Reading the Sunday Times (6 Feb 2011) article, “Church is no place for flip-flops or shorts”, I applaud the few Catholic churches that have recently issued dress codes to their parishioners. And if some refuse to adhere, they are not permitted to enter the church or refused Communion! Wow, standing ovation, even! One may challenge the guidelines but it is the boldness and courage of the leadership of these Catholic churches to take a firm stand that I admire.
One mustn’t miss the point here and think that churches are positioning themselves as high-brow clubs where only the best dressed are allowed in. God forbid. I believe that is not the intent of these churches at all. In fact, should someone in flip-flops or bermudas turn up in need of Jesus, this person will not be turned away. More than just an attempt to be elitist, or a move against fashion trends or tastes, two key issues are addressed here.
The first is modesty (or more accurately, immodesty). Dressing standards have become more and more relaxed in today’s society, leading to more “revelation” – forgive the pun. And sadly, we are seeing the same trend in churches and amongst Christians. That the Catholic churches are willing to address this issue head-on is indeed commendable. A parish priest said that being dressed appropriately was important because “when others look at us in church, they learn something about us as Catholics.” Well said. The real test would be if they continued to dress appropriately even when they are not in church.
The second issue is the attitude of the heart. When we dress as we please without regard to God, we have not dealt with self-centredness. And if anyone dares even to comment, these are quickly labelled as ungracious, unaccepting and judgmental. Typical, is it not? Self-centred people expect everyone to submit to them and their imperfections, but refuse to submit to others in the church regardless how offensive their own behaviour or dressing might be. In the article, a 26-year old parishioner only revealed how shallow her faith and understanding of a relationship with God is when she remarked, “We are taught that God loves us no matter what we are, so why should the church discriminate against our attire?” Ah yes, the much used God-sees-my-heart-and-not-my spaghetti-strap-top justification. Stretch this faulty theology to the extreme and one can get away with murder. Looks like the popular ‘grace’ message made it to the Catholic churches too. This young lady’s comment also shows what is primarily in her heart … self-centredness.
So, well done, Catholic churches. I think you have reminded us Protestants what godly reverence is. Perhaps, it’s time we also address the same issues in our congregations? Get ready for more membership transfers … 🙂