You don't have to signal a social conscience by looking like a frump. Lace knickers won't hasten the holocaust, you can ban the bomb in a feather boa just as well as without, and a mild interest in the length of hemlines doesn't necessarily disqualify you from reading Das Kapital and agreeing with every word. --Elizabeth Bibesco

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Outward Acts of Religiosity

I think outward acts of religiosity are tough in Christianity. For one thing, we're supposed to be "not of this world," which makes us stand out whether we want to or not. For another, Jesus said when we fasted not to look like we were fasting and when we prayed not to be pompous about it. On the other hand, we do it. If your Catholic or Episcopalian, think crossing yourself.

I started crossing myself a while back, but I was hesitant about it for all the reasons one could be hesitant about blatant acts of religiosity. Now, though, I do it out of habit. I like it, I'm glad it's become habit, but it's definitely a habit.

Now, I work on a project studying youth suicide prevention. My boss is religious and Episcopalian. The team learned Thursday while I was there that a youth in our community had committed suicide. When I heard it, I crossed myself and prayed (silently) "Let light perpetual shine upon him." My boss saw and thanked me for doing it. She was upset and the sight of that familiar ritual was comforting.

That's why ritual exists, isn't it? So we can fall back on it for comfort? But we generally fall back on our own ritual not other people's, unless it's very visible. Is that why there are acts of religiosity that we do publically? To remind other people of faith that they're not alone? To give them something to fall back on?

Does my covering serve that purpose? I don't know.


Clara said...

It does for me.

Anonymous said...

The Bible has such weird, conflicting messages about this and I think they're also interpreted in conflicting ways. How are you supposed to:

"Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:15-16)

while you try

"not [to] be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full." (Matthew 6:4-6).

I mean, I realize that these aren't referring to precisely the same thing, but there's potential for overlap/conflict, I think, It seems to depend on intentions, but intentions can be very mixed. Also, people's readings of your intentions can be mixed.

As usual, I don't actually have a clear answer to this. :) The way I handle it tends to change from day to day...

- Megan

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