How legitimate is Christian Head-covering?

Just today, I saw that the ACLU (an obviously evil organization who hates Christians by requiring all those pesky ten commandments be taken down from public spaces) had filed a suit on behalf of a Christian woman who was required to remover her head covering to take her driver’s license photo. This can only be some ploy to get on Christianity’s good side (or more likely, they’re people who care deeply about everybody’s freedom and will fight on any side that’s needs someone in their corner.)

In the case of the hijab exception for Muslim women, we can see that wearing a hijab is very nearly a requirement and it’s also quite prevalent. Ask Christians who are the sort to wear head coverings and your list might consist of the Amish and Catholic nuns but not necessarily laywomen. Both groups are viewed as Christians, but parts of distinctive religions – so for the average Christian woman, head-covering isn’t a thing.

Some might look at old pictures and see that it used to be – back when people wore more formal clothes and traditional values tended to marginalize people of color. Times change, so do we. But somehow or other, head-covering has made something of a resurgence – a sign of one who obeys the Bible as literally as possible or something.

So, is Christian head-covering on your radar? Why not? Why so?

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24 thoughts on “How legitimate is Christian Head-covering?

  1. Not only Amish and Catholic nuns wear head coverings. Also other Christians, like Brethren and certain Christadelphians and Bible-students wear head coverings as well as Old Roman Catholics. Last century it was even obliged to all Roman Catholics to wear head coverings when they came in public and for long time women were even not allowed in a church without head covering, as they are still not allowed in certain Catholic countries in Europe.

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    1. Some years back, I visited a Roman Catholic church – it was a state holiday and the place was so packed that I was left standing in the back . The number of women wearing head coverings: none.
      If you were to add all women who do wear head coverings, you might generously reach 15%; but the vast majority of Christian women do not – now in the 1960s the tradition was a widespread one – you would have been hard pressed to find 15% of women not wearing head coverings back then. But today? It’s not a thing.

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      1. From pope John XXIII several modernisations where brought into the church, before they were scaled back the last few years by the three previous popes.

        Today in the northern part of Europe women in Catholic churches do not have to be covered, but in France, Italy, Spain, Greece and Cyprus this may still be a common expectation.

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      2. The woman in the lawsuit isn’t a Catholic; she’s evangelical / protestant. Even Catholic women do not wear head coverings 24/7, which is what the woman was doing.

        Quote from another news article, emphasis mine: “I was devastated when they forced me to remove my headscarf to take my driver’s license photo,” Allen said in a statement released by the ACLU. “Revealing my hair to others is disobedient to God. I should have the same right as people of other faiths to be accommodated for my religious beliefs.”

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  2. Also in our denomination there re women who, when in public and certainly when in church wear in head covering. In Belgium we leave it to our members to be covered or not in the service. Though we are very liberal and have services outdoors also in shorts and short leaved shirts. But in Australia several of our communities are very conservative and still demand women in church to wear head covering.

    We ourselves do find everybody should be free to decide for themselves and may not force their own will unto others, be it believers, other believers or non-believers.

    But we must confess that even in our denomination certain women do find it very important to have their head covered and as such covering is a thing..

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    1. What exactly is your denomination? I’m quite familiar with American churches, but I don’t know all that much about denominational variations in other countries. What I’m seeing is a tendency for ultraconservatives to wear head-coverings 24/7 to prove how obedient they are to the inerrant Word of God – the Bible, there’s a big secondary teaching that says that women are subordinate to men and that’s what a head covering is a symbol of; a husband’s authority over his wife, a father’s authority over his daughter. By and large, when you walk into a Church of Christ, a Methodist, a Lutheran, a Southern Baptist, an Episcopalian, or other such church women don’t wear head coverings. African-American churches do have a tradition of wearing hats that’s most prominent among elderly women, but uncommon among younger women – and it’s also a status symbol and means something different. Aside from the Amish, there’s also the Hutterites – they’re similar in many respects. We also have Independant Fundamentalist Baptists who don’t believe in head-covering, but they do forbid women from having short hair because of the same verses (1 Cor. 11’s first half) say that a woman’s long hair is given to her in place of a head covering.

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  3. By the Independant Fundamentalist Baptists as well as by the Fundamentalist Baptists and Conservative Baptists and by the Free (congregational) Baptists the head covering was in the last century obliged but presently when the hair is long enough it is considered also good, though when bold or short hear they still prefer head covering (to our knowledge and certainly in the black community).

    We are bible Students. In the United States you have different groups of Bible Students. Primordially in the States are the International Bible Students, which is a worldwide organisation covering different groups. Further you have the Russelites and the Thomasites. The Thomasites belong to the same main denomination as we (Belgian Christadelphian Bible Students), namely the Christadelphians, in which you may find the Central Christadelphians (or amended), Non-amended Christadelphians, the Old Path, Dawn Christadelphians, Dawn Biblestudents, and us the Christadelphian Bible Students a.o..

    Many of our members do come from the non-trinitarian Baptists, where in the previous century head-covering for women was also normal (In the USA, Canada, Europe Australia and New Zealand). Because of the Southern Baptist Union becoming stronger and closing up the ranks more, thousands of non-trinitarians left the Baptists to become Jehovah’s Witnesses, Church of God, Church of Abrahamic Faith, Nazarene Friends, Biblestudents, Restoration Church members or Christadelphians. In all those groups still today you may find services where the women at service have their heads covered.

    You may call all the above ultraconservative denominations but it are people who prefer to keep to the Law of God and not to human dogma’s, like a.o. the Trinity. Because of their thorough Bible study some may take some Bible verses to strictly or prefer to do it like the Hebrew times, some even following many Jewish regulations (Messianic Jews, Messianic Christians, Church of God)

    Our denomination based on the teachings of the early English Biblestudent John Thomas (hence for some the name Thomasites) the founder of the Christadelphians and on the teachings of some of his pupils like Roberts and Charles Taze Russell, the founder of the American branch of Bible Students. The most well-known schism group of that group is the the organisation of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, better known as the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

    All of those mentioned have very similar teachings and in their groups have conservative, liberal and more free groups, except the Jehovah’s Witnesses which all over the world require the American way of conservative dressing.

    In our denomination in Belgium we are very liberal, having services in rooms, private houses, congress rooms, halls, public places and also in plain air, with formal dress as well as in easy clothes or what we call Summer wear. We even do not mind holding prayer meetings in swimwear (contemporary swimming or bathing trunks or bikini) on the beach or in a sunny warm environment. But as we said in some of our churches there are still women who like covering as well. At the beach they would wear a full bathing costume and a modern burkini would also be fashionable – many non-believers in God do forget that you can buy very posh beautiful fashionable garments).

    Bible students believe that there is only One true God, Who has sent His son to the world to bring salvation. This son of man, who is the son of God, is Jeshua, Jesus Christ the Messiah, who managed to do the Will of God and did not fall for temptation. He died for the sins of all and was resurrected from the dead by his heavenly Father, Who took him to become a high-priest and mediator between God and man.
    We look forward to Jesus’ return which shall come after the Third World War or Armageddon, which is part of the End-times we shall have to face.

    We would recommend you to have a look at the Bible Students in your surroundings and to have a look at our website as on others of the different Bible Students.

    In any case we do hope we could shed already some light on our denomination.

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    1. Sounds similar to the unitarian position. I’ve only attended trinitarian churches, so I haven’t been taught anything about non-trinitarian teachings. One thing I care deeply about is the equality of men and women – would you say that your denomination has just as many women among it’s leadership as it does the men? While women can wear burkhinis, are men also expected to be just as covered up?

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      1. If men would love to cover themselves they also may do so. Men may also wear a wetsuit.

        Please do not confuse a burkini with a burka, which many people seem to do.

        Concerning women teaching. You must know that women do become to be the majority in Europe, so like over here you would have more women teachers and women meeting than male. For certain actions, like the breaking of the bread, the male person is still the main figure presenting the words of Christ.

        When no man is available a woman can do this act as well.

        Please look at the first century church where you also had women giving the Bible study and holding meetings at their house.

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      2. Burka is just a traditional head covering, a burkini is similar to the old fashioned full-length 1900s style swimsuits that were common before shorter fashions took hold plus it has a head covering as well.
        Southern Baptists have pretty much entirely nailed shut the door on women participating visibly in leading church – they can sing and that’s pretty much it.

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      3. The burka is more than just a traditional head covering it is also taking the face away from visibility.

        And concerning the burkini you are right to compare them to the old fashioned swimwear of our grandparents and parents (in my case).

        It was the way the American Southern Baptists were moving to a regulating conservative (oppressing) body that made so many leave the Baptists.

        for those who previously have been Baptists in their churches women were very good leaders in singing but also in praising, and dancing.

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      4. That’s right, I was confusing it with a hijab. There’s more than one kind of traditional head covering in Islam. My friends at: http://www.headcoveringmovement.com/ don’t really care what kind of head covering that women wear, just as long as they wear them and believe in the subordination of women to their husbands – which really doesn’t speak to the lives of single believers but they don’t seem to matter in too many churches these days.

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  4. Hi Jamie, interesting post… While it is true men have a leadership role in the Southern Baptist demonination, they also have a greater responsibility. They are commanded to “love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her.” My thinking is this is commanded to teach us how leadership and servanthood go hand in hand. I’m still not real clear on the head covering …

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    1. That thinking tends to make women and singles as secondary and less important than married men… and why I departed from the denomination. Does it hold water today? I don’t think God needs male men as go-betweens Him and the Church, nor is the greater responability permanent as if some flaw exists in women even 2,000 years after the verse was written and still applies. I think it was a temporary concession to a patriarchal country that wasn’t ready for egalitarian values.

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      1. Do you see leaders as ‘go-betweens’s? I haven’t thought of that nor have I viewed my own position as inferior. I think part of it has to do with childbearing. A woman had to feed the infants and was therefore responsible for most childcare. She was prevented from serving as a leader during much of her life. That would not include single women, however. I do know there were prophetess in the OT and in the New Testament church, women had prominent roles. Child rearing is ,also, highly regarded in some societies. I think it is of supreme importance! For some reason, I have never felt inferior.

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      2. Put yourself in the shoes of a single, never-married, child-free thirty-something adult. The only day women are celebrated is mother’s day – something from which she’s excluded. In the women’s Bible study, they’ve opted to work through one about marriage – something which excludes her. Later on, she is informed that there was a “head of household” meeting last week where the pastor “represented” her and the other single women because only men were permitted to attend the meeting and she’s not technically the head of her own household just because she’s a woman. Her interests lie in Church history and the cultural context of Scripture – but because she’s not permitted to teach men, she can’t share what she knows. She can teach boys up to twelve years old if they haven’t been baptized but that’s pretty much it.
        You, on the other hand, are presumably not just a wife and a mother, but also a grandmother. You’ve reached the highest status possible for a regular person. You’re celebrated every mother’s day and there’s not a Bible study you could do that wouldn’t benefit from your experience and wisdom on the matter. Your aspirations and goals fit exactly with what they expect of you, so there’s nothing you feel that you’re missing. You’re not excluded as a matter of course.

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      3. I do not want to be insensitive to your life experiences. Having not walked there, I can’t fully know. In our church, women can teach women and I know Nancy DeMoss wrote excellent books and Bible study courses. I suppose, we need to pray for better understanding and ask the Lord to help us grasp His purpose in these precepts He established. May He bless you in your service. Perhaps we should have a day to celebrate single women. We do celebrate widows in our church, but it should be done everywhere.

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      4. Looking at her “True Woman” manifesto – she’s no different than most holding the Complementarian position – to her, God’s ideal is for all women to marry and to submit to her husband no matter what. Being single is a time of marriage preparation and when God thinks a woman is ready, he’ll introduce her to the one. Her only purpose is to be a wife and a mother, and outside of that, she’s not living the ideal life. Her books are designed to teach these things, not outright state them, never – but point people in that direction. Singleness is a disease that marriage cures in their book.

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  5. Yes, headcovering is on my radar. As much as we are inclined to ask why? We should also contemplate: Why not? Women around here who are Amish, or Old German Baptist Brethren, wear their hair up in a bun and covered in a Kapp when they are in public. Some Catholics wear the pretty lace mantila headscarves. Ukrainian Orthodox Christians have a traditional headcovering for church, and of course the Muslim hijab is the headcovering most people are aware of. The bottom line is: Don’t knock it until you try it.

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    1. I’m fine if individuals want to cover their own heads; I just don’t want somebody to make it a blanket rule that every woman has to abide by just because they’re female. I just don’t think I have a hat-wearing or head-covering gene. I also don’t like the secondary reason: a head covering a visible symbol of a woman’s submission to the male head who has authority over her; whereas men don’t seem to need a symbol of their submission to Christ who has authority over them. The woman in the original article believed that she would be disobeying God to reveal her hair, her glory, to others. Sometimes people can add layer upon layer to ancient ideas and make much more of it than originally intended.

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