I wear jeans to church


So I came across Twitter pal Bear Cherian’s blog this week. Through his blog, I discovered a whole world of South Indian Twitterers/bloggers. Good to know. I’ve been intensely curious about South Indian culture ever since I joined a new church last April. Plus, it turned out my church almost booked Bear’s band a couple months ago. Small world. Anyway, so on his blog , Bear asks an interesting question: “What are you wearing…?”

He writes, “This is just a “poll” of sorts to get some perspective on your views. It’s for something I’m working on, which I hope to let you all see/read soon.”The jist of his poll is this: Do you wear jeans to church? I wanted to comment, but my thoughts were too scattered. This topic is too fresh, too close-to-home. It warrants a rant.

Here goes:

Desi culture tends to be far more conservative than American culture in general. That’s the understatement of the year. Desi culture is all about respect for your elders. Respect for traditions. Respect. Respect. Respect. And I get that, I really do. But sometimes (stay calm, PG), it goes a little too far.

Take for instance the time I sent an email to my youth group. I abbreviated the word “Pastor.” I wrote “Pr.” I got in trouble. I didn’t really get in trouble. But I got chastised. Because anything other than writing out the word is considered disrespectful. I didn’t know that. South Indian culture is not quite my culture. Pakistani culture is pretty close.  I miss nuances and probably violate a number of cultural practices unknowingly. But I’m trying to learn. Because I want to be a better communicator. (It doesn’t help that I’m outspoken and female. Not good. Right now, I pretty much follow a culture of my own making. Phillygrrl culture.  I’m young and impatient. I’ll learn. Not.)

At the same time, I can be a dress snob when I want to be. I don’t remember wearing sweat pants in public during college. Ever. I’ve always dressed up more than my peers. I like to dress up. I like to dress up for church. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy going to church. It’s a soothing social ritual that gives me the chance to wear shoes I don’t normally wear. (There are other reasons, relax.)

But in the past year, since I stopped going to my old church (where I always wore Indian dress or formal dresses/skirts), I’ve started wearing jeans to church. Why? Because I have a life. Because when it comes down to going to church dressed casually or not going, I’d rather go in jeans. Life is hectic. If I can get to church on time, I really don’t care what I’m wearing. I try not to look like an ogre, but that’s besides the point. (Came across another great blog which lists churches across the world that allow one to wear jeans.)

That’s one of the reasons I’ve felt so comfortable in this new church. We can all wears jeans and not be judged. Part of the reason I never became Mennonite is their emphatic obsessiveness with women’s clothing. Conservative Mennonite women can’t cut their hair. They have to wear veils. They can’t wear any pants, let alone jeans. It’s rigid. But now I can wear jeans. To church. That’s freedom.

When you’re a little kid, your parents dress you up for church/synagogue/mosque/etc. When you’re an adult, you’re busy. You have college/grad-school/career/job to worry about. You have to balance a social life with all of that. With youth across America losing interest in religion as we speak, if a conservative immigrant church based in America is petty enough to sneer upon their kids for wearing jeans, then they should also be aware that come 10 years, those same kids won’t be there.

So I guess my answer is, yes. I wear jeans to church. And yes that’s integrating American culture with desi culture. But sometimes, one has to compromise.

(I probably should’ve just argued that jeans are a lot more dressy/formal now than they were 10 years ago. Moot point. It didn’t work with my mom, and I showed her a Vogue cover. Sigh.)

Can’t wait to read your post, Bear! Keep us updated :)


11 responses to “I wear jeans to church

  1. It’s not just Desi churches. I don’t think I’ve ever been to Black church where people were wearing Jeans.

    But then again, it’s been a long time since I’ve been to a black church.

  2. i wore jeans to church in Cali. even shorts and a tall tee. but i guess here jesus wants u to dress up. whatever happened to “come as you are”?

  3. Nice Blogg (Really appreciate it)
    One thing is ,that Jeans & America go hand in hand…. so go ahead & be proud of it. Its not that getting all tied up in Saris,Shalwar Kameez & atleast 2 kilograms of jewelary,will make u more near to God in Some way…
    So ,Next Time u wear Jeans to Church ,just Trust in Ur Heart ,that God doesnt go by ur Garb

  4. lol…. to wear jeans or not to wear jeans. Why are things like this even an issue in Churches? Should be just happy that people that ppl wear clothes :)

  5. I like to wear a tie and jacket, sometimes even a suit, to church. I see it as a sign of respect, rather than an obigation (and, when I get home, I usually don’t change, which gives me an excuse to do minimal chores on Sundays).

    Most of the persons who attend my little Methodist church dress up, at least some. Men usually wear ties and jackets, women skirts or nice slacks.

    But, if someone shows up in jeans, no one thinks twice about it.

    When I was growing up in the 1950s and 60s, everyone in my little country Baptist church wore their Sunday go to meeting clothes to go to Sunday meeting. They would even dress up for the quarterly business meeting and club meetings.

    In contrast, when I attended Catholic churches (I was married to a Catholic), persons commonly tended to wear “business casual” or even jeans. I have read (but I do not know how true it is) that this dates from the urban working class immigrant heritage of the American Catholic church. In its earlier years, many of its members just couldn’t afford Sunday go to meeting clothes.

    Frankly, I don’t think it matters all that much. Church is for the person, not for the wardrobe. Respectful behavior exists just as easily in Target jeans and in Mens Wearhouse pinstripes.

  6. OK, so this is a great topic.
    First off, yes–most churches across cultures have some sort of formal dress that is “understood.” We have to remember, however, that this is the Western Church ideal, church as a social event. Technically speaking, people should wear what they normally wear day to day to a service of worship, unless that service involves some sort of sacrament, like baptism (and usually the church, according to the tradition, will often provide some sort of “special” dress). People were never expected to change to “church clothes” in the early church after Jesus’ death. This concept, once again, is a phenomenon of Western ideals and goes as far back as Romanticism. Ouch.
    So it sucks for younger people who hate things that force them to “respect” something their parents and elders are quite ignorant about anyway. I am an ordained minister and have worked in various denominations. I will always tell people to come to worship wearing whatever they normally wear. God, at least in my view, doesn’t ask for respect, but love and compassion. If God sees the heart, why do we care so much about what we wear on the outside?

  7. hmm, Interesting to see how it’s such an issue. At my temple I generally wear whatever I wan’t. If I happen to be in jeans, so be it. Generally I like to pair it iwth something Indian like a kurti, because I can :P. I definitely fit in regardless.

    There’s not much judging going on.

    In my defense, god is omniprescent right? If I wear salvar/ dress pants to temple, then I should be wearing it everywhere!

  8. Cyril, I think you have the best argument so far, haha.

  9. On the other hand… I know some people who have a very good reason as to why they usually come all dressed up to church.

    What would you do if you had an appointment with the Queen or the President for that matter. You would most probably try to dress up the best you can. So much more these people want to dress up when they come into the house of God to present themselves to the King of kings and the Lord of lords. That sounds very reasonable to me. They should come all dressed up in their best.

    The problem only arises when others are forced to do the same.

  10. Yes, Jesus wants us to ‘come as we are’ but we should not stay as we are. Christianity is useless if it does not produce any fruit. In the Seventh-day Adventist Church, on the Sabbath (the seventh day of the week) it is considered a Holy (sanctified) day. Therefore we do things differently on that day. We eat differently we speak differently, we dress differently. Our Church in general has not embraced cultural relativism like the other churches, and yes I’ve even worn Jeans to church (and the only time i wear those jeans is when I go to church) it is not so much the fabric that is the issue but the issue is how much does being in the House of the Lord matter to you? Is it just one thing on a checklist or something more? Should it require any special effort on your part? The main thing here are intentions. And people like to see when someone made a special effort at church.

  11. Pingback: snap crackle pop | solbar - napa valley

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s