Baseball Hats, Tattoos, and Lip Piercings
For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God . . . 1 Corinthians 11:7
When I was a kid, it would have been considered rude for a man to wear a baseball hat in my church. Oddly, women could wear hats – particularly at Easter. Since childhood, I’ve been to other churches where I’ve seen men wearing hats. I don’t know that they were any less serious about their faith and in the context, I don’t think anyone was offended. I suspect that if I went back to my childhood church though, it would still be considered rude for me to wear a hat.
Today’s passage does provide some Biblical background for this. In it, Paul exhorted his readers to maintain certain traditions that he’d given them. Among them was the rule that women should cover their heads in church and that men should not. He went on to say that it was disgraceful for men to have long hair or for women to have short hair.
Previously, in his letter to the Corinthians, Paul described morally gray areas – such as the eating of meat offered to idols. I suspect that if Paul were here today, he’d now see hat wearing and hair length as similarly gray. I may be wrong, but I think those rules were – as Paul said – cultural human traditions, and not absolute moral law, given by God.
Still, we often use such passages, preferences, and traditions to judge each other. At least in my conservative Midwest upbringing, we often still look down on those who push the boundaries of good Christian behavior. Tattoos, piercings, backwards hats, and certain types of clothing just aren’t meant for God’s children, right? If someone looks or dresses different than us, we naturally draw conclusions about their faith and character.
This is hard, because we do believe in the Bible, but there are some traditions that we no longer maintain. The challenge for us, is to seek wisdom to know what traditions can go and which moral laws must remain.
Then, we must practice sensitivity to those who still maintain those traditions. It may not be wrong for me to wear a hat in some contexts, but if I went back to my childhood church, it would be wrong for me to purposefully offend others. Finally, we must display grace with our neighbors. We cannot use today’s passage as justification to be judgmental of those whose appearance offends our cultural and traditional preferences. Others don’t have to dress and look like us to worship God.