Sunday, April 18, 2010


Every now and then I come across an action, event, being or situation that requires the invention a new word. An uncomfortable encounter in the restroom today merited some lexical entrepreneurship. So, here goes….

Cludge (verb)
— to pass judgment based on one’s clothing or apparel: The man cludged the pastor for having his shirt un-tucked.
—to form a judgment or opinion of a person based on his/her clothing or apparel; decide upon critically based on clothing: You can't cludge a pastor by his cover.

Cludger (noun)

—one who cludges: The cludger said the man looked like he’d been mugged by a GAP mannequin.

I am a victim of church cludging. Only now have I gained the strength to talk about it. Months ago, I wore a green sweater on Valentine’s Day. Cludge reports came from all over. “Did the leprechaun and cupid trade jobs this year?” was my favorite sarcastic cludge. People couldn’t seem to overcome the fashion-forward idea of green on Valentine’s Day. It didn’t stop there. I have received comments insinuating that I have an addiction to sweaters, that I am physically incapable of tucking in my shirt, and that my gelled hair is sharp enough to cut flesh.

Generally, I can handle the cludging. In fact, I enjoy it most of the time. Teasing is my love language. However, today a line was crossed. While washing my hands before church, a man whom I don’t know told me to tuck in my shirt. He did not ask, mind you. He TOLD me to tuck it in. Apparently, there is an unwritten church by-law giving tie-wearing parishioners the right to give orders to church staff. “Tuck in your shirt. Get me some coffee. Mop the floor, and while you’re at it, drop and give me 20.” Unaware of this unwritten by-law, I stood in stunned silence. Realizing that I was a rookie and unaware of the tie-wearer directive, he took a gentler approach. “Why don’t you tuck your shirt in?” he asked, visibly frustrated.

“Hi, I’m Dan. What’s your name?”---No, it was too late for that. He didn’t seem interested in being friends. He was only interested in the 2.5 inches of blue shirt protruding from beneath my jacket. Fortunately, I was raised a pastor’s kid and am used to being judge by strangers. However, the reality remained that a man in a tie purchased decades before the internet was invented was asking me to justify my fashion decisions. Only now does the irony of the situation manifest itself.

I had to act fast. What was I to say? Realizing that any reference to current fashion trends related to shirt tuckage would get me nowhere, I simply said, “It adds dimension to the outfit.” This is true. It really is why I sometimes un-tuck my shirt. The inch or two of shirt tail brings more color and intrigue to the ensemble. Plus, I see it on the mannequins at the store (a good way to choose outfits). It really was a fashion decision, and not an act of youthful rebellion.

“I don’t understand you young people,” he barked as I wished him a nice day.

On occasion older members of our church have expressed their desire to see me dress nice, and I make it a point to oblige now and then. To some, I am known as “the tie guy,” because they see me in ties so often. A tie is a nice way to honor seasoned believers. It helps them remember that they are valued and that young people can dress up for church. Plus, it s a nice fashion statement! But, this situation was different. I felt judged, like I was bringing the place down. I think if I had let it get to me, I would have felt like I didn’t belong there, like I had to dress a certain way, like I had to be someone I wasn’t to fit in. I certainly don’t think that was his intention. I don’t even think he was upset with me. He just didn’t care for the way I dressed and felt like telling me about it.

What concerns me is that I am a paid staff member of our church. If I felt cludged and unwanted, imagine how a guest would have felt. I wish I knew who it was. I didn’t even get a good look at his face. I really was stunned by the whole situation. It was one of the few times that I was at a complete loss for words.

Fortunately, this is not the norm of our church. Most people come to Open Door in jeans and feel very comfortable. Many have said that they come because they don’t feel judged about their clothing. That makes me happy. In fact, this is why you will often see me in jeans.

I’m just afraid for the unheard cludging victims and victimizers, afraid to speak out. Well, I am declaring cludge amnesty. Cludgers and cludged alike are invited to share their hurts and feelings and walk away. Have you cludged or been cludged? Be free today!


  1. This goes back to the pre-conceived notions that we all hold that shape our thinking and worldview. Jesus warns about this with the Pharisee’s in Luke11:37-40. They, like many of us (including this guy in the bathroom) come with ideas of how things should be done. These are so deeply rooted within us from areas such as our childhood, that they are extremely hard to break; but not impossible. Jesus calls us to a higher standard; Warning us to continually check ourselves for such behavior. We must be in constant surrender to Jesus for him to point these things out to us, and abiding in him. I am sorry this happened to you, and am sure that many have similar stories. May we continually ask God to search us (Psalm 139:23-24) and renew a new heart in us (Psalm 51:10-13). Blessings, Robin.

  2. I, personally, was brought up that you dressed your best for church on Sunday and ladies never wore pants to church. I still like to hold on to that tradition because not only do I love having an excuse to dress up but I also like the idea that I am looking my best when I am worshipping my Lord. To me it feels like this is a small way to honor him.
    However, I do realize that this is my own personal belief and not everyone feels that way, nor should they! Way too much emphasis is put on the way people are dressed in certain churches. Then there are those churches that are so afraid of losing members that they let it go too far. I visited one of these said churches several years ago and was shocked to see young girls in daisy dukes and tube tops with platform heels! Obviously the men in said church were more intent on staring then on the worship service.
    I believe that as long as you are wearing clothes that cover the necessary parts you are ok!
    As far as the ministry team goes, we have a diverse body of believers. Therefore we need to appeal to a diverse body of believers, especially those that are visiting the church. Coming to the Lord is not about who wears what. It's about finding the path to him. And Dan, you definately appeal to the young crowd! We need more young people in church so I can find a husband! Just kidding! But seriously you need to rock the NIN tshirt if it brings in believers! Ok maybe not NIN since that might defeat my tube top example, shockingly I am a NIN fan from back in my goth days. :)But next time someone questions your wardrobe choice, remind them that you are in a speedo and tell them you are trying to appeal to a younger generation in order to help bring them to the Lord. Old guys can be tough but that is a difficult argument to make.
    If all else fails, remember that I am considered a young person, at least I think I still am, and I love tradition, love the 1950's housewife thing and love to dress like I do. Yet, still, I can't how many times someone at church has asked me...."Why are you so dressed up?" ;)