(Originally posted at ClobberBlog)
My quest to understand what sort of evangelical I really am has had me doing more than just pondering things like traducianism and preterism. Lately I’ve begun to question how we as evangelicals ought to approach God for our Sunday worship in dress and attire, and before you can understand my dilemma on the subject, you have to realize that I am, in so many ways, a product of both Mormonism and evangelical Christianity even if I’ve never been LDS. Evangelical Christianity captivated me as a teenager with its “come as you are” motto, its willingness to hand you a guitar and a fish necklace and let you worship God in your own way in your own place, its ability to reassure you that it’s the inside of the cup that matters and the heart God looks on when you come before Him. I was baptized at a lake in the mountains of western Washington that truly sparkled with the sky and the evergreen trees around it, while some of my best worship experiences have happened from blankets on beaches at night under a thousand effulgent stars while I sat clad in jeans and a flannel jacket. Those are experiences I treasure, experiences I suspect I would not have had if I had spent my high school years as a Mormon.
Mormonism, on the other hand, was a tradition that grew on me rather than impressing me from the start. I remember sadly packing away all of my sleeveless dresses, tank tops, and thigh-length skirts as I prepared to head off to BYU and thinking that I was about to spend the next four years pretending to be someone I was not. I could not have anticipated how my time spent conforming to Mormon culture would instill me with an appreciation for the spirit of what Mormons try to do when they dress up for church on Sunday, how they make an effort to approach God in their best and so set themselves apart from the world around them. Sure, no one wants to turn away the homeless guy who honestly has nothing to wear to church apart from jeans and a t-shirt, but why should the poor man’s best be the standard for everybody? If you are able to give God more, shouldn’t you give Him more? I still disagree with where Mormonism draws the lines on those standards—when I hear cases of shoulder-phobia and little girls being instructed to dress their Barbie dolls in accordance with church standards, I cringe—but I think it’s safe to say I’m won over on the spirit of the law.
I’m far from the only evangelical who feels this dilemma, a desire to embrace our free-spirited attitude toward worship while still putting forth more effort into presenting ourselves as the temple of God. There has been considerable discussion of casual v. formal within the evangelical movement, and as far as I can tell, the casuals are winning the war. I have to agree with what Pastor Ray Pritchard writes here though (emphasis mine):
In general I disagree with people who say it doesn’t matter how you dress when you go to church. It matters because your dress says something about who you are, and how you dress impacts others around you. “Dressing down” to go to church may say something about your own expectations, and it may convey something to others as well.
The church I attend right now is probably the most casual church I have ever called home. Almost everybody comes wearing jeans, and the pastor usually preaches in jeans or khakis and a polo shirt. There is a table in the chapel containing coffee, hot chocolate, and snacks, and people are invited to go ahead and help themselves to them throughout the service. I adore the people at my church, and I especially adore the time and energy we put into our church worship (usually led by guitar players much more talented than myself), but lately I’ve found myself longing to put a little something extra into what I wear to church on Sunday evenings. There’s something enchanting about bringing my very best to God, wearing a skirt and blouse that I don’t usually wear and doing something with my typical too-messy-for-its-own-good curly hair, and dressing up even helps put me into the mindset that now is the time to commune with the Lord of all Creation, thus enhancing the evangelical worship experience I’ve come to love so much.
I’m not judging anyone at my church for dressing the way they do, and I have no plans to seek out a different church to attend. I just think putting more into the way we dress would improve on what is already a wonderful thing.
On proper attire for church by Phil Johnson
Going to church? Leave flip-flops at home by David Oreilly Mcclatchy
Casual attire for church may be here to stay by Clark Morphew — From 1998, but sounds like it could be written today