Why I didn’t wear Purple to Church today- A Call for Charity (Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8)
Today was Wear Pants to Church day sponsored by a group of Mormon Feminists. Guys were encouraged to wear purple ties in solidarity. Even though I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with girls wearing pants to church, I intentionally did not wear a purple tie because I do not support the making of political statements during church meetings. I thought a lot todayb about why I didn’t support this movement even though I am at least in theory supportive of some of their aims ( elimination of harmful cultural stereotypes ( not doctrine) that hinders the growth of the church), and I came up with two pretty big reasons
1) Sacrament meeting is the most sacred meeting in the Church and where we come together to focus on the Savior of the World. it is absolutely not a place for political statements. Today, just knowing that this movement was going on actively distracted me from focusing on and enjoying the sacrament. Every time I saw someone in purple I wondered to myself if they were wearing it intentionally or accidentally. Likewise, every time I saw a sister I looked to see if she was wearing pants or a skirt. Instead of fostering equality this generated (at least in me) an Us v. Them mentality that did not promote the spirit. ( In the Family Ward I attended today in Draper no women wore pants. A few girls wore purple but that could have been coincidence. One guy wore a purple jacket and I did see a few purpleish ties but I don’t know if this was deliberate or not).
2)I am completely supportive of girls choosing to wear pants if they truly believe that pants are their ‘Sunday best.’ The Church doctrine is supportive or at least not hostile to them wearing pants. If that’s the case then why be so concerned about some people in the church that are less comfortable with it. At the very least, such a focus on the opinions of others and the open desire to be provocative that some displayed is petty and takes away from the reason we come to Church. Of course, it would be better if members ignored fashion and gossip all together and focused on the gospel. However, each one of us is responsible only for his or her own conduct. We can choose to not be offended when others are petty and focus on the trivial. We can do so by bearing testimony and loving. The best way to show that wearing pants is normal would be to be the best members of the church we can be and to not engage in discussion over what we wear to church but instead to focus on the savior of the world and his atoning sacrifice.
3) Ultimately, my deeper concern that underlies my feeling is that to me this whole movement comes across as very selfish and me centered. Simply put, if you are going to church each week thinking about yourself and how you can be affirmed and empowered, you are doing something wrong! We go to church to partake of the sacrament with humble hearts and contrite spirits. We go to church to serve others and to edify our brothers and sister. When we lose ourself in service of others, that is precisely the moment when we most fully grow ourselves. The Church isn’t there to serve our needs, but to allow us an opportunity to serve others.
When I started in the church a couple of years ago I was focused on myself. I tried to find the most creative ties I could to show off my style ( Van Gogh or Klimt ties for instance). I often wore colored shirts because I wanted to show that I was creative and not a follower. I tried to make the most creative comments I could in class to show off how smart I was. One day, one of the gospel essentials teachers, who was a really good friend of mine, pulled me a side and told me how my comments sometimes made it hard for her to teach the new people that came to church seeking edification. From that day forward, I really switched my mentality. Instead of thinking of showing off my smarts, I became focused on helping others. Every time I raised my hand I prayed to God that he would help me to edify someone else through my comment. I realized that white shirts and ties are what we wear in order to be unified ( similar to how we all wear white in the temple) and to allow us to not be distracted by superficial things and to focus on the sacrament. It is counter intuitive in a way, but having a pseudo dress code actually means that the focus on church becomes less on fashion and more on the sacred ordinances. If everyone goes along with it, then we do not have to think about it (as I had to today in church) while partaking of the sacrament and listening to talks. There is one less point of contention and one less distraction. If everyone goes along with it, such a standard promotes the reverent partaking of the sacrament.
Indeed, I think those that are arguing that there is nothing wrong with wearing pants to church en masse are really missing the point. In church, anything we do purposefully or even simply knowingly to upset, provoke or distract our brothers and sisters is wrong.
The apostle Paul grappled with many similar issues as the early church was divided as to whether or not to eat (certain types of) meat. Purists decried those that would eat unclean meats and some even advocated vegetarianism. Likewise, many realized that because of Christ all meat had become pure and Kosher for consumption and viewed these purists as opposed to the spirit of the gospel. Paul, however, was much more disturbed by the dissension and contention that filled the church than the actual resolution of the doctrinal question. He was horrified to see some members of the church of Christ judging each other and others engaging in provocative acts that caused their weaker brothers and sisters to stumble. I heartily recommend reading Romans 14 in Full because it is a truly provocative argument that those on both sides of the pants debate would do well to head…I made my own paraphrase here attempting to make it relevant to the present debate.
“10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.
12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
13 Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.
14 I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
15 But if thy brother be grieved with thy (outfit), now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy (clothing), for whom Christ died.
16 Let not then your good be evil spoken of:
17 For the kingdom of God is not (pants and skirts); but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
18 For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.
19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.
20 For (pants) destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who (weareth )with offence.
21 It is good neither to (wear pants), nor to (wear purple ties), nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.
22 Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.
23 And he that doubteth is damned if he (weareth), because he (weareth) not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.
1 We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.
2 Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification.”
Paul understood that in the Church of Christ we are to be more focused on the well-being of our brother and sisters then ourselves. If wearing pants angers, upsets and drives people away from Christ then it is wrong. LIkewise, if criticizing those who wear pants offends and drives people away from the church, that is also wrong. Both sides are in error for focusing on themselves rather than on edifying and helping others. Paul is urging a spirit of loving kindness and charity. I was of course disappointed with the vitriol that those promoting the day encountered on Facebook (including Death Threats!), but two wrongs clearly does not make a right. Both parties are wrong if they act knowing that they will take people away from Christ.
We need to be ready to put aside our pride and echo the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 8: 8-13 (Again additions mine and I recommend reading the original)
8 But (pants) commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we (wear), are we the better; neither, if we (wear) not, are we the worse.
9 But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.
10 For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit (in pants )in the (lord’s) temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to (do) those things which are (contrary to the sabbath day);
11 And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?
12 But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.
13 Wherefore, if pants make my brother to offend, I will (wear no pants) while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.
It doesn’t matter who is right, just as to Paul it didn’t really matter that meat was technically acceptable according to the gospel of Christ. What mattered was that these issues were sources of contention. Each side of the debate needs to choose to be Christlike regardless of the actions of others. We can choose to not be offended or to take offense. Choose to hold our tongues or choose to accept criticism constructively even when mean spirited or harsh. In short, what we all need is Charity, the pure love of Christ and love for our fellow man.