With many fashion boutiques cropping up and religious ministries also following suit, the debate about religion and dressing is getting hotter. Most people should remember how at one time PHD Ministries founder and prominent prophet Walter Magaya, upon “converting” raunchy dancer Beverly Sibanda to leave her secular ways and attend his ministry, had to not only buy her “decent” clothes but also went an extra mile by opening a fashion boutique for her in Harare’s CBD.But all this went up in flames after Bev ended up pointing arrows at her “Spiritual Father” over allegations that bordered on washing dirty linen in public.
A long time ago, tongues were also sent wagging after another top female artiste, Fungisai Zvakavapano-Mashavave, courted controversy over her dressing which some people deemed unfit for Christian personality and public persona. While the diva was moving with times, and also trying to create her identity, she was hammered left, right and centre.
But today, Fungisai — whose talent has since taken her to new levels by incorporating fashion designing into her art folder — has come up with designs emulated by many women who want to be associated with their identity.
But the issue of dressing has always generated a lot of debate across all spheres of life.
In the office, social, political and religious spheres, people have always had their views on how people should dress and the etiquette and appropriateness befitting such-mentioned.
The dressing of Biblical times was different from what we wear today. Both men and women wore a loose, woollen, robe-like cloak or mantle as an outer garment. It was fastened at the waist with a belt or sash.
A tunic or coat, a long piece of cloth, leather or haircloth with holes for arms and head, was worn under the cloak.
The difference between men’s and women’s clothing was small but distinctive. In addition, men often wore a turban to confine their hair, and women of some cultures wore a veil.
According to the Bible, “A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this,” (Deuteronomy 22:5).
No one knows for sure whether this prohibition was intended as a general principle or was directed at some specific abuse among the ancient Hebrews. Cross-dressing was likely considered an affront to the natural distinction between the se_xes.
It may also have been related to some deviant se_xual practice, or more likely, to pagan worship. It is known that some pagan rituals of that time involved women wearing armour and men dressing as women, and the Hebrews were forbidden to do anything that had even the appearance of pagan worship.
Some people think this verse would prohibit women from wearing pants because pants have traditionally been worn by men. But, in light of the similarity of men’s and women’s clothing in Biblical times and the fact that pants were not worn by either se_x at that time, that conclusion would be difficult to justify.
On the traditional religious side, the Fichani twins who walked on the streets of Harare only with pieces of animal skin cloth covering their front privates were deemed as out of their minds.
While the Fichani twins were immediately whisked away owing to their ‘bizarre’ dressing, recent years have witnessed the likes of the Samba Girls strolling down the streets not only of their country Brazil but also in Zimbabwe during the Carnival episode in semi-nude dressing that sent some of the self-proclaimed religious believers — Christians among them — rushing to have a glimpse!
“This is the kind of hypocrisy is what we are witnessing in today’s church whereby church leaders are now ineffectual when it comes to chiding their flock regarding their kind of dressing.
Too earthly have church leaders and their flock become to such an extent that each and every service they hold will not be a success without an element of indecent dressing in it,” observed one Christian.
Gospel musician and church elder Shepherd Shamu noted that some of the dressing that is being witnessed in the modern-day church — especially these sprouting ministries — is not acceptable as it can distract people from the purpose of worship.
He cited cases of ladies of the night who are flocking to some of these ministries only in pursuit of financial benefit yet lacking in faith and commitment to God’s issues.
“These ladies, if you are observant, have cultivated a habit of going to these ‘minana’ or miracle churches dressed in similar fashion to what they do when they are soliciting for clients. But when you revert back to the Bible, you will learn that this is part of some of the behaviour that Jesus Christ denounced when he saw some people turning the House of God upside-down into a money-spinning venue.
These people should seek God first and everything else will come later rather for them to taint the reputation of the church by dressing semi-nude before hundreds or thousands of people. This is akin to bringing the devil into the church,” advised Shamu.
Talking of dressing, the likes of The African Apostolic Church (Mwazha followers) — which is an apostolic sect — have always been on the receiving end for their strict form of dressing: tuck-in and buttons-up right to the collar of the shirt while the ladies also do the same with their blouses and skirts.
“There is so much in dressing. No one would want to introduce a woman in a miniskirt to his parents or relatives as a potential and be accepted as compared to one who brings in a decently-dressed one,” said Tendai Maphosa of UFIC.
Last Thursday night Zimpraise choir hosted a fashion fiesta dubbed ‘Fashion Meets Gospel’ where prolific stylists, fashion gurus, designers and socialites attended in a bid to discuss on what is the proper dressing for church and is there limit to fashion when it comes to church?
Zimpraise boss Joseph Madziyire said fashion is everywhere and should be embraced.
“When it comes to church and fashion, try wearing something that glorifies the Lord.
Clothes should define you and we should shift from the norm that long dresses are for the church, I am not saying women should wear mini skirts to church but we should try move with the times, trendy and something that can be respected,” he said. Madziyire said women should be modesty and trendy.
“For guys obvious you have to be formal if you want to get the respect not that in a t-shirt you can’t get it but what you need to consider is since your body is the temple, make sure you cover it elegantly,” he said.
Our culture, in tandem with our Christian upbringing have always told us that there are certain values that should be respected when it comes to dressing, marriage and other norms.
“How can I go church with a person who has a reputation of dressing indecently six days of the week and only to dress properly on Sunday when we are attending church service?” lamented one local designer.
And as the issue of etiquette and cleanliness being closer to God, there are fashion houses that have emerged to plug the gap that Christians and other believers have always faced in terms of proper dressing.
Some people are maximising on their church attendance to do business by receiving orders from fellow congregates who like such and such is fashion tastes and designs, ranging from the preacher himself and his wife to the who-is-who personality in the front seat.
Such is the modern church and you begin to wonder whether it is still about worshipping God or material things of this world.