Saturday, February 7, 2009

What is Modesty? Part V

Should a Christian woman cover her head?

It has taken me much time, thought, and prayer to write this post. Many brothers and sisters who share my deep Baptist roots may not agree with me, but I will boldly state here what we have learned from Scripture, as well as from history. Our "brand" of Baptist tries to follow the "old paths", but if they were to look a bit further back into our Baptist heritage, they will find that there are some "old paths" that Baptists left behind a long time ago.

One of those "old paths" is the woman's veil.

Waldenses (Anabaptists) 1500's ~ See "The Trail of Blood" by J.M. Carroll

I Corinthians 11:3-5 "But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven."
For years I all but ignored this passage of scripture. I never heard it preached much, and frankly didn't come across it much in my personal Bible reading. Then a few years ago, I started to wonder why the women in certain groups wore headcoverings, and when I encountered one, I asked her why. She pointed me to I Corinthians 11:1-16. (Please read that HERE.)

I read it over and over, and discussed it with my husband. We both had been totally convinced that a woman's long hair is her covering (vs 15), and that no other covering was needed. But I couldn't get the issue out of my mind! I knew that women in Bible times wore veils (remember all those flannelgraph lessons??), and I came across some Old Testament passages that supported that fact. (See Genesis 24:65; Numbers 5:18; Song of Solomon 5:7) And in more modern times, too, some women did not go out in public with their heads uncovered.

When did women in general stop covering their heads?

Well, there were several times in history when the woman's headcovering went "out of style", and I believe that was the case when Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians. He reminds them of God's headship order (the head of man is Christ; the head of woman is the man; the head of Christ is God) and then declares the Christian woman ought therefore to cover her head.

"For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered." (vs 6)

I know what many are thinking. Verse 15 says her hair is given her for a covering. Remember, I used to see it that way, too. But if the passage is studied within its context, the truth will be evident.

Look again at verse six:

"For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered."

We conclude from this verse that for a woman to be shorn (have short hair) or shaven (bald) is a shame. Paul says here that if that is so, then she should be covered, because to be uncovered is just as shameful.

...Stay with me here...

If I were to say that long hair is the covering, then the verse might be read thus:

For if the woman [have not long hair], let her also [have not long hair]...

That obviously does not make sense. However, if the word covered refers to a veil, then verse six makes much more sense:

For if the woman [does not wear a veil], let her also [cut her hair]: but if it be a shame for a woman to [cut her hair] or [shave her head], let her be covered [with a veil].

Verse 15 is often quoted out of context. But it stands within a clause in which Paul is giving an example in nature that women should wear a covering. He is saying that this truth about the head covering is taught in nature: It is seemly and right for a woman to have long hair. So it is seemly and right for a woman to wear the veil he previously referred to.

13 Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?

14 Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?

15 But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.

When we have lived our whole lives with a worldview tainted with feminism, liberalism, and immodesty, it is very difficult to even try to see it another way. What helped me see the truth was to read the scriptures over and over again, praying for understanding, meditating on it, and comparing it with other passages.

We have thus concluded that it is modest and proper for a Christian woman to cover her head with a veil. Search the scriptures yourself, and see if these things be true!


Anonymous said...

for me covering is more a question of submission to God and acceptance of God's order than question of modesty...

Tori said...

Thanks Tammy for sharing your views on covering and thanks for your honesty.

I do have a few question though.

1. How do you know that the way (size and placement of) your covering is Biblical?

How do we know that the Muslim way isn't right? or even how some Jews cover the whole head?

2. What would be the purpose of the long hair if you were always covered and was not the primary covering?

So those are my questions and please know that I ask in all sincerity and love. I'm just curious about your thoughts on the subject.


Tammy said...

I do want to study this more but isn't this subject started in verse 5 by talking about what to do and not to do when praying or prophesying? It talks about the woman not praying or propesying with her head uncovered. It doesn't talk about in every day life. Now, I know we are to be praying always but I'm not sure that means we should wear a head covering all the time. Or are you just saying that when we go to church or talk to God our head should be covered? Like I said I want to study this further. I know that in the 1800s women wore bonnets and stuff more as a protection from wind and dirt than for modesty. They didn't bathe on a daily basis as most do now.

Tammy said...

You are right, Natasa! Covering is an outward sign of our submission to God's headship order. I think of it as also a modesty issue, for two reasons:

1) Because a woman's hair is a "glory" to her (I Cor 11:15), it does not seem shamefaced to flaunt it in public.

2) Because of the correlation in Isaiah 47:1-3 between uncovering the locks (hair), leg, and thigh, and that being nakedness uncovered, and a shame.

Tammy said...

Thanks, Tori. Good questions! I'll do my best to answer them here, but might have to write another post or two. ;o)

Answer to #1: The Bible does not specify what type of covering to use, nor how to wear it, and that is significant. The emphasis is on a verb, covering the head, rather than on a noun, the head covering. By not specifying a style, God gives freedom for a variety of styles and colors of head coverings to be used. I believe the way I cover is Biblical because I am covering my head in the spirit of submission to my husband, and ultimately, to God.

Answer to #2: I do not pretend to understand all of God's design, but I believe the purpose of long hair is for distinction between the sexes. God created Adam and Eve with different body builds and different physical features - and later outlined distinct guidelines for dress - to make the difference clear.

I really appreciate your sincere questions. I still have some questions myself! This is still relatively new to me, but we decided early on that IF we are going to err, let it be on the side of modesty and propriety, even if we overshoot it.

If we are wrong, I will not be chastised by the Lord for wearing a scarf on my head. But I would be for thinking I'm better than others because I do! I only seek to do HIS will. :o)

Tammy said...

Hello, Tammy. Yes, it is an interesting study, and Bible commentors say everything from, "Yes, women today should still cover their heads, and here is the exact covering they should use..." to, "No, head covering was just for the Corinthians."

My suggestion is to just stick with the Bible, which is its own best commentary! :o)

Actually, the passage starts with verse 2: "Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you." Then in the rest of the chapter, Paul discusses two ordinances: Headship order & the symbolic headcovering (vv 3-16), and the Lord's Supper (vv 17-34).

Yes, in this chapter it specifically mentions covering when praying and prophesying. I choose to cover all the time for reasons mentioned above (answering Natasa), and also because I can pray at any given moment (Thanks to Jesus!) and if I am already covered, there is no delay.

Just my own thoughts. :o)

Tammy said...

Thanks for sharing and you have me thinking! I will discuss this with Bob and I agree about erring on the side of modesty. I'd rather do that and be safe than not to. I'm starting to lean toward no slits at all in my skirts which would mean spending money I do not have right now but hopefully soon.

Persuaded said...

Hello! I followed a link here to your blog mainly because I saw that you were wearing a covering:)

I had never considered this issue at all until a few months ago... One day while driving I felt the Lord saying, "If I asked you to wear a headcovering would you do it?" I am ashamed to say that I demurred a bit. *blush* Then I heard, "For me, would you do it to show yourself set apart for me?" And how could I say no to that? :) Now it may be interesting for you to know that I am a single woman, so this (to me) has nothing to do with submission to a husband. As I began wearing a covering out of obedience to the Lord's calling, I realized that He was showing me that He is my husband. As I wear it I am constantly reminded that, although I am not loved and cherished by a man, I am deeply loved, valued and cherished by Him. For me it is a gift He has given me. Since that day I have worn a headcovering about 90% of the time. It was hard at first for me to wear the covering in public. Ironically, it was especially difficult around other Christians and at church... no one there covers and many were completely ignorant of why I would ever choose to wear this odd kind of scarf, lol. It is a growing thing with me, I think.

Thank you so much for addressing this subject. I don't really know anyone in real life who covers, so I greatly appreciate the dialog.

Tracy said...

Hi Tammy,
You paid me a visit yesterday, and I followed you home. :0)

I recently started covering my head (about 8 months ago) too. I'm still unclear about much of it, and admittedly, I cover only for worship since the whole of 1 Corinthians 13 is Paul discussing practices in worship, from headcovering to the Lord's Supper. I did consider covering at other times, but my husband said this was what he felt was appropriate.

Thanks for the study!

Tracy said...

I was thinking about my comment to you, and a moment of "Oh no!" flashed in my head. Of course I meant to type 1 Corinthians 11, not 13!

Anonymous said...

Dear Tammy,

Thanks for sharing this information on covering. I have a question for you about modesty. I have enjoyed your posts and agree with them, and also recently read a great book on the subject called, "Dressing for the Lord." The author of that book doesn't really discuss this but implied that wearing high heels is immodest. I totally agree that they are IF a woman is wearing pants or a form-fitting skirt, but I'm not sure if they are immodest if a woman is wearing a long, modest skirt. I feel funny wearing anything but high heels to church because all of the other women there do, and I don't feel as dressed up if I don't. (But I know that's not a good rule for judging whether something is right or wrong!) My feelings don't affect whether or not they are modest :)

I love your blog. Keep up the good work.

Amy in MN

Tammy said...

Thanks for your kind comments, Amy! When I was first married, my husband teased me all the time about some of my shoes, especially when I would complain at the end of the day how they hurt my feet. It was an early lesson for me in vanity, and it made me ask myself, "Why do I wear these shoes, anyway??" Of course, for fashion's sake, I continued to wear them. So silly!

Regarding shoes and modesty, the only place I can think of in the Bible where the feet are considered was in Isaiah 3:16.

"Moreover the LORD saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet..."

It seems that the haughty, vain women wore shoes that particularly drew attention with chains or bells of some sort. While that may not be in vogue these days, there are styles of shoes that are intended to attract the attention of men and make the legs appear more "sexy". I can not say here what styles those are, but I think common sense will take over, if we let it.

It seems you have already asked yourself why you wear high heels, and answered it with, "Because the other women wear them," and you are right, that is not a good reason to wear them.

Consider also how your shoes treat your feet. Do they squeeze your toes? Cause callouses? Make the ball of your foot ache? If the shoe is not good for your foot, then sheer practicality says don't wear them. Only vanity would say wear them.

Read I Tim 2:9 in light of footwear. "...that women adorn themselves in modest (shoes), with shamefacedness and sobriety..."

Could you describe your shoes as modest and sober?

Now I used to have a pair of classic black shoes with a moderate heel, low and wide. (Liked 'em so much, they are one of the few pairs of shoes I've ever owned that I actually wore out!) They looked dressy and nice, and not as casual as flats, but they did not hurt my feet and did not draw attention to my feet/legs. I would call them "sober". I wish I could find a pair of them here in Guatemala, lol!

But all aspects of our apparel can be looked at through the lens of the Scripture, and the answers are there. God bless you with wisdom as you seek His face!

Tammy said...

Dear Diane, thank you for that sweet testimony!


Anonymous said...

Dear Tammy,

Thanks for answering my question about heels. You write in a very clear way. I have thought before that it is probably vain to wear something that I can't wait to take off because they hurt my feet and back. I've thought that probably isn't God's will. I don't know how to put my finger on it, but there is also quite a difference in the way a woman walks when wearing heels as opposed to wearing flats. Thanks for pointing out the vanity in this.


Amy in MN

Tammy said...

Amy, you said, "I don't know how to put my finger on it, but there is also quite a difference in the way a woman walks when wearing heels as opposed to wearing flats."

I had not noticed that, but I just demonstrated for my husband walking flat-footed and walking in the posture that high heels require, and we both agree that there is a definite difference, all the way up. The lower back arches, therefore the bosom is thrust out, as well as the backside, and when walking it causes the hips to sway.

Very interesting.

Kirsten Erin said...

Thanks for this post on headcovering. I'm doing some research and prayer and trying to figure it all out. :D
One thing that someone pointed out made me think:
Man is the glory of Christ, and Christ is his head. Woman is the glory of man, and Man is her head. Our hair is the glory of Woman, so shouldn't it be covered as the other glories are covered?
I don't know if that makes sense, it does in my mind at least. :P
Just a thought.
Anyway, I linked to this post on my blog post "Should Christian Women Wear Headcoverings??"

Anonymous said...

"tainted" with feminism? whats wrong with feminism?

DariLolis said...

Dear Tammy,

How blessed I am through your Modesty studies! Many things to meditate on. I thought I got it all about this subject, but here's this subject about covering our heads which had bothered me for a long time, and never asked before to my Pastor, or other mature Christian ladies... What ashamed I am!

Every time I read the Scriptures about covering our heads I feel something in my heart bothering me, and I believe is the Holy Spirit convicting me about it.

I need to pray about it, and to ask our Lord the courage to do that in public. Nobody around me does that... I need strength, courage, faith... I don't know why is so hard to cover our heads with a veil! Please, need your prayers! I know my kids love to do that, I have some veils for them here at home, and they love them! I feel conviction in my heart when they use them and I don't.

I have been sharing your thoughts about modesty with one of our Sisters in Christ, here in Cleveland, in my church, we are studying about modesty together and we are making decisions for training our kids for the glory of our Lord in this area. Now I need to share this part of your studies with her, too. I feel the Holy Spirit compelling me to share it tomorrow.

Modesty is a matter of our hearts... As Christians, we communicate our LORD JESUS CHRIST through the way we dress, through the way we talk, the way we walk, the way we look at people, and the way we look at somethings, and the way we thought, the way we do everything...

What message are we communicating?... Are we communicating our LORD to others?... Good questions for me to consider every single day.

As always, my dear Sister Tammy, I praise our Lord for you in my life!

Because He is worthy,