Jimmy’s Table PodcastCuriously evangelical. Politically homeless. A dreamer of small things. On this podcast, I am having conversations about the intersection of faith, life, and culture.

Our Casual Culture – Clothes, Relationships, Religion – Episode #11

Atlanta - Ponce de Leon Park - 1940's - Men in suits

Casual Clothes

There has been a change in our culture. We’ve gone from a culture that dressed up extremely formally to a culture that’s very casual in its’ apparel.

For example, look at photos of people hanging out in parks or watching baseball games from early last century. You would typically see men dressed in 2 and 3 piece suits and with top hats on.

A photo from the 1940’s at Atlanta Ponce de Leon Park

It would have been hot and summer, yet all these guys are wearing suits… likely made of wool, to a baseball game… IN ATLANTA. Such is almost unthinkable in our world today.

In today’s society about the only folks you see in a suit are people trying to get money from you, like lawyers, salesmen, and business executives.

Many clergy don’t even dress up anymore. It’s not uncommon to see pastors preaching in jeans and a t-shirt from the pulpit.

We’ve become so casual that even the legendary investment bank, Goldman Sachs, recently stopped requiring their investment bankers to dress up in suits and ties.

I think the bumming down of our dress is a reflection of the tyranny of individualism in our society. It’s all about how you “feel” like dressing in the moment. The social context your interactions simply doesn’t matter anymore.

We dress for ourselves, not for others. Our comfort is the most important thing to us.

Casual Relationships

I think we could all agree our culture has caused us to become much more casual in our relationships with each other.

Our sense of having a tight knit community of close interpersonal relationships isn’t what it once was.

Multi-generation family households are mostly a thing of the past.

Often, our nextdoor neighbors are complete strangers.

Our churches are seldom more than a few decades old. We shop for churches like we do a pair of jeans. At churches like Elevation church, you’ll seldom sit in the same seat from week to week let alone see anyone you know. Everyone is moved in and out like cattle, and most relationships are superficial. People jump from one church to the next.

Apps like tinder have promoted a casual hookup culture where our sexual partners may not even be lovers (not that I promote or condone such immoral behavior to begin with).

A Casual Faith

Faith has become a very casual affair.

A large number of people consider themselves “spiritual but not religious.”

According to this Pew Research study, only 7% of those over 65 consider themselves such, but among those 30-49, 38% consider themselves in this category.

Such shows that a growing segment of the population in America have “religious” beliefs and convictions that aren’t really connected to anything that’s historical.

It’s a faith devoid of any traditional creeds or rituals or practices.

And even among those who adhere to some sort of traditional faith group, according to Pew research we only see 53% of religious adherents consider their faith extremely important to them. Everyone else has a bit more casual relationship.


I think our growing casual society has s lot of complex factors behind it. Everything from emotional complexities, wealth disparity, etc.

But I cannot help but think our casualness is related to a highly individualistic outlook on life that puts ourselves above all others.

We dress casually because we don’t really care what others think. Our comfort is first and foremost in our minds.

We have casual relationships because we don’t have the time for others.

And, we are casual in our faith (no matter what faith we practice) because it makes demands on us that interfere with our lives. And, feeling some sense that we are okay with God, we are only involved in our faith to the degree it impacts either our eternal situation, or it brings perceived value to our immediate lives.

The way we dress, the relationships we have, and the nature of our faith reflects how we’ve made ourselves number one, and our growing consumeristic lifestyle reflects how we are turning everything into a disposable commodity that we put on or discard to suit our purposes.

As a result, we are becoming increasingly casual about a lot of things. And while that might be a good thing in some arenas, I can’t help but feel in my gut this is a negative thing in many others.

Leave a Reply

  • I can’t remember a day where my grandfather wasn’t wearing a sports coat and tie, even just laying around the house. Time has changed and you can blame IT guys on that. Honestly I think it is a good thing, why be uncomfortable

    • Great story, thanks for sharing. I knew an older preacher once who did the same. Even if he was lounging around in his parsonage watching a game, he always had a shirt and tie on, just in case someone from the church just happened to stop by.

      I agree, times have changed, and there is certainly nothing wrong with us being more casual in and of itself. I wonder though, has the pendulum swung too far the other direction? In my podcast which fleshes out a bit more than this blog post, I talk about how a coworker I had once showed up to work half a day in our banks office on a Saturday. He was going to the pool after work, and showed up to work in flip flops, swim trunks, and a wife beater t-shirt. We were allowed to dress casually at work on the weekends, but.. well… I think most would agree he took it too far and was too relaxed.

      Something tells me we’ve become too relaxed and casual in our culture, and I think it is a sign of of a casualness that has spread into many other areas of our life as a people. Not all of that’s bad, but, I think some of it might be.

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