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God in a Hoodie

I have a sense of the presence of God but the face is always hidden, a glimpse of a cheekbone or a scar. The promise of a warm solid embrace when life chills to the bone but the garment fits loosely. I never can get my arms, mind or heart totally around the form.

The metaphor of God in a hoodie fits my experience of God.

I have the sense that this hooded one is on my side but a sense of power and possible disturbance hovers like an aura, a warning that I am choosing to delude myself if I think this One is only about comfort and peaceful, easy feelings. With this One comes a fierceness as well as gentleness, challenge as well as comfort, overthrow as easily as order. Tables can be turned as easily as laughter flows from a meal shared with friends by the lake.

Medieval monks set the fashion donning a hood or cowl attached to their tunic or robe. From the beginning the cowl did double duty: providing warmth for monks whose daily devotions placed them in unheated and draughty churches and constructing a small place of solitude, a refuge from the distractions from the world and the protection of faces not completely seen.

As the number of religious orders grew so did the variations. Colours varied – some wore black or grey, the colour of untreated wool, the cloth of the poor; other orders chose black. Some chose capes over cowls. The decisions dictated by fundamental convictions. The Carmelite Monks not only use the cowl to keep bald heads warm but as a sign of mourning for their own sins and those of the world.

In more recent times, the 1930s, the clothing company Champion adapted the style to produce clothing for labourers working in freezing conditions in upstate New York.

Sixty years later the hoodie began to be associated with trouble-some, anti-social teens. Skateboarders and surfers picked it up, then it was adopted by hip hop culture as a symbol of what one reporter termed “cool anonymity and vague menace.” A quick flashback to the first image of Obi-Wan Kenobi in George Lucas’ Star Wars is permitted!

The power and appeal of the hoodie stems from its ability to grant instant anonymity while symbolically shouting isolation and the prospect of an order disturbing power.

People get this.

In the United Kingdom hoodies became an item of political debate; wearing one was deemed a symbol of “anti-social” behaviour. In 2014 an Oklahoma legislator was accused of trying to criminalize the wearing of hoodies.

Something about its warmth, hiddenness and potential menace to my customary view of life speaks to me of God.

1 Comment

  1. Yes, oh yes, to mystery, the possibility of comfort and challenge…and the rest – refuge from distraction, a level of anonymity, the seeking of a warmth the outer world sometimes denies. The Mystery offers all this – all the more reason I am almost glad some of the ‘powers that be’ find it offensive, anti-social (anti-what societally acceptable social?) frightening. Somehow a Divine Mystery that is not about unpredictable, fearsome, and challenging worries more than it comforts me. Bring on the Hooded One(s).

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