Fashion Oddities and Public Worship

By Wayne Jackson

I well remember an occasion in my early teens when a friend of mine got a “mohawk” haircut. I asked my parents if I could get one. They said “no,” and that settled the issue. Those were the days when parents still were in control, and the “tail” didn’t wag the “dog.”

Ever since the radical “60’s,” it appears that numerous elements of our society (particularly among the youth) feel the need to express themselves in some individualistic way. They seem to be trying to “find themselves,” or discover “who they are.”

For example tattoos are quite the style these days — with women as much as men. I conducted a lecture series not long ago and a woman, in a sleeveless dress, sat on the second row; she had a huge tattoo on her upper arm. Though the colorful decoration was her business, in my opinion its gaudy display was quite unbecoming in a church gathering.

I know that one may be from a different era, and that what is “bizarre” to him may be “cool” to today’s “dudes” and “dudesses.” Many of the older generation, however, just do not understand the fashion dramatics behind pierced eyebrows, nose, lip, and tongue “studs,” belly button rings — amply displayed, and three or four studs (or rings) in each ear, etc. I understand that the admonitions of 1 Timothy 2:9-10, and 1 Peter 3:3-4, do not prohibit all bodily adornment, but these texts mean something, don’t they?

One supposes that most folks who “decorate” themselves with these extreme ornaments will grow beyond them eventually, as the exhibitionist emerges from whatever “identity crisis” it is through which he or she is passing.

What troubles many, however, is the fact some of these dear souls, who insist on making oddity “fashion statements,” feel that there ought to be no consequence at all attached to their flamboyance — even in terms of how they appear when teaching Bible classes, or leading the church in worship.

Here is the point. No one wants to impose his or her style standards upon others (within reasonable limits). There is no specific dress code that the elders of a church distribute to members, to which they rigidly must conform at all times. However, there are certain sensible expectations that leaders may have for those who function in teaching capacities or leadership roles. And if one does not wish to accede to a moderate level of decorum, he or she may find that it would be best for them to occupy a less public position until such a time as their “identity” becomes settled in their own mind.

Do we really want men serving the communion supper with purple or spiked hair? Are tee shirts promoting sports teams appropriate attire for such an auspicious occasion? What would be our reaction if we went into an attorney’s office and he was bizarrely attired? How much credibility would we assign him?

No wise “shepherd” wishes to micro-manage every phase of the “flock’s” life. However, for the sake of influence, there must be some standards of dignity for those who function in the public arena. Those who are truly spiritual will not force their leaders into awkward situations by adopting extreme fashions.

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About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.