Sunday, May 8, 2011

Going to Hell for Fashion, and Other Judgements

Once I went on a missions trip of sorts to Duluth MN when I was in college and living in the United States. It was my mother's idea but I thought it was a great change of pace while visiting home. There were a few people from Finland there to invite locals of Finnish heritage to an evening of Finnish spiritual music. Our motley crew was made up of a former convict, a former drug addict, a former famous singer, a math major who really just wanted to play the piano, me and my mother. We were from different churches there were Baptists and Pentecostals, old and young but we were all Christians and Finnish. We spent a lot of time together and and got to know each other pretty well.

I remember a conversation where, I cannot remember if it was he math major, me or both of us teasing the old people insisting that harps would not be played in heaven because they were pagan instruments played by polytheistic Greeks romping about in various states of undress but the true instrument of heaven was in fact the accordion. I also remember a time he countered their claims of rock music being of the devil that jazz was in fact the music of Satan because it was so sensual. Then he would aggravate the old people by starting to play some old hymn on the piano and jazzing it up. It was all done in good humor and the old people liked the young man exceedingly.

One day while we were driving somewhere in a car the conversation among the older people turned to the fact that everybody in the Tampere Pentecostal Church youth group had dreadlocks. It was big and had many young people but that did not count because they had dreadlocks. That meant they were Rastafarian. I said that it was just a hairstyle and it had to be nothing more, it did not mean they were Rastafarian. One of the older people countered me by stating that it was more than a hairstyle in a way that meant that there was to be no more discussion of it.

I knew they were wrong, very wrong but I was not interested in an argument and I liked all these people, especially the two men with questionable pasts. Still my perception of them became a little colored and my own knowledge in my heart was not shaken that hair was just dead protein. I cannot pretend that this did not in part did not influence in past some of my later choices of hair styles. I spent a few years alternating my hair between shaven and a mohawk. I proved myself to be right. I was not altered with the change in the way I looked. The reactions of other people toward me changed, but I did not. One day I was being cat called and hassled, the next I looked like a 12 year old boy from a distance and was left alone.

What I am trying to get at is many things are labeled as sinful, gateways to sin or signs of sin when there is barely correlation, certainly not causation. When my parents were young, Pentecostals in Finland did not drink alcohol, dance, play cards and the women did not pierce their ears. The root cause was that sometimes these things were associated with activities that the church deemed sinful, and in many cases Bible too, and therefore they became sin by association. Alcohol drinking was all out banned for obvious reasons, overuse of alcohol is a terrible thing and still a wide reaching and real problem in Finnish society. Card playing was out because it was associated with drinking and gambling and such and both are bad when not exercised in strict moderation. Dancing was out because it was seen as a gateway to fornication and a lot of other vises, like drinking, went along with it.

As for pierced ears I am not sure what was bad about them. I suppose they were like the dreadlocks, they looked sinful and had sinful correlations in the minds of people. All I know is that when my mother was newly saved, still fresh and enthusiastic, went to church with tiny pearl studs a woman told her that she could not be saved and wear earnings. She was mortified and took them out for ten years or so. Still, while she does not oppose others wearing earrings she does not feel comfortable wearing them herself.

First Corinthians speaks about this topic. In chapter 8 it states that eating meat that is consecrated to idols is no sin, unless by doing it you lead others astray. In the same way dreadlocks are no sin and neither are earrings. In both cases no one was lead astray, no where in the Bible does it state that incurring the judgment of your brothers and sisters in Christ is a sin. Your sin is ultimately between you and God and outward adornments are not sinful. It does not matter to God nearly as much what we put on or in our bodies as what is in our hearts. If our hearts are for him it does not matter how our hair is done, how many piercings we have or if we enjoy a good game of solitaire while sipping a beer, or what ever. Those things are not sin. Sin happens when your heart turns away from God because it knows you are hurting someone, be that yourself by ripping your liver apart with excessive alcohol or by gambling your family to the poorhouse.

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