I have to confess something, and it will probably rub some people the wrong way, but I have to say it anyway. I don’t get cosplay. I don’t understand how someone can spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars, and perhaps as many hours, dressing up like a cartoon character or superhero to go take a bunch of pictures. Since I follow several people that are inclined to the geekier side of things, my social media feeds have been packed full of Comic-Con snapshots. Some are pretty impressive, some are darn near perfect, and some make me think, “That person shouldn’t be wearing that outfit…”
I’m not bashing cosplay; I just don’t understand the appeal. And I know many people would say the same about things that I love (spending months and years writing books that only a handful of people have read, for instance). Many people would also consider my appearance to be a bit dramatic, especially for a writer. With my preferred after-work outfit of a sleeveless tee and cargo shorts, I would fit right in at a gangbanger/prison convict cosplay convention. In my defense, I was going more for a rock and roll vibe, but like most cosplays, reality rarely lines up with our imagination.
Everyone loves to dress up, often starting as soon as we can walk. We wear different costumes throughout our day – some by choice, others by command. But if you asked anyone if they could change the way they looked, I would be surprised if a single person said “no.” I’m not talking about body image; I’m talking about what Morpheus alluded to in The Matrix: “the mental projection of your digital self.” In that movie, the tired, hungry, burlap sack-wearing crew of the Nebuchadnezzar became ultra-spiffy Goth models when they enter the Matrix. And in real life, who wouldn’t want to jazz up their image if they had the time, money, and social permission? Humans across cultures are innately drawn to masks, costumes, and jewelry, and the same excitement that blazed through the masquerades of Venetian carnivals in centuries past continues today with cosplay and customizable avatars in MMORPGs and other games like The Sims and Second Life.
Yet no matter how real it looks, no matter how perfect the outfit, no matter how dramatic the pose, it is just a costume. It is displayed for a few hours, then it is taken off when the wearer goes home. But there is one outfit mentioned in the Bible that we should wear at all times, and it is described with dramatic flair.
I’m talking of course about the armor of God in Ephesians 6. Paul exhorts believers to don the full protection of God and His word to defend against and attack the devil. He could have used more straightforward language, but he chose to use vivid imagery that appeals to our imaginations. It is not only an external metaphor but an internal one as well. Some of the pieces of armor, such as the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness, come from God Himself, since He is the author of truth and the source of our righteousness through Jesus Christ. But others, such as the shield of faith, and having our feet shod with the readiness of the gospel of peace, are forged by our own convictions and the strength of our will.
The armor of God is not a costume. It should be as much a part of us as our own skin. If we take it off or let it fall into disrepair, we will be defenseless. And unlike the world of costumes and imagination, the enemies we face – the powers, the principalities, the rulers of the darkness – are very real.