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T-Shirt Valor


How does a hurried society speak to each other?

They make their chests into billboards, and then enter the flow of human life. They pass on the sidewalks and their chests bear little messages, blaring the chatty credos of their beliefs. There are some deeply serious T-shirts that say, Be a Baptist or be Ashamed! But mostly they bear only the casual doctrines of a bored society: I never wake up grouchy – I always let him sleep. One N.E.A. advocate wore a shirt reading, If you can read this, thank your third grade teacher. On and on they go. One tee read, The new IRS short 1040 form: Line 1, List all income for 1998. Line 2, Send it in. Little children with narrower chests testify, My Grandma thinks my parents are guilty of child-abuse: I agree with Grandma.

There are geographic shirts that tell where people have been. I hiked the canyon! I surfed Waikiki! Acapulco Forever! I wasn't born in Texas but I got there as soon as I could.

Then there are the classy tees: Tommy Hilfiger, Versace, Ralph Lauren, Claiborne. (I keep a couple of these in case I get invited to lead an Episcopal retreat where I need to be grungy in a sophisticated kind of way.)

Then there are tees that invite us to dialogue. I've always wondered what would happen if I actually did Weimereiner, or if I asked to see pictures of their grandkids. I've wanted to ask those sincere souls in WWJD T-shirts if they think Jesus would have worn one.


There are arrow tees: I'm with stupid! or Baby! or The Luckiest Woman in the World! These tees all have arrows, which point to Stupid, or Baby, or The Luckiest Woman in the World.

Some of these testimonies are philosophical and make me want to stop and pursue some conversation with their wearers. After all, what is the importance of your preachment?

I can understand why you Don't Squat With Your Spurs On, but why are you so evangelistic about it?

Who can doubt the wisdom of proclamations like, Timing is Everything in the Effectiveness of a Rain Dance.

Beam Me Up Scotty, There are no Intelligent Life Forms Down Here! (I always wonder just how intelligent the life form wearing the T-shirt is.)

The Titanic – It sank! Get over it! (Here was one I really agreed with. How a ship that sank in 1912 could spawn so much attention is beyond me. It certainly does not seem relevant enough to turn the world upside down.)

But what kind of person would wear, I'm not a Dirty Old Man. I'm a Sexy Senior Citizen? Certainly not reasonable, tranquil old trustees or deacons. It always makes me wonder whether it is psoriasis or varicose veins that sponsor such delusions.

Will Rogers Never Met a Man He Didn't Like – But Then He Never Met My Ex. This always engenders a bit of pity and the most awful desire to give him a Focus On The Family tract.

I tend to like tees that focus on Poor Richard's Almanac. He is a fool who makes his doctor his heir, or He who falls in love with himself will never be completely out of admirers.

Still, in a sense, I have a kind of admiration for those young people who proudly wear T-shirts into the secularity of their own blackboard jungles. I never cease to be proud of young people who sally into the world of chest messages, wearing an unashamed testimony. Jesus is Coming Again … Everybody Try to Look Busy! Or Try God! Or What Would Jesus Do? Or Jesus Loved You This Much!, showing a picture of the outstretched Christ.

In a world where you can wear your creed on your chest, the youth often do it right. I have often wondered what would happen in our world if the adults were as audaciously open in their offices as the teens are in their schools. Of course, it is hard to find a Brooks Brothers' suit that gets as explicit as a T-shirt. Still, with such courage, the world might be turned around.

See You at the Pole, bears an open and fearless witness that might reflect a world in the process of being turned around. It sure must register higher with God than You Can Have My Gun When You Pry It From My Cold, Dead Hand.

Overall, if you're going to make your chest into a billboard, it would probably be important to say the most important thing: If Your God's Dead, Try Mine! It is at least one way to witness to a dumb-down society. It requires a kid of dumb-down valor to do it and so I applaud it.