In our days of concern over human rights, there has been a continuing argument over whether anyone has a right to tell others what to wear. In my years as a teacher and my teaching of Bible principles, the question of clothing comes up with great regularity. Dress codes at school or Church are almost universally failures. A point to remember is that clothes make a difference.
In Genesis 38:12-18 there is a story of a woman named Tamar who was a widow and was wearing widow’s clothes. She needed a favor from a man named Judah who was not living a moral life. She put on clothes which suggested she was a harlot and was successful in getting Judah to sleep with her. In 1 Timothy 2:9 and 1 Peter 3:3 Christian women were told some things not to do with their attire and jewelry because of what it would say to others about them.
In my younger days, there were lengthy debates about what women should wear, and they usually degraded into who had the right to say anything about dress to anyone else. The issue re-surfaced in May of 2018 when an attractive 18-year-old white, non-oriental girl named Keziah Daum wore a Chinese style dress to her prom. The dress she wore is called a cheongsam similar to the one in the picture. As you can see the dress is very modest with a high neck–and it has a long skirt.
After she posted on Twitter photos of herself wearing the dress, the social media went wild. A man named Jeremy Lam suggested that her wearing the cheongsam was an offense to the Chinese culture because she is not Chinese. Many accused her of racism. One interesting statement was from Eliza Anyangwe who said, “Clothes are part of the way we communicate with the world.” She also said, “ cultural appropriation is about power, and to many she’s the embodiment of a system that empowers white people to take whatever they want.” After 42,000 retweets, people are now accusing “culture police” of creating the controversy.
All of this goes to show that clothes make a difference. The message of the New Testament is that Christian women should radiate their morality and religious beliefs by dressing modestly. Obviously, the world is watching how we dress and how we live. Acts 24:16 and 1 Corinthians 10:32 talk about Christians not giving offense to anyone, and focusing on how we can bring men and women together in peaceful lives that bring happiness and stability to all.
–John N. Clayton © 2018