When I was growing up there was an abundance of preachers with huge tie pins, gold cufflinks, and swoopy hair. I used to think these were people who loved the limelight and wanted everyone to appreciate their importance. Then I got older and realized my generation isn’t any different. Whether it manifests in tattoos and piercings or skinny jeans and tailored sport coats, pastors have always wanted to look good.
Rather than vanity, I think the real reason for this is dignity. Part of being a pastor means we are taken for granted—people abuse our families and ignore our boundaries. As a result, we often feel worthless and must compensate to salvage both our masculinity and our humanity.
This, I think, is one of the reasons many pastors are overweight—they’re dealing with the psychological and physical effects of anxiety and depression. They don’t think they’re good enough to be in ministry, the church isn’t growing, or people don’t really like them, or blah, or blah blah, or blah blah, buffet-of-blahs.
So we cover it up with our clothes. Or our tattoos. And in so doing we feel like we have some value, if not to others, at least to ourselves. And when we see an old photo of ourselves on stage singing or preaching or leading a meeting, we can think, “At least I didn’t totally suck.”
Because our fanciness is less about vanity than it is about salvage. We dress up in opposition to those who look down.