The year was 1970. The place was Mississinewa High School. The town was Gas City, Indiana, a sleepy former natural gas boom town, then better known as the home of Tote-a-Burger, whose slogan was “Where the Elite Meet to Eat!”
At the beginning of the school year, I was then a freshman, students walked out of classes and out of the school to protest the dress code. Those early radicals, I may have been one of them, I honestly don’t remember, wanted the right to wear what they wanted to wear to school and not what the “man”, in this case the school board, told them to wear. It was the times, the end of the long decade of the 1960s, but for me it was a harbinger of things to come.
My mother was a registered nurse. I remember as a child seeing her wear her white uniform, complete with white hose and white shoes, and the cap that she had worked so hard to earn. Little by little the expectations of how a nurse should present herself, and increasingly himself, changed and finally scrubs and sneakers became the fashion.
Men used to wear shirts and ties to the ballgame, and people dressed up in their Sunday best to travel by air. Now most people wear the most relaxing thing imaginable to fly and even some things that are unimaginable.
Speaking of Sundays, we used to dress up to go to church. I never went to church up through my high school years without a tie. You know how we go to church now; for some of us it looks like we’re going to a sporting event or a picnic in the park. Those changes even affected evangelical pastors. I was one of them and watched the dressing down of the person who was to declare the Word of God go from a suit and tie to flannel shirts and holey, not holy, jeans!
This didn’t just affect evangelicals. After Vatican II the dress code changed for a lot for Catholics, starting with the clergy and the religious. Cassocks were discarded and many priests only wore their “dog collars” at official functions, but not out in public. Religious sisters got out of the “habit” of wearing what their religious order had always worn. By the 1970s many nuns were only distinguishable, if even then, by the crucifix they wore.
Yet I wonder if the relaxing of standards of dressing to honor God was not something that was first accepted among Catholics and then bled over into other Christian communions. Whether we recognize it or not, the Catholic Church has served as the salt and light in our world for 2000 years. The great builder and sustainer of Western civilization has been the Catholic Church. So when standards were relaxed among Catholics, meaning the introduction of salt free and diffused light, the impact has been felt in general society. It’s been a little over 50 years since so much was changed and even thrown out from traditional Catholicism, under the guise of creating a church that could better relate to the culture. What was ignored was that the Catholicism that gave life and flavor to the culture and kept if from moral rot, now would become complicit in the hastening of the destruction of sanctity and sanity.
If you have any doubts about this, read today’s headlines!