When I was in school, I got into trouble from time to time. Sometimes it was truly bizarre. One summer morning in those lazy last days of the school year I was stopped while walking from one class to another and ushered directly to the headmaster’s office. I could not figure it out. I was completely oblivious of anything I did or did not do in the recent past, and I was not even faking it! I received yet another reprimand and spent the rest of the day in the school suspension. It turned out that I committed a serious ideological offense by wearing a T-shirt. On it was an artistic representation of a Canadian Mapleleaf! Our good family friend lived in Calgary and sent us this innocent gift. But for the petty communist apparatchicks and ideology-minders, those Canadians were clearly like cousins of a devil and part of imperialistic archenemy camp.
Then I heard from Prof. Charles Jones (In one of the lectures from The Teaching Company) about how in his college years in the late 1970's (roughly at the same time) he and his friends also got into fashion trouble. They wanted to advertise their school radio station with a T-shirt. On it was a station frequency, beneath the head of Karl Marx wearing headphones (!) and the slogan “the opium of the people”. The vigilant college administration banned it straightaway. Well..., no antireligious Marxist hints in good old Kentucky! Not even from a future professor of religion and culture.
What we wear and how we wear it can indicate conformity, or register a protest; dress can display national, religious, cultural, political, or generational affiliation. Our dress is an important part of the semiotic codes - our clothes contain and are often used to send important contextual messages. This Sunday’s lectionary reading will place Jesus on the biblical fashion catwalk. One, often overlooked, verse (Mark 6:56) will offer us a rare opportunity to “read”, analyze and interpret biblical fashion, its historical contextuality, its deep religious meanings, and its import for our physical and spiritual well being and healing.