Response to UPC Bible study on women wearing pants

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Response to a Bible study written by Rev. M.G. Blankenship. Found at http://www.apostolic.edu/biblestudy/files/bwahprt2.htm.
Accessed 4/28/2007.

I am not going to reprint the entire study because it would take too much space. What I will do is show a piece from the Bible study and then respond to it. I do recommend that you read the entire Bible study and form your own conclusions.

Spelling and editing errors in the italicized errors are the mistake of the author of the Bible study that I am responding to. Spelling and editing errors in the rest of the article are my mistake.

Rev. Blankenship writes:

Deut 22:5 "The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a ma put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God."

One thing for sure: The "unisex" styles of our day are an abomination to God. It is a perverse hostility to God’s creation order! It is driven by spirits that wish to put humanity into rebellion.

My Response:

Rev. Blankenship starts his Bible study with a critical mistake: He assumes that Deu. 22:5 is talking about cross-dressing. Deuteronomy 22:5 could be talking about cross-dressing, but it is actually a very difficult verse to translate. Scholars are divided on the exact meaning. The careful reader will notice that Deu. 22:5 in the KJV says, "The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment." See the difference?

Literally in the Hebrew it says, "There shall not be the thing of a man on a woman, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment" (LITV). To complicate matters, the Hebrew word used for "garment" actually means the outer cloak that women wore during the day1 and (if they were poor) used as a blanket at night. The word for "garment" can also mean "clothing" in a general sense, so scholars are divided on how it is meant to be used in this passage. They are also divided on what exactly "the thing of a man" refers to.

The Preacher’s Commentary lists the four dominant views on this passage, and I will cite them here. I have put the citations in numbered form for easier reading, but I have not changed the wording:

  1. "One explanation is that this practice was associated with the religion of Canaan….Apparently women appeared in male garments and men in women’s clothes when they worshiped their pagan deities. Yahweh wanted His people to be unique and to do nothing that was in any way connected with foreign religions.
  2. Another theory is that this verse could refer to war. A woman was not to put on the trappings of a soldier or dress like a man in order to try to gain admission into the army. Nor were men to attempt to avoid military obligation by dressing as women.
  3. Another explanation often given for this ban is that it obscured the distinction between the sexes and therefore violated an essential part of the created order of life (Gen. 1:27). The Hebrew phrase for “pertains to” is used elsewhere in referring to decorations or utensils used by the opposite sex. During the days of Moses, garments worn by men and women were very similar (robes); so this command was designed to keep a woman from appearing as a man for purposes of licentiousness. The major difference between male and female robes was their decoration or ornamentation. This passage does not teach against women’s wearing slacks, hats, shoes, gloves, or other items that are now worn by both sexes, but rather against the wearing of any item specifically intended for the opposite sex. The distinctives of each sex should be maintained and protected in regard to outward appearance. The New Testament instruction in Galatians 3:28 that “there is neither male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” applied to status in God’s sight and not to dress. While we realize that we are one in Christ, recognition of the differences between the sexes is a principle worth safeguarding.
  4. Still another explanation is that this verse refers to the practice of transvestism, a deviant form of sexual behavior which is often characterized by cross-dressing. The verse says women should not wear things “pertaining to” the male. This phrase includes not only clothing, but also ornaments, weapons, and other items normally associated with men. In the second clause, women’s clothing is explicitly forbidden men2."

These four explanations, while lengthy, serve to illustrate the fact that the translation of Deuteronomy 22:5 is highly debatable. The mistake that Rev. Blankenship makes is that he assumes that it must be talking about cross-dressing (he doesn’t even acknowledge the possibility of any other interpretation), and then he leaps to the conclusion that anything that could be considered "unisex" is an "abomination."

Rev. Blankenship writes:

Men & Women are different: Both Physically & Emotionally by creation. And God has placed certain social methods into place to maintain this difference. To guard against homosexuality & the decline of the family. Today we have women that look masculine & men that look feminine.

I Cor 6:9 "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, "—> (webster’s: unsuitably womanish)

My Response:

First, I agree with Rev. Blankenship that acts of homosexuality are sin (cf. Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Tim. 1:10). Unfortunately, Rev. Blankenship makes two tremendous errors when he jumps from Deu. 22:5 to the subject of homosexuality. First, he is still assuming that Deu. 22:5 is talking about cross-dressing, when the meaning of the Scripture is debated. Second, he assumes that anyone who cross-dresses must be a homosexual! Anyone who has basic training in sexual deviancy knows that cross-dressing is not always (or even often) associated with homosexuality. I’m not an expert in this area, though, so I’ll quote the experts:

[Transvestitism is the] practice of wearing the clothes of the opposite sex (cross-dressing), generally to derive some kind of sexual pleasure. It is often mistakenly associated with homosexuality; in fact, however, transvestites may be either heterosexual or homosexual, and the practice of cross-dressing is sometimes even ridiculed among homosexuals. The transvestite must also be distinguished from the transsexual, who desires to become a functioning member of the opposite sex; most transvestites are men who comfortably fill male roles in society and are satisfied with their biological sex. Transsexuals, both male and female, are uncomfortable with their sex and are usually required to cross-dress for an extended period before they undergo surgery. That most transvestites are men is at least in part a result of the role of fashion in Western culture; in the mid-to-late 20th century Western women wearing trousers and other clothes once considered to be exclusively men’s clothes are not seen as deviant3.

So the mistake that Rev. Blankenship makes here is that he continues his line of faulty reasoning. He first claimed that Deu. 22:5 must be talking about cross-dressing, so his conclusion was that "the ‘unisex’ styles of our day are an abomination to God." He then goes on to assume that anyone who engages in cross-dressing is a homosexual. While I agree with Rev. Blankenship that cross-dressing for the purpose of deriving sexual pleasure is a sin, I find it ridiculous to assume that anyone who wears an article of unisex clothing (such a woman wearing slacks) is a homosexual. The very idea is absurd! If that’s the case then either men or women are being an abomination to God every time that they wear any of these articles of clothing:

  • Jackets (don’t most coats and jackets look the same for men and women?)
  • Shoes (do men and women need to have separate shoe styles so that they won’t be considered unisex?)
  • Watches (many men’s dress watches look like women’s watches, and vice versa)
  • Glasses (shouldn’t we have glasses that are designed specifically for men and women? I’d hate for someone to look at my shades and think that I was a transvestite)
  • Isn’t this kind of absurd?

The point here is that the UPC has taken slacks and created a huge issue out of them, and left every other article of clothing on the sidelines. If the UPC would apply their rules consistently then I could respect their views, even though I disagree with them. But when I see UPC pastors preach against women wearing slacks from the pulpit, and then I go visit them in their homes and see their wives and daughters walking around in pajama pants, then I see hypocrisy, not holiness.

Rev. Blankenship writes:

[Rev. Blankenship spends the next few paragraphs in his study arguing that Deuteronomy is part of the moral law of God, not the ceremonial law. I am not going to discuss that here for two reasons: 1) As I have already said, the translation of Deu. 22:5 is debated, so until we know exactly what God was talking about then it’s pointless to discuss whether the law was moral or ceremonial; and 2) If Deu. 22:5 is talking about transvestitism (cross-dressing for sexual pleasure or other deviant reasons) then I agree with him that it is against the moral law, however, that does not lead to the conclusion that it is wrong for women to wear slacks today. Even if Deu. 22:5 is talking about transvestitism, and even if it is a moral law that still applies to us today, I still do not think that slacks are "men’s apparel." Also, we have to remember that the prohibition in Deu. 22:5 was against any article that could apply to a man, so if it is a moral law that still applies to us today then we have to create a whole list of things that women cannot wear (I.e., their husband’s t-shirt, their husband’s tools (those are traditionally men’s items), etc.).]

Rev. Blankenship writes:

I Peter 3:5 "For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands:"

THE POINT: << HOLY WOMEN OF OLD LIVED BY DEUT 22:5>>

My Response:

1 Pet. 3:6 uses Sarah as an example of a "holy woman." She lived over 600 years before Deuteronomy 22:5 was written, so it is obvious that Peter’s point was not that "holy women of old lived by Deut 22:5." To see his point we must back up to 1 Pet. 3:1 and read the entire passage:

1Pe 3:1-6 NASB
(1) In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if [any of them] are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives,
(2) as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.
(3) Your adornment must not be [merely] external–braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses;
(4) but [let it be] the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.
(5) For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands;
(6) just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.

The focus in the above passage is on inward holiness, not outward appearance. If Peter is talking about outward appearance in this passage then he is saying that women cannot braid their hair or wear dresses. He is obviously not saying that–his point is clearly that a woman’s focus should be on inward holiness, not on impressing people with her outward appearance. (This applies to men as well.)

Rev. Blankenship writes:

NOW TO PRACTICAL APPLICATION
Part of our DAILY attire should be for gender distinction. Unmistakable, visual, identification of the sexes.
IN OUR CULTURE:—– (which is all we need to worry about)
Man’s attire: = pants, trousers, slacks

My Response:

Again, I agree with Rev. Blankenship that a person should not deliberately try to appear like they are of the opposite sex (cross-dressing). However, I strongly disagree with him that pants, trousers, and slacks are not women’s attire. Has he looked around lately? Pants on women are completely acceptable in Western culture. The fact is that styles and apparel change with time.

Rev. Blankenship writes:

EVEN THE PICTURES ON PUBLIC REST ROOMS TELLS THIS CULTURAL TRUTH. This could even change from culture to culture but Deut 22 covers ALL CULTURES! and all times.

My Response:

I’m not sure what point Rev. Blankenship is trying to make here. In the same paragraph he says that apparel can change from culture to culture and that Deu. 22:5 covers all cultures. If he is admitting that men and women’s apparel changes from culture to culture, then why does he have such a problem with women wearing slacks? 100 years ago women did not wear slacks, now they do. Big deal! Culture changed! If he admits that dress codes change over time and from culture to culture (which they obviously do) then I don’t see why he has such a problem with women wearing slacks.

Rev. Blankenship writes:

"Pertaineth to" = things traditionally associated with, or patterned after a man. (slacks have indeed been masculine in our culture)

My Response:

So have any number of other things. That’s what makes Deu. 22:5 so difficult to translate. No one alive today is sure exactly what Moses meant when he wrote that a woman should not put on that which "pertaineth to a man." My point is that we should not limit Deu. 22:5 to clothing. If we’re going to say that it is applicable today then we need to come up with a definitive list of things that "pertaineth to a man," and then we need to forbid Christian women to use those things.

Rev. Blankenship writes:

Historically: WWII factories were the first time slacks started being worn by women. At the same time: short hair, cigarettes, swearing became acceptable feminine behavior. Now that path has come to Abortion, Divorce, Single Parent homes, extreme feminism: You’ve come a long way baby??

My Response:

I don’t mean to be sarcastic, but I’m not sure I follow the connection between women wearing slacks and abortion, divorce, single parent homes, and extreme feminism. I’m not a sociologist, but I’d be willing to take a stab in the dark and guess that sociologists would identify more causes for these things than women wearing slacks.

Rev. Blankenship writes:

Two things should always govern your decisions:
GOOD TASTE & COMMON SENSE == R e m e m b e r i n g * w h o * y o u * a r e !
God visibly separated Israel: food /dress /farming /worship /Sabbath.. You could tell a Jew by his dress/Actions. The Jews survived 1,900 years without a home land. It’s the only existing ancient culture! GOD’S LAWS PRESERVED THEIR IDENTITY! God wants to preserve His church in this day in the same manner!
—->>> Outer actions bring a GREATER CHRISTIAN COMMITMENT in your life!

My Response:

There are several things that must be said about the comments that Rev. Blankenship made in the preceding paragraph.

First, God did visibly separate Israel in dress, farming, worship, and the Sabbath. It was called the Mosaic Law, and Jesus fulfilled it. When Rev. Blankenship says that "God wants to preserve His church in this day in the same manner" he is saying the exact opposite of what God wants to do! The whole point of Jesus coming was to set us free from slavery to sin (cf. Rom. 6) and to the Mosaic Law (cf. Gal. 4-5).

Second, the Jews are not the only ancient culture that is still around today. Take a look at Japan, India, Nepal, China, Sri Lanka, and almost any Middle Eastern nation for an example of an ancient culture that still exists.

Third, Rev. Blankenship’s statement that "Outer actions bring a GREATER CHRISTIAN COMMITMENT in your life" could not be farther from the truth! If anything, external rules and regulations push us farther away from God, not closer to Him! In the book of Galatians Paul is writing to a church that was starting to return to the Mosaic Law. One of the things that they were returning to was the practice of demanding that people be circumcised. Did Paul commend them, saying that "Outer actions bring a greater Christian commitment in [their] life"? Far from it! Paul actually told them, "You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by the law; you have fallen from grace" (Gal. 5:4).

Wow! That’s some pretty harsh language! It seems that a return to the Mosaic Law is the exact opposite of what God wants us to do! This does not mean that a Christian can just do whatever they want, of course, because Paul also wrote that we are set free from slavery to sin so that we can be slaves to righteousness (Rom. 6). The point is that we were set free from the Mosaic Law and that God "wrote His laws upon our heart" (cf. Heb. 8:10; 10:16). Now we are able to have direct communication with Him and directly know what is pleasing to Him and what is not. What a beautiful concept!

Rev. Blankenship writes:

Even Joan Rivers (on her syndicated talk show) stated "Everybody knows women wear dresses and men wear pants.".
If worldly people know it to be a simple truth, we does God’s church act so stubborn about it?

My Response:

I looked for the Joan Rivers quote but was unable to find it. If anyone can verify that she actually said that then please let me know. Even if she did say that it makes no difference. Joan Rivers is one of the last people that I would listen to when deciding what is pleasing to God and what is not.

Rev. Blankenship writes:

Let us remember who we are and be proud to carry his banner in these last days!

My Response:

I’m incredibly proud of who I am. I am a child of the King, and I want everyone to know it! That’s why I now wear a necklace with a cross on it! (I don’t wear dresses though, just in case anyone is wondering.)

References:

  1. John C. Maxwell and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Volume 5 : Deuteronomy, The Preacher’s Commentary series (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1987). 241. []
  2. Ibid. []
  3. "transvestism." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 28 Apr. 2007 []

92 thoughts on “Response to UPC Bible study on women wearing pants

    1. Josh (Site Admin) Post author

      Hi Gloria, great question! I added that ability. At the top of every article and page you will now see two buttons–one with a PDF icon and one with a Print icon. These will create PDFs of the content or allow you to print it without the comments.

      In Christ,
      Josh S.

  1. Ki Turnbull

    I agree about the pajama thing… I never understood why it was a sin for girls to wear pants when others are around, but we were allowed to wear pajama pants in our homes. Shouldn’t that commandment cover ALL times, not just when you’re in public? Anyways, even if I decided that pants aren’t wrong to wear, I’d still prefer skirts because they’re so pretty and comfy. But I’d love to wear harem pants because I feel that they would be more decent than skirts in some situations.

  2. Darlene Winiecki

    I totally agree with what I am reading. I was raised Pentecostal (Assembly of God) in South Dakota. I am still totally Pentecostal but going to a Baptist church where I play the piano for them. A very warm church. I am 77 years old and been in MANY Pentecostal churches over the years but recently I cannot find ONE that believes as you and I do. I believe in searching the scriptures and ask God for interpretation. I MISS the Pentecostal preaching and was looking at a United Pen. church when I ran across your article because I was trying to find out what they were about. Your articles totally changed my mind. I am comfortable in the Baptist church and feel like God led me there to help out. They know I am Pentecostal and accept me for who I am. In the past I was a correctional officer working third shift and would get off work and take my mother to church. Of course I was in my ((female) uniform of pants and shirt and found out they didn’t believe in pants. I always believed church was for EVERYONE. I can’t judge churches but I wish I could find a church that believes in the Bible and God’s holy word instead of judging anyone that comes in. God bless you and your work. P.S. My pastor and I have a disagreement every once in a while, but we can sit down with the Bible and work it out. So far, he has agreed with me,. Well, I could probably write a book but thank you for your input on the scriptures.

  3. Del

    I was also raised in the UPC but have changed my viewpoint on several things after growing up. One big thing I found about the UPC is that they were very judgmental and in my opinion turned many away who were good Christians.
    Regarding clothing “pertaining to”, I have come to see this as “belonging to” in a literal sense. Would a man were slacks the zipper on the side, or a blouse that buttons in the back? No, certainly not as these were made for a woman. I believe scripture is telling us that a woman should not wear her husband’s clothing and that a man should not wear his wife’s clothing.
    God bless….

  4. Barb

    In response to Christian’s statement that God never changes, I agree. However men at the head of organizations do.
    I remember as a little girl we lived in 3 rooms and my dad had a little tv. He wasn’t in church and my mama made us stay out of the living room when he had those so innocent programs on. UPC was strictly against the TV, sports etc but now they have voted that TV is ok because it is ” everywhere” I was told.
    So no God never changed but man did.
    Now they watch beautiful women wearing pants, makeup, sexes blouses, sex etc. If you say you only watch Fox News, ok, there are no more sexier women on the news than on Fox. If you say I only watch religious programs, well which ones, they are all trinity which we say are unsaved.
    This is to say if TV was soooo wrong in the 60’s what made more pleasing to God that the preachers approved it. I bet if they put 50 women leaders there to vote on cutting our hair we would be cutting our hair.

    1. Josh (Site Admin) Post author

      Barb, your comment made me lol. That doesn’t happen very often.

      Sex sells, and Fox understands that better than any other news organization. I’m also going to shamelessly steal this quote: “God never changes…However men at the head of organizations do.” That’s terrific :)

      Thanks for writing,
      Josh

  5. Frances

    I’ve attended a UPC College & churches coast to coast – the excessive fragrance is worn by all including leadership.

  6. Frances

    Fragrance & UPC: Holiness cannot be found in UPC brothers & sisters who habitually wear enough fragrance to work a corner or send an asthmatic person to the ER. If we can smell you 20′ away just who’s attention are you trying to get? FYI: This is why I left! (Stop chasing people to shake their hand your killing them!

  7. Leonard

    A WOMAN CANNOT PUT ON A SKIRT WITHOUT THE HOLYGHOST AND ANYONE WITHOUT THE HOLYGHOST CAN DRESS IN PANTS AND SHORT SKIRTS.
    THE DEVIL TELL THEM THAT “DRESSCODE ‘ IS LEGALISM BUT IYS NOT.
    TO ME ANYONE WHO TEACHES OR TRIES TO CONVINCE LADIES TO DRESS IN ANYWAY THEY FEEL, IS AGAINST BIBLE AND THE HOLYGHOST!
    IF YOU BELIEVE HEB 13:8,WHY CANT YOU PRAY AND FAST GENUINELY, GOD WILL SURELY TELL YOU.INSTEAD OF LISTENING TO YOUR THOUGHT OR THEOLOGICAL EXPERIENCE WHICH HAS ALWAYS BEEN UNSCRIPTURAL

    GOD BLESS YOU SO MUCH AND NICETIME!

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