23 January, 2015

Lots of discussion about fashion and missionaries

I had a lot of comments on my Facebook page as a result of yesterday's post about missionaries and fashion. I thought that I'd post some of the comments (names removed for privacy) here for those of you who don't know me personally.
Here is me before Christmas in one of my very
comfortable t-shirts!

C: I think that anything that makes you feel good about yourself and confident will only enhance your inner as well as your outer beauty. Why on earth should you look dowdy or old fashioned just because you're a missionary? Modest, yes, but that's not limited to missionaries ;)  Love the earrings, have fun with them!

Me:  I think that there is an unspoken thing is that missionaries aren't supposed to be worldly, aren't supposed to spend money on themselves. Misguided really. 

MJ: Isn't it part of a bigger tension that we face in a whole lot more areas than this? On the one hand, we need to be enough like the people we're working with (homeside or fieldside) that they can relate to us, but different enough that it shows our identity and value doesn't reside in our clothes (or house, gizmos, food etc.) and challenges others so see life the same way. Hence there's no easy answer. 

Me: Yes indeed MJ.

C: I'm (as a non-missionary and a really quite slack Easter and Christmas churchgoer) interested to know where the ?judgement? comes from? Other missionaries? People in the congregation? I realise that judgment probably isn't the right word, but I can't think of another. Also, not meaning to be inflammatory or insulting - it's a genuine question. And I honestly believe that it's a compliment to God to want to look your best, most well-presented self as you spread the word.

JL: Sometimes it can be self judgement/ self assessment too.

C I hadn't thought of that. I'm finding this a fascinating discussion.

MePeople give money for us to do this, if we report back to them (which is essentially what we're doing in Australia) and we're wearing expensive clothes, say with an expensive car, people will question how we're using our money, presumably.

Me: MJ, I wonder whether the essence is conducting our lives in all aspects so that we aren't a stumbling block to others understanding our message?

MJThat's the theory. It's the putting into practice part that lacks easy answers!

MJ: C, 'Judgement' is as you say, not a great word for it - I think it implies a more conscious process than I think is really at work. It's a recognition that, if you come across as too weird, people tend to discount what you say as weird without getting as far as listening to the content. But we also need to lead a life in accordance with what we believe - that material things such as clothes are not ultimately hugely important in themselves. Sometimes they are important in being respectful to those we appear in front of (as Wendy says, especially in Japan!)

MB: Just a thought because this makes my blood boil!....the people who support missionaries/pastors/ect financially should give without any expectations on what you can or cannot do with your money, its nobody else's business what you awesome people who give up so much for the sake of the call do with your money.....in fact you should be given more and blessed far and above because you sacrifice so much!

C: MB, I've been trying to word the exact same sentiments! Personal finances are private, regardless of where they come from. I would never expect my boss (hypothetically, as I'm a stay at home mum) to voice an opinion on how I spend my pay - why should missionaries have to justify their spending?

CAnd I don't understand why feeling good about your external appearance and serving God would have to be mutually exclusive? By the way, I'm no fashionista! I shop mainly at Target, I'm a champion bargain hunter and I'm stuck in a fashion rut - however, I know how much more confident I am when I feel good about how I look.

MeMaybe I'm being too sensitive, but I think it is an issue that missionaries do think about. I have heard criticism from supporters about one missionary couple and how often they visit Australia. I don't know how often supporters think this way, though.

MB: I like the way you think C! they shouldn't have to justify their spending and anyone who thinks they should....well like I said it makes my blood boil!

KKLove reading all of these comments. I use to be involved in a church not mentioning any names and one of the missionary we use to support only wore name brand clothes. But yes. Who really cares what you wear. God knows your heart and you will be rewarded with beauty up in heaven. By the way you can get well known brand names at the op shop. 

Former missionary: One thing I found was that I didn't want to stand out as different when I came home. I'd had 4 years of that. I feel we need to be comfortable but not extravagant.

JI think it's about comfort, but that includes being comfortable with the people you're with, as well as comfortable clothes. Coco Chanel used to say to buy the best because it would never date, and fashion is notorious for being SO fleeting. Stick to what you like, don't worry about what people think. If you like it, you'll look better than if you try to push yourself into the mould of what you think people expect. (Not that I can see you doing too much of that anyway!)

 I had lunch today with one of the above friends and she confirmed for me that this is a problem for ministers too. Not just that people are judging them, but that some feel bound to make decisions about material things that will minimise the judgement.

We reflected on how sad it is that Christians can be so judgemental.

What was encouraging was her reassurance, as one of our supporters, is that she doesn't care what we do with the money that she gives us.


Bunsen said...

An interesting discussion. I always thought of the old clerical garb as a power statement rather than a way of avoiding controversy. That being said, I think I will stick with my embroidered polo shirts.

Wendy said...

Ah, Bunsen, context is everything. There are many times where embroidered polo shirts aren't acceptable, both in Australia and in Japan.

Bunsen said...

Of course there are, Wendy, but as they become more standard in workplaces and schools they become quite useful for weekday wear. And having worn an alb for over two hours for an induction last weekend in 40oC plus, I am quite thankful for that.