Tired and bored of being dragged round shops by my girlfriend I finally found something that caught my eye: not an item of clothing, but an accessory. It was a saint’s bracelet; one that as a practising catholic I recognised to be normally bought from monasteries or religious shops back home in Ireland, and not in that most secular of shops Miss Selfridge. I was absolutely gobsmacked that these symbols of saints were being used as a fashion accessory.
The use of religious symbols has been creeping into fashion, with crucifixes and rosary beads being used to decorate the wrists and necks of fashionistas for a long time, and what I ask is: where is the outcry? In the past decade the front pages of tabloids and broadsheets alike have been filled with scandals where workers have been asked to remove religious items such as crucifixes, turbans and burkas.
In March 2010 Shirley Temple, a nurse in the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospitals NHS Trust, was moved to a desk job because she refused to remove her crucifix and there was widespread uproar. So why, when Catholics and other religions hold these emblems and items at such high esteem that we will go to court or risk our careers for them, do we let shops belittle and destroy their integrity by using them as money-spinning cheap tat?
Would we allow a café to sell Holy Communion? Will Gillette bring out a Dalai Llama hair clipper? Would the Church of England allow Specsavers to bring out a Rowan Williams glasses range? This is what we are allowing.
It has to stop. The Catholic Church has many faults, and in many ways it needs revolutionising, but this is not the way to go about it.
Yes, we should look to bring more young people into the church and yes, maybe make it cool but there needs to be a spiritual basis behind it. The direction needs to stem directly from the church and not by a profit-making high street shop.
It is as if you have a special song and that song feels like your own; occasionally you will meet someone and talk about how great you think it is. Then suddenly it’s played on Glee and the whole world knows it, and then things go from bad to worse: it’s sung on the X Factor. It’s no longer only your song. Obviously my faith is a lot more important than a song but it’s a similar idea.
The idea that religion can be warped into a fashion statement is inherently wrong. Faith is for life not for a season.