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In the comment linked here, [ profile] alfrecht asks, "What are your feelings on the use of particular types of "sacred underwear" in world religious traditions?"

I know a little bit about the temple garments (the Latter Day Saints' undergarments) and I know that the Sikhs have 5 physical things that symbolize parts of their faith, one of which is an undergarment. This constitutes the sum total of my knowledge on religiously required daily undergarments.

I know that it's easy to look at someone else's religious rules and decide that they must be more strict on something than one's own faith, and I'm going to try not to do that here. However, I do know that a lot of people are rather horrified at the idea of "legislating underwear"-- of anyone, whether it's a religious leader, government official, or employer1, stating what kind of underwear a person is permitted to wear.

I hang out online with a community of hair-covering women, many of whom also practice other religiously motivated wardrobe choices. One of the topics discussed was whether it was acceptable to modify one's dress to be more like the surrounding community in order to avoid harassment or violence. Most of the women posting pointed out ideas that would allow someone to exempt themselves from the requirements in extreme cases.

Violence and harassment is a very real concern for a lot of people, so you would think that the idea of "sacred undergarments" as an equal reminder of our religious committment would be awesome-- you wear it every day, but it doesn't get you called names or beat up2, what's not to like? Except that, interestingly, almost all people who don't have a complete choice of outer garments (work uniform, religious covering, etc) will point out that what they wear underneath is up to them.

Why is this? Because underwear, to many of us, is not only a private thing, but a sexually charged thing. We find it more interesting to see a deliberately shown suggestive view than an accidental one. That's why it's far more provocative for a man to greet a guest at the door wearing only boxer shorts, than for him to wave to a friend at the pool while he's wearing a Speedo (or whatever the generic name is for those tiny suits); it's far more provocative for a woman to wear a plain full coverage bra and granny panties outside than a tiny brightly-colored bikini.

I think based on all of this that I'm qualified to make a statement on what I think of "sacred underwear" as it would work in MY tradition. I've written about my experience being baptized-- my church uses communal baptismal garments (pic link) that are non-clingy nylon shorty-jumpsuit things. The reason for this is so that people can be baptized without being embarrassed by what they're wearing or concerned that they don't have a change of clothes. (We practice full dunking immersion baptism.) But when I got baptized, they also offered me some loaner undergarments, so that I could wear my own home-- these are washed and returned to the church by the elders as they're used.

There was a fair amount of shock involved for me, and not just because I was being baptized and a little bit giddy about that. I hadn't been in my underwear in front of another person, or helped to dress by another person, since I was old enough to dress myself. Oddly, though, it didn't bother me as much as I thought it might. It did bother me that the largest size garment they had in the women's dressing area was a large, and I was barely able to squeeze into it, but otherwise I felt very much taken care of.

I think that when we can't find undergarments that are economically priced, comfortable, sturdy, and appropriate (whether that is modestly appropriate or sensually appropriate) we feel like we're not entitled to the same things other people get. I know what it's like to feel inferior to other people, and it doesn't make me a nice person, quite the opposite!

So if I had a mission3 to go and minister to people, I would use the things of the physical world to teach about the spiritual. And the main thing I would want to do is to compassionately help people who were in need of underwear, because I think that's something that can really bother people. I think that if it was done right it could really touch some people's hearts.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' (Matthew 25:35-36)

I could be off the wall here, but I could also be in good company...

1Back in 2001, Disney employees who worked as characters (in full body costumes) won the right to wear their own personal undergarments. Previously, they had been required to wear garments that had been worn by other employees. (They were washed between uses.)

2Assuming nobody undresses you without your consent, but of course you have bigger problems at that point.

3...Not this week, but I'll think about it.
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This amused me enough to share with those of you not on Ravelry. Someone posted about her little boy's questions about their dog that had died, and she wanted to know how the rest of us felt about the very important question: Do animals go to heaven?

my answer to whether animals go to heaven. it's religious, of course. )
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I was thinking and came up with a really bizarre question for any Catholics in the audience:

a)I know that Catholic priests cannot get married, but they can BE married, if they are Orthodox priests who become Catholics and continue to be priests.

b)It's my understanding that candidates for the papacy must be male, Catholic, and ordained-- that usually they are cardinals, but that ordinary priests have become Pope before.

So, is there any rule that would disqualify a married priest from becoming Pope?
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So, we met at the church yesterday evening-- me, my parents, my grandparents, my great-aunt on my mother's side, the kiddo, with a couple of family friends (one of the elders of the church who was also my high school principal, and his wife who was my English teacher) and the pastor.

If you want a small private baptism, apparently private means nearly a dozen people.

So the pastor pulled me aside a bit, since we'd just met, and he asked me this-- why do I want to be baptized and what do I think it signifies? So I said: because Jesus was literally baptized and we do what Jesus did in the literal sense, and because Jesus was born and died and came back from death, so when we are baptized we are doing that too in a sense, and being born into life as a Christian.

What I didn't say: Because religions have initiation rituals, and this is ours. Because the baby is carried in water in the mother, and born out of that water, and that's why so many faiths have water as sacred.

So then he asked me a surprising question.

Would I like my father to baptize me?

For those who don't know, there are no restrictions on who can baptize, except that both the participants (the person doing it and the person it's being done to) must understand the meaning of the act, and fully intend to perform it.

So, would I? Absolutely. We gathered in prayer for a minute and then he asked me in front of everyone if it was my wish to be baptized, and I said yes.

So my mother and Mrs. N. (the elder's wife, who I've known for 20 years) and I went back into the women's dressing room and got out the baptismal garments. This is a zip-up sort of jumpsuit thing; it's made of nylon that is fairly thick, and it has legs like shorts, so it doesn't float up or show through or cling. This is important because in most cases you are wearing nothing but underwear under it. So they had three, and of course the largest one is clearly marked "medium." Those who know me know that I am not a medium person. So with the help of both women I poured myself in and zipped up, and provided I didn't bend over or take any deep breaths I was okay. (In case you want to know, they do have spare clean underwear if you don't want to get your own wet, but I figured mine were more comfortable.)

So we headed up the stairs from the dressing room, to the pool. This is a small pool with steps down on either side, and the middle area is about 12' by 8' or so, and 3' deep. As promised, it was warm. The pastor and my dad were on the other side, and my dad came down into the pool to meet me. The long side of the pool is also a curtain, which opens to look down over the congregation.

So he opened the curtain, and my father came down into the water with me, and said the words and put me under the water and brought me out. He got kind of wet over the hip waders, but it was okay.

And my mother and grandmother cried, and I laughed and cried, and then we all prayed again and went home and had dinner.

There are parts of this that I can't put into words very well. There are things that I suspect aren't much now, but will grow into something over time.

Mostly, though, I feel right and glad about what I did and what was done. And now I get to move on with my life as a Christian.

Good news!

Dec. 15th, 2008 08:37 am
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Christian life event details inside )

And of course any questions you have are just fine by me.

Oh, before someone asks, being baptized is not like being christened, and does not involve breaking a bottle of champagne over my head.
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WARNING! This post may contain Jesus and is processed on equipment also used to process Jesus. )

And my usual Easter wish for you all-- may you find not what you expect, but your heart's desire!
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For those of you not in the Great State of Oklahoma, it is EIGHTY NINE degrees outside.

I'm not entirely sure this is a positive. I'm sure I'm overdressed.

I'm also sad-- I miss TBS, a little (c'mon, it's only been like a day), the weather's not raining enough, my friends have sad stuff of their own, so does the rest of the world, and sometimes I can't even do a little tiny bit to fix it-- sometimes I make it worse.

But a little thing happened this morning. I got an IM on OKCupid from someone. (For those keeping score at home, it didn't start with "hi"!) He's a Lutheran seminary student who has a polyamorous friend, and he wanted advice on making her feel comfortable going to church, which she wants to do, but is afraid to. We bounced some ideas back and forth and he's going to let me know what she thinks of the suggestions*.

Just thinking about that makes me smile. Praise the Divine Who made love, so that we could love one another!

*For the record: Bible Study, where it's more acceptable to go solo and "scope out" the place, less busy services, going to church events, helping with charitable works, mostly sticking with places where you have something else to talk about and can get to know people one at a time.
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So, one of the things I remember really well from my childhood is my grandmother's painted ceramic Nativity set. There was a tradition to setting it up, which I haven't seen anyone else use, but it's so stuck in my head that other people's versions just seem wrong.

During the first week of December, we'd set up the little stable and the manger, and over the course of the next couple of weeks, we'd put the animals in, one by one, every time I visited (usually this would be a couple of times a week). The last time I visited before Christmas Eve, we would get out Mary and Joseph and put them in. My family did Christmas Eve with my mom's parents, and Christmas Day with my dad's parents, so the last thing I would get to do before leaving on Christmas Eve was to put the teeny tiny ceramic baby Jesus in the manger.

The Three Wise Men were the pinnacle of the set, being all three dressed in rich jewel-toned robes with metallic accents, and crowns; according to tradition, one of the Wise Men was black. Living in a town with no dark-skinned people, I was endlessly fascinated with this particular figure. Over the next two weeks, until Epiphany, I would get to move them from one end of the side table where the Nativity was set up, closer and closer to the stable. Finally on Epiphany, the scene would be complete, and that night we'd take it down and put it away for next year.

I've been looking for a while for a Nativity scene, but haven't really ever found one I liked enough to justify using the space for. While we may not put up a tree at our house (I find it encourages Iwannas) I wouldn't mind putting up some other holiday decorations.

I commented in a friend's post about the lighted Nativity scene down the street from my workplace, with the American flag in lights and "God Bless USA" picked out above it in lights; I haven't slowed down enough to see if the baby Jesus has a little flag in hand or not, as I'm sure it would just piss me off. It bothers me enough that people set up the scene WITH THE BABY before Christmas Eve. Nativity scenes should not have Jesus in them until the last minute.

When I am Emperor of the World, so it shall be!


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