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Response: “Stop Dressing So Tacky for Church”

May 4, 2014

Argues that we should dress up for Church like we dress up for other important functions.

What people didn’t realize in the past was that the Old Testament was the Law, which was superseded by Christ. They only realized that when arguing over which day was the Sabbath (Saturday or Sunday. The Bible says Saturday; so it’s technically moot to even argue over “Sunday”?) But in every other way, they copied lock, stock and barrel the Old Covenant. It’s all an outward “righteousness” of “works”, and there’s little grace.

And what we ended up with was the same thing Christ condemned his Old Testament contemporaries for. “Making clean the outside of the cup, and not the inside”. Being “whitewashed sepulchres”, full of dead men’s bones inside. Man “looks out the outward appearance”. They followed all the rituals and forms of “preparing themselves for God”, and even added much more to it.
Christ wasn’t adding some new teaching to be kept side by side with the old. He’s telling us that that “old way” people cite wasn’t working (hence “new wine in old wineskins”). Not because the Law was faulty, but became man was. As those people he was dealing with made clear. So Paul in Romans 7 and elsewhere shows that throwing more Law at us makes us more rebellious. You can suppress sin outwardly, but it still comes up in some other way.

So centuries later in like fashion, everyone dressed up for Church, for jobs, for planes, etc. Today we look back at that and compare (along with morality, respect, kids’ behavior, music styles, etc.), and everything looked so “good” then and so bad now.
But what about the black struggles (as the article mentions), for instance? It was the same cultural Christianity that taught dressing up in church and the rest of the outward morality, that said blacks were inferior and should be enslaved or segregated (and also lynched and raped them). Black churches adopted the dress and other strictness, but they too were often too hard, and neurotic (especially when it comes to sexual morality, but then ironically the preacher would often be in the brothel after a sermon he terrorized the congregation with guilt through).

So about 50 years ago, all of this came to a head, and the entire generation, black and white, rebelled against the whole thing. Then Christians and other “guardians” of society got into this push to go back to the past, and condemning everything modern.
But just like the Gospel says, all men have sinned, meaning all cultures, the same goes for all generations. We’ve simply traded one set of sins for another. (But at least this generation is trying to be authentic, and not hiding sin behind nice clothes; even if they may take things too far sometimes).

The thing is, “dress vs casual” is not a solid definition of “respect”; it’s a changing manmade system (they didn’t have suits and ties in Biblical times, so that’s not what “preparing for the Lord” meant), that was often done even while much sin was in people’s hearts.
You can have very “conservative” churches, where the ladies all wear dresses or two piece dress suits, and the skirt lengths may be below the knee, but they are still rather tight. Thank about it; which is really worse, that or something more casual, but less form fitting?
Other commenters even criticized Church for becoming a fashion show, fostering judgmentalism. If uniforms are being adopted in many secular schools, as well as religious ones, to do away with a “fashion show” type distraction from school work, then that may seem to bolster these critics argument, but the same problems, often worse even, can occur with what you’re calling “dress” clothes that are not uniform. (And many school uniform sets I’ve seen also include stuff like polo shirts, which would be “casual”).

A lot of people may continue to dress up at certain functions, but most are just doing it because it’s the norm, likely because they have to. It does not indicate whether they truly respect something. That is such a shallow way to judge things.
(All of this is not even going into whether Church was supposed to be so “institutionalized” to begin with!)

To confuse this, and raise dressing up to a biblical mandate further relativizes the faith, more than what we complain others are doing morally.
One commenter even said “It seems it is those arguing the point for ‘casual’ dressing who are bringing the Bible into the discussion.” The Bible comes into it, because the critics such as this evoke “worshipping the Lord”, and I would think the Bible should be used as the actual guide for that, before cultural norms and “codes”. Else, what you have is purely manmade traditions elevated to the level of divine mandates (Mark 7:7-9).

The solution is not to go back (Eccl. 7:10, Isaiah 43:18-21, Phil.3:13) it’s to look and see what went wrong in what the modern generation is rebelling against and realize that there was just as much sin back then, and to show grace on those who are reacting out of the confusion, not to continue wagging fingers.

One Comment
  1. Here’s another one:

    Included are arguments that dressing up “shows espect”, and then has this affect onpeople makign them nicer (reminds me of the fundamentalist aditional music only philosophy). Makes me wonder how we ever had civilization before the suit and tie were invented.

    Good responses:

    Some famous suit wearers

    Al Capone
    Bernie Madoff
    Robert Tilton
    Clyde Barrow
    Richard Nixon
    John Gottie

    The suit does not make the man

    the more I read this, the more I realize how silly this article is, we could all justify our cultural preferences as being more holy or more excellent or more in line with what Jesus wants.

    I dress as nice as I can, I like to, even when going to the gym I like stylish things, but it is very much a personal preference. While you may attract many with a suit on, you will turn just as many away, if your attitude is wrapped up in your clothes.

    This article makes it sound like if you don’t wear a suit and tie you are obviously wearing a wrinkled shirt and holey jeans. You can still dress appropriately without wearing a suit or tie. It isn’t all or nothing there is a middle ground here.

    “Since when do we let the unchurched or the immature set the direction for anything in the church? (Answer: We do when we are lost and directionless ourselves.)”

    This is falsely identifying the pastor’s clothes as the direction of the church. What you wear is not your church’s direction. Your mission statement and how you accomplish it is your church’s direction.

    And besides, [since] when do we let 20th century Western cultural norms set the direction for anything in the church?

    To me this is a dated and dead issue except for traditional churches/preachers. I agree Preachers should look presentable and nice, but this article shows we are still hung up on the suit and tie issue. To me it so ridiculous. If I wear a nice pair of jeans and a dress shirt and preach the Word with clarity and conviction, so what if I am not wearing a suit and tie. The chuch is carnal, wordly, materialistic and lukewarm and we are still dealing with this issue. We need to move on from it and focus on great comission while follwoing the principle of modesty (I Tim 2)

    “So, why do the candidates and the anchor people dress up when they go to work?
    We will pause here while you consider your answer.”

    Well, it seems clear. They want to evoke prosperity and authority by identifying with the business leaders and power brokers of the day.

    Let me turn the question around.

    “Do you think that Jesus and his disciples’ (we’ll leave John the Baptist out of this, because we already know his dresscode) mode of attire was more closely aligned with the powerful and wealthy in their society than with the common and earthy?”

    I’ll pause while you consider your answer.

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