Stop Dressing So Tacky For Church

If the Rev. John DeBonville could preach a sermon to lift the souls of churchgoers across America, his message would be simple: Stop dressing so tacky for church.

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And there are still pockets of church culture where no one has to persuade people to look sharp on Sunday.

The African-American church is one such place. Many of its members still insist on dressing up on Sunday because of the historical struggles of blacks. Sunday morning was often the only time in the week that a black person could assert their dignity, says Durley, the Atlanta civil rights activist who also is a retired Baptist pastor.

“On Sunday morning, when you put on your tie, your shirt and put your palms together and slicked down your hair, you were no longer the hired help, you were a trustee, a deacon or you chaired this board and you dressed accordingly,” Durley says.

What would Jesus wear?

There are others, though, who say God cares more about the person’s soul than their style. No one wears a bracelet today asking, “What would Jesus wear.” Clothes just weren’t important to Jesus or the early church, they claim.

The early church was anti-hierarchical and adopted a “come as you are” approach to worship, welcoming outcasts and the disenfranchised who often couldn’t dress in fine clothes, says Carl Raschke, a religious studies professor at the University of Denver.

Raschke cites Mark 12:38, where Jesus mocks the fine clothes worn by the Pharisees, a group of elite Jewish religious leaders of his day.

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Others cite James 2:2-4, where the writer of the New Testament book criticizes early Christians for discriminating against poor people visiting the church in dirty clothes and favoring the man “wearing a gold ring and fine clothes.”

“Adopting a dress code would not only be suicidal for American Christians who are swimming against the stream of casual secularism, it would be antithetical to what Christianity sees increasingly as its abiding mission – to reach those who are marginalized and ‘don’t fit in,’” Raschke says.

Some people, though, remain convinced that casual Sundays are getting too sloppy.

“The casualness of Sunday church attire has gone too far,” says DeBonville, the pastor of the Massachusetts church. “It’s about respect and honoring God.”

When DeBonville looks across the scruffy fashion landscape of America, he sees only one profession that’s holding the line against tacky dress.

It’s not the preachers or priests, though. These people belong to another profession whose members aren’t exactly known for respect and honoring God.

“The last ones wearing shirt and ties are the politicians,” DeBonville says.

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