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Apr 22, 2019

Is Insistence on a Dress Code in Churches Relevant?

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By Edmond Fernandes [ Published Date: December 5, 2011 ]

We are into a modern age and a church ruling on dress code has raised many eyebrows. The dress code, applicable to both men and women, prohibits sleeveless clothings, T-shirts with cheeky messages, short skirts, or, in short all dresses, which do not conform to the `modesty' code.

But the question arises as to whether we can really afford to gamble big at this stage especially at a time when youngsters do not really care for any religious ideologies anymore. Most of the youth in and around go to places of worship just because of parental pressures and family circumstances. It is only a formal protocol. Once they get there, they begin playing games on their cellphones and sending messages. So do you think imposing a ruling of this sort will matter to these young guns going astray? I really doubt and, more so, remain apprehensive.

It may be recalled that the 16th-century Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa recently decided to provide shawls to 'indecently' clad visitors. The 450-year-old Mahalasa Narayani temple in Ponda, Goa also has banned the entry of foreigners after they were found 'inappropriately dressed' or even kissing inside the temple.

On a personal note, I would certainly agree on the church ruling that indecency should be arrested and curbed, but not with a ruling of this regard. But a larger audience is to be considered and their sentiments need to be delicately addressed.

Dale Carnegie once said, You cannot win a person to your way of thinking by imposing something on him; he needs to be convinced ever so gently ever so kindly.

This is precisely what needs to be done. Christians are well known for their educational zeal and prolific dedication. Why cant they educate the youth on these grounds also? Let them be convinced that what they do is wrong. That wearing dresses which expose too much isunbecoming of a religious place of worship. They have to realize the fact that they are coming to churches to pray, to worship the Lord and not to walk the ramp or to do a ballroom dance.

One may argue that Sunday is one day where they get to wear clothes which they like. Fair enough, there are means and ways to fulfil your hearts highest desires. You could attend Mass on Saturday evening and do whatever you like on Sunday. I am just trying to float an idea. You need not necessarily agree, but there is some truth in it. Lest you find it an inconvenient truth.

Youngsters are the very base on which anything can survive and flourish. Can we afford to lose them? There are always better ways to get them to our way of understanding. We enjoy comparing religious ideologies and other matters of relevance. Then, on grounds of dressing sense, why is it that a small segment of youth around beg to differ?

Its time to question one's own self and to realize one's own saga of purpose and beliefs. Do you really go to church or, for that matter, any place of worship for reasons best known to you, or do you go there to sincerely pray, to spend time with God and to worship him, love him and find inner peace?

Friends, there are other platforms to do what you like to do. But here is a sincere attempt to realize your true ideals. After all, we go to worship God, for our own sake. It should not be a matter of concern as to what others will say if we dress like this or like that. Wish a new understanding dawns and good sense prevails for the greater glory of mankind.

(The author is a medical journalist-cum-entrepreneur.)

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S P Chaudhari, India :
I am a Indian Hindu;I am for having modest dress attending Temple,Church(All different branches)Prayers & other ceremonies.In India ,We Hindus consider these buildings are prayer stations.
For men,dress should be full pants(Preferably sky blue)/Not stitched white Lungi if prescribed & full shirt(white).
for womens, dress code should be sari & sleeved blouse,A white head scarf,skirts beyond knees with loose sleeved blouse.
All other dresses like Shalwar,Pathani,Burakha,Veils,various caps should not to be allowed.All types of pants&jeanspants should not be allowed.
this is only to keep sanctity of prayer stations just like schools,Court of Law,Govt functions.
Vincent Lobo, India :
I agree and disagree on your views.
I agree on your view that we need to educate. But how does anyone educate the already educated,,? Or we just literate,,,we do not understand the meaning of education any longer. Does "Being Educated" mean that we start questioning our rights to freedom as and when we think it is of convenience to us.
What about the seriously religious who come to pray and worship devoutly,,?? Being human that we are, what about the distraction it causes to such people.
I firmly believe, sufficient education and guidance is imparted to catholics to dress modestly in the bible and in Sunday school classes and many a times in the homilies.
I strongly support these restrictions and believe that it is time to move on.

Rose, UAE:
Apt topic : Subtle yet an eye opener to poorly clad younger generation!
peter, India :
very simple, Church/temple /mosque.... are the places to worship/meditate. Modern generation can say we can do it at home. Yes you can pray anywhere you like, religion is you & your belief, not to bring to the roads.But! when you attend public places for your prayer/meditation be simple and clean in dress and mind. if you want to show your body parts or shirt writeups then there should be a separate room for these guys just like childrens room, available in some parts of the world. so, may be later at some point of time they may realise, that the time has come to be in the centre of the hall.!!!!!
George Rego, Kuwait:
Edmond thanks for the article. Well written and subjective.

I wish to address this reply to June Coelho. Why should it be the responsibility of Schools and colleges. Why not at home? Why not parents?

As far as I know, schools do have a dress code, its called uniforms and from the unifroms I have seen (I have 2 wonderful daughters) they are more than just decent, they are nice,

College is a different thing. Colleges allow freedom of attire. But often I read in the papers that some students do take this freedom a bit too far and the college then dictates a dress code.

Both students and Parents then gangup on the college administration accusing them of being in the dark ages and moral policing. Parent! WoW. Such critism from the students is expected but from Parents, I'm amazed.

Colleges like churches fashion halls, dance parties are places for specific purpose. So being appropiately dressed for the purpose is what should be an automatic act.

Just because of the attitude of a few a whole bunch of college students are affected. Moral Policing by Political parties is definately a NO NO. Especially our politicians who have absolutely no morals and are corrupt to the core.

Yes going to church dressed like its a fashion show and a catwalk is bad fashion choice and a very definate invitation for distraction.

I don't want to get into the controvercy of recent events where various people who have made statements of linking rapes to clothes. But it does leave a big Question open to answers.
GULAM GHOSE, USA :
Edmond Fernandes Sir,

You are under the misconception that these rules are man-made for no reason. How would you, your wife and your little kids dress, should your boss (who is responsible for your 1% raise/year) either visits your house or invites you for his wife's birthday party ? Whether you can afford it or not your wife will rush to buy a new fancy dress to impress your boss's wife.
It is true that once you Invoke ( either in a Temple, Church or Mosque) the Creator or His name, no matter where it is ... He is present for your sake, at your bidding to answer your prayers.
Just because youths today can easily get into silly vices, to feel high, it isn't a modern age! Two wrongs does not make one right. Look Around we are leading a decaying lifestyle....nothing modern about it..!
These dress codes or ethics are needed in this "modern" age not to divert your mind / attention while praying. Diverting attention to sleeveless attires, revealing short-shorts, indecent exposures, tightfits are all worse than drugs.
Would you love and permit your pretty 16 year old daughter wear revealing attire in the streets of your town and hear rickshawallas whistling? The Almighty does not care what dress you wear or can afford, if you cannot afford a clean laundered or hand washed dress, as worn by the poorest poor in some poor countries while going to Sunday s Service, you can as well be naked, the Almighty does not care.
The rules are made by us, because we have become v, corrupt minded. Wait till you are old..you will regret that you could 've gone to Him sooner dresses at your best....
Note that we like to wear our best on our journey to the final resting place... burial or cremation...fully knowing that there is no life, it is just decayed and foul smelling flesh! ....May He bless you.
Bryan Crasta, India :
Our Priests have gone mad, they should stop fearing the RSS and other stupid organizations and just be themselves
Edward, China :
Good Article Edmond,
I agree there are many comes to the church to show off nothing else
well done
june coelho, India :
Children should be taught at school and college level regarding following a certain amount of decency while attending mass. If one is made to understand the reasons behind this instead of blindly imposing rules and regulations, these would be definatley accepted.
naveen kulshekar, India :
Recently I went to Holy land with a group.Before leaving the tour operetor had advised all travellers, that they should maintain the dress code .Men should wear full
formals and Females should wear full cover dress. Visiting to a church no short pants or hats. For Females full dress and veils on their head. One day a young man who wore t shirt and half short, person at the church not allowed him to enter the church.
Church is a prayer hall where we go and offer the mass along with the priest. we should maintain the decore of the church,showing our body parts to others by way of tight pants half shorts, mini tight skirts,skin tight transferent clothes etc is not good.God will not like this indecency.All mobiles inside the church to be banned. The church authorities also have to adhere the dress code, all the priest, they should wear their religious clothes, nuns who are wearing sarees too to be thick and not transferant one.
Drona, India :
Good article. Obviously thought provoking to many. Look at the comments. You have touched the cord Sir.
Maria, Sydney, Australia :
The whole saga of Jesus Christ and the inititation of Christanity was to eliminate the middleman between God and His people. That is how JC stood out from the Jews. I dont understand why the Church and her perpetrators in the form of priests, bishops, popes etc etc have chosen to forget that fundamental fact and stipulate codes of dress and conduct and so forth that actually choses what kind of people are allowed into the church. Over the years what has happened to our Catholic libertarianisms and tolerance levels. When have we started converting to fundamentalist Islamists?
Raghuveer, India :
Alex, India --> Please read Nitesh's update again.
Without the rules implemented you have already cast an imaginary individual into damnation and gone as far as throwing them out of the Church. I can't imagine what you would do if you were the caretaker of that law ???.
You have to first gouge out your tongue for that statement and use sign language in hell.
Please remember that the individual that you are portraying could be someones child, spouse or sibling.
Anand Dsilva, UAE:
People like me go to Sunday church so that the day starts on a bright note and be fresh than to wake up late and spoil the whole day. It has social significance than religious.

Good people those who dont go to church have a tendency to become isolated among themselves and when you go to church you are expected to wear good clothes like you are attending a function not casual.

Fashionable clothes are worn by a limited few in some of the affluent parishes but not all and generally at English masses sometimes Konkani while all prefer to go with clean and modest clothes. In a way, most of the clothes would remain unused if not worn for Sunday mass and if young people in their prime wouldn\'t display their colors then who would?
Alex, India :
Jesus said, if your eye induces you to sin, better pluck it out, and good for you to enter heaven with one eye than go to hell with two eyes.
If those indecent worn folks give a scandolous example and get us into sin, in the place of worship, what should be done? Should I pluck my eyes out or leave myself the place of worship or throw the person out of place of worship.
The answer to this rests with each one of us, if he has gone to worship or if the person has gone to do just the duty of obligation or if the person had gone to make a show of himself or herself.
My opinion is, not to let these people come to the place worship and they can damn do what they want, after all, they are asnwerable to their deeds, not myself.
alwyn, Canada :
A.S Mathew your wise thoughts is good enough to understand the people who don't wear proper clothing. Mass is a banquest of Jesus and one must respect that with honour with proper ways. Dressing for Interview in a professional ways to get a job, dressing for parties to enjoy and have fun with friends/relatives and dressing for god's temple in a proper ways to celeberate Jesus banquest with as a family of the parish or diocese. People there is no right or wrong answer here as long as respective clothing to honour god during one hour services of Jesus. GOd BLESS TO ALL AND MERRY XMAS.
Nitesh, India :
Mr. A.S. Mathew, Your statement is very innocent and I am sure you are a wonderful god fearing person with very good motives.
The point that Nakul, Brhamanda bring here is not that they don't understand the sensibilities in dressing up but where does one put a stop to the rules or law that gets stipulated?. It can be misinterpreted by anyone ending up by harassing the devotees. I don't think anyone would want to go to such a place where the main stress is 'approval' or 'code of dress'. For example when the equality was established internationally that ' all men are equal', it was the Indian women who protested back in the day to set it to 'all men and women are equal', just to avoid misrepresentation in the course of time.
The new generation are into piercing and tattoo, do we address that as well. High heels that elevate certain parts of the body in a sensual manner. Tight pants that show a man's religion literally, we can go on and on about it. But freedom of that individual to dress up, be it for comfort, be it for fashion or even for attracting individuals prevail. The solid social structure will handle the one offs that are extreme.

A. S. Mathew, USA :
God is looking to our hearts, thoughts and actions; not at all in the dress parade.
But, we must have certain regard and concern towards God and the people in the society.

If I pray at home without putting a shirt or other clothings, God is not going to question me" did you wear the right outfit before
praying to me"?.

Here the issue is totally different. When I am in the public, I must have certain concern in my dressing code; not to create irritation and offense to other people.
Our realationship with God is displayed through every action we portray towards the next door neighbour and the society as a whole.
I have seen some young girls attending the Church with very low cut skirts, it didn't bother me but they must have certain conscience to wear normal dress while attending the Church worship. God or the Church people will never force the girl out due to her "low cut" dress.
We must have vertical relationship with God and horizontal relationship with our fellow human beings. If we ignore our horizontal relationship with our fellow human beings,then our relationship with God is not in the
proper angle. To please God, if I donate an expensive car to the top person of the religious hierarchy while watching the next door neighbour of any religion in the hut crying for food with a dozen children; there I am totally misguided and ignorant about my relationship
with God.

Alwyn, Canada :
Man this is a religious topic and not a fashion show topis. Appriopriate dressing in worship place for both men and women is a must and if people are not interested in going to worhsip places it is thier choice. Let them live a life how they like and let other behave in god;s temples appropriately.
Nitesh, India :
I think there is a difference between the Hindu thought and the christian thought process.
Brahamanda and Nakul's ideology is pure hindu, in that the dharma / shakti / truth / paramathma takes precedence to everything else. It is about collective conscience. Spirituality is not what one wears or what one does. Even a thief prays before he sets out to rob people and it does not matter what religion he is from. Dharma is the same for everyone, the only difference is that each will pay for their actions which is essentially retribution.
Dony lobo's idea of attending Church is one of obligation, where he compares it to an interview or meeting up with his boss. If perhaps he had no obligation he would not attend. ( just an equation, not that you will not ). The boss can reject you even with your best outfit, but remember the GRACE or Dharma will never fail you. Riyana, Edward, Bosco and all in this sense have a radicle new thought and they do collude with what Brahamanda and Nakul have to say.
I was amazed to see how forward thinking a few folks were. A lot of the others were conservative, highly opinionated with a 'I am better than you' attitude.
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