I was born and raised in the grand ole Church of God in Christ, where they preach “holiness is right.” In my particular place of worship, “Thou shalt not wear red lipstick” should be the 11th commandment. On top of that, women are expected to wear hot pantyhose all year long, and rocking a skirt higher than a quarter inch above your knee is highly frowned upon. While this may not be the case for every denomination, there has always been a general code of conduct when it comes to women and the clothing that they choose to wear to church. For decades, women have obliged to this code; however, this more recent generation of young women, my generation, seem to be challenging the rules a bit. The attire being worn to church seems to be getting more and more risque as the years go by. “The skirts seem to be getting higher and the blouses seem to be getting lower,” I’ll hear one church mother grunt to another as some long-legged beauty struts by in her baby doll dress and 6-inch pumps to place her money on the offering table. “I hate this, it’s like they want to drag us back to the 1960s. Times have changed,” is what I’ll hear some of my other sisters complain. I’ll overhear this convo as I’m in the bathroom performing my own dreadful task of slipping on pantyhose in 80-degree weather.
I have a friend at church who seems to be going through the same thing right now. Sometime between this year and last, her “holiness is right” ankle length skirts have morphed into rising bandage skirts and those chic and sheer little asymmetrical get ups. More than a few people have approached her on the matter. One afternoon on the phone she vented her frustrations: “Why does it even matter? When I was living like hell and my skirts were down to my ankles that was okay, but now that I’m actually living right and my skirts are a little shorter than before I’m going to hell with gasoline draws on? What is more important, my heart or my hemline?” she groaned. This of course got the wheels in my head turning. Do we as Christians place more emphasis on the outward appearance as opposed to the heart of a man or woman? Should clothing actually be a debate at all?
Popular Christian rapper and recording artist, Lecrae, tackles this same exact subject in his most recent mixtape release with a song entitled “Church Clothes.” In it, he navigates through this debate from the point of view of someone who isn’t an avid churchgoer and wants to go, even if they don’t have the button down and Easter suit. It is a very thought-provoking track. One of the most profound lyrics from the song, however, is the following:
If God accepts me as I am I guess I already got on my church clothes…
While this is all true and of much importance, it still leaves one to question whether this gives us all a get-out-of-jail-free card to dress however we want because it is about the inner man? I mean there are scriptures upon scriptures that discuss men who appear one way outwardly and are another way internally. And then, if that is the case, does that mean that church should be a free for all where women can wear micro mini skirts and halter tops as long as they came to praise the Lord and hear the word? Where can the line be drawn?
The Bible may not say “Thou mustn’t wear hoochie skirts to church,” but what it does say in Galatians 6:2 is that we are to carry one another’s burdens and it is in this way that we will fulfill the law of Christ. With that in mind, what about our brothers in Christ? There are tons of scriptures on men and the shielding of their eyes of lustful images as well as the heaviness of merely lusting after a woman with your eyes. Do we not then have a responsibility to protect men from what scripture has made clear is a weakness for them? If the Bible instructs us all to flee youthful lust, then are we doing our brothers an injustice by flaunting the bait at the one place that should serve as their place of refuge, the church?
For years, I’ve worn my dresses a decent length merely because it was what I was told to do. There was also a point in time where I didn’t pay much attention to the lengths of my dresses or how tight my blouses were. I wasn’t fully made aware of the struggle that men have to cope with until I was sent this video by an older sister and mentor on the subject. This didn’t become personal to me until one day when I was shooting the breeze on webcam with one of my very close brothers in Christ, and as I’m yapping away I noticed that he kept looking away. After taking a closer look at my own image in the camera and him bringing it to my attention, I realized that some of my lady curves (aka, cleavage) had somehow creeped into view of my camera. You can imagine my embarrassment. Me, having dealt with my own personal struggles before, would never want to be a participant in leading someone else astray. So yes, the heart of a person is undeniably the most important thing when it comes to church, but is the way we present ourselves not of importance as well? Think about it…
Sound off, ladies: Do you believe that the church places too much emphasis on the outward appearance? Should we hold ourselves semi-responsible for protecting the eyes of the brethren in our local churches?
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