Butt Naked
Off The Wall, March 26, 2010

Three members of the Forbes Trail Chapter of Trout Unlimited were presented prestigious award recently at the 37th Annual Last year, during the summer months, my wife and I decided to take our son, Aaron and his friend to a nice restaurant to eat. He suggested we visit a place in a nearby town and so we motored there. After fighting traffic, we arrived, departed from the car and approached the front door of this eatery. Posted on the window was a sign – “Shirts With Ties Only.” The message was clear. We had to find some place else to eat.

I was reminded of another little story. While attending Oakmont High School, I would often shop with my mother in the town’s business district. Upon exiting our vehicle, she would quickly look me over. If my shirt was not tucked into my pants, she would exclaim, “Paul, you look indecent!”

Also, I remember visiting a local funeral home a number of years ago to pay my respects to the family of Sam Bucus. As I stood in line, men, women and even children passed me all suited and dressed as one may has described as one’s Sunday’s best. I saw no one standing in line wearing Steeler shirts with the number 86, women in short dresses way above their knees, or men clad in crumbled jeans. Even the mourners were dressed in their finest. Were those attending there to show off their wealth as far as attire selection goes, or just maybe, dressing up as a means to show respect to the family?

Because of my curiosity, I decided to pick a popular place, the church, and email a questionnaire to many in my address book. What I wanted to know was one’s denomination, gender, and whether he or she believed one should or should not dress up to go to church. I think I hit a sensitive spot, because I got avalanched. Return-wise, 53% were opposed to dressing up, and 47 % felt one should wear formal attire. Females responding amounted to 73%, males 27%, Protestants, 60% and Catholics, 40%.

Here is what some people pointed out. “If everyone had had to dress up for church, that may be cutting the poor people out…” “Many do wear clothes I couldn’t afford, but I feel comfortable in my Sunday clothes.” “…most people can’t afford nice clothes.” Or, “It’s simple, poor people, without shoes, are welcome to celebrate Mass. I do think that ‘appropriate attire’ means not shocking, but I would think that The Lord would be glad you are there ‘if you were butt-naked’, SO, what you wear to church doesn’t matter to God.”

On the flip side of the coin, Kay Golean of Houston, AZ went into detail: “I’m not sure that people today attribute any meaning to the clothing they wear, or if they do, they don’t admit it. There doesn’t seem to be a sense of appropriate clothing for appropriate occasions or of style or types of clothing as disrespectful in certain situations. I think it’s a desirable thing to want to dress your very best to give glory to God. At the same time, if the dress issue inhibits or detracts from the experience at Mass, up to a point, I think it should take a backseat. However, the modern lack of recognition of the sacred often leads to not merely informal dress, but clothing the sight of which is embarrassing and distracting to other churchgoers.” Thank you, Kay!

Some others - “I think dressing up shows your respect for both the Church and God. I think you have a different attitude when you’re dressed up, it’s something special, and not just another thing to do.” “I don’t understand – if we get dressed up for a gala or to meet an important person, but not for God…” and, “Being clean and wearing good clothes is a sign of respect for the Lord. Casual clothes (jeans, T-shirts, shorts) can be acceptable while on vacation where you might be limited to what you can pack, but as a rule, they are also inappropriate. If you wear these clothes to lounge around the house or work in the yard, they are not proper for church. Get off your lazy behind, take a shower and dress properly.”

And yet another – “God is in our hearts, not in a building, so no matter what we wear, he loves us. It’s more important to worship God any way you can or want, rather than worrying about what to wear. Even if you don’t attend church, live your life with respect to others and the world around you everyday.”

OK, here is my take. Parental upbringing has everything to do as to setting the foundation as to how one dresses for church. I was directed to wear a suit to church, funeral home and out to dinner, not to impress others, but because it was the right thing to do. When I go to Church, I am standing amidst the Creator of the World, the King of Kings and the Lord God Almighty. Shouldn’t I look presentable? One need not wear expensive clothes. But as long as one is neat and clean, one is showing respect.

- Paul J. Volkmann
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