Women, Long Hair and Christian Teaching

Not to scold overmuch – but, please – I am not willing to keep hearing some of the arguments Christians have about long hair. (I mean long hair on women!) Let’s get it clear. The teaching we have fromt he Apostles, as evidenced in the Epistles, is that women were to look like women – long hair included. It seems that decent Jewish women had always worn long or uncut hair, and Christian women were to do the same. It was shameful for women to be shorn, to look like foreign men – a double shame. So women had long hair unless it was cut because of illness, injury or deliberate disfiguring. They didn’t ornament it or make it up into elaborate constructions. The normative was long hair, perhaps kept back in some simple manner with a tie or a pin.

And then the long hair on a mature woman was covered. Women covered their heads daily. Almost all weomen – Jewish, Christian or Gentile – wore a headcover of some kind. Some Gentiles wore very elaborate headdresses, if they were wealthy or of noble birth and some wore fanciful but obvious wigs. But the plaind ress of the average Jewish or Christian woman included a vweil or scarf, pinned or tied, perhaps knotted into something like a turban. Some would be finer or more luxurious; early Christians seemed to have forwned on the luxurious, though. We could expect that the headcovering would be linen or Egyptian cotton; wool for country women, silk for the wealthy.

Hair was covered, whether because it was considered erotic to display the hair or for simpler hygenic reasons.

Women kept their heads covered for millenia, and it has only been in the past two hundred years that women would at any time consider leaving home with a bare head. Even one hundred years ago most meidterranean and European peasant women wore a cap, bonnet or scarf every day. It was considered childish or slovenly to go out with one’s hair loose and exposed. It got into one’s work, or interfered with vision. Women of leisure who had no farm or household work could go around bare-headed. It was something of a sign of ostentatious wealth, a kind of perpetual childhood. Still, in some welathy and middle-class households, especially in Europe, women wore caps until the early twentieth century, often made of lace. It kept the hair neat and was a symbol of Christian humility.

For some groups, such as the Anabaptists and Quakers, theplain cap and later, the untrimmed bonnet, were indications of a faith that turned from worldly vanities. The prayer cap and the the simple veil to this day are indications of Christian modesy in a traditional community.

Therefore I cannot accept unhistoric and elaborate theological arguments about when to cover, how to cover, why to cover or how to dress the hair, present the hair or think about the hair. It is vanity to pull the hair up into fanciful buns and pompadours, to parade one’s long hair in a “crown of glory.”  It is vain th buy and wear brimmed hats to display at church. And is is vain and ostentatious to wear physically modest clothes, as well, that are not modest in colour, fabric or price.

If people notice us for the simplicity and modesty of our dress, it is because the rest of the world has swung so far from Biblical standards. We need to put no more effort into our dress and appearance than to be plain, neat, clean and modest.

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6 thoughts on “Women, Long Hair and Christian Teaching

  1. John the Baptist said it best about all forms of modesty when he said in John 3:30 “He [Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease.” We need to remove any undue emphasis from ourselves. I was distracted at church last week by a woman. She had a modest outfit but cute froggy ear rings. I was thinking about them rather than the message several times. The same can be said about hairstyles. Just look at the fuss made over Sarah Palin’s hairstyle during the last presidential campaign.

    • I meant to comment before this, sorry! I know what you mean…I attended a service where the woman preaching wore parrot earrings, a souvenir of a vacation to Mexico. All I can remember are the earrings. When I wore jewelry after ordination, I got down to one pair of tiny silver hoops with black hematite spheres, and then thought, “Why bother?”

  2. Commenting late here… I’m not a regular reader, but I found this article accidentally while making a google search.

    Magdalena, good article… you had me, until I read AKHomeschool’s comment, and your response to it.

    I agree that “we need to put no more effort into our dress and appearance than to be plain, neat, clean and modest”, but not putting effort into clothes means that we are to get dressed and then forget about it – and that includes forgetting to focus over-much on what other people are wearing.

    If “cute little froggie earrings” or parrots from Mexico are able to distract us so much, that’s a really good sign that we are still hung up on clothes, to the point where we are still overly sensitive to what others are wearing.

    My point is this:

    Cute little froggie earrings might draw the attention of the average person for a moment or so, but that’s all, especially if they are interested in what else going on at the time.

    Someone who is preoccupied with dress, however (whether the preoccupation is with Christian modesty or with runway fashion), will be drawn back to such tiny details again and again, and it is their own preoccupation, not the other woman’s attire, that’s the true cause of the distraction – at a certain level, dress is more interesting to them than most other things, and thus the ability of other people’s dress to distract……

    …..and I know this, because I’ve been there myself, done that way too long, and with God’s help, I’m getting slowly getting over it. :)

    • I’ve kind of lost track of that thread myself – but I agree that it does take time to get past the “what the hey are you wearing?” stage of changing how one dresses. But we will go through it! There needs to be a time of contemplating whether we are happy and peaceful with our own Plain decisions. HOWSUMEVER – when in a speaking role in the church (or elsewhere) it’s a good thing to leave the danglies at home, since when all eyes are on you, that’s what they will see – the little bobblies next to your mouth! Can’t be helped – there they are, swinging gaily back and forth every time you speak or move your head. I remember those green parrots although it has been close to twenty years. What did she say that day? No idea, the wee birdies did all the “talking.”

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