Modesty in dress

In primary school, I sat next to Abigail, a primith (ok, that’s how I heard it back then, it seems it’s Plymouth) Brethren.  She wore a headscarf, but otherwise, she didn’t seem any different to me.  She did sit out of the 1 hour religious class run by the state school.

My memories of Brethren's at school source: aca.ninemsn.com.au
My memories of Brethren’s at school
source: aca.ninemsn.com.au

Queensland isn’t as multicultural as other parts of Australia, so I don’t think I was exposed to headscarfs of Muslims until moving to Sydney.  That being said, since an early age, I have travelled and have be understanding of the decisions of cultures and religions to wear things that cover their head, or are more modest in length.  When I was 8, I went to the North East US and saw the Armish.  This trip was probably my first introduction to Orthodox Jewish men in New York City, though I don’t clearly remember this.  I occasionally saw my cousins in yarmulkes, as their mother is Jewish, and I understood that this was part of their faith tradition.

Only since visiting Israel in 2012 have I come to know that Orthodox Jewish women wear headbands or headscarves to cover their head, wearing longer skirts, usually below the knee.  They almost always have thick, skin toned tights with flat shoes.  In some regards, it seems like a uniform!

An image of slightly less shy NY Jews from my favourite photographer, Louise Hawson of 52suburbs.com
An image of slightly less shy NY Jews from my favourite photographer, Louise Hawson of 52suburbs.com

I completely respect the choices for people to wear clothing in accordance with their religious traditions or in accordance with their religious texts.

Where I have come undone lately, is within the Christian faith.  I stumbled upon a lovely blog called Large Families of Purpose, and chose to read about their decision to wear modest, long skirts instead of pants and shorts.  Thankfully, this was a decision they came to, it’s not something they’ve done ‘since always’.  Nonetheless, it challenges me.

I chose to wear ‘church’ clothes to church.  I feel uncomfortable if I wear a skinny strapped top or dress, and I won’t wear anything too casual.  No one has told me to do this, it comes from respect, perhaps.  And being with an older demographic.  However, in the rest of my life, I wear what I chose to wear.  There’s some short skirts and dresses.  I always things I feel comfortable in, and certainly wouldn’t call my outfits particularly racy or provocative!

A family company specialising in modest dress source: http://www.liliesapparel.com/
A family company specialising in modest dress
source: http://www.liliesapparel.com/

I’m not going to start wearing floor length skirts and dresses.  However, I’m not sure how they (people such as Erika on the blog Large Families on Purpose) get the idea that they should. I think the issue I have here is less about religion, but this perception:

We do not want to stir up inappropriate thoughts or behaviors on the part of men or boys, or provoke emotional or physical actions towards our girls.

It’s not my job, nor any woman’s job, to stop men having ‘inappropriate thoughts’.  Why should women be the guardians of decency?  Why should be reduce our self expression and clothing choices for males?  To be honest, if I didn’t wear my work uniform, I would actually attract more attention.  And to be honest, I don’t want to ‘stand out’, or be anymore attractive than anyone else might be – I’m there to get a job done,

The only bible reference cited on the blog is this one:

“You have heard that it was said to the ancients, ‘Thou shall not commit adultery.’  But I say to you that anyone who so much as looks with lust at a woman has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  – Matthew 5:27-29.

Well, if that is the case, best we don’t wear makeup, and I’m certainly not the biggest fan of make up!

I suppose I struggle to see how Erika Shupe at Large Families on Purpose came to this conclusion.  Even the older ladies in my church wear pants!  I won’t be giving up shorts, or pants or leggings, that’s for sure.  But I do wonder how Christians finds reason to radically change their wardrobe to be more feminine, and how this decreases ‘looks of lust’!

What are your thoughts on modesty?  How do you feel about the dress codes of other faith communities? And your own?

Religious curiosity

I’m incredibly interested in religions and faith.  My 90-ish grandmother did a Bachelor of Theology in her rather mature age (ie I was a baby… so not that long ago really), and I keep thinking that perhaps I’d really enjoy studying theology too.

My church, I'm not sure if I did the flowers!? source: http://www.ccsl.org.au/newsletter/gallery/confirmation#!_DSC7292
My church, I’m not sure if I did the flowers!?
source: http://www.ccsl.org.au/newsletter/gallery/confirmation#!_DSC7292

Regular readers or real life friends who read here would know that I regularly attend church and am heavily involved.  I wasn’t always so ‘into’ church.  And when I first started attending regularly, I was very self conscious about telling anyone, lest they think I wanted to convert them!

What drew me back to regular church attendance, but also openly disclosing it, was how I viewed a colleague’s faith. My colleague is Jewish.  And not once does he apologise for being so (in the way I sometimes feel I should or need to as a ‘Christian’).  He embraces the commitments of his faith, and in reality, his culture.  If dating a Jewish girl meant he had to (start to) eat Kosher, well so be it.  No biggie.  Such open mindedness to the doctrine and commitments requested by faith impressed and inspired me.

I am regularly inspired and hold faithful people in high esteem, particularly when their faith is different to mine. What I mean to say is, I don’t think it’s ‘weird’ or ‘strange’, the habits they have from their faith, whether it’s stopping 5 times a day to pray, abstaining from types of meat or meals at times or complying to dress codes.

What I struggle with regularly and continually is the differences of interpretation of the rules within my own faith community (Anglican or Church of England).  My church struggles within it’s diocese, and I think this struggle is something I feel personally, as well as now being part of a larger church community that’s at odds with it’s peers.

Why can’t I see the habits of those in my faith that are different to mine as admirable, but not for me?  I think I see what ‘other’ faiths do, and think “good on them, that’s their way”, even in the shades of difference between the devout and the more cosmopolitan.  However, within my own, I turn each custom over and see if it fits, how it fits with others, and where I stand.

There’s a number of ‘things’ – habits, customs, doctrines, I’d like to explore over a collection of posts.  My aim is to verbalise my thought process.  It might not interest you – a-ok with me. (I’m as surprised as any that people continue to not only visit my blog, but comment too!) It isn’t my intent to offend anyone, and I heartily encourage counter thoughts and points, rather than agreeing.  And if there’s things you struggle to understand or resolve, I’m happy to use them to spark my own point of view.

source: betsyshotthinduchristianreligiousiconography.wordpress.com
source: betsyshotthinduchristianreligiousiconography.wordpress.com

Things first on my list are

  • conservative dress for Christian women
  • living together before marriage
  • marriage and divorce
  • bible directives – Jewish and Christians

What interests you about other faiths? Are you interested in religion, or think it’s a source of more conflict than resolutions?