Pentecostal Women and Their Skirts
Pentecostal women, especially those part of the holiness movement are often associated with “skirts.” This cultural practice has often been misunderstood and mistaught.
When I was growing up, in Pentecostal circles I always heard two scriptures when it came to women wearing skirts: Deuteronomy 22:5 and 1 Timothy 2:9. I was taught women should wear skirts, because skirts were feminine attire. In cold weather I would wear skirts, in gym class I would wear a skirt, and for almost all school functions I wore a skirt. I can only remember one day when I wore pants to school, and it was embarrassing and humiliating for me. My mother always bought me skirts, and pants were out of the question. Today, I still wear a skirt. I have worn skirts to hike up pyramids, mountains, go white water rafting, ride horses, and workout at the gym. A skirt has never prohibited me from functioning in life.
When I was younger, when asked the all too famous question of why I wore a skirt, I would reply “it’s my religion.” I answered this way, because I wanted to blame my religion for why I had to wear skirts. In many ways I wore skirts out of tradition, rather than from a conviction from the heart. Growing up, I didn’t feel like I had a choice in what I wore. There was a lot of peer pressure from school to wear pants and there was a lot of pressure from the church to wear skirts. I often felt caught in-between these pressures.
As a scholar and seminary graduate, I can say I have over the past couple of years struggled with the issue of wearing skirts. Honestly, the scriptures of Deuteronomy and 1 Timothy may not directly correlate to skirt wearing. The exegesis of these passages does not directly imply skirt wearing. I don’t make this statement to give permission to wear whatever one wants. I make this statement, because wearing a skirt is a choice. You have a choice. Choice has always been an integral part of being human.
Wearing skirts is more than a tradition, because wearing skirts represents something beyond fashion and duty. For many women, wearing skirts may be an outward expression of their faith. Wearing skirts may be a physical symbol and representation of their commitment to Christ. For some women, it is an issue of modesty. I know in some other cultures women wear more than a skirt, they wear a face mask and long shawls to cover their body. Pentecostals aren’t the only ones who have cultural dress codes and traditions. Muslims, Catholics, Jews, Protestants, and other religions of the world have had ceremonial clothing customs and traditions.
The issue of modesty is clear in the Bible: Christians should be and live modestly. Unfortunately, I have gone to some conventions and districts where wearing a skirt is NOT a modest tradition. Skirts have become revealing and immodest. Slits and “tightness” reveal way too much! A skirt does not equal modesty. The principle of modesty must first begin with the heart. Modesty is more than outward appearance. Holiness is more than outward appearance. Modesty starts with a commitment to Jesus Christ, and holiness is a lifestyle which molds our humanly image more into the image of God.
So here is the big question: “Do I have to wear a skirt?” Some people will tell you it is not a heaven or hell issue. Some women will say wearing skirts no longer appeals to their convictions and relationship with Christ. Some women will say this tradition is outdated and not Biblical. My answer to you is that you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. Don’t wear a skirt merely for the sake of tradition, because without commitment you might as well stop pretending to be a Christian. Christianity is synonymous with commitment and conviction. You can find an excuse and justification for anything if you are walking away from God, rather than toward God. Don’t wear a skirt just because everyone else does it. If you choose to wear a skirt, wear one because you have a reason to wear one and because you choose to wear a skirt.
Personally, I will continue to wear a skirt, because I find the symbolism important. I wear a skirt because it is an outward expression of my faith and commitment to my femininity, and the way God has designed me to be as a woman. I do not place my tradition on anyone else. You must do what you think is right. I do not think any woman should be pressured into wearing skirts, or looked down upon because they do not have this same tradition in their life. I believe we need to accept women for who they are. If you think you are better than someone else because you wear a skirt, you have missed the whole point of holiness. Holiness isn’t’t about comparing ourselves to others, it is about being made into the image of God.
What are your thoughts? What do you think about the Pentecostal practice of wearing skirts?
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