A Christian Guide to #DressGate

If you thought I was going to be one of those bloggers who was above using the recent viral #dressgate as blog fodder, you would be wrong. In fact, as soon as the dress started trending, I knew I would be writing about it because it so perfectly encapsulates my message.

By now you have seen the dress, and gone through the stages of denial, bewilderment, and acceptance of how your perception of color differs from the next person. You may have even read The Science of Why No One Agrees on the Color of This Dress. But you may not yet have had a faith writer exegete the profound spiritual significance of the dress. Do not fear, I am here to deliver. Below is a simple Christian Guide to #Dressgate:

A. If you see blue/black: you are a solid Christian. Like a rock, you are steadfast and unchanging. Because rocks are often black.

B. If you see white/gold: we all know only true Christians can see white/gold, as gold signifies the color which paves the streets of heaven, and white, the color of angel’s robes.

C. If you see BOTH colors: you are one of those progressive, liberal, hippie types who is so politically correct you can’t even exclude a color set of a dress.

D. If you can only see one set of colors, but you’re so convinced you can trick your brain into seeing the other that you will spend an entire span of family dinner twitching your face, blinking and winking furiously, twisting your head at ridiculous angles at the photo, then you are just my husband.

I’m C, of course. The freaky dress does crazy mental magic on my brain, switching colors on me spontaneously, forcing me to existentially question every life decision I have ever made with my faulty, cognitive synapses.

And I’m kidding. Please, don’t be sending me hate mail about the true Christian thing, I’m kidding.

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Tumblr/Swiked

Seriously, it was a pretty fun day to see the internet get so worked up over a dress. I’m fascinated by how certain things go viral, and send hearty congratulations to BuzzFeed on their over 25 million views. And what fun to have this global camaraderie with so many others. What color did you see? A simple question which brings instant connection.

Even more seriously, #dressgate is a timely demonstration of a message I hope to spread. As a Christian who grew up in between cultures and spends her adult life globe trotting, I cannot stress enough how differently all of us perceive reality. I am passionate about this message because I believe an inability to embrace different perceptions is a major source of much strife in our world. And to maintain an ignorant posture within the church does grave injustice to under-represented perspectives of many of our Christian friends.

We have deep within us an urgent desire to be believed. My son was the only person in our family who saw white/gold in the dress. When your view is a minority position, there’s this sense of desperate longing for someone else to validate your perception of reality. Thankfully, our family quickly reassured him that we believe him, and as referenced above, Dad tried really hard to try to see the dress the way his son sees it.

Not everyone is so lucky. Marginalized voices are squelched consistently and constantly. Abuse victims are told they are imagining their oppression. Women are told their unequal treatment is first world whining, “look how far we’ve come!” GLBT folks are by default, relegated to defending their humanity and civil rights. People in poverty try to tell their stories of surviving on an uneven playing field but are disbelieved over and over again.

It is a tremendous affront to another person’s humanity to deny that their perception of reality is true. 

Our perceptions vary. Deeply and widely. Our perceptions of the world, the society, the family, ourselves, and yes, even our perceptions of God are vastly different. As Christians we struggle with this because we are afraid of an inconsistent God, a God who changes from this person’s view to that person’s ideas. But as soon as we insist on a God who looks the same to all of us, we have only succeeded in confining an infinite God to a box of our human production. 

Consensus is not a requirement for entering church. Most of us are satisfied by the scientific explanation of why we view the dress in different colors. We accept that our eyes reject different colors, and that the experience of seeing color varies from person to person. We don’t need to agree to have fun together, arguing in good nature: it’s blue/black! No, it’s white/gold!

We need to be in relationship with one another without consensus of opinion. The goal of discipleship was never consensus. The process in which we come alongside one another, seeking to understand our differing views, caring even when we don’t or can’t understand, is a far more worthy goal.

This is love: that we will lay down our reputations and go every distance to hear another’s story, and say, I believe you. Help me try to see your colors.

  • CrystalDawn0603

    Maybe it’s not that God seems inconsistent, but that we see
    the side of God that we need to see. I don’t know. That’s a head scratcher.

    Also, I see blue and gold on that dress so clearly I need
    psychological help immediately! lol

    • You see blue and gold? I’m going to need to create a separate category for you! 🙂

      • CrystalDawn0603

        Yes, I’m clearly very special! lol

  • Crystal Kline

    This is a great article about the vital importance to develop the ability to validate and respect the realities of others. It is from this ability that empathy is born. As a former Christian though (evangelical, 25 years), I should give you fair warning. Your ability to think critically, to organize those thoughts into coherent statements and questions, and to be open enough to acknowledge that the perceptions and realities of others are equally deserving of respect and validation as your own will lead you into wonderful areas of enlightenment and ultimately, freedom. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. 🙂

    • Haha, thanks for the warning. I am a big fan of reasonable faith and one that isn’t compelled by fear. My hope is there is freedom even within the bounds of faith in God. Thanks so much for reading my “Christian guide” as a former Christian – I am honored!

  • This a great post! I particularly liked your attention to marginalized perceptions. That’s an important point to take away from our experiences of this polarizing dress.
    I laughed when I saw the topic of this post in my email inbox, because I also jumped on the dress bandwagon and wrote about its relation to Christian faith: http://www.mariehause.com/thatdress-and-the-problem-of-interpretation/
    But I was thinking especially about how our perceptions of the Bible differ, and we shouldn’t automatically accuse each other of disbelief because of that difference. I like the broader focus you have here.

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