Clergy-wear during protests
OK, I'm wandering into the territory of Beauty Tips for Ministers here, but a couple of recent conversations have brought up the issue of what clergy should wear for protests.
I know a number of Ministers who only wear clerical collars for protests. The logic is that it's important to identify as a Minister when you're supporting something society doesn't expect clergy to. So Ministers will wear a collar at gay prides or pro-choice rallies to make this point.
Now I could understand this if it you wore a collar going about your general business, and also did during a protest, but I'm quite uncomfortable with the idea of wearing clerical wear ONLY for protests.
The seems to be something worth exploring.
I have said before that I'm not in favour of special titles or clothing for religious leadership, mainly because Jesus explicitly said this was a lot of nonsense. Religious leaders should not need these articial crutches.
I have no problem with certain liturgical clothing during worship, although the ideal would be everyone wearing it, though that would probably freak out a visitor a bit. In leading worship a person takes on a temporary priestly role, and so in wearing a liturgical outfit they are becoming a symbol in themselves. Decorating the worship leader has the same meaning as decorating the altar. But it is temporary, and about the role, not permanent and about the person. A lay person could equally wear liturgical clothing. And the liturgical clothing comes off at the end of the worship.
I have never worn a clerical collar, but I did used to wear my stole for gay pride. As I relflected further I have decided not to anymore, as a stole is a symbol for worship and should not be used outside of worship.
So, back to protests: the argument goes that you make your point better by being identified as a Minister. Afterall (other than the MCC, an explictly queer denominiation) Unitarans are still the only Christian-derived denomination with openly gay Ministers. So people-who-look-like-Ministers in gay prides makes the point.
But let's look at the argument in detail. What are you actually saying in saying that it's more important for a Unitarian minister than a Unitarian layperson to be seen in a protest? What are saying in saying it's more important to see a Minister than a Quaker (who have no Ministers/or rather have no laity)? Implicit in this argument is the idea that a Minister's witness is more powerful than a layperson's. You see Quakers are witnessing to their pro-gay position by marching in Prides, but with none of them in clerical wear they are also witnessing to their deeper commitment to spiritual equality. There is a coherence and integrity to that witness.
Whereas wearing clerical collars only for protests seems to me to be a position that values pragmatism more than integrity. We're prepared to give up our integrity on one issue because we think it might "work" in achieving another. By the same logic you could use misleading statistics, misquotes, and half-truths to make your political point if you thought it would "work." The ends justifies the means.
Now if, for example, the press wanted to talk to someone to represent a position then it makes sense that a Minister might be the person who, because of their training and position, be best able to articulare the arguments. But in a purely visual way do we need to be carrying signs that say "I'm a Minister therefore you should pay more attention to my views"? That's what you're doing in wearing clerical garb in a protest.
I think it's unnecessary.