[From ws9/16 p. 17 November 7-13]

“Do all things for God’s glory.”—1Co 10:31

It’s summertime. You see two young men walking on the street, carrying backpacks, dressed in black pants and white short-sleeved shirts, little black plaques on their pockets.  You know who they are even from a distance and at a casual glance.

They dress that way, because they are directed to by the LDS church authority.

Now it’s wintertime. It’s Saturday morning and you see a well-dressed man in a suit and tie walking beside a well-dressed woman wearing a dress or skirt cut just below the knee. The temperature outside is 10° below the freezing point. You know who they are and you likely wonder why she isn’t wearing a pantsuit to protect her legs from the freezing cold.

They dress that way, because they are directed to by the JW.org church authority.

It seems that every year we have at least one article dedicated to telling us how to dress. That means that about 2% of all the articles we are required to study in The Watchtower deal with dress and grooming.  That doesn’t even take into account the numerous Service Meeting, assembly and convention parts dealing with this topic. One would think it must be a very important topic to be given so much attention. This must be something that the Lord God Almighty wants us to give special attention to. If you think this, you will be wrong.

There are two verses in all of the in the Christian Scriptures dealing directly with dress and grooming. These are found at 1 Timothy 2:9-10. There are almost 8,000 verses in the Christian Scriptures and only two of them deal with dress and grooming.  So if the Governing Body wanted to devote an entire Watchtower study to dress and grooming, but give it the same percentage of importance that Jehovah gives it, we’d get one such study article every 77 years!

So why are they so bent on controlling how Witnesses dress and groom themselves?  If Jehovah’s Witnesses went door to door wearing shirts with open collars—no ties—would people reject the word of God?  If sisters wore pant suits or blouses and slacks such as one sees in any business office in the Western Hemisphere, would people be aghast?  Would this bring reproach upon the message?

Of course not.  It would be silly to think that. Yet that is what this article is getting across, like every such article before it.

This is the message that the Organization wants Witnesses to buy into. They want to think that dressing this way and only this way makes God Almighty happy.  Dressing any other way, makes him angry. This is the message that the elders are directed to enforce.  If a sister shows up to a field service group in slacks, no matter how tasteful and elegant they may be, she will likely be told she can’t participate in the door-to-door work. If a brother attempts to go house-to-house without a tie on, he’ll be talked to by a pair of elders.  If a Christian couple come to the meeting, him in a shirt without a tie, she in slacks, they will be pulled aside and told their manner of dress is inappropriate and is bringing reproach on God’s name.

So while the Bible’s message is modesty, the Organization’s goal is conformity.

Ironically, while enforcing such standards, it makes the claim that it does not lay down rules.

How grateful we are that Jehovah does not burden us with detailed lists of regulations about our dress and grooming. – par. 18

While Jehovah does not burden us, the Organization sure does.  Take for example this brochure which was posted on the Announcement Boards at all Kingdom halls when it was first released.  Such control over individual dress goes way beyond anything written in God’s word.

After reading paragraph 6, one might draw the conclusion that the Organization is concerned about cross dressers in its midst.

The Law showed Jehovah’s strong feelings against clothing that does not make clear the distinction between male and female—what has been described in our day as unisex fashion. (Read Deuteronomy 22:5.) From God’s stated direction about clothing, we clearly see that God is not pleased with styles of dress that feminize men, that make women look like men, or that make it hard to see the difference between men and women. – par. 3

However, that is not really the concern.  These verses are used to try to give Scriptural backing to elders who are directed to tell sisters to leave the pant suit at home. Is the Governing Body really concerned that we might confuse a woman in a blouse and slacks for a man?  Of course not. Then why do they wish to so narrowly regulate the personal decisions of members of the flock?  Control.

There was a time back in the Fifties when only the rebellious element of society wore beards.  Those days are long past.  There is nothing modest nor immodest about a beard in Western society.  Yet, in North American congregations, beards are frowned upon and strongly discouraged by the elders.  A brother with a beard will likely get no “privileges” in the congregation.  He will be viewed as weak or rebellious. Why?  Because he isn’t conforming to the custom proscribed by the Governing Body.  Yet, when you read the direction in this week’s study, you might conclude that the foregoing is a misrepresentation.

In some cultures, a neatly trimmed beard may be acceptable and respectable, and it may not detract at all from the Kingdom message. In fact, some appointed brothers have beards. Even so, some brothers might decide not to wear a beard. (1 Cor. 8:9, 13; 10:32) In other cultures or localities, beards are not the custom and are not considered acceptable for Christian ministers. In fact, having one may hinder a brother from bringing glory to God by his dress and grooming and his being irreprehensible.—Rom. 15:1-3; 1 Tim. 3:2, 7. – par. 17

To the casual reader, this passage will seem perfectly reasonable and balanced. However, when put into practice, it allows elders to explain to the facially hirsute that they are “offending some in the congregation” and “setting a bad example”.  Their facial hair will bring dishonor on the message of God, they will be told.  The code phrase is “in other cultures or localities”.   In practice, this doesn’t really refer to worldly cultures or localities, but to the accepted custom in the local congregation.

Here’s what the Bible actually says about dress and grooming:

“Likewise, the women should adorn themselves in appropriate dress, with modesty and soundness of mind, not with styles of hair braiding and gold or pearls or very expensive clothing, 10 but in the way that is proper for women professing devotion to God, namely, through good works.” (1Ti 2:9, 10)

Add to this the principle of Christian love that looks out for the best interests of others and you have it in a nutshell.  No need for an entire study article, nor countless assembly and convention parts.  You have what you need to please God.  So go ahead and take the bold step of using your very own Christian conscience. Don’t allow men to control your life.  Jesus is your Lord and your King.  He is your “Governing Body”.  No man is.  Let’s leave it at that and forget about all this control silliness.

Meleti Vivlon

Articles by Meleti Vivlon.
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