Recently I came across an article in the magazine, “Christianity Today” that I thought was really interesting. It is called “Clothing Matters: What We Wear to Church.” The author talks about how our church culture today has become very causal about dress during worship, and he thinks it has gone too far. But he gives some thought provoking arguments as to why what we wear does actually matter, and what we wear while gathering to worship with the people of God matters. He doesn’t propose any detailed kind of dress code (thankfully), but I think his points are good, and I tend to agree with him.
The reason I am sharing this article here, on my blog about crossdressing, is that I think some of his points apply to our discussions. He is particularly talking about why clothing matters during our church worship. But in his argumentation, he says some descriptive statements about clothing in general that I think are really interesting. Give the article a read, with crossdressing in the back of your mind, and you’ll find some interesting connections I think.
I like how he challenges the assumption that people make who say, “God just cares about our hearts so it doesn’t matter what we do or what we wear.” I’ve heard so many crossdressers say that and he refutes it thoroughly unintentionally. Obviously his article does nothing to prove that crossdressing is sinful or unhealthy. But it does at least begin to challenge the assumption that our clothing doesn’t matter at all.
A couple choice quotes from the article –
Because our clothing is one of the fundamental ways we communicate with others, what we wear is never a purely personal matter. Our attire exerts a social influence on those around us.
All of the above is why we should not conclude too quickly that because God looks on the heart, what we wear to church doesn’t matter. Our internal and external states cannot be so easily disentangled. The fact is, when it comes to how we clothe ourselves, our external appearance is often an expression of our internal state. Thus our worship attire may matter more than we think.
Wittingly or unwittingly, our clothing gives us away. God certainly does not need this expression to know our hearts. But as for the rest of us, we do indeed look on the outward appearance, even when peering into our own mirrors.
Perhaps the best way to think of our church attire is to place it in the context of the spiritual disciplines. As Dallas Willard says, “One of the greatest deceptions in the practice of the Christian religion is the idea that all that really matters is our internal feelings, ideas, beliefs, and intentions” (The Spirit of the Disciplines, p. 152). The classical spiritual disciplines—for example, prayer, fasting, service, and worship—are about bringing the internal and external together. Says Willard, we must “guard against the view of spirituality as something ‘wholly inward’ or something to be kept just between the individual and God.” The inward and the outward are not “two separate things, but one unified process in which those who are alive in God are caught up in their embodied, socialized totality” (pp. 77–78).