Editor’s Note: At the Stuff Apostolics Like blogging institute that consists of a simple blanket fort made out of a giant blanket and two kitchen chairs facing back to back some 5 feet apart, we wrestle from time to time on our purpose…..
Remembering to take a minute and laugh at ourselves is our number one goal. However, I readily admit that this goal can come across cynical and overly deconstructive in it’s ambitions. So today, in this blog I want to introduce to you a new wing of a blog topic that seeks to build on our understanding and not destroy…
It’s the slightly informative/slightly humorous/slightly obnoxious blog entry…And with this blog entry a side purpose is to educate as well as laugh.
Of course these blog types will be few and far between, but let this serve as a forewarning as to not confuse when they do arrive….. without further adieu,
The age old custom of dressing up for church isn’t so aged and isn’t so old.
First, there is no record of average congregants ever changing their attire in order to attend any sort of liturgy. Sure, old testament mosaic law required priests to wear very specific garb when entering the Holy of Holies, but it also required you to build a special roof on your house so burglars wouldn’t fall off, to wash your face before and after sex, and how to sell your daughter into slavery. Not only did Christ fulfill the law, but Paul states that if we attempt to follow part of the law, but not the whole law that we are guilty of the whole law. So picking random laws of the Mosaic Law and attempting to apply them, out of context, to todays culture doesn’t really work, capish?
Until the mid 1800’s in Europe and America, where Christianity was dominant, there was no such custom of dressing up for church. Prior to the industrial revolution and the introduction of mass-produced textiles there were typically two classes of people: rich and broke. And the broke weren’t broke like you and I are broke, they were broke-broke. They typically had very few clothes. Usually they had their laboring clothes, which were dirty and tattered, that they worked in, and another set that was still cheaply made, usually homemade, that they wore for everything else. There was no “dressing up”, they couldn’t afford it. Dressing up for social functions was reserved strictly for the wealthy aristocracy.
With the introduction of mass textile manufacturing and the industrial revolution a new class of people was born, and with this there arose a desire for class distinction. The new class, which we will call the bourgeoisie, sought to identify themselves as no longer poverty stricken, and one way of doing this was by wearing more upscale clothing.
With me class? Questions? Ok, moving on.
Around about this time religious leaders began preaching and teaching against class distinction because it created division in the congregations. People were taught that we’re all equal when coming to God, so why would we want to distinguish ourselves from one another based on wealth? Some denominations during this time went so far as to turn away anyone who wore expensive clothing because it separated the classes. (Imagine if we did this today! We wouldn’t even have preachers to preach our conventions!)
All of this changed in the late 1800’s. An essay was written called “Taste and Fashion”, in which it was argued that sophistication and refinement were attributes of God and that Christians should try to emulate them. This began giving the new middle class some (albeit bad) logic behind their desire to flaunt their new wealth. Since then the delusion that we must “look our Sunday best” when coming to church has become widespread. And it is a delusion, but we’ll leave that discussion for the ensuing comments.
Fast-forward 150 years. Culture has drastically changed back to the point that the masses, for the most part, don’t own dress clothes. This is no longer a matter of wealth, just changing societal conditions. Men no longer wear a suit, topcoat and fedora when going to a ball game.
However the debate still rages: do we need to/should we dress up for church? This hot button issue is never really taught or explained, just demanded. For most churches, in order to be on the platform one must not be wearing jeans, and must be wearing a collared shirt with a tie. One individual who e-mailed the blog remarked that a suit was required at his church to be on the platform.
Sunday I was sitting in the back of my church and a visitor walked by with the person who brought her. My stomach turned when I heard the following conversation:
“I don’t have many dress clothes, and I definitely don’t own a skirt”
“Oh, I know, when I first started coming I had to do a lot of shopping. Don’t worry we’ll get you some new clothes.”
What a tragedy, when a person feels that in order to come to a place where they can experience God’s love and hear His Word that they must first do some shopping, because there’s a dress code.