Dressed Like Women
I want to write about something controversial. I hope that if some young people disagree with me or want to comment on what I write, they will take the time to respond.
The topic is: earrings. In particular, the topic is earrings worn by young men. My idea is that this practice is inappropriate among Christian young men. I know that there is no text which specifically forbids male earrings. However, I believe that the overall drift of Scripture indicates this practice to be inappropriate.
From Scripture we know that in the beginning, God made man in His own image. Male and female He made them. Man and woman were both made to reflect the glory and holiness of the Lord. Before God, they are equal in worth and dignity, both fully and marvelously human.
Male and female are equal and yet different. Their biology and psychology are different.1 To each, God also gave a unique role to fulfill within the development of creation. These roles are not interchangeable without violation of the creation order.
Because of these created differences between male and female, human societies have nearly always raised their boys and girls differently. From earliest childhood, children were encouraged to express their unique masculinity or femininity. Boys played boy games. Girls played girl games. Boys went fishing. Girls played house with dolls.
The obvious sex differences and role distinctions were also expressed in the mode of dress. There was a unique male way of dressing and a unique female style of adornment. These distinctions varied between different cultures, but always expressed the essential male/female duality of the human race. Such distinction of dress accepted and celebrated the differences between male and female.
Today, however, we live in a increasingly unisex culture. Under the influence of feminism, it is taken for granted by millions that sex role distinctions are completely artificial. They are not the product of creation, but of culture. Feminism argues that apart from strictly biological realities, like fathering and bearing children, the roles of men and women are completely interchangeable.
For a feminist, equality of male and female means sameness of male and female. Feminists hold that whatever is appropriate for a man is also appropriate for a woman. To say that certain kinds of work and certain roles within family, church, and state are particularly appropriate for either male or female is an opinion widely held to be discriminatory.
Today, then, in both government policy and social convention, there is a stress on the interchangeability of male and female roles. What we see in this development is truly a rebellion against the Creator who has given to His creation a certain order. Rebellion against the Creator brings with it rebellion against the created order and structure of life. Hence, in our irreligious age, we have seen an increase of public homosexuality and militant feminism. Both these movements represent a blatant defiance toward the way God has made the world.
We may add that because feminism is contrary to the created order, it is also doomed to fail. Believing himself exempt from the law of gravity, a deluded man might hurl himself from a tall building. However, quite indifferent to his delusion, the law of gravity remains the same. The man will perish in his delusion. Similarly, a feminist culture can pretend that sex roles are completely interchangeable. Again, however, quite aloof to this folly, the conspicuous male/female biological and social distinctions remain. No opinion of a feminist can obliterate creation. Feminism will be dashed on the hard rocks of reality.
In the meantime, however, the unisex ideals of feminism (by the way, feminism is a philosophy widely espoused by men) still have their effects on our culture. These effects are massive, touching education, taxation systems, hiring policies of universities and, not least of all, the dress codes of millions.
Dress Reflects Identity
It is true that there are still wide differences in the way men and women dress and so present themselves to the world. Men shave their faces. Women in America shave their legs and underarms. Men avoid makeup, while women use mascara and lipstick and fingernail polish. Women sometimes wear dresses on formal occasions, while men wear suits and neckties. By and large, females let their hair grow longer than men.
Nonetheless, the dress code of male and female has to a large degree converged in the last decades. I live across the street from a junior high school and thus have the possibility to witness contemporary styles. What I see is that both young men and women wear jeans, t-shirts, sweatshirts and so forth. There is no recognizable male or female style. The blurring of styles is also noticed in the widespread adornment of male ears with earrings. The trends I describe are also quite visible in some Reformed churches.
I argue that this mixing of male and female styles is regrettable and indicative of world-conformity. Let me show why I believe this.
In Deuteronomy 22, verse 5, we read these startling words:
A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman's garment; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord.
Underlying this commandment is the desire of the Lord that His people respect the given order of creation and the distinction of the sexes. They should not try to make the same what God has made dramatically different. However, the specific reference in this verse is probably to transvestite dress which was and is common among a certain class of homosexuals. 2 The word abomination is also used in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 to describe the Lord's loathing of homosexual behaviour. Also in our time, the association between homosexuality and the wearing of earrings is well-known and should give pause to any man contemplating getting his ears pierced.
In 1 Corinthians 11: 2-16, the apostle Paul deals with the matter of how women should present themselves in the gatherings of the believers. He is not interested in giving specific directives for a dress code. A dress code is not the point here. What Paul insists on in this section is that women should conform to the prevailing expression of femininity when they gather for worship. In Corinthian culture, a headcovering was a normal symbol of female adornment, modesty and of subjection to the male as head.3 Some female Corinthian believers apparently took the view that as liberated Christian women, they were not required to wear this headcovering during praying and prophesying.
Paul responds by teaching that redemption in Christ does not neutralize the creation order. Yes, of course, women are equal in worth and dignity. True, they are joint heirs with the men of a common salvation. And yes, they have with the men a glorious place in the Spirit-filled, New Covenant worship and fellowship. However, even among the redeemed, women remain women and should manifest this also in their manner of dress. Paul is arguing that even in the worship of the NT Church, the men should appear as men and the women as women.
In verse four of 1 Corinthians 11, Paul says that “any man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonours his head.” Why does Paul say this? The answer is simple: in the eastern culture of that time, to cover your head was a female way of dress and therefore shameful for a man. Paul assumes in this verse that a male instinctively draws back from adornment that is explicitly feminine.
In verses five and six, Paul continues by saying that “any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled dishonours her head – it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a woman will not veil (cover) herself, then she should cut off her hair; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her wear a veil.”
Paul is being somewhat sarcastic here. His point is that if a woman wants to appear as a man, then she might as well go all the way and cut off all her hair (which is her feminine glory). Implied by Paul is the thought that a woman can't have it both ways. She can't be feminine in the care of her hair, but unfeminine in prayer and prophesying.
Nature Teaches …
In verses 13-15 of 1 Corinthians 11, we find further revelation which is very helpful for our topic. Paul asks the Corinthian readers to consult their own inward sense of what is appropriate. He writes:
Judge for yourselves; it is proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not “nature” teach you that for a man to wear long hair is degrading to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her pride?…
Our concern here is this: how does “nature” teach that long hair is degrading for a man but is the “pride of a woman?” How do we gain such insights from nature itself? To understand these verses, we need to see that Paul uses the word “nature” in a special sense. In this instance, the word “nature” refers to natural feelings and inborn attitudes of men and women. Paul uses this word to describe “the natural and instinctive sense of right and wrong that God has planted in us, especially with respect to sexuality.”4 This sense of what is appropriate or fitting has been implanted in human beings from creation. The point is that when all is well, a male instinctively shrinks away from doing anything that his culture labels as feminine. For example, in Paul's days and throughout most human history, it has been considered a mark of effeminacy for men to wear long hair, while for a woman, longer hair has been considered a beautiful covering.
In this usage, it is obvious that what “nature” teaches changes from one generation to another and from one culture to another. The “form which these feelings assume is necessarily determined in great measure by education and habit.”5 Nonetheless, in every generation, “nature” teaches that it is shameful for a man to dress as a woman and a woman as a man. The God-created difference between male and female finds a natural expression in different modes of dress and adornment.
Thus, in 1 Corinthians 11, Paul is resisting a breakdown of the differences between the sexes in the gatherings of the believers. 6 He teaches that the use of spiritual gifts in worship does not nullify being a man or a woman nor the requirement to dress like a man or a woman. 7 It is true that in Christ there is neither male nor female (Galatians 3:28). Nonetheless, redemption does not obscure but rather renews the created role distinction between men and women.
Paul is not teaching that in all generations to come, all Christian women must wear a headcovering. In Corinth, the lack of a headcovering sent a clear cultural message of rebellion against female decorum and male headship. In our culture, the lack of a headcovering sends no such message. The principle, however, remains for all ages: women should dress in a way that does not challenge male headship and which does not make them look like the opposite sex.
In my view, “nature” in 1994 teaches that it is shameful for a man to wear earrings. The vast majority of men in America avoid earrings as something feminine. Most male and female church members are offended by male earrings. The trend for men to wear them arises from a decadent subculture influenced by unisexism, transvestism and feminism. With or without their awareness, these young men are sending a message to others of defiance against the created order. Their earrings form a statement. Thus, they bring shame upon their heads. I am not saying that every young man who wears an earring is consciously in revolt against God. I am saying that his behaviour reflects more the spirit of this world than the Spirit of Scripture. The word of God says: Let men glory in their manhood and women in their femininity.