Dear Dottie: What’s All This About “Head Coverings?!?”
I’ve noticed that you wear hats during worship services and it sparked my curiosity. Do you wear them because of 1 Corinthians 11’s command that women should cover their heads in church? I must confess I’ve always been a little confused about that passage. Does the Bible command that we should wear head coverings in church? Does it mean that my hair must be a certain length? I know this must mean something for me as a woman today or God wouldn’t have said it – but what? Thank you for your help!
Yes, indeed I do love my hats! I began wearing hats in my teen years on special occasions and then became more serious during my college years. I was really bitten with the bug during our years in Fayetteville, Arkansas, when one of our parishioners introduced me to a seamstress who had been a milliner in her earlier years. When I had an ensemble made in the spring and fall, she always designed a matching hat, and I loved the finished look that this ultimate accessory provided. As the years went by and we moved to Dallas, my hat collection grew rapidly as many ladies in First Baptist Church stopped wearing their hats. Rather than casually discard them, they would pass them along to me. I would purchase a dress to go with the spectacular hat! Only then, during the almost two decades we were in Dallas, did I begin to realize that my love for hats might have theological implications.
In a careful study of 1 Corinthians 11, the principle of a husband’s headship in the home is absolutely clear and in harmony with other passages in both the Old and New Testaments, though the symbol of that authority—and thus its application—can vary over the generations. Perhaps most basic to this application is the Genesis account of the creation order, which presents male and female as both created in the image of God but with distinct assignments and roles. This begins with men who dress and behave as men and women who dress and behave as women. Both a man and a woman willingly accept respectively their appropriate roles and responsibilities and embrace willingly their own respective purposes for glorifying God and serving Him. Though our modern culture takes pride in reversing roles and blurring lines given from the divine order, Scripture affirms the danger in such behavior.
For Paul, the covered head was the symbol of a wife’s submission to her own husband—much as a wedding ring in the modern era identifies a woman as married. To reject this public acknowledgement of the husband’s headship and wife’s submission to that headship was a disgrace that could be equal to a woman’s having a shorn head as in the first century would have indicated shame and dishonor.
There is no prejudice toward women but rather an affirmation of the priority of the man as being created first and an application of the authority assigned to him in the creation order.
Now, for how this passage affects me and my hats, let me go back to my teen years. I have always loved hats. I believe that they are the ultimate accessory in setting off an outfit. Even through my young adult years, I always took my dress or suit with me to shop for shoes, purse, and hat. I wanted all to coordinate into the perfect ensemble. As the years rolled along, hats became a trademark—a branding for me. For my husband, children, and friends, my hat made me easy to find in a crowded auditorium. My daughter firmly believes that my hats hide a multitude of sins—she knows that I am not skilled in doing hair!. That is the practical side of the coin. However, I also believe that the Lord may gently guide us even in our preferences to accomplish his purposes; and my love for hats may be just such an example. In wearing hats—and doing so happily—perhaps I send yet another testimony of my joy in marriage and my commitment to stand under the authority of my husband. Despite my academic training, possibly even my giftedness or opportunity, I choose to show in every way that I gladly embrace the role that the Lord has given to me as a wife and mother—and a woman in the church, and I want to bear that testimony publicly.
Is my own personal testimony a mandate for every woman? Most certainly not! As I mentioned earlier, the principle is unchanging and not to be adjusted or ignored for any reason, but the application is just that. Every woman must determine how she is going to apply the principle in her own life so that the Lord is glorified and her own testimony enhanced!
Dorothy Kelley Patterson serves as the First Lady and Professor of Theology in Women’s Studies at Southwestern Seminary. She has authored numerous books and articles including, Where’s Mom: The High Calling of Wives and Mothers, and A Woman Seeking God: Discover God in the Places of Your Life. One of Mrs. Patterson’s greatest joys is hospitality! She loves to cook and is known for her family’s famous “Kelley biscuits.”
*”Dear Dottie” is a featured, monthly column from Dorothy Kelley Patterson (aka – Dottie!). If you have a question for Dottie, please email us at email@example.com!