12—clerical collar and funerals
NOTE: I originally wrote a segment for each of the 61 points Frank Viola and George Barna make in their book, Pagan Christianity, about traditions in the institutional church not based on scripture. After writing it, I chose to not include this segment merely as I felt that in wouldn’t be an interesting radio commentary.
My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute
Today, I look at two traditions that have no connection to the Bible or the early church—the clerical collar and funerals. John the Baptist, the prophet whose job it was to introduce Jesus, was known for his direct speech and unimpressive clothing. Matthew chapter 3 verse 4 speaks about this. From Luke 23 verse 11, it seems that the nicest clothes Jesus ever had was given to him as a mockery. On the converse side, we have the clerical collar. Fancy clothes for clergy goes back to the
Roman Empire, but the clerical collar goes back only to 1865. It originated in the Anglican tradition, but spread to Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, and, at least occasionally, almost every other tradition. It replaced the black Cossack as a piece of clothing that could be slipped over anything to give the “man of God” look. To this day, it is the recognized symbol of a clergyman, in the sense of it developing a social sense of the person wearing it being somehow separate of everyone else.
The second tradition is the funeral. For the believer in Jesus, the death of another believer is not the same as for those who have no hope. The Bible tells us of the rewards of heaven, without much care about what is at the transportation point. Many cultures have had much that is unique to their cultures about funerals, but the New Testament says extremely little about it. Much of what has slipped into the church are adaptations of 4th century pagan practices which had some connection with the Roman pagan cult of the dead. From that came funeral processions, services, and orations, which culminate in the declaration that the deceased is up above, looking down on us below. The role of comforting loved ones has moved from the orator to the traditional church pastor in a way that just might be a little too alike to be comfortable.