Letters from TZ

Are you daring enough to bare it all for God?

It is said that the human body is the temple of God. If that’s the truth, then we carry Him around with us on all our travels. He goes where we go and sees what we see, including everything that we do. He is witness to all the questionable acts that we carry out in private, hidden from the prying and judging eyes of the world. He knows our deepest, darkest secrets and has seen us at our lowest. If the human body is the temple of God, then He knows us inside out. He has seen all our organs and body parts in three dimensions, and is intimately acquainted with every inch, in every state, whether dressed or undressed.

But for some reason Christians seem to think that God only comes to the temple on Sunday to coincide with their perfunctory visit to church. On Sunday, women are required to dress in a manner that suggests that God is in their house, leaving all other suggestion of worldliness and lasciviousness aside – and men are required to desist from looking at them in a suggestive fashion.

Sunday style has been the subject of debate for hundreds of years, ever since Paul instructed the women of Corinth to cover their heads in the house of the Lord. It has long been accepted that decent dressing is a sign of respect that every God-fearing believer should manage to accomplish at least once a week, be they male or female.

But as with all things, time has altered our understanding of the term ‘decent dressing’. More than that, it has altered our understanding of the word ‘respect’. You would be hard pressed to find a woman with a headscarf on her head in church, unless she was wearing it as a fashion statement or to protect her hair from the elements. And in this age of individualism, human beings have reserved the right to define God and decide how much respect they should afford Him. Many believe, as is their right, that different people show respect in different ways. And that God looks at the heart, not the headscarf. Which is all well and good. But I do believe that there should be a separation between church and club.

Recently, I eavesdropped on a heated conversation about young people and their interpretation of church fashion. On one side of the argument, a man chastened young women for exposing their breasts in church, and cautioned young men against wearing sagging pants. He said it was the responsibility of church leaders to enforce a strict dress code for Sunday service. On the other side, a woman championed the rights of the individual to pick out their wardrobe based on their own considered opinion of decorum. She refused to accept that a church leader would dictate how his congregation dressed.

Both sides, in my considered opinion, have the makings of a point. Since we’re discussing church, Christians and belief systems, it is proper to reference the Bible, which does instruct believers to work out their own salvation. Ultimately, faith is a personal thing. It has nothing to do with your pastor or the rest of the congregation. However, church going is a communal activity and even the most individualistic among us must defer to the collective consciousness of the community. When you choose to be part of a group, by default, you are choosing to follow its rules.

There are many places where a woman can display her breasts to their best advantage. And many others where a young man can belt his oversized jeans at his knees. In those places, that kind of dressing is accepted, in fact even expected. But in church, the focus should be internal, not external. And yet, the body so they say, is the temple of God. Which means that He can see the internal condition of the heart, regardless of what covering one puts over it.

But should we be thinking of God when we dress for church, or should we be thinking of man. Curiously, this may be one of those unique instances when we really should put man before God.

Disco dressing is a horizontal distraction, not a vertical one. You could worship God in the nude for all He cares. As long as you do so unobserved. A scantily clad woman, no matter how pious she might be as a person, becomes that well-known ‘stumbling block’ for a man who on the face of things, went to church to worship and not to watch. And a man with his pants barely hanging on to his backside is an annoying reminder of just how far fashion has fallen, and this is not the kind of reminder you want to be given on a Sunday morning. It is unfortunate that man is much harsher in his judgement than God, and much weaker in his morality, but because of both, church dressing should probably remain covered up and traditional.