A young man in a Marine Corps uniform, a young lady in a white dress, a mariachi band in suits and sombreros, horns, family and friends dressed to celebrate an occasion, a milestone. They have aspired to and maintained the moments in culture that are special and prepare for them enthusiastically and treat those moments with reverence. This day is special, it holds reverence in their eyes, and they treat it accordingly. Guests arrived from near and far, and initially I was put off by the cars parked up and down my street and in front of my house, but when I saw how pristine and dignified they looked; I was touched and humbled. Though this moment was happening in their humble backyard, peeking over the fence from another neighbor’s house we could see the property was decorated as though in Southern France. Everyone was in a suit or a dress, haircuts and hairdos, hushed voices in the eighty-four degree sun.
In opposite fashion, we born and bred Americans have become complacent and lazy in our approach to almost all aspects of American culture. I have been witness to church baptisms with family members in washed out blue jeans and a polo shirt, kids in baseball jerseys and ball caps. The sanctity of an infant child being welcomed to the family of God had no significance.
More like sloppy Americans. I remember a time when no self-respecting woman would appear in public like these pictures of Ms Spears. Comedian Sebastian Maniscalco joked about this in one of his comedy routines, noting that at the airport, people looked like they had, “. . . just rolled out of bed and to the airport gate.” All around us, I see a world where almost nothing is formal or treated with reverence. The only events we seem to treat with reverence are celebrity award shows, which is a marker of what we value in American culture.
In a time when men have lost all sense of style, I was chastised by an older woman at church that I could, “dress more comfortably”. Instead of a jacket and button up shirt, should I be like the congregant who wears his favorite plaid flannel shirt and cargo shorts? What is the problem with attending worship dressed like a gentleman? I am uncomfortable when I am NOT in this attire. To add to the frustration, our new pastor was chided for wearing a very regal robe because, “It’s summer out, aren’t you hot?” My wife was questioned about her shoes, “You still wear heels? I don’t see how you do it”.
Meanwhile, the acolyte (lighting the candles) is in crocs, cut off shorts and a baseball cap. Where’s the robe? I find it disrespectful, but I don’t say a word lest be labelled judgmental. “Come to Jesus as you are.”
My son has an eye for style but lost his personal taste for gentleman’s clothing because he showed up at school dances being the ONLY one in shoes. He wasn’t even in a suit, just shoes, jeans and a slim fitting blazer. His peer group arrived in their favorite t-shirts, and he was disappointed to be one of only a few appropriately dressed. And this angered me because I often hear adults and especially parents complain about this very issue. Disappointed because girls don’t wear dresses and the boys look sloppy.
Who’s in charge? It is amazing how many of my neighbors or other parents give their children everything they want but wield NO control or even influence in these or other matters. They complain of lack of respect for adults while I remember the days when we all feared adults. What the parents dictated was the law and violations of this were met with swift and exact discipline.
A male congregant at church complimented my son’s style:
Him: Your son is such a gentleman, he’s mature, and he dresses ‘up’ for church. How do you manage this?
Me: I don’t. He picks his stuff out.
Him: I can’t get _____ or _____ to dress like that at all.
Me: (I look him up and down, I’ve never seen him more than washed out blue jeans and his favorite polo shirt) Well, do you dress up?
Him: Nahh, I put on so much weight I can’t. (sighs)
Me: There you go . . . Sons imitate their fathers. If there is something you want out of him, you have to model it. But, even then, if his peers aren’t doing it, your influence will be limited.
Him: Can you try to say something to him (older son) for me?
Me: (to myself) Who’s in charge?
I often hear complaints that there’s no more respect for anyone or anything; The abuse of the elderly, the snatching of innocence from children, the striking down of our institutions. I immediately want to ask, “what do YOU respect? What behaviors are you teaching/modeling?”
Tell me if you can relate to this: as a teen, even when out patrolling our neighborhood with friends, if we were passing a church/house of worship, our loud talk would pause because one of our group would announce, “Hey respect the church, respect God.” And as filled with beer as we were, but should not have been, our voices would hush a bit until we were clear of whichever sanctuary we were passing before the foul mouths resumed. Last Sunday, several times service was tainted by outside noise from roaring obnoxiously loud motorcycles, car stereos blasting loud and vulgar music, and cackling passers-by. A lack of reverence or at least respect.
As a kid in the back seat of my father’s car, when ambulances or fire trucks or police cars fought to get through traffic with sirens on, everyone on the road would get out the way. Today, I witnessed yet again motorists barely yield their positions in the lane to a rushing ambulance despite there being room to pull over. No reverence for the mission of this emergency vehicle, desperately working to get a suffering or dying person to medical assistance.
These pieces when assembled point to the loss of reverence for country, for culture, for humanity. Absolutely nothing is worthy of respect or effort on anyone’s part. Burn the flag. Ridicule holidays. Cursing at the world in music. Young ladies in the supermarket in see-through leggings or pajamas–the women of my day would not be caught dead in such dishevelment! Young men with their pants sagging sloppily. But these same people want the world to be a ‘better place’. Burning down Police Stations–irreverence. Raiding the Capitol! Is nothing sacred?
Cellphone conversations in speaker mode or even shouting into cellphones regardless of the setting, sometimes with vulgarity. These public displays are not humility, these are arrogance and irreverence, like the infamous millennial ‘f*** you flip flops’. The standards you flaunt today will be the standards your cry for tomorrow.
In the bible, it is written, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
It is my opinion that that young man in a Marine Corps uniform and the young lady in a blindingly white dress, along with the Mariachi band and the guests, are those meek souls Matthew 5:5 describe. They were holding a moment in reverence, and I believe that their effort to show reverence for the moment will inherit them the earth.