Last month someone in Pearland, Texas, posted a photo on social media that was taken of a woman during a worship service. She asked if the dress the other woman was wearing was appropriate for church. That question not only exploded all over Facebook but was also highlighted on the online version of the Houston Chronicle.
My wife decided to write a letter to the editor about all of this, including the way the Chronicle decided to handle it. Since her letter was never published, I offer it here:
To the Editor of the Chronicle:
I am writing in reference to the article titled “Pearland woman asks if dress is too sexy for church,” which ran on August 27, 2015. The article described a photo which was reportedly taken in a Pearland church and then widely disseminated on social media with a survey about whether the woman who was the subject of the photo was dressed appropriately for church. The woman who shared, and presumably took, the photo, was not the subject in question. Rather, she was asking about someone else’s attire. The article featured the photo in question.
Instead of asking the questions of why this photo was distributed so widely, and why it has captured our collective attention, the Chronicle instead polled its readers about whether the woman’s dress was appropriate church attire.
I see several problems with this approach. Instead of asking the questions of why someone’s dress is appropriate, I would have liked the Chronicle to examine why one worshipper’s attire is important or even relevant to other worshippers’ experience, much less how it might be relevant to your general reading audience. Furthermore, the piece makes the Chronicle an active participant in the shaming culture surrounding women’s dress.
I believe that all people should be welcome in church, regardless of their appearance. I believe that we are made in the image of God. I believe that church should not be a place of shaming or gossip, but a place of inclusion, love, welcome, and peace.
On that note, I invite your readers to come sit by me at church on Sunday, at Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church. We welcome all, in the name of Jesus, who welcomed the broken, fallen, messy outcasts.
I’m proud of Carrie for taking the risk of sharing with others what she believes about the community that gathers in the name of Jesus. It’s not usually what is portrayed in the media or in the loud, angry voices that bully and belittle others.
Maybe you have always wanted to write a letter to the editor about some profound issue or dangerous potholes or even pesky raccoons. This is your chance to express that serious or silly thought in haiku. Create your one verse with five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the third line. Then share it here. Of course, you’re also more than welcome to share your thoughts in either haiku or old fashioned prose about the notion of ecclesiastical fashion police:
They sat with Jesus —
tax collectors and sinners.
He welcomes us still.