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Thursday, March 30, 2006

God on the Sleeve
It's just a general rule, of course, but it highlights a phenomenon that I have repeatedly observed: Christians who wear religion on their sleeves seem to be dishonest, irresponsible, and/or goofy.
The really interesting question is: Why does this phenomenon occur?

There are lots of possible answers, and the answer probably varies with the individual.

Many of these "sleeve Christians," for instance, might just be inherently unstable individuals (I'm guessing this is Mr. Studabaker's category). Religion is a "coping mechanism" and they tend to brandish it like a sword — and wear it like armor. Because it is merely a tool rather than an infused virtue, it scarcely helps them when confronted with the real hurdles of life and they end up stumbling.

The sleeve Christian's problem might also result from smugness. There's a tendency among some Christians to assume they are always right because the Lord is on their side. The problem is, this type of thinking makes the Christian only one step removed from being God Himself. As a consequence, it's pretty easy for such a person to accept even his most base emotions, opinions, or reactions as nearly divine and, therefore, correct.

Overall, however, I think the answer to the problem with the sleeve question can be found in these words by G.K. Chesterton: "The holy man always conceals his holiness; that is the one invariable rule." If this is accurate (and Chesterton had an uncanny nose for the truth), a man who reveals his "holiness" logically must be unholy.
Now, this doesn't mean that holiness is supposed to be hidden so it cannot influence others. Holiness, after all, is meant to spread. It's infectious. But like an infection, it spreads unnoticeably.

This isn't surprising. Holiness is the partner of grace, and grace works quietly. At some level it's magical, but it's not the flashy and "in your face" magic of Harry Potter; it's more like the subtle magic of Middle Earth's Gandalf, a magic that only occasionally reveals itself.

Likewise, the holiness that grace induces ought also be subtle: Influencing others quietly and only at times showing its full glory and even then, only if necessary.

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