Indifference is not characteristic of the liturgy
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A blog of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy

Clerical Collar as Confession to a Hostile World

Early this Spring my wife and I ate lunch at a new BurgerFi in Ft. Wayne. It was in the middle of the day and I was dressed in a black suit with a clerical collar. It turned out that the local paper's bar scene critics were there and they wrote about it.

Here is what the bar critics had to say about BurgerFi’s clientele and my attire: :It was an eclectic mix of patrons at BurgerFi when we hit it up for a weekday lunch. Everyone from millennials to working-class guys to a member of the clergy (collar and all) were enjoying some BurgerFi during our visit."  

While I do not think the critics were hostile, I thought it was unusual that my attire was thought to be noteworthy. I also think that the phrase in parenthesis “(collar and all)” implied that I was wearing some sort of medieval costume rather than simply wearing a suit and a clerical collar. This has hardly improved with the most recent scandal and shame from Rome to be uncovered in Pennsylvania.

This reminded me of an article on the Masculinist by Arron Renn where he talks about the Church become a spectacle and standing in an adversarial position against the prevailing culture. He promotes the idea that the Church can have a positive view, a neutral view, or a negative view of its position and relationship to the world. He advocates that we have a negative view, that is, that we do not think we can have real influence over the world and we do not try to appease the world in any way.

He lists Tim Keller and Hillsong as examples of a positive or neutral view which he considers to be counterproductive and even dangerous. What he says of them is a warning for us. In subtle and not--subtle ways, such as wearing polo shirts to look like the world or by preaching anti-nomianism and a “radical” Gospel that is barely different from the culture’s idolatry of tolerance, we might attempt to tell the world that the Church is no threat and that we are walking toward the same goal. In Renn’s view this is a strategic error that is destined to end up compromising the truth of the Gospel. I think he is correct.

This isn’t to say that the only way to engage the world is to wear a clerical collar to weekday lunches in public. That is simply an example. The point is that we are at odds with our culture and we need to be conscious of it and not compromise for acceptance or popularity. So even though it has become less comfortable to wear a collar in public than it used to be, I am going to keep on doing it and I encourage you, if you are a pastor, to do the same.

You can read Renn’s article here:  I would suggest that you also subscribe to his newsletter. You can do so here: