For one thing, its writers mix religions, using confused terminology. Here, they don’t understand that the Sabbath is a Jewish institution, while, on the other hand, Sunday assemblies are Christian.
For another thing, they don’t differentiate between mainstream Christianity and cults — here, I refer to a massive, well-organized, next-generation cult,¹ the Latter-Day Saints.
Presumably with their corporate finger on the pulse of their readership, in this article, CNN deals in surface-level concerns such as attire appropriate for “church.”
In the article, we have “Reverend” X “harumphing” about everyone’s dressing down for church these days. Then we have a contributor somewhat more astutely comparing 1) dressing up for air travel in the 1940s with 2) the way people tend to dress for travel today. This second person and others seem to have a handle on what appears to be a societal trend — dressing down in general, and the creeping effect of a lack of a sense of gratitude. When people feel they have a “right” to fly on an airplane or to approach God, signs of entitlement — such as sloppy dress — may rear their heads.
Later, there is a laser pointed on the perceived “importance of the occasion” for which one dresses.
“If you had the opportunity to meet the Queen of England, you wouldn’t show up at Windsor Castle wearing jeans and a T-shirt,” someone says.
Agreed: if I’m wanting to impress someone in a higher position, or someone I don’t know, there’s a certain need to “look my best.” But a different dynamic is present there. The queen or the president or a hiring manager is a human, with human influence and mere human knowledge of me. God isn’t impacted by my dress; He knows me inside. On the other hand, how I dress may well indicate something of my attitude, regardless of the attire’s relational implications.
Aside: before this blogpost was completely composed, while I was driving one afternoon, I saw two young men on bicycles. These were Mormon “missionaries” (on bicycles, with standard-issue helmets). How did I know? The attire! Dark pants. Short-sleeved, white shirts. Neckties. Two of them together. It was unmistakable. And I thought, not for the first time, why on earth would the Mormon organization want to specify this odd look for its emissaries? It’s beyond off-putting; it’s comical. Not a lot of positive impact is possible with this other-worldly, anti-cultural look. I wondered how this dress code is perpetuated, and I imagined the great-great-great-great-niece of Brigham Young, pushing 100 years of age (and of delusion!) and sitting somewhere in Utah, having tea with a current LDS administrator. She tells the man, in a warbly, shaky, yet authoritative voice, “Now, Joseph XII, these young missionaries need to look nice when they are out there on the streets.” She has in mind the “nice” look of the 1950s and doesn’t realize that short-sleeved dress shirts are just weird in most U.S. areas. But people keep listening to her. Speaking from some level of cultural awareness, the Mormon missionary look is a dumb look, and it says something.
No one seems to acknowledge, in this dressing appropriately context, that Christian assemblies have a personality of their own — and that this personality is attached to culture. The only thing I can think of in the New Covenant writings about how to dress for “church” is the advice in James 2: don’t make someone uncomfortable who doesn’t have your level of finery available.
Now, I grew up wearing better clothes to church on Sundays mornings than I wore to school. And I still care about how I look. I just think what you wear pertains more to your general outlook and cultural setting than to God or the Bible.
Next: Priests (and this won’t be about priestly vestments)
¹ Cults are typically comparatively small. The Mormon institution is anything but small. Here, I use “cult” in two other senses:
- misplaced or excessive admiration for a particular person
- having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or sinister