Technology, Attire and Adoration

Posted on April 11, 2012

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— We’ve discovered that technology allows us to succeed just as well in denim as in serge.

Something subtle—but, I’m convinced, significant—has happened to our lifestyles over the past few years, something we don’t notice much until we attend religious services. Maybe it’s a difference between my Midwest upbringing and life in the South, but I don’t really think so.

Look across the pews on a typical Friday night in temple or Sunday morning in church, and you’ll spot worshippers in jeans, tennis shoes, short sleeves, open-collared polos, T-shirts, even short-shorts. Not just a few of them—most of them, including the clergy. This casual approach to the most solemn of our weekly routines is markedly different for Gen X and Gen Y congregations than for their predecessors.

My grandfather, my dad and I all pretty much would have looked the same in a snapshot at services. We’d be wearing a dress shirt, tie and jacket at the least—often a suit.  Grandpa’s might have a wider lapel and Dad’s might be double-breasted, but the dress code didn’t change much over three or more generations.

Today, however, we’ve extended the Casual Friday of the Dot.Com Era to weeklong casual apparel and now to religious services. Some may chalk this up to the fashion influence of laid-back Silicon Valley, but it’s not a stubborn fad. It’s a new way of life.  In my opinion, furthermore, even though Java programmers may not be the instigators of this transformation, technology certainly is.

Our personal tech has allowed us to work as easily from home as from at the office. It’s simpler now to carry on a videoconference with colleagues or customers, anywhere in the world, than to participate in formal meetings. We can speak to our car’s instrument panel and send an email more easily than drafting a memo.

We’ve brought technology home, and we’ve brought home to technology. The distinction between work and home life is blurred not just by the projects we transfer between cubicle and kitchen table but also by a standardizing of the way we dress every day.  Why put on a suit and tie when the office is just one fraction of the geography where we work each day—a dwindling fraction, at that? By some sort of silent convention, business people across a broad swath of industries have agreed to dress for home rather than dress for success—because we’ve discovered that technology allows us to succeed just as well in denim as in serge.

So on Friday nights and Sunday mornings, we bring home to our houses of worship. If “dressing up” for services once had been considered an act of respect, “dressing down” has become an act of community. Let’s pray that the casual comfort we find in our evolving, technology-driven dress code extends to an increasing comfort with each other, wherever work or worship may be accomplished. Amen.

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