Magazine article The Christian Century

In Distress

Magazine article The Christian Century

In Distress

Article excerpt

SOON THE FASHIONISTAS will fashion a new craze to replace the craze for distressed jeans. I imagine pants modeled after tuxedo trousers: black with a black satin stripe down the sides and with neat undistressed pockets, knees, hems and rears.

Distressed jeans, I hear you saying, have been on the market for years, and you, M.E.M., are only now commenting on them? All right: It may be the tail end or butt end, if you will, of this obsession, but the topic still invites theological comment.

What moves me to take up such a theological theme is the brand name of one distressed-jeans maker: "True Religion." Other brand names also suggest relevance to religion: "Sacred Blue" and "People for Peace." The devotion, the ultimate concern, shown for these jeans invites comment.

First, consider the prelapsarian, "before the fall" .jeans. They are Eden-like in their perfection, colors unfaded, stress points true blue. No doubt they are still available, and cost less than the messed and marred garb.

Second, note the human complicity, the actual sins expressive of original sin: you do not have to buy distressed jeans; you can make them. "How-to" manuals are available. Causing distress to fabric means work. You are directed to find the places in the denim where you want to do violence. Isn't that a perfect image for the way we set up targets for sinning and do not merely act randomly? You take sandpaper, an emory board or a nail file and start filing, until the transgression suits your intention. Notice that this stage takes some finesse.

Not all sins reflect violence. …

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