Why I Don't Wear a Clerical Robe

A spiritual value I really try to apply and live by is the value of simplicity. I live rather simply. I dress simply. I eat pretty simply. I try to keep it simple. 

That said, wearing a clerical robe on Sundays to me doesn’t match how I usually approach life. And of all hours, the Worship hour when we stand before and sit with God demands simplicity and humility.

In this vein of thought, there is a Protestant Reformer that I especially admire who sadly is not as known as Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin. His name is Andreas Karlstadt. In addition to implementing the removal of all symbols from the sanctuary, he also rejected the wearing of clerical vestments and eventually even of academic gowns which is the style Protestant clergy still use. He wore simple, peasant garb, believing that we are all priests and pastors, and we are all equally created in God’s image.

Lastly, I prefer the Johnny Cash approach. The Man in Black, another hero of mine, influences my clerical garb – wearing black with only white on the collar and a stole. 

Why? Cash’s song gives the answer:


Well, you wonder why I always dress in black,
Why you never see bright colors on my back,
Why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone.
Well, there's a reason for the things that I have on.

I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
Livin' in the hopeless, hungry side of town,
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
But is there because he's a victim of the times.

I wear the black for those who never read,
Or listened to the words that Jesus said,
About the road to happiness through love & charity,
Why, you'd think He's talking straight to you and me.

Well, we're doin' mighty fine, I do suppose,
In our streak of lightnin' cars and fancy clothes,
But just so we're reminded of the ones who are held back,
Up front there ought 'a be a Man In Black.

I wear it for the sick and lonely old,
For the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold,
I wear the black in mournin' for the lives that could have been,
Each week we lose a hundred fine young men.

And, I wear it for the thousands who have died,
Believen' that the Lord was on their side,
I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died,
Believen' that we all were on their side.

Well, there's things that never will be right I know,
And things need changin' everywhere you go,
But 'til we start to make a move to make a few things right,
You'll never see me wear a suit of white.

Ah, I'd love to wear a rainbow every day,
And tell the world that everything's OK,
But I'll try to carry off a little darkness on my back,
'Till things are brighter, I'm the Man In Black.

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