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When Scholars of Religion Sense the Need of the Times

The Department of Religion at the University of Manitoba announced the theme for the next volume of their scholarly journal, “Studies in Religion.” Are you ready? Religion and Undergarments!

Passover, Easter and the resurgence of spirituality are enough to make ministers shout for joy.

But Islamic terrorists, Jewish tanks and Christian pedophiles tempt us to hide in shame. Such situations call for serious, sustained reflection by the leaders and scholars of the world’s great religions.

It was with such expectation that I read through the Bulletin of the Council for the Scientific Study of Religion.

The Department of Religion at the University of Manitoba announced the theme for the next volume of their scholarly journal, “Studies in Religion.”

Are you ready? Religion and Undergarments!

Undergarments, they write, are “an expressive medium of religious sentiment, piety, and the like. Indeed, some religions actually stipulate the forms of clothing adherents should wear directly against their skin.”

Yes, the Canadian university intends to engage the very best and brightest scholars in the world to consider such urgent questions as: “What overarching conceptions of the body do religious undergarment requirements denote or reinforce? How do they encode gender conceptions? What opportunities for resistance and subversion do undergarments afford?”

Here is research on the cutting edge of cultural transformation. Here is what America, indeed all the world, needs to face the tragedies of our day.

The announcement is a call for papers, an invitation for scholars to submit their articles for publication.

They called and I will answer.

I am not widely recognized as a world-class scholar of religion, but that could change when they (and I am confident of a wide readership) take a look at the research I intend to present.

It will begin, of course, with a careful and sustained examination of “Angel,” a collection of undergarments made available to people of all religious persuasions by those architects of textile innovation, “Victoria’s Secret.” I have spent the last few years in research. I know it sounds tedious, but somebody has to do it; it is the burden of scholarship.

In the process, I have catalogued ample evidence of the most amazing wonders, the kind that many describe in language normally reserved for religious experience. All of which sustains the popular devotion to the kind of miracles that only underwear can induce.

Then there is my personal experience with religion and undergarments. Unfortunately, this brief article lacks the space necessary to describe a memorable baptism by immersion that left me thoroughly soaked and thus necessitating an almost complete change of clothing (and this is where undergarments come in, or not) prior to my immediate return to the pulpit for the Sunday sermon. (A full-length documentary is now in production.)

I intend to submit my research (with anecdotes and illustrations) for peer review, as the announcement directs. My scholarly colleagues will, of course, notice how the evidence I have uncovered correlates with certain biblical material.

Adam and Eve, for instance, had no undergarments. Bathsheba had some but took them off.  Paul the apostle gave no directions as to what to wear underneath the breastplate of righteousness and the belt of truth.

Some of you will think this attention to the armor of God is inappropriate. I beg you to remember the wars and rumors of wars that dominate our age; which make this research so vitally needed, addressing as it does the fears and frustrations of the world.

Because of this, I am honored to be a part of this world-wide network of scholarship. Will somebody please nominate me for the Fruit of the Loom Chair of Religion at the University of Manitoba, or wherever it is located?

And let the rest of you remember both the wise words of Proverbs—”He who has a merry heart has a continual feast”—and the relevant words of an old church covenant—”Be slow to take offense.”

Dwight Moody is dean of the chapel at Georgetown College in Georgetown, Ky.