The Met Gala is one of the world’s biggest fashion happenings. What I know about fashion: Do not try to match stripes with checks, and only wear white pants between Memorial Day and Labor Day. That’s it.
Coverage of the 2023 Met Gala was just as inscrutable as if someone were trying to explain Newton’s Second Law of Thermodynamics to me. The first time I was even aware of this event was a few years ago when this fundraising spectacular attended by the super-rich had a “Catholic” theme.
Every year the cream of the crop of American culture put on outrageous-looking costumes (at least to me) and parade before photographers and one another. The “Catholic” theme gala of the recent past ruffled some feather boas. I may not know fashion, but I do know sacrilege when I see it. You can judge that gala for yourself.
F. Scott Fitzgerald had an opinion about the rich: He said they were different from you and me. An even more authoritative voice also chimed in about the rich, suggesting it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it was for a rich man to enter heaven. At the same time, Jesus made it clear that rich people would always be part of the human equation. When he proclaimed, “You have the poor with you always, but you will not always have me” (John 12:8), logic says Jesus was stipulating we would also always have the rich with us.
In pop culture, especially in movies and television, the rich are more often than not the villains. It is ironic because these movies are produced and acted by people who attend things like the Met Gala and are not shy about public displays of opulence as part of their daily lives.
Real life is not so black and white. My day job in the nonprofit world could not exist without rich people. I have come across many people who have stupendously large amounts of treasure and they put me to shame with their generosity. Many of those I have met have divested themselves of greater percentages of their wealth for the benefit of those in need than I have let slip through my clenched fists.
Jesus’ remark about the poor in John’s Gospel was a direct response to Judas bemoaning the oil used to anoint Jesus could have been sold for 300 denari and the money used for a better purpose. Later, we learn Judas was a man who knew the price of everything and the value of nothing.
If the Met Gala serves any greater purpose beyond its opulence, it is to remind those of us who could not afford to attend such a fâte that we still tend to burden ourselves with possessions and nonessentials that would break the average dromedary’s back.
I fly coach but in relative terms, I am a man of means. There is food in my fridge. There is a roof over my head. I have resources I can spend on my grandson. The average monthly salary for a highly skilled worker in Burundi is $74.03. I have spent more on the stylus for my high-end turntable.
As ridiculously over the top as the Met Gala may be, it can be a lesson learned to any one of us who may be more fixated on the material than is good for us. Jesus did not mind nice things. He did not object to the expensive oil used to honor him. He went to wedding parties and broke bread with the rich and poor alike. If he was incarnate in our time instead of 2,000 years ago, he might have attended the Met Gala. I think if he had, he might have asked some people to put on more clothes and cautioned a few designers to go and sew no more.