Why I Don’t Wear Jeans to Church

The short answer is “because of a British demon.”

As amusing as it would be for me to end there, it wouldn’t be particularly helpful, so I guess I’ll give the long answer too.

But first…

Prominent and Obnoxious Disclaimer: Please, read the title of this post. Note that I didn’t title it, “Why Denim is a Sin,” “Why You Shouldn’t Wear Jeans to Church” or even “Why Not Wearing Jeans To Church Makes Me Slightly More Spiritual Than Everyone Else.” I will explain this more later on. Just wanted to get that out there right away. Please do not flood the comments section with explanations of why it’s okay to dress casually at church. I totally agree. (Or rants about how I’m a conservative, narrow-minded, Wrangler-hatin’ fundametalist trying to impose a legalistic dress code on the entire body of Christ. Please. None of that.)

I don't know of anything that conveys "evil" like this picture.

I don’t know of anything that conveys “evil” like this picture.

I was reading The Screwtape Letters a few years ago, written by C.S. Lewis from the perspective of a delightfully sarcastic demon, when I came across the following quote:

“At the very least, [humans] can be persuaded that the bodily position makes no difference to their prayers; for they constantly forget, what you must always remember, that they are animals and that whatever their bodies do affects their souls.”

Screwtape

That’s it. Right there.

What, you didn’t see it? Missed the clear logic of why I don’t wear jeans to church?

Okay, fine. I’ll explain it to you. In my case, I’ve noticed that what I wear has a big impact on my mental state. The days I wore business casual instead of my pajamas around the house while freelance writing, I got twice the work done. I never came to my college classes in sweats and a T-shirt because I knew I wouldn’t pay as much attention. And if I don’t even dress up as much for church as I do for work, for the daily routine of my life, then I tend not to take it seriously.

There’s something in the routine of wearing “special” clothes that signals my brain that this day is different. This day is a day for rest and worship and prayer. I’m not just going to church to hang out, to absorb the sermon the same way I would kick back with a movie at home.

Am I saying that people who wear jeans to church have that attitude? NO. No, I am not. There is nothing wrong with dressing casually to go to church.

But I think it wouldn’t be the best choice for me because of how it changes the way I worship.

Or I could compromise and wear a dress made out of jeans....

Or I could compromise and wear a dress made out of jeans….

The physical affects the spiritual. That’s the principle. I apply that principle by dressing up to go to church. But it’s going to look different for each person.

It might mean taking a few minutes of silence in your car before the worship service to settle your thoughts. It might mean bringing an old-school Bible to church instead of the one on your phone. It might mean kneeling in prayer. It might mean raising your hands in worship. It might mean not raising your hands in worship even when everyone else is. It might mean singing loudly and not caring who hears or staying silent for a verse or two, treating your Bible with more respect or writing all over its margins, forcing yourself to pray out loud in a group or breaking away for solitude.

But it doesn’t have to mean any of those things. The point is understanding your individual motives and attitudes and knowing how to deal with the ones that come between you and God.

We constantly forget. Screwtape-the-demon had us there. Even after I came to the conclusion that the physical affects the spiritual, I still forgot.

And so I changed seats in chapel so I couldn’t see the guy I had a crush on, because it was harder for me to focus on the message.

And so I tried to go to bed earlier on Saturday nights so I wasn’t falling asleep during church the next morning.

And so I moved to the back row of Gospel Choir because I realized I was performing instead of worshiping.

Because I was suddenly thinking about the “why” behind my actions, and that made all the difference, in way more areas than just the way I dressed to go to church.

Have you thought about it?

And that's just fine. Really.

And that’s just fine. Really.

In the line immediately following the one I first quoted, Screwtape goes on to say, “It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.”

So let this thought in. Toss it around a little. Don’t grab at the first tradition or cool Christian trend you can think of and say that everyone should pray or worship like that. Don’t feel guilty for doing things differently than the person next to you.

Just ask yourself, “How does what I do affect how I worship?” Then, if you need to, make a change.

It’ll frustrate your friendly local demon.

31 comments

  1. Thanks for your thoughts, Amy, I like the way you express yourself on such themes, personal but leaving freedom for flexibility. Continue to be a free spirit in the true Biblical sense.

  2. “The physical affects the spiritual.” I have written a blog post in my head that sort of expands on that quote and this post in general, explaining why I put effort into my clothes/appearance every day. I don’t have a blog, so I’ll just keep pondering and revising it in my brain. Amsies, I love your blog, but I don’t love it nearly as much as I love you!

  3. This is funny! I have been wearing jeans for many years now. Before they had to be starched and wear nice western shirts that I had starched as well. Then, later on, I gained too much and forget about the western shirts. I still wore a mix of sport jacket and jeans with tie (stylish in Europe). Now I have to wait till I either loose weight or just forget about it and by myself one or two nice suits. Problem is, the church we are going now too, EVERYONE wears jeans or some other dress up. I would be sticking out big time. Wouldn’t bother me though.

    1. Hi, Andy. Sometimes I wonder if I stand out at my church too, because it’s pretty casual. But I feel like a I’m-better-than-you attitude will always stand out more than whatever clothing I’m wearing, and so I try not to have that attitude and share your perspective about not care that I’m dressing differently.

  4. This cleared up some foggy notions about myself that have been floating around in my brain (in said fog). It’s taken awhile to figure out how lame I am (or admit to it) when it comes to acting on resolve about something, but there’s truly a connection to how I behave and how I present myself–even in the mirror. You’ve penned my mental dilemma quite well. Thanks for the favor (she says, sitting in her robe on her laptop by the cozy fire).

    1. Well…I have to admit to having a hard time myself, especially when it comes to doing the same stupid things over and over again even when I know I tend to do them, and worse, WHY I tend to do them. It’s always a struggle. But hey, if we didn’t have things to struggle against, life would be boring, right?

      1. Yes. The older I get the more I see how Paul nailed it on the head (“that which I do not want to do, I do”…etc). Somehow, when I was younger, I had the illusion that this life stuff would get easier with practice 🙂

  5. i am really shy and everyone at my church wears jeans, unfortunately, my mom is very outgoing….. i dont want to stand out, but my mom wants me to wear a dress or a long old style skirt
    :p

    1. Hi Phoebe! I’m sorry–I know it can be hard to feel out of place when you’re wearing something different from those around you. I will say, though, that probably most people won’t notice, or won’t care if they do notice. And, not that there’s anything wrong with jeans, but there’s something super classy about skirts and dresses that I love.

  6. One important point – when we go to church on the Lord’s day (it is at His command) – we are going to meet with the King. He promises when two or more are gathered in His name He is there among us. If we were invited to meet with the President, we certainly wouldn’t show up in jeans.

    1. I agree that respect is an important consideration. Although I don’t think God has a dress code, or that he feels disrespected when people wear jeans to church, I do think that what is in your own heart–are you treating worship too casually?–is important. Then again, I visited an inner city church where wearing “fancy” clothes would have been flaunting the fact that I had more money than the people around me…and that’s another consideration. (Like what seems to be going on in 1 Timothy 2:9-10). So it’s really complicated!

    2. I would no problem meeting my president in jeans, because he is just a man. (I am from the Czech Republic, the same applies for Obama, although he looks more civilised 🙂 ).

  7. Hi, I am a seventh Day Adventist and from childhood I was wired to wear suits. Later on, I slowly moved to smart casual due to the freedom I got and I eventually noticed how my mind/soul was not entirely focused on worship and God. I trained my mind with thoughts and prayers to be strong and not focus on what people say and do, it’s a personal journey, just like our salvation. Good read though 😊

    1. Hi Jerry! I totally agree…if I decided to wear jeans to church because I felt like it was more appropriate for some reason (like if wearing business casual would distract people around me because I was fancier than all of them), it would be a matter of deciding to change my attitude about it. I’m glad that’s something you were able to do!

  8. I am a Seventh Day Adventist Christian from Idaho. And although we are a farming community our church dresses up for Sabbath (Saturday). I personally do it to set aside the ordinary clothing I wear during the week, wanting to be my best for God. It is how you feel about yourself and somewhat how you feel about God. Personally, if I cannot dress up for the most important occasion in my life, who or what would I do it for?

    1. Hi Loretta, thanks for joining in the conversation! I love the idea you brought up of setting aside the ordinary. To be honest, that’s something that’s hard for me to do mentally–not just singing the same songs without thinking of the words, remembering that the verses being read are the actual words of God, and so on. I think I need to apply that idea to all areas of my worship!

  9. If it helps how you worship and enriches your spiritual walk, more power to you! I don’t see anything wrong with your approach, same way I don’t see anything wrong with someone who wears jeans to church without affecting their spirituality at church. Everyone is different 🙂 There is nothing wrong with either approach (in my opinion) ❤

    1. Hi Kat! Glad to have you joining in. Hopefully I made it clear that I have no problem with people wearing jeans to church. I *love* how what God cares about is the attitude of our hearts. (Although…sometimes when my heart attitude is totally selfish, I momentarily wish I could fool God with my outward appearance.)

  10. These are such lovely thoughts. This actually helps me enunciate my own reasonings behind, say, leaving the denomination of my youth and becoming Anglican. (Sort of. I haven’t been confirmed. [Yet?]) I have nothing against the Baptists I grew up with. But I have found that the rhythms and routines of liturgical worship have helped focus my mind in church in ways I’ve never focused before. It’s amazing. I know it isn’t for everyone. I don’t try to press everyone I know into it. But for me, praying from the Book of Common Prayer shuts my jabbering brain up and lets me hear the Spirit.

    1. Thanks for joining the conversation, Steph! One of my college professors was Anglican, and appreciated the depth of liturgy in framing the emotions he had and wanted to bring before God but could never put into words himself. I’ve often read from the Book of Common Prayer in my devotions…there’s some great stuff in there! We kind of undervalue poetry in more “low church” settings, I think.

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