Missing a Point

Having recently attended a fantastic theological forum on 1 Corinthians, this article got my attention.  The topic certainly isn’t new.  I have no doubt that regardless of the general cultural mores on fashion, there have always been those who either out of necessity, ignorance, or pride have caused stirs about their mode of dress in worship.

What I thought was fascinating (and frustrating) was the complete lack of any actual reference to the Bible in this article.  But that is only one issue.
Take the woman who leads off the article.  It isn’t so much what she’s wearing, as her recognition that what she’s wearing isn’t appropriate.  Yet, she’s wearing it.  She feels guilt, but rather than dealing with the actual cause for her guilt (she doesn’t feel she’s dressed appropriately for worship) she attempts to deflect the guilt, as though God is making her feel bad, or someone else is.  Aren’t there warm up pants that she could pull on over her shorts for the worship?  A more fitting t-shirt over her “skimpy” tank top?  
But the bigger issue is her placement of her own issues ahead of the issues of everyone else in the church.  And this is the big picture issue that gets ignored in this article.  What is the role of the Christian individual in relationship to others in the faith?  
The next issue of “modest is hottest” is one I need to read up on a little, but will probably be posting on next week.  All sorts of interesting ins and outs to this one, I suspect.  But at the end, once again the issue is personalized, focusing on the “orientation of the heart”.  Whatever that means.  What it means in shorthand is that nobody is allowed to say anything about what I wear (or eat, or do, conveniently).  It completely individualizes the entire issue and seeks to stop discussion immediately.  I also note that neither the woman being quoted or the author of the article bother to actually quote the verses in the Bible that they feel (rightly and wrongly) address modesty.   Convenient.  Let’s just assume that the Bible doesn’t have anything to say about how I dress in worship because I’m suggesting that it doesn’t.  ‘K?
Another example of a woman who knows full well what the expectations are in her community of faith yet feels offended somehow when she is called to task on it.  Yes, of course, dress code is not an issue regarding salvation, and yes we can focus on the wrong things in any number of ways.  None of which is the actual issue.
Finally, the article concludes with a pastor from Liberty University who spouts the time-worn mantra that Jesus doesn’t judge, implying that we shouldn’t either (presuming his premise is correct, which I don’t think it is), and then weakly following it up about how church is different than a club.
I spent nearly 20 years in a campus ministry setting.  I’ve seen all sorts of clothes in church.  Added to that, this church was in Arizona, so summers were darn hot.  As were major chunks of fall and spring.  I have no issue with tasteful and respectful modes of dress whether they be suits, full dresses with hats, shorts, or t-shirts.  
But it isn’t me who gets to make the call on what is appropriate.  
1 Corinthians has a lot to say about a lot of things.  Two sections come to mind on this topic – neither referenced in this article, of course.  1 Corinthians 8-9 deal with how we conduct ourselves in public spaces (not specifically worship).  At issue isn’t what is True (that there are no other gods, only God) or even what is permissible (eating food that might be from an idol cafeteria).  Rather, the issue boils down to the effect my actions might have on a brother or sister in the faith.  As such, how I conduct myself is not a personal decision.  Rather, my personal freedom in faith is limited soas to be of maximum benefit and minimal damage to brothers and sisters in the faith.  I may be able to do something personally in good faith because of my faith in Christ, but if that action might confuse or damage a brother or sister in the faith, I refrain to be protective of them.  
Secondly, 1 Corinthians 11 starts off with the often confusing issue of head coverings.  Paul is not laying down the law that women need to wear hats in worship.  But what he does paint is a picture where the cultural understandings are to be taken into account in worship.  What you’re wearing says a lot about you and what you think and do.  And like e-mail or texting, subtle nuances of irony or rebellion are often lost in translation.  So women (and by extension men, of course) need to consider the ramifications on others of what they choose to wear.  
One of the good things in the article was where a woman wondered whether the person complaining about her mode of dress was going to seek help for their attitudes and temptations – definitely a reasonable thing to wonder.  But it doesn’t exempt her from considering the effects of her mode of dress on others.  And I disagree with her assertion that a person (male or female, frankly) is necessarily completely innocent of the lust their appearance creates in another person.  I’m not at all advocating to hide all skin from men’s eyes because men are animals.  Men can and should control themselves and that control begins with the eyes and the mind before it ever reaches any other parts of their bodies.  But how women dress does matter.  
I wish these articles would actually refer to Scripture, rather than pointlessly wander around for a while lamenting an issue in general as though there was nothing concrete to drive conversation in a particular direction.  Read 1 Corinthians.  Read all of it.  And see in the context of a community split on a variety of levels Paul’s pastoral concern and frank dealings with members of that church.  Now imagine your own pastor being as blunt with your community.  Might not make any friends, but it could certainly remove a lot of simmering, festering stuff under the radar.  

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