The last few posts that I have written on this blog have probably startled many of my readers. We have been studying the “head covering” passage in I Corinthians 11, and I have been treating it very seriously. I believe that this passage was meant to be taken quite literally. I believe that the Apostle Paul was fully inspired by the Holy Spirit to direct the women in the church at Corinth to wear head coverings when “praying” or “prophesying” in church, and I believe that this direction pertained to not only the Corinthian churches, but to all the churches where was the gospel was spreading.
Nevertheless, I understand the difficulties that women today face in decided whether or not to wear head coverings in church. The culture has changed a lot in 2,000 years, and head coverings today do not have the same symbolism that they did back when Paul wrote his letter. Deciding what kind of headcovering to wear is difficult. Some head coverings such as hoods and baseball caps are seen as a sign of disrespect when worn in church either by men or women. Fancier, showier hats are acceptable on older women, but som of these hats can attract a lot of attention to themselves, and do not seem to foster the atmosphere of quiet submissiveness that the Apostle Paul stresses in this passage. Then there are lace scarves and the like, which are quite unusual head gear in contemporary American culture, and although they are normal in some foreign cultures, appear out of place and awkward on native born middle class Americans. Indeed, I do not think that the Apostle Paul intended for head coverings to draw special attention from onlookers; his intention was more that they deflect attention. That is a difficult thing to do in America today, since hardly any women wear headcoverings any more.
For this reason, I am willing to cut Christian women some slack, and do not judge them by whether or not they wear headcoverings. I am tolerant and accepting of the woman who wears nothing on her head because she does not know what to wear, as I also am tolerant of the woman who wears something slightly bizarre out of a sincere desire to obey the Bible. I do not know what the best answer to this dilemma is. Nevertheless, I challenge all readers to study this passage of Scripture carefully and to take it seriously. All Christians are called to be submissive to God, and Christian women are especially called to be submissive to their fathers and husbands. This calling must be taken seriously, whether the women feel that it is necessary to wear headcoverings in church or not. I respect a woman who does not wear the headcoverings because she is unsure of how to do it properly in the contemporary cultural context. However, I do not respect a woman, or a man either, who makes a show of rogue independance over submission to God and His commands. True Christians need to understand the importance of obeying God and submitting to those in authority over us.