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FIRST-PERSON: Think before you dress

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (BP)–Shocking!

“It mortified me,” said the mother of one of the people present when the appalling incident occurred.

It made the front page of the Chicago Tribune and was quickly the talk of the Internet and radio call-in shows nationwide. The offenders, previously (apparently) clueless, seemed to get the message: There are a lot of people in this country who believe it is inappropriate to wear flip-flops in the White House.

The so-called “Flip-Flop Flap” began with the publication of a photograph showing members of the women’s lacrosse team from Northwestern University with President Bush. Four of the young women on the front row were (gasp!) wearing flip-flops. Team members are now hoping, no doubt, that “all’s well that ends well,” as the offending footwear is being auctioned off to benefit a 10-year-old patient with a brain tumor.

Interestingly, President Bush didn’t seem to be nearly as bothered by what many are calling a fashion faux pas, though most of us have heard about his insistence that men wear ties in the Oval Office and White House staffers not wear jeans in the West Wing. “I don’t think he thought it was inappropriate,” said the lacrosse team’s coach, Kelly Amonte Hiller, in a July 20 bostonherald.com article.

By the time you read this column, our president may have issued a carefully crafted statement on the controversy. After all, he is the leader of the planet’s most powerful nation. Then again, since he is the leader of the planet’s most powerful nation, he may want to lead us in responding to this particular issue by saying nothing, implying that we all should concern ourselves with more important matters.

Yes, I know, that includes taking the time to write a column on the topic of appropriate dress. I can’t help but wonder, though, what the Ruler of the Universe thinks about the attire we sometimes choose to wear when we meet together for the express purpose of worshiping Him.

My generation — “baby boomers” (when they were known as the nation’s young people and before they became the AARP’s target group) — led the way in persuading the populace that you really can come to God just as you are and that our churches need to be more friendly to those who choose not to “dress up,” especially if casual is the dressiest a person can afford.

I can’t begin to tell you how thankful I am for the assurance I have that my King actually wants me to approach Him anytime — whether I’m wearing shorts, sandals, pajamas or my finest suit. And I don’t believe He minds it a bit when we gather for worship in T-shirts and shorts at church picnics and youth conferences. After all, members of the church where I’m a member know full well when I’m not on the road preaching somewhere, I often don’t wear a coat and tie.

Still, though, I can’t shake my conviction that it is entirely appropriate, and even commendable, when subjects of God’s Kingdom choose to “honor the Office” by wearing our “Sunday best” to church.

First of all, I understand it is a personal decision everyone must make for him- or herself; and while I may choose, at least sometimes, to honor the Lord by dressing up, He hasn’t given me the responsibility of looking down on anyone who doesn’t share my conviction.

Furthermore, I understand that I have brothers and sisters in Christ who have prayerfully considered this matter and feel differently. In fact, some churches actually encourage their people to dress down so that none of those they are trying to reach for Christ will feel uncomfortable or out-of-place. I respect that. That’s fine. Nevertheless, there are those among us who have refused to give prayerful and careful consideration to the matter, which I think every believer should do.

Of course, I hope those who feel differently from me about this issue will respect the decision I’ve reached after years of prayer, just like I will respect theirs.

Sadly, I’m almost certain that some of those who come to church wearing flip-flops look down upon those who dress up.

Hmmm, wasn’t that the reason we were so determined to make our churches more friendly to those who choose to dress differently in the first place?
John Loudat is editor of the Baptist New Mexican, the newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico, online at www.bcnm.com/ministries/communication/index.html

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  • John Loudat