I believe in wearing jeans to church.
I am a Seventh-day Adventist. Not unlike other churches, Adventists have a lot of rules—doctrinal and not, spoken and unspoken. The original point of those rules was to make our lives simpler and take our focus off of external things—exactly the opposite of how we often use the rules today.
For example, strict Adventists do not wear jewelry. My mother teaches first and second grade at a small Adventist elementary school. Though my sister and I try not to wear jewelry when we visit my mom at work, a little girl asked my mother which of her daughters was the one with earrings. My mother replied that both of her daughters wear earrings, but that we had made the decision ourselves, once we were older. The little girl said, “I could wear earrings when I get older too, but I don’t want to make Jesus sad.”
When my mom was a kid, one of her friends told her that my grandmother wouldn’t go to heaven because she drank caffeine. During my dad’s ill-considered ponytail phase, an elder of my childhood church constantly groused about my father’s unruly hair. The same elder also said that a friend’s classical guitar music “wouldn’t reach heaven.” (Ironically, the guitarist was named David—like the other string player that God called “a man after [His] own heart.”)
Chances are, if you have any ex-religious friends, you have heard stories like this. They are probably what drove those friends away from all things church-y. I can sympathize. However, I have come to the conclusion that I owe it to all the other people like me not to bail out. I need a place to love and be loved, to feel a part of something bigger, a community of people searching together and lifting each other up.
At my college church, I have found a group of people who seem to know why I am there. Sometimes I wake up on a Saturday morning, not knowing whether I will go to church or not. I put on my jeans and then decide to go anyway. Most people seem happy to see me. As I walk down the aisle to my seat, I am sure that there are people who judge me by my pants. To those people, I say, “I love you.” (I never feel like a better person than when I am nice to people that glare at me.) In doing so, I force those people to rethink their view of me, thereby making more room in their hearts and in my church for anyone who wants to come.
So to anyone who is interested, I say, “put on your jeans and come over. We’re having a potluck.”