains, so the people at this party are used to having clergy types around. When I arrived, both my wife and her boss said, “Take off you collar so people don’t freak out.” Had it been anywhere but a company Christmas party, I would simply have left. I don’t believe in pretending to be ashamed of something that isn’t shameful.
This whole thing does raise an interesting issue, however. Obviously, all of those holier than thou clergy types have succeeded in winning the day after years of running around in self aggrandizing judgment of others. If these pin headed prelates really were anything remotely close to holy (which, from a Christian perspective would mean first and foremost loving) they would never even think of being judgmental. The effect is obvious – even people who work with clergy are obviously deeply suspicious of them and find it difficult to relax around them based upon their previous exposure to The Rev. Ridicule.
I don’t believe the answer is to surrender to the religious right, I believe the answer is for progressive clergy to take the lead in reclaiming our right to be fully human, with flaws and failings and the occasional inadvertent episode of flatus in public, and do so in clerical garb. Only in this way will the image ever change. Clergy of the world unity: Laugh, cry, scream, and flip off the occasional bad driver in your collar!
It’s the only way to restore our credibility…