Sunday 29 October 2006

The veil amongst Christians

The head scarf debate

As we settle into what would be a debate for a long time in the West about head scarves, veils, the hijab, coverings and exposures, I remember quite poignantly that this debate has been around for quite a while.

Some 20-something years ago, this debate was going around in evangelical circles, this was not just contentious but frustrating that what was so explicitly discussed in the Bible still left some selecting what they wanted to believe to support their prejudices.

Not, only so, people of other religions also select portions of biblical scripture to support their views completely out of context of the truth that was being portrayed.

Selecting Bible choice cuts

In the Bible, 1 Corinthians 11:3-16 (King James Version), gives the complete low-down on this issue, but it would take an open mind and fresh eyes to appreciate the context and direction of this passage.

The keys to this discourse are in verses 3 and 16, but the 3rd verse usually gets misunderstood and the 16th verse conveniently left out of the discourse for reasons I can never understand.

I would take particular verses and break them down for the purposes of furthering this debate, there are other meanings with regards to relationships in here, which I would not cover, but I would clearly contextualise because it is used to foster abuse.

Separating every man from the husband

3 But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.

What we need to note here is the article and possession, it says the head of every man is Christ, however, NOT that the head of every woman is man.

The woman using the definite article pertains to a single woman in relationship to a man, her husband. Every man anywhere cannot just lord it over any woman, he can only do that, in a relationship that is a marriage.

In another blog, on the more emotive issue of wife-battering, I covered how the husband has to be as selfless as Christ to be able to exercise any kind of authority where they believe themselves to masters of their homes and be able to throw their weight around the place.

What is clear is a woman outside the relationship of marriage automatically has Christ as her head, when she has her man, the dynamic of headship changes to her husband.

It is a difficult one, but man in general consists first of male and female; in this case, there is no conferment of the complete servitude of the female sex to any to every man born on earth – it would be illogical.

Traditions and customs might support this dynamic of making all women in society less of the male, but it is not supported in Christianity to give man husband-status to every woman except his truly wedded wife.

Who covers whom?

4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.

Here, it is clear that this refers to man as male.

5 But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.

This uses every woman, but the possibility of two heads, if unmarried, her head is Christ and if married her head is her husband – NOT every man.

6 For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.

If a woman would not cover her head, she should shave, but if shaving is considered a shame, she should then cover her head.

7 For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.

Once again, the definite article is here, the woman (wife) is the glory of the man (husband). We do not go around presenting every woman as our wife, rather, there is one woman who takes that pride of place, and we adorn her and present her with pride and honour her with love and devotion.

8 For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man.

9 Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.

This takes us back to the Adam and Eve story, where Eve was crafted from the rib of Adam as his helper and companion. The definite article also features here – the man (husband) and the woman (wife).

The woman’s prerogative

10 For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.

Now, this fouls up every authority man tries to exercise over the woman because it says it is the prerogative of the woman to decide on whether to cover her head or not. There is no duty of man to impose this on the woman.

This is usually read as the man ought to have power of the head of every woman and force them to appear in a wifely role or subservient role.

For many, the Scripture ENDS here, reading any further is too inconvenient.

Co-dependence of the sexes and equality

11 Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.

12 For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.

Equality in the church and equality before God, so where did all this male domination come from?

So, no one would like to read beyond verse 10 because to serious home truths break down the male domination fortress.

13 Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?

Well, this is question of traditions and customs; there are places where women can be covered and others where woman do not get covered – debate.

The long hair day

14 Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?

Touch̩ Рmen with long hair have no say in this matter, they need to deal with their issues.

15 But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.

Oh! Apostle Paul does begin to complicate issues by clarifying them. There is a separation between the head and the hair introduced from verse 14 and the reference is now to long hair.

It appears, if a woman has long hair, she already has a covering for her head – it is a no-brainer that hair does grow out of the head - she does not need an artificial covering like a scarf.

Well, why do we have all this fuss about scarves when the hair already covers the head?

16 But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.

If this becomes a contentious topic, drop it, we have not taken on any traditions or customs of head covering, hair covering or even male domination – it is not the way of the church.

And all the men say … Amen!

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