In a shocking announcement made last week, Catholicism will be the theme of the 2018 Met Gala in New York City, to be held next May.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s extravagant fashion show and accompanying gala are closely watched by many of the glitterati — but the revelation about “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” seems destined to tempt disapproval from practicing Catholics and from those of other religious denominations as well.
Does the Met intend to treat the Catholic theme with respect and dignity — or will this be a publicity stunt to shock and mock those who practice their faith seriously and do their very best, day in and day out, to live out their faith fully and honor God as He deserves to be honored?
Although religion and faith have inspired artwork for as long as humans have existed, pop culture has taken that inspiration in a starkly sacrilegious direction. During her more innocent days, for example, Brittany Spears famously wore a Catholic schoolgirl’s uniform in her “Hit Me Baby One More Time” video. The look was sexy — causing plaid miniskirt sales to skyrocket. It was that juxtaposition of innocence mixed with midriff that launched Spears as a cultural icon in the late 1990s.
Madonna has long used Catholic imagery and symbolism in her videos, performances and tours. However, her tactics were (and are) always to shock, with erotic and often blasphemous imagery. Mock crucifixions and dancers using crosses as stripper poles have offended churches for decades. She distorts what is holy in the name of entertainment.
Other examples are the Victoria’s Secret’s “Angels,” who model lingerie with angel wings every year. Even during Halloween each year, there are inevitably “sexy” nun and “sexy” schoolgirl costumes.
The question remains: Is this acceptable? After all, religious garments are simply clothing. They demonstrate significance but are not in and of themselves holy. Yet their source of inspiration is.
The Catholic garments, whether they’re for priests or nuns, are meant to deflect attention away from the person and reflect the glory of God. Wearing them is an act of praise and a sign of humility. They tell a story of a holy God who is the Creator and author of all life. Their purpose, their presence, is to honor Him.
In Exodus, Aaron is the first to wear priestly garments. Each piece he wore was specific, with a purpose and a reason. There was a breastplate with the names of the tribes of Israel, which was a reminder the priest represented all God’s people. Every stone, tassel, and bell had a meaning. The garments represented the consecration of God’s chosen people.
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The root of the issue is not whether or not the Met Gala’s theme is insulting to the Catholic Church or any specific person of faith. The issue comes down to respect — or disrespect — toward God. A person’s purpose is to praise God — to honor Him with words, thoughts, and actions. He is the Lord, the Alpha and Omega. To cheapen that expression is an act of rebellious mockery — and an insult to those who worship Him.
Christians are called to embrace godliness and turn away from what is twisted by the world.
So what should the response be for those who desire to honor God and disavow a belittling attitude? Paul writes in Philippians 4:8, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
Christians are called to embrace godliness and turn away from what is twisted by the world. It is good for the heart and soul to focus on the truth of Scripture — and the knowledge of God. And whatever may be lauded by culture as “trendy” or “enticing” or “entertaining” is not necessarily glorifying to God.
Katie Nations, married for 15 years, is a working mother of three young children in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.