Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Outward Expressions and Inward Legitimacy

This Saturday, Lord willing, Debra and I will join 92,000 of our closest friends in attending the Georgia-Auburn game at Sanford Stadium in Athens. The Georgia seniors have requested that all the Georgia fans attending the game participate in a “black-out”—they want us all to wear black clothing to the game.

Frankly, I find the idea problematic for several reasons. First, I don’t own a black shirt and will thus have to purchase one. Second, black is not even a predominant color in the Bulldogs’ uniform; a “red-out” would make more sense. Third, black is the traditional color for mourning and that seems ominous to me, especially considering that the visiting team often wins this game.

But, I’m a fan so I’ll try to go along.

They’ll know we are Bulldogs by our black clothing. You can spot the adherents of certain religions by their clothing, too. Amish folks are easy to identify as are Hasidic Jews. You can often tell that someone is a Hindu or a Muslim by looking at their attire. Where I grew up, Pentecostal women were identifiable by their modest dresses and their long hair that was often worn in a bun.

I respect the practice of living out your principles even through the clothing you wear. I am certain that for many folks who do so their inward devotion is a match for their outward exhibition. I suspect that for some of them, though, what is on the inside does not match that to which they testify on the outside. I say that only because I am a person and I know how people can be. Clothes don’t make the man—or the woman.

Neither do other outward signifiers.

A few weeks ago, a reporter asked Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama why he does not wear an American flag lapel pin. He replied that he had worn one for a while after 9/11 but that he stopped because he felt that such pins were becoming a substitute for true patriotism. He said that he would exhibit his patriotism by talking about issues and sharing his ideas on how to make America better.

One could wear a pin and still talk about the issues, of course, and thereby avoid questions about such matters. Still, if you feel like you have to choose between an outward symbolic expression and an inward conviction that issues in meaningful words and actions, then the latter should be chosen.

I don’t wear an American flag lapel pin, either. I love my country and am grateful for the opportunities and liberties provided here. Still, my allegiance to my nation, while important to me, is secondary. My ultimate allegiance is to my Savior Jesus Christ. So, were I to wear a lapel pin, it would more likely be a cross.

But I don’t wear a cross, either. I wonder why? I think that I am afraid that it would be too easy for me to be one of those people who wear their religion on their sleeve or, in this case, on their lapel, while not tending properly to the state of my heart and the state of my lifestyle. There is another reason, though: I don’t like to wear jewelry. I wear two pieces of jewelry, both of which were gifts from my wife: my wedding band and my watch. I’m just not a bling kind of guy, even if the bling is pretty meaningful bling. And that of course explains why I don’t wear both a cross and a flag. From an aesthetic point of view, it just isn’t me.

So this Saturday, they’ll know we are Bulldogs by our black.

How do they know that we’re patriots? By the pins we wear or by the contributions that we make?

How do they know that we’re Christians? By the jewelry we wear or by the love that we show?


The Beast said...

Agreed brother.

Scott said...

I guess the black-out worked, since Georgia won going away...

but the red definitely looks better on television.