Warning: trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored can lead to serious stains on the footy parts.
23 August 2006, 12:25 PM
Lately I’ve seen a couple of mocking links to the Armor of Gd pajamas. Teresa Nielsen Hayden calls them daft, and it was the Cruel Site of the Day. And, yes, the site itself is poorly designed, and the pajamas are goofy-looking. But are they goofier-looking than a tallis and tefillin? And, you know, the March girls used to dress up as pilgrims and wade through the Slough of Despond. Were they daft?
In fact, there is a long and rather sweet tradition, particularly in American Protestantism, of exactly this sort of morality play dress-up. And I think it’s a pretty good way to teach the whole idea of allegory, particularly religious allegory. More than that, I think it’s not a bad way to teach Scripture and certain values.
We are, of course, talking about Ephesians 6:10ff. Paul (and yes, I have my problems with Paul, or Saul that was, but it’s clear that lots of Protestantism is Pauline, and surely that is their business) is saying that the primary struggle is not against flesh and blood but against wickedness in authority. That is, Paul does not want an army to fight with ordinary weapons. No, he says, don’t gird yourself with leather, but gird yourself with truth. Make your breastplate of righteousness. And for boots, the gospel of peace.
Now, as I say, I’m no Christian, and I have some problems with the whole (admittedly beautiful) passage, but even I would have to prefer my Perfect Non-Reader wear the breastplate of righteousness than GI Joe jammies. I mean, if we are teaching our children about (a) what the important struggles are in the world, and (2) how to fight those struggles, surely we of the left shouldn’t really be objecting when people go back to Ephesians. Yes, we need to keep in mind that there is Crusader imagery there, and that warlike Christians took Ephesians and made the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of the Lord out of steel. But the pajamas point out how wrong the Crusaders were in their interpretation of Paul. That lesson seems totally inescapable to me. Because the pajamas are made of cloth, and are only a visible sign of an invisible struggle.
Mostly, though, I want to point out that there is an instinct to mock this sort of thing, because this sort of thing is associated, at least in part, with some stuff that it is a really good idea to mock. At least. Paul has plenty to answer for. And I when we mock the good (or at least the harmless) along with the bad, we set up hostility, and legitimately lose the ear of those who might listen. So when Christians—of whatever stripe—choose to educate their children in ways that do no damage, that actually teach what their Scripture tells them to, that have a message that is on the whole positive for themselves and all of us, if it strikes you as goofy, just smile quietly to yourself and move along. Or, if such is your inclination, consider earlocks and fringes, and what constitutes true goofiness.
chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek,