This week, the internet burst with comments and postings to discuss this dress:
My first thought was “Who cares? It’s just a dress. There are more important issues to discuss than the color of a dress: poverty, homelessness, trafficking, hate crimes, health care…”
And that’s basically what I initially posted on social media. In response to my post, a friend reminded me that this is more than a dress.
I saw a white and gold dress. Yes, the dress is undoubtedly white and gold. Undoubtedly. (Am I right?) As I looked longer at the photograph, I wondered if the dress could be blue and gold. Was it lighting and shadows that gave me this doubt? Was my brain playing tricks on me?
I still had no idea how people saw the lace as black. I truly tried to see it from their perspective – squinting my eyes and staring harder. But I could only see gold or brown, not black, lace.
Maybe if I stood on my head I could see a different color trim…
Articles were released on the scientific reasoning behind how we perceive color. A combination of factors aided whether people saw blue and black or white and gold: how the eyes are picking up color, how the brain works, and the lighting of the room. (Being that I’m not a scientist, I won’t try to explain this, but check out these articles HERE and HERE.)
If something so objective as color can divide people, how much more will subjective topics like religion and politics come between people? The dress becomes a concrete symbol of how we can perceive things differently than the people closest to us.
After giving it further thought, I wrote this on social media:
If there’s more than one way to see the colors of a dress then maybe there’s more than one way to see God and faith.
In seminary, I learned of the Wesleyan Quadralateral, a system where one establishes their sources of authority on Scripture, reason, tradition and experience. The way many of us study Scripture differs, and sometimes there are conflicting accounts in the Bible. Translations also play an impact on how we read scripture.
We also come from a spectrum of traditions with each one highly influencing our theological core. If we are Protestant, we may find that our teachings lean heavily from Martin Luther or John Calvin more often than St. Augustine or Thomas Aquinas, two theologians who influence the doctrine of the Roman Catholics. Even our individual churches and families of origin impact the ways tradition influences our beliefs.
Additionally, experience is the great lens through which we see life. When we gather the information around us through the filter of our own joys and pains, we see only small pieces of a larger picture.
And because of the lesson of the dress, we can see that our brains reason differently, a point which should always be taken into account.
My friend was right: the dress is more than a dress. It begs us to understand that we won’t see the world as our neighbors and that everyone comes to their beliefs through a multi-layered lens.
Through the exercise of the dress and knowing how our brain works in gathering information, this is the time for us to become a more understanding people. It’s time for us to stop the shame and name calling of people who have different political and theological perspectives than we hold. It’s time for us to stop claiming that such-and-such people will go to hell or that they won’t be accepted by God.
It’s time for us to see that no matter what color dress, theology, politics, or anything else we have or see, we are fully accepted by God and made in God’s image.