Jungle Fever: Dressed to Impress

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Call me a walking contradiction:

A free-thinking, contemporary urban Renaissance man tied to a symbol of traditionalism.

But with custom comes assurance that grows with affirmation.  After the fickleness of the 70’s, greed of the 80’s, and the truth-twisting of the 90’s, I came to see the wisdom of our elders’ beliefs — that wearing fine clothes, from head to toe, was how mortals showed reverence to God.

So, why dress up for church?

Genesis 35:1-3 may shed some light on the subject.  It is possible that as Jacob began this faith-journey to Bethel with God, he recognized how much God had done for him, and how much he needed God! His response was to take everyone with him on this faith-journey, so they could experience God for themselves. “Get rid of the strange gods you have with you. Make yourselves pure” implies the need to be united in “coming clean” before God. “For all have sinned…” (Romans 3:23).  Many then had “household idols” with them that they depended on, as well as God.  They did not trust God alone. “Change your clothes” implies a change of heart toward sin.  It was to be a reflection of what had taken place on the “inside.”

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On Sunday mornings all over the Chicagoland area, a parade of the sharp dressed men and women can be seen on street corners in the Austin neighborhood, at bus stops in Bronzeville, and in soul food restaurants after morning service.  Dress is usually more formal for Black Christians when they attend worship or other religious gatherings.  Many white Christians seem to like to dress informally, wearing even jeans or shorts to Sunday morning church services.  This is very foreign and can be demeaning in the eyes of some Black Christians.

I see God’s house as a place that gives African Americans hope in times of despair.  Additionally, it is the dream of heavenly salvation that sustained us for so long and deserves our respect in spite of its weaknesses.  Therefore, I decided to wear suits to personally show my reverence to God.

What’s your take?

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  • LaSondra

    As a child, "dressing up" for church was all I knew. My dress/skirts and fancy shoes were known as "church clothes" and "church shoes." But as an adult, I pay extra special attention to give reverence to God, and while I have God and His Word hidden in my heart, and while I have him with me everyday, I kinda look at Sunday morning as "I'm going to see Jesus!" LOL and when I see Jesus, I want to look my best, not only on the inside, but on the outside as well. When we go on job interviews, we don't expect employees to see past our exterior and see what's in our hearts. And when we stand before the judge in court, it's rare to see anything less than business casual. Now I will admit, I'm going to revival tonight and I'll have on some slacks, maybe even some jeans, but when I go to church Sunday morning, I will not have on anything less dressy than what I wore to my job interview last week.

    • LaSondra,

      Thanks for sharing your insightful comments. I especially liked the analogy you gave regarding how we dress when we go on interviews – CLASSIC!

      Thanks for sharing!

  • I certainly understand your perspective, UP and agree with it to a certain extent. I agree that there is a relaxation in dress among our white brothers and sisters that we simply don't see in most black Christian churches. It can be viewed as demeaning. Where I differ is how the original intent has been obscured by the clothes themselves and dressing up has become more of an obstacle than a means to the end of reverencing God. We have individuals who are g'd up, but their hearts are dirty before God. Then we have those who may not be as dressed up, but their hearts are right before God. Now if rockin' a ChristFirst baseball jersey with jeans while I preach will help or hinder me in connecting and winning a second and third hearing and even becoming instrumental in winning a person to Jesus, then it becomes more about strategy than culture. If rockin' an Armani will help or hinder me in connecting and winning someone to Jesus, then it is about strategy than culture. if either prevents me from connecting then I need to be willing to make some adjustments in order to win some.

    • Soulman,

      Thanks for sharing & I TOTALLY understand how many come before God as dressed up messes. Additionally, you're right on point and we must consider our context and adjust accordingly. Your analogy reminds me of Paul's writing: "I become all things to all people that I might win some to Christ."

      You keep me sharp bro!

  • Tara Collins-Mong

    When we go to God with our needs and concerns, we don't want God to give us a portion or a piece of our solution, we want His best, and sometimes a double portion of what we asked for, so we should give God our best in everything even in our dress on Sundays in return for what He will manifest in our lives, which is His BEST!

    • Hi Tara,

      Thanks for taking time to read & post your comments!

      I really like your analogy on how God doesn't give us portions or a piece of our solution – CLASSIC! It appears as if we're on the same page. Again, thanks for stopping by The Urban Pastor & please tell others!

      Thanks!

  • My name is Church sooo suffice to say everything I wear is "Church clothes." I'm of the mindset–come as you are to Jesus with no fallderah or fiddledeedee. I like finery as much as the next person–maybe moreso (because I have exquisite taste and no loot) however, I question the motivation for going to great lengths to dress to impress on sundays for the church congregation. It seems to be that clothing then becomes yet another stronghold or simply one more thing to be delivered from.

    • Ah Vanessa, I guess you're right about ALL the clothes you wear. I agree, when people dress to impress others rather than God, it makes one unwise.

  • CassandraD

    I am told it was the only time people could dress up on Sunday, since they worked in the fields during the week. I was always taught to wear your very best. You know we may look good on the outside, but we are rotten to the core on the inside, while we past judgement on others. Well, I wear whatever, because my focus is on my insides not my outsides. Whatever I wear, I still look good :).

    • Cassandra,

      Thanks for sharing & I like your ATTITUDE 🙂

      Thanks for the history lesson & keep on doing you!

  • Dimples43

    I like those who have shared their views, grew up with "church clothes" and "church shoes," and while I respect those who have that mindset I personally wear both, church clothes and casual clothes. I believe two things occur when we place a dress code on church attendance, 1) some will and are debt ridden purchasing church clothes to fit an expectation; others who are not able to purchase church clothes will feel unwelcome because they don't have what is considered the proper attire.
    One of the reasons that I made Mars Hill my church home was because I found that both the church clothes wearers and the "come as you are" coexisted in a sunday service where getting fed the WORD was the priority. Another reason was that I wanted to raise my son in a church where no matter where he found himself in life, that he would know that Mars Hill Baptist Church of Chicago would welcome him in "church clothes" or "just as it is."

  • Dani

    I believe that sometimes dressing up for church and showing reverence to God is confused with spending a lot of money. We as African American people have never been affluent, however, even the poorest of our community was able to put together a white blouse and black slacks, or had that one church dress. Now, I feel that folks don’t care how they dress or what they look like. Its not just at church but at work, etc. The culture is progressively casual. I think there is something to be said for dressing nice and being neat and it doesn’t require us spending a huge amount of money. Folks buy very expensive sneakers, jerseys, purses and clothing to wear to the club or on vacation but won’t use the money to by a decent outfit to wear to church. It is really deeper that church, its our anything goes society. We should be teaching our kids to bring their best on in everything, including your appearance. As I said earlier, our community has never had a lot monetarily but we did have pride in our way of being and looking our best for church was one ways to show that, as well as to show that church is meaningful. We dress up for all kinds of other stuff that ultimately don’t mean anything.

    • Excellent Post!

      I agree that you don't need to spend a lot of money to reverence God with our dress. Additionally, you're right on point in saying that we've never been affluent, and for some, expensive & trendy clothing gives that image. Thanks for calling out those who spend money to buy clothes for meaningless events but won't do the same to honor God. Nice! As for me, God will always get the best I have to offer & I love to present my best to God!

      Thanks for sharing & I look forward to hearing from you again!