R.J. Anderson (rj_anderson) wrote,
R.J. Anderson

Something I read on another blog has been annoying me, and I decided I might as well get it out of my system by ranting about it here.

The person in question was making a sarcastic joke out of the verse in Deuteronomy which reads, "The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God." The joke was to the effect that it was just too bad she was going to go to hell for wearing pants, because the pants she was wearing were really comfy.

OK, I know this person was not trying to start a theological debate. But she was mocking the Bible out of prejudice and encouraging others to do so as well, without even stopping to think about the context of what she was reading. And that's the part that irked me.

Firstly, if you actually read the Bible thoughtfully and responsibly, you will find that the prohibition quoted above was part of a Law given to the nation of Israel, by which they would show themselves to be different from the nations around them, a people specially set apart to God. God and Israel had a covenant -- a two-way agreement -- in which God promised to bless and protect Israel on earth (note, nothing is said about heaven or hell -- that was a separate issue) if they obeyed His Law, and Israel promised to faithfully keep all the laws that God gave them. The Law was meant to teach Israel and the neighbouring nations all kinds of things about how holy and perfect God was, how sinful and imperfect they were, and how much they needed the salvation that only God could provide. As such there were a lot of commandments in the Law that had to do with symbols of holiness and purity and separation -- all part of a divine object lesson, as it were. The above verse, and a lot of other verses frequently mocked and belittled by skeptics, need to be viewed in that context.

Second, think about the kinds of clothes people were wearing back then. There were no such things as pants -- or skirts either -- in those days. People wore robes, long loose robes, and the fashions for men and women were really not that different to the untrained eye. So the issue at stake is not so much what the person was wearing in a structural sense, as why they were wearing it and the desired effect. If a woman deliberately dressed up in men's clothing with the intention of looking like a man, or a man deliberately dressed up on women's clothing with the intention of looking like a woman, God called that sin and a violation of the Law. In short, the Israelites were not to be drag queens (or kings). God wanted Jewish men to look like men and Jewish women to look like women, and not muddle the issue.

Now, you can still disagree with that and call it silly if you like, but it isn't nearly as silly as claiming that the verse says any woman who wears pants is going to hell. Unless you are a Jewish woman (i.e. part of the nation who agreed to receive and obey God's earthly laws in return for earthly blessings), and unless you are deliberately wearing men's clothing in an effort to look like a man, it's not an issue. You're welcome to read other people's mail if you want to, but don't make fun of it when it obviously doesn't apply to you. It wasn't meant to apply to you in the first place.

But verses like this do accomplish one thing: they show how impossible it is for any one of us, Jewish or Gentile, to be perfect enough in every way to earn God's favour. In the end, we can't save ourselves; only God can save us. "Therefore no-one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." (Romans 3:20-24)

Whether you choose to believe any of this or not, at least it's a lot more coherent and a lot less silly than all those snide remarks about women wearing pants made it out to be. And that's basically the point I wanted to make.

Here endeth the lesson. :)
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