Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Clothing and Culture

Clothing and culture are closely knit together. Often, clothing is identified with culture. However, in modern times, people in most parts of the world are embracing a plurality of inter-cultural dress culture. The dominating influence is Western. People of some cultures have protested against the new dress forms (imported or innovated) as threatening the indigenous forms. Much can be written on the variety of issues that concern the dress ethic and theology. However, that is not the goal here.

One can take any of the many approaches to understand the origin, nature, function, and end of clothing. For instance, one can take the historical approach and study the origin and evolution of one or many dress forms; similarly, one can take the psychological approach and study human behavior and attitudes towards clothing from childhood to old age. Likewise, one can also take the religious approach and see what religion has to say about clothing with regard to sin, purity, ritual, and salvation, and religions have lot to say of this. A Christian theological approach would attempt to understand not only the historical dimension of clothing, but also its ethical and eschatological dimensions.

One important thing to note is that the Bible doesn’t lament a culture if that culture properly functions to safeguard the Christian virtues. However, it does oppose any culture that turns the natural into unnatural, that promotes a false sense of shame and honor and despises what God has divinely instituted in nature. Therefore, whenever a clothing or even hair style is culturally distinguished as masculine or feminine, violation of the same within that culture is considered unnatural by God – not because a dress form is absolutely masculine or feminine, but because the dress form in the language of the particular culture means either masculine or feminine (Deut.22:5; 1Cor.11:14). Therefore, violation of the dress form becomes a violation of nature itself in the same manner that one cannot violate grammar of a particular language and still make sense in that language. The argument that the violation doesn’t exist in another language will not apply in this particular language.

The 7 Purposes of Clothing
1. To cover nakedness, not expose it (Gen.3:21)
2. To protect shame, not promote shamelessness (Gen.3:7,21) 
3. To honor, not rebel (not rebellious dress forms, not for attracting through shock or provocation) (e.g. dress to honor various occasions like wedding. Jesus mentioned in his parable of the rich man's banquet that the man who didn't wear the wedding garment was thrown out, because he didn't honor the occasion, Matt.22:11; Gen.24:65)
4. To aid the body, not violate it (There are different clothing for different seasons - winter, summer, rainy; different clothing for different purposes: to protect against sun or wind or rain - hats, headgears, etc, 2Tim.4:13,21)
5. To celebrate fidelity, not become feast to the eyes of everyone (Sol.4:12).
6. To display modesty and humility, not trot out arrogance and pride (Isaiah 3:17-23; 1Pet.3:3,4)
7. To focus on inner beauty, not distract with or compensate with outer one (1Pet.3:3,4; Prov.31:30; Jer.2:33; 2Kings 9:30)

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