What Can Religious Theorists & Thinkers Tell us about #TheDress?


Last night, as I was preparing for my Greek midterm, my friend texted me a link to a Buzzfeed article that had gone viral. By now, you too have seen the photo of #TheDress that can be viewed as either black and blue or white and gold, or some variation thereon. What strikes me as interesting, though, is not what the colors actually are, but rather the amount of time and effort that has gone into classifying this dress as blue/black or white/gold. Each attempt to define the colors of the dress is just another attempt at classification. The only reason it remains interesting is because it’s not really about the color but rather how it’s classified by each viewer.

So naturally, I began to wonder how famous religious theorist and modern religious thinkers would classify the dress. Admittedly, committing 7+ years of your life to the academic study of religion will have strange effects on you. So this post is probably only interesting (and hopefully funny) for a very niche corner of the internet (and maybe only me). But nevertheless, here is what religious theorists and thinkers have to say about #TheDress:


Ludwig Feuerbach:
“The colors you see are an outward projection of your inner human nature.”
Emile Durkheim:
“The dress is the color of society itself.”
Mircea Eliade:

“The appearance of the dress is the breakthrough of the sacred into the profane and only the religious human can appreciate its true color.”


Karl Marx:
“The struggle to identify the color of the dress is the struggle of the proletariat to identify their oppressors.”
Sigmund Freud :
“You just want to see your mother in that dress.”
Williams James:
“Only the sick soul sees white and gold.”
Rudolf Otto:
“The dress is mysterious, tremendous, and fascinating.”
Clifford Geertz:
“The dress acts to establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in men.”
Peter Berger:
“All beliefs about colors of the dress are socially constructed.”
(He later realized that his belief — that all beliefs are socially constructed — is, itself, socially constructed.)
Paul Tillich:
“The dress is not white and gold or blue and black but the ground of color itself.”
Karl Barth:
“Christians should derive their entire thinking about the dress from what can actually be seen in Jesus Christ rather than from sources independent of this revelation.”
Pope John Paul II:
“Why are we divided over the dress when we can just look up its colors in the Catechism?”
John Piper:
“The dress is most glorified when we are most satisfied in it.”
Mark Driscoll:
Repeatedly says really sexist and bigoted things about the dress and verbally abuses and berates anyone who thinks differently about the dress.
Rob Bell:
“All colors lead to the same dress.”

There are countless religious thinkers ancient and modern who did not make the list. Feel free to add their thoughts about the dress in the comment section below.

(Patrick Craig is a graduate student at Duke University Divinity School)

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