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Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Back in the late 1980’s, Madonna – the singer – wore crucifixes as fashion accessories. Within five minutes, teenage girls all over the world were aping her. Shane Lynch, of Boyzone, has been snapped wearing Rosary beads as have Christina Aguilera, Shakira, Rihanna and Kelly Osbourne.

Catholics have registered their discomfort with symbols of their faith being used as frivolous fashion accessories. Indeed, in the convent where I went to school, we were expressly forbidden from wearing rosary beads, because they were just for praying with. This direction appears to be based on Canon Law, which states “Sacred objects, set aside for divine worship by dedication or blessing, are to be treated with reverence. They are not to be made over to secular or inappropriate use, even though they may belong to private persons”.

In the past month, two designers have fallen foul of Hindus for depicting deities on their clothing. Australian swimwear manufacturer, Lisa Blue,  apologised to members of the Hindu community at the beginning of May: An  image of Goddess Lakshmi appeared on items of its apparel at Rosemount Australian Fashion Week (RAFW) in Sydney at the end of April.  In the past few days,  design house Manish Arora has removed images of leggings, miniskirts and harem pants from its website following complaints about the depiction of Lord Shiva on them.

Members of the Hindu community were outraged that images of revered gods were represented on clothing made to be worn on the lower parts of the body.

But do those who get their knickers in a twist over the wearing of traditionally religious symbols as fashionable accoutrements  need to lighten up? Does it matter? Should they be grateful that their religion is being celebrated – no matter what form that celebration takes? Should they rejoice at the fact that their religion is reaching a wider audience? Or is their outrage justified? What do you think?

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My daughter and her all-female class made their First Communions recently. The massed ranks in the church were quite a sight to see. Immaculately coiffed hairdos, amazingly stylish frocks, even a few fake tans.

Yes, the mothers looked stunning. Of course all the little Communicants were beautiful, and they could never be overshadowed by their Mums on their special day. But it has to be said, it wasn’t for lack of trying.

Once I had my gúna purchased, I had thought my own preparations were more or less complete. But in the weeks leading up to the big day, sartorial and cosmetic arrangements were the talk of the playground. Who was wearing what, were the blowdry appointments booked, would the few pounds be shed and had the right shoes and jacket been located?

In spite of myself, I gradually found myself being swept along by all this.

A life-long hater of fake tan, I cautiously purchased a bottle of moisturiser which promised a hint of built-in tint. I slapped it on for a few days and fretted about smelling like a biscuit or ending up with orange palms and elbows. As it turned out, I’d been too cautious; the light shade I had chosen made no discernible difference to my skin colour. I did emit a slight biscuitty fragrance though.

I also bought slightly higher-than-normal-for-me shoes (with wedge heel to enable me to walk) even though I’m not that fussed about shoes. I had the eyebrows threaded. I booked a professional blowdry for my very easy to maintain hair.

I realised I was losing it when, seized by a last-minute anxiety about being out-glammed in the church, I began desperately experimenting with different make-up the day before the Communion. Confronted by the slightly scary results in the bathroom mirror, I told myself to get a grip. After all, it wasn’t about me.

Well, we all love dressing up, don't we?

The maternal glamour quotient was extremely high the next morning –  noticeably higher than at my son’s Communion four years ago – and I was glad I’d made the extra effort. Though I did wonder who we were all trying to impress. Each other? The viewers of the family photos in years to come? Was it significant that it was our daughters making their Communions – were we subconsciously trying to compete with them? Surely not.

Of course, on the day our daughters were the stars of the show. Every parent’s heart was full of pride as the girls sang their well rehearsed hymns, brought up gifts and did readings. Whatever your feelings about the First Communion ritual (and stepping back from it a little, the white dresses and the cash gifts are a bit odd really) it was difficult not to be moved by the innocent seriousness with which they took it all.

A wonderful day – and the photos turned out well. Phew.

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Like the vast majority of people in this country, I was born into a Catholic family and was brought up as a Catholic. However, as I have not considered myself a Catholic for many years, and putting down “liberal agnostic who sometimes attends services at the Unitarian church” doesn’t seem quite right, I’m going for “no religion” on the census form next month. In a country that still essentially uses baptismal records as an excuse for not providing totally secular, non-denominational education, I think it’s important that those of us with no formal religious belief or none at all make our voices heard.

However, according to Brian Whiteside of the Humanist Association, some census enumerators are actively discouraging this. In yesterday’s Irish Times, he wrote that:

on the question of religion the enumerators have been instructed to guide people to fill in the form to reflect their background rather than their current position. How does this help us plan for Ireland’s future?

How indeed? If this is true (and anecdotal evidence in the comments to the column suggests that it is), then the CSO are actively encouraging people to give them an inaccurate picture of religious practice in this country, and it’s nothing short of a disgrace. As Whiteside says,

imagine a survey on car ownership. The question “Do you have a car?” is not asked; the survey goes straight to “What type of car do you have?” And then, someone who has no car is encouraged to say they have a Morris Minor because, way back, it was the traditional family car.

What do you think? Have you encountered CSO staff giving such advice? And if they want our religious background, how far back do they want us to go? Parents? Great-grandparents? Prehistoric ancestors? Maybe we should all go for “sun-worshiper”….

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