Thursday, August 13, 2009

Religious Dress

This matter has been on my mind lately because of some discussion in blogland. Adam mentioned to me that the French government decided to outlaw the wearing of "burkinis." Burkinis? Is that a cross between a burka and a bikini? The mind boggles.

So, here's some nice pictures for you!

Turns out, a burkini is just swimwear for Muslim women who normally would wear burkas, but still want to swim. Burka meets spandex. It seems strange to me that it's bad to show your ankles, but still okay to wear pants. Must be my American sensibilities from the '30s or something.

And I recently discovered that Mormons also wear special garments, what some folks call "Mormon underwear." I do apologize to any possible Mormons reading this, because Mormons are offended if their special garments are talked about. But I'm not a Mormon, and I do think people should be allowed to discuss other people's religions and theology, so there you go.

Here's the Wikipedia link.

There's a photo there of the old version of Mormon underwear, and also of the newer version. Here's another website with a more realistic view.

And here's a website article that gives a good bit of detail on the "sacred garments." Apparently they have special symbols or "marks" placed on them to remind the wearer of the commitments to the Mormon church that he/she has made. And evidently even when one set of garments is being exchanged for another, the wearer should remove one arm, insert that arm into the new underwear, and then remove the old completely, so that he is never without some of the garment on his skin. It's supposed to give the wearer both spiritual and physical protection.

Now, I could see how clothing could function as a barrier and discourage physical sin. The wearer would have to remove a physical object that is designed to remind him of his spiritual fidelity to his faith, before he could commit some sins. This might be a deterrent.

But I doubt very much that it would deter one from the sins of the mind, like, say, lust. HER garments might keep a Mormon man from lusting after Mormon awoman, since she would be more modestly clad, but it would do little for him when in the general American culture with its cami straps and low-slung shorts.

And the burkas, I suppose, just take the Mormon idea a whole lot further.

But Catholic nuns have their own style of burka, do they not? And priests wear dog-collars, and even some Protestant pastors wear a robe to preach in.

Before I demean myself by ridiculing the practices of others, I want to remember that modesty is in short supply these days and we could all use more of it.

On the other hand, modesty is a cultural thing; it's relative. Anyone who doubts this should read Elisabeth Elliot's account of the Indians she worked with in South America. They went naked, but their very body language served to communicate modesty or immodesty to the opposite gender. Because nakedness was their norm, they were comfortable with it, and were able not to sin by lusting.

A lot of what produces lust in the one who is lusting, is the knowledge that the provocative dress practices are intended to produce that lust. It's an invitation, whatever culture you're in.

But back to clothes. Do I have any religious clothing? What do I think about religious people who assert they must wear particular clothing for righteousness's sake?

Scripture speaks of the righteousness of Christ, of his robes, soaked in his saving blood, that are given to me, to cover the nakedness of my sin. The sin is spiritual. The nakedness and shame are in my soul. Thus, the robes of His righteousness are spiritual also.

"Well, that's convenient," some may say. "You can wear what you like." Not exactly! Physical clothing merely covers the body but does not heal the soul. The goal of being covered by Jesus's righteousness is a changed heart that longs to avoid sin and please God. This helps us to avoid both sinful actions and sinful thoughts. Jesus's clothing is so much more effectual that anything man invents!

Personally, I'd rather dress modestly because my heart has been changed to long for sinlessness in myself and others. God says He will write His law on His children's hearts. He changes them from the inside out, not from the outside in.

Perhaps that's the real difference between law and grace.

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