Learn the Rules Like a Pro, So You Can Break them Like An Artist

By Daniel van Voorhis

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Hey there, I’m new to the Jagged Word.  “The Man about Town” will be part of the broadening of the content on the website that has been fostering deeper thinking about ultimate issues, the role of church in society as well as ruffling feathers and challenging some assumptions.

From Koch to Keith, Hiller and beyond you are given plenty of theological and pastoral musings about life.  I am, alas, neither a theologian nor pastor.  I am a simple historian by trade, and the history that I specialize in might be called “cultural” history.  This isn’t to be confused with modern “hyphenated history” (eg. eco-history, psycho-history, etc…).  Rather I am interested in the diffusion of style and manners.  I am interested in cultural movements both ‘highbrow’ and ‘lowbrow’.  I think that as we look at our collective past and judge movements, we can glean a good bit of their message from the mediums they employ and the style in which they present themselves.

Soooo, does this mix with the other articles on this website?  Yes! Do I need to have a “Christian” take on what kind of shoes to wear, movies to see, social trends worth engaging, etc…? No! As Christians (and this is emphasized in the Lutheran tradition) we are free to roam about the cultural landscape in search of the true, good, and beautiful as they give us glimpses of the transcendent and the world to come.  Sometimes we call this an element of the “left hand kingdom”.  I shall be the Virgil to your Dante, leading you through the various levels of cultural hell, purgatory, and paradise.


A recent article, shared and forwarded via email, twitter, and Facebook caught my attention with its denunciation of tattoos in Christian culture.  I’m not one for message boards fights, so I held my tongue (fingers?) but have had lengthy discussions about this proposition.  He argued that tattoos were inherently narcissistic, and therefore antithetical to the Christian worldview because they sought to bring attention to the self and say something about the person who would modify their body for the sake of art or culture.  If you hold this argument, you might consider spending the rest of your days in a plain tunic, and you should likely refrain from any hair product, makeup, or style of any sort.  After all, aren’t you then drawing attention to yourself?  And, please, don’t bring up Old Testament arguments against body markings or the body being the temple of the Holy Spirit to inveigh against tattoos or other fashions you might loathe.

So, I will be writing about the message, but also the medium and style of “the times”.  Of course, American life is less monolithic than it used to be due to the diffusion of ideas via social media and the general breakdown of standard morals.  I’m not going to be a stickler for either an “old fashioned” approach, nor one that eschews past modes and models for living.

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In the coming weeks I plan on writing a bit on basic advice for the well-dressed individual. Whether you dig jeans and t-shirts, or ties and jackets, both are welcome in the world of fashion consciousness.

I have a few articles on music recommendations and social media etiquette. But I would also like to create a kind of “mail bag” article, from time to time, giving advice and suggestions on movies and music.  Send me your questions, and take a little time to think about the world where we spend so much of our time and where we see our God at work.

All the Best,

The Man About Town

Article written while listening to:

Are We There” by Sharon Van Etten (2014)