Photo Credit: Casey Carbone (2017)

A plastic tab when paired with cloth, can evoke the history of the Christian tradition. It can instill a sense of awe, disdain, indifference, or all three. These are the musings of a clerical collars journey and what it means to wear a visible symbol of the Christian faith.

Flying can be rough…

I love to fly and I love to travel, so I guess it’s good that I like both. However, there is always one thing about flying that I dread the most, and that is going through airport security. We’ve all be there… We wait in line and hear the TSA agents shouting commands and for some reason or another if feels as though it takes ages to get through the process. This is especially true if you have ever flown out of Newark Liberty International Airport.

But I changed my regular flying routine as I was flying out to see my sister for her graduation because this time I was wearing a clerical collar. This was because as I was getting ready to prepare for my hospital chaplaincy program, and I decided to start wearing a collar to see what it was like. As I approached the first TSA agent (the one who checks your passport and ticket), they smiled and greeted me with a warm welcome. As I approached the second TSA agent, things began to get interesting.

Instead of being sharp and impatient this TSA agent flipped a switched. They smiled, asked me how I was doing, and instead of making me wait to push my bag through they x-ray machine they offered to do it for me, and as I walked through the metal detector they waved and said, “Have a blessed day.” I was SHOCKED! I’ve never had such an experience before going through airport security. And the funny part was that my mom was right behind me and they went back to being their usual TSA selves.

Time had passed and I was getting ready to get on the plane. As I boarded I passed two older women who smiled and said, “Oh isn’t it nice we have a priest/pastor on the plane? Would you mind saying a pray before we take off?” I smiled and told them I would say one for all of us. The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful, besides the person sitting next to me who didn’t make any eye contact or attempt any conversation. But for my first time wearing a collar, it was intriguing and made me stop and think.

I don’t have to link the countless articles about Muslims being profiled at airports. It’s an unfortunate sign that people are still being guided by their fears and ignorance. And so the question arises… What if I was wearing Muslim religious clothing? Or what if I was wearing Jewish religious clothing? Would it have made a different to the TSA officer or the people I met on the plane? The sad reality to these questions is that the answer would probably “Yes.”

As I continue to wear a clerical collar on and off I think back to this first experience and consider how the words of II Corinthians 5:14-15 may be brought to fruition, “For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convicted that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And [Christ] died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for [Christ] who died and was raised for them.” (NRSV)

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