A lot of religious organizations robe their parishioners in garments that many of us find odd and counter-cultural. Islamic fundamentalists will wear burkas, often are full body suits. Girls who attend Christian Holiness churches can be identified by their long skirts. This sort of attire will usually transcend culture, so those who wear them are often picked on. Whatever generation, religious garments are not hip, and thus will warrant teasing. So why do they even bother? Why do Pentecostal women wear skirts?
It should first be noted that it is often only women whose attire is limited. Men usually decide for themselves what they can or cannot wear, whether they take off their shirt at the beach or wear a pair of shorts that are above their knees, men are typically not limited. It is the women who they restrict. Women cannot use their own judgment and must submit to the strictures set down by the church. Of course, they usually do not feel oppressed. Islamic women will claim that Islam regards and treats their women with great respect, and they freely choose to dress as they do. Pentecostal women similarly claim that their garbs are their delight, in the name of modesty and for the glory of God.
So as far as I know, women in the west are not being put in a cage and forced to wear these things against their will. Pentecostal women often make the free choice to wear skirts. But why do they do it? Why do Pentecostal women wear skirts?
They Want To Be Holy.
Holy means set apart from the world. I touched on this a tad in the introduction. It is not a coincidence that these robes are counter-cultural. They wear them because they are counter-cultural. They want to be set apart from the world. They want to be modest. Modesty is a positive attribute, because there are so many people (both men and women) who show off their entire body. Men and women will take naked pictures of themselves and send them around, sometimes even to strangers. Those who want to be modest recognize the problem with that sort of behavior, recognize that they need to have respect for themselves and respect for others. So they will dress modestly.
The Christian who has been born again is to abstain from the former lusts which were theirs before finding Christ (1 Peter 1:14). They are to be holy in all of their behavior (v. 15). Why? Because God is holy (v. 16). God told his people, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” The clothes that a Christian wears are part of their behavior. Our of their love for God, they will dress in a way that is holy. In everything they do; thought, word, and deed, the Christian will strive to be holy. Why do Pentecostal women wear skirts? They want to be holy.
Should Skirts Be A Rule?
While we can commend the Pentecostal movement for their emphasis on holiness (many of their churches self-aggrandizing by dubbing themselves Holiness Churches), they can probably be indicted for what is known as legalism. Legalism is the principle of strict adherence to a certain law. The law is, “women must wear long skirts.” But the Bible does not say, “wear long skirts.” It says to be holy. But it does not say that women must wear long skirts. There is a difference between somebody dressing modestly out of their love for God, and being told how they need to dress to show their love for God.
Think of it like this. God says, “Be holy.” People want to know how they can do that. How can I be holy? Pentecostal theologians answer that question: by wearing long skirts. So now the verse is no longer simply, “be holy.” The interpretation of the verse is tied in with the verse. Be holy by wearing long skirts. So to wear long skirts is not really a biblical command. It is a command of the Pentecostal churches. This point is usually conceded. One Holiness Church wrote, “We learn holiness from the inspired Word of God, anointed pastors and teachers who proclaim and apply the Word, and internal promptings and convictions of the Holy Spirit.”
Why do Pentecostal women wear long skirts? Not because of Scripture, because there is no Scripture. They do it because certain pastors and teachers believe that they had “internal promptings and convictions of the Holy Spirit.” Should we take that as authoritative? Is the Bible not enough? Or should we say that the word of God is sufficient to equip us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17)?
How Do They Treat Women Who Do Not Wear Skirts?
I cannot speak for all Holiness Church, but I can say that many of them will not regard them as real Christians. Either that, or they will, in the very least, say that they are sinning. I have heard some called derogatory names for wearing jeans. The church has set up this standard of holiness that they cannot find in the Bible and will judge other Christians on the basis of that standard. That is the very definition of legalism.
What they need to understand is that what is appropriate for one may be inappropriate for another, and what is inappropriate for one may be appropriate for another. A one year old girl can run around without a shirt without being inappropriate. A 40 year old woman cannot run around without a shirt without being inappropriate. People with differently shaped bodies need to adorn themselves differently. Everybody should be modest, but that does not mean that everybody will achieve modesty by the same means.
One Universal Standard
>Rather than being obsessed with fashion and what they wear every day, women (and men) need to adorn themselves “by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim of godliness.” (2 Timothy 2:10). If we want to be holy, it is not a matter of the clothes that we wear or the strictures that we impose on ourselves or whether we can call a girl a whore for wearing jeans. The question is whether we can “let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16).
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