If you thought I was going to be one of those bloggers who was above using the recent viral #dressgate as blog fodder, you would be wrong. In fact, as soon as the dress started trending, I knew I would be writing about it because it so perfectly encapsulates my message.
By now you have seen the dress, and gone through the stages of denial, bewilderment, and acceptance of how your perception of color differs from the next person. You may have even read The Science of Why No One Agrees on the Color of This Dress. But you may not yet have had a faith writer exegete the profound spiritual significance of the dress. Do not fear, I am here to deliver. Below is a simple Christian Guide to #Dressgate:
A. If you see blue/black: you are a solid Christian. Like a rock, you are steadfast and unchanging. Because rocks are often black.
B. If you see white/gold: we all know only true Christians can see white/gold, as gold signifies the color which paves the streets of heaven, and white, the color of angel’s robes.
C. If you see BOTH colors: you are one of those progressive, liberal, hippie types who is so politically correct you can’t even exclude a color set of a dress.
D. If you can only see one set of colors, but you’re so convinced you can trick your brain into seeing the other that you will spend an entire span of family dinner twitching your face, blinking and winking furiously, twisting your head at ridiculous angles at the photo, then you are just my husband.
I’m C, of course. The freaky dress does crazy mental magic on my brain, switching colors on me spontaneously, forcing me to existentially question every life decision I have ever made with my faulty, cognitive synapses.
And I’m kidding. Please, don’t be sending me hate mail about the true Christian thing, I’m kidding.
Seriously, it was a pretty fun day to see the internet get so worked up over a dress. I’m fascinated by how certain things go viral, and send hearty congratulations to BuzzFeed on their over 25 million views. And what fun to have this global camaraderie with so many others. What color did you see? A simple question which brings instant connection.
Even more seriously, #dressgate is a timely demonstration of a message I hope to spread. As a Christian who grew up in between cultures and spends her adult life globe trotting, I cannot stress enough how differently all of us perceive reality. I am passionate about this message because I believe an inability to embrace different perceptions is a major source of much strife in our world. And to maintain an ignorant posture within the church does grave injustice to under-represented perspectives of many of our Christian friends.
We have deep within us an urgent desire to be believed. My son was the only person in our family who saw white/gold in the dress. When your view is a minority position, there’s this sense of desperate longing for someone else to validate your perception of reality. Thankfully, our family quickly reassured him that we believe him, and as referenced above, Dad tried really hard to try to see the dress the way his son sees it.
Not everyone is so lucky. Marginalized voices are squelched consistently and constantly. Abuse victims are told they are imagining their oppression. Women are told their unequal treatment is first world whining: “Look how far we’ve come!” GLBT folks are by default relegated to defending their humanity and civil rights. People in poverty try to tell their stories of surviving on an uneven playing field but are disbelieved over and over again.
It is a tremendous affront to another person’s humanity to deny that their perception of reality is true.
Our perceptions vary. Deeply and widely. Our perceptions of the world, the society, the family, ourselves, and yes, even our perceptions of God are vastly different. As Christians we struggle with this because we are afraid of an inconsistent God, a God who changes from this person’s view to that person’s ideas. But as soon as we insist on a God who looks the same to all of us, we have only succeeded in confining an infinite God to a box of our human production.
Consensus is not a requirement for entering church. Most of us are satisfied by the scientific explanation of why we view the dress in different colors. We accept that our eyes reject different colors, and that the experience of seeing color varies from person to person. We don’t need to agree to have fun together, arguing in good nature: it’s blue/black! No, it’s white/gold!
We need to be in relationship with one another without consensus of opinion. The goal of discipleship was never consensus. The process in which we come alongside one another, seeking to understand our differing views, caring even when we don’t or can’t understand, is a far more worthy goal.
This is love: that we will lay down our reputations and go every distance to hear another’s story, and say, I believe you. Help me try to see your colors.
Cindy Brandt blogs at cindywords.com and serves on the board of One Day's Wages, an organization fighting extreme global poverty. She studied Bible/Theology at Wheaton College and holds a Masters of Arts in Theology from Fuller Seminary.