Going Purple

I am working with Stephanie on an examination of the color purple in Christianity for this module. Our research so far has shown something I find pretty interesting: the connotations attached to purple in Christianity are very much related to the connotations attached to purple by mainstream culture. I’m sure this is at least partly (if not entirely) because our subject matter is so intertwined with popular culture. For example, purple is the color of royalty. We have discussed in class (and numerous sources can add to this) why this is — the color was rare and expensive, meaning it was only available to royalty. According to Christian lore, Jesus was dressed in a purple robe before he was crucified as part of the mockery surrounding his claim to be “King of the Jews.” The color purple was used by his persecutors because of its royal connotations, and because of that incident it was inducted into the canon of Christian symbolism.

The other major connotation of the color purple that we have run across also stems from the crucifixion of Jesus. Purple is the color of persecution, pain, sorrow, and suffering. It is not difficult to follow where these ideas might have come from in reference to the paragraph above.
Another connection I am trying to make is one of purple as empathetic. It seems that empathy might be a quality also associated with royalty, at least in some cases. Many political Web sites also discuss purple as a color of cooperation, because it is what emerges when red (Republicans) and blue (Democrats) work together. States known as “purple states” are the states that are most moderate in their political leanings.

Returning to the project at hand, Stephanie and I are particularly researching the connection of the color purple with the Christian seasons of Lent and Advent. Both have direct connections to events in the life of Jesus, so the royalty connection is easy to make. I also think we can draw a connection between purple and Lent because Lent is the time Jesus spent in the desert being tempted by Satan. This certainly involved sorrow and suffering. Advent is the time leading up to Jesus’ birth, which might connote suffering on the part of his parents. These are just a few of the leads we intend to follow as we continue to flesh out this project.


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