Protestant/Evangelical Christian Head Covering has always been something I’ve disliked ever since I learned that people have decided to try to resurrect it from it’s death half a century ago. Catholic Veiling, Amish Head Covering, hasn’t been anything I’ve been too worried about as it’s a different tradition and usually I don’t think of it being associated. I’ve talked a lot about how I don’t like head covering. But I’ll let you in on a secret – I do like Sikh Head Covering.
Sikhism is among the few world religions that features equality between men and women – women wear head coverings, and so do the men. Men grow out long hair, and so do the women. Men read and teach from the sacred writings of the gurus, and so do the women. Speaking of – here’s one such verse that sounded familiar:
From woman, man is born;
within woman, man is conceived; to woman he is engaged and married.
Woman becomes his friend; through woman, the future generations come.
When his woman dies, he seeks another woman; to woman he is bound.
So why call her bad? From her, kings are born.
From woman, woman is born; without woman, there would be no one at all.
— Guru Nanak, Raag Aasaa Mehal 1, Page 473
A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God. – 1 Corinthians 11:7-12
Sikhism promotes total equality by not establishing distinctions between men and women in worship. Men remain men. Women remain women. They aren’t trying to become something they aren’t – but they don’t have to – because all doors are open to all of them as they are. This is what honors God.
Christianity could have used it’s similar verse to assert the same equality; but the insertion of distinctions created an inequality. That inequality is not helped by the other verses governing the role of women in Christianity – not being permitted to teach, not being permitted to speak, and not being permitted to rise to the ranks of leadership. I remember reading the story of a widow who searched long and hard to find a church where she and other women would be silenced like the Scriptures said – she talked about how many churches let her down when they let women speak or read the Scriptures aloud. To her lasting joy, she eventually found a church where no women speak at all.
A Sikh woman who covers her head has the same authority to read and teach Scriptures as men, and she can lead prayers:
A P/E Christian woman who covers he head can expect to pray silently and not prophesy, not speak and not teach, and to never, ever, become a leader. But she can delight in her equality with men so long as she’s distinct from them and doesn’t do what men do.
That’s why I have a profound respect of Sikhism and their long-standing tradition of gender equality. Christianity’s “equal but different” stance pays lip-service to equality, but the “but different” reveals the truth – difference always amounts to inequality. “Equal and unequal” might be a better way to put it. Somehow God is honored by this, so they say.