As the sun sets on the final weeks in this final month and we reflect on 2013 for its headline-makers and memorable events, it should also be recognized as The Year of Condemnable Christian Fashion because, most notably, Megan Good showed too much cleavage and Erica Campbell (above) showed one too many curves for y’all liking.
Commentary about the former’s now-infamous BET Awards dress almost broke Black Twitter and the release of the latter’s album cover test photo fired up the saints across the interwebs. Under different circumstances but with similar reaction, the preacher’s wife and the gospel singer found themselves standing directly under fire and brimstone being rained down upon them by the militant arm of Team Jesus.
Let me be perfectly clear about two things: 1) I love the Lord and 2) if the Creator had the audacity to carve out a brickhouse figure on me like he did on both of them, I would wear spandex dresses to the farmers market, to get my taxes done, to pick up the dry cleaning, to the family cookout, to walk to the mailbox at the end of the driveway. You couldn’t get me out of lycra, especially—especially—after I’d had a couple of kids.
Any woman who can produce several small humans and still look like good work in a figure-hugging outfit sans Photoshop gets a slow clap and a standing ovation from me. Get. It. Girls.
More seriously, if there was anyone watching the fallout unfold who had been uncertain about whether to join a church or give their lives over to God, I’m sure that was all they needed to put that decision on ice, and I can’t say I blame them. There are some popular reasons why so many people hesitate about becoming Christians or linking up with a body of believers:
1. They think they need to be perfect and assume it’s far less intimidating to not even try rather than to make the attempt and fall short
2. They want to get all of their fun out of their systems and have all of their good times before they seek salvation
3. They’ve either had a bad church experience in the past or they get the distinct feeling that they’ve got one coming, so they stay outside where the world is much more receptive
4. They think they’ll be judged for a whole litany of things, not the least of which is what they wear
I grew up in the AME church as one of those every Sunday little girls who had the do’s and don’ts of proper attire pressed upon me, so everything I wore was well above the bustline and well below the knee, but I was effectively delivered from that a long time ago.
I love the Black church, Lord knows I do, and I also think there’s a time and a place for certain types of clothing. But we can be so doggone regimented and laser-focused on the wrong things, which includes doing an excellent job of keeping women boxed in by loosely interpreted scriptures and old-as-Moses precepts that assert the flesh of a woman in a low-cut blouse or miniskirt is the stuff that topples nations. Acceptable church lady attire has much less to do with the Lord and much more to do with not tempting the men of the house.
It’s disheartening to see two gorgeous, accomplished women come under other folks’ impassioned scrutiny because of what they’ve worn as members of the kingdom rather than taking a look at what they contribute to it. It is very possible to be saved and wear a low-cut blouse or a fitted gown. You can even sing a song about the Lord in one, and it won’t interrupt your Jesus love not even one little bit. We have to present Christianity in a way that makes it more functional for real life and less holier-than-thou.
If we’re really about celebrating the skin we’re in, that includes the fullness of our sexuality and not assigning ourselves to the equivalent of a sequined burlap sack. It means being free to show the bodies that the good Lord gave us in a way that doesn’t embarrass our kids, future grandkids or ourselves. The clothing may be sexy, but the condemnation isn’t.
Janelle Harris is a writer, blogger and editor, and the owner of The Write or Die Chick , a boutique editorial services agency. She’s also a single mother, a proud Washington, DC girl and a longsuffering Kanye West fan. Chat her up on Facebook or Twitter.