Monday, July 13, 2009

How Should we (Especially Women) Dress for Mass?

By Dave Armstrong (7-13-09)

I don't wear a suit and tie except to, pretty much, weddings and funerals and other rare events (recently, e.g., a classical concert and a school reunion). I grew up in the 60s.

For church I wear nice dress pants (not blue jeans or any kind of shorts, ever, unless we're on vacation or something where we're not as well-dressed) and a nice top (in the summer, usually a sports shirt, and long-sleeve dress shirt in the colder months).

Wife Judy and my daughter wear dresses or skirts; always modest (that's how my wife dresses anyway; i.e., modestly). My boys are basically the same as me. We're not legalistic about it; just sensible and reverent according to the purpose (receiving our Lord Jesus) and surroundings.

The last thing I want to see in church is an attractive woman dressed provocatively and (for church, at least) immodestly. Let's be realistic: men will always have some attraction to a good-looking woman, even if she is wearing farmer's overalls or a potato sack. If they wear tight pants that highlights one thing; short dresses, another. So in a sense attraction will always be there no matter what. It's just how men are.

So women don't need to push it. That's not helping anything. It's bad enough in our larger society without having to deal with all that in church, where God should be the focus, not the opposite sex. Why is that so difficult for many women to comprehend? This opens up to a large issue itself, and maybe we can have a discussion about it.

Once I finally figured out that premarital sex was wrong, at the age of 23, as an evangelical, I got very sick and tired as a single guy, of women in church who didn't seem to have the slightest inkling that men would be tempted or distracted. I concluded at length that they were either utterly ignorant about what it is like to be a man (especially in our society), or didn't care, and were out to get a guy, regardless of the requirements of the worship situation.

As for how men should dress, that is for the women to say! If I've tempted any women at church, I am unaware of it. I don't have giant biceps and shoulders, so that couldn't be it, if so. LOL

There is a line that can be crossed, into dress that is clearly seductive or provocative. This is a precipitating cause to temptation and is (or can be) sinful. Don't do anything that causes your brother to stumble, etc. (or, "defrauding": helping cause a person to be overly tempted). That is the responsibility of women: to avoid that in church. Obviously it can't apply in every situation (at the beach, etc.). But a woman certainly knows how to dress to attract a man if that is their aim. I'm saying that they shouldn't dress in that same way when they go to church, because a man is a man, whether he is in church or not. God designed us to be attracted to women. Y'all wouldn't be very happy if we weren't attracted to you, would you?

The trouble is that many women don't seem to understand these things, as shown in how they dress at church. Why is it that so many women don't get this?

It becomes a huge discussion, I know, about dress and double standards, and the shortcomings of men and the (often unreasonable or hypocritical) demands we make upon women. But I think these general principles are unassailable.

There is another level of dress at church that goes beyond gender-specific concerns and attraction, too. And that is the nature of what takes place. We are in the very presence (even physical presence) of our Lord Jesus Christ. Would we wear some beat-up shorts or a jogging suit or miniskirt, etc., if we were going in to meet the Queen of England or the President of the United States (or even to something like a formal dance or if we were a musician in a classical music concert)? Not one in a thousand adults would do so, I don't think. They would immediately think it was inappropriate and would be embarrassed to be seen dressed like that, at such an occasion. The situation dictates the type of dress.

So why is it that so many folks don't understand this at Mass, in the presence of the Lord of the Universe? I can only conclude that they are insufficiently conscious of what the Holy Eucharist entails. If they were, they wouldn't dress like that. If they are not aware of what it means, then it is a question of gross ignorance, and a need for catechesis and explanation, or insufficient attention t one's surroundings. Either way, there is a serious problem in the person who dresses in such a way, insofar as they desire (or should desire) to conform to the Church's understanding of the matter.


Steven said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Dave Armstrong said...

Thanks, Deborah. Welcome, and I hope you will keep hanging out. :-)

denisemeyer said...

I thought I would add some sound advice that I got from a Priest in grade school. This comment stemmed from the discussion of whether or not a sports team could go to mass in their uniforms before a game. The team was traveling to a tournament so 5pm Mass Sat was the only option since the team would be playing on Sun Morning. (Gotta love state events :) but that's another story.) He told us to always remember that when you go to mass you are going to God's House. How would you dress to go to your father's house? And would your father rather you miss dinner all together or have you come to dinner with your soccer uniform so He could bless you before the big game? I thought this was a great rule of thumb. Of course you wouldn't come in a gymnastics leotard, but sometimes, not on a regular basis mind you, but sometimes its OK to come to God's house as you are rather than not at all.