Answering a Random Question…about head coverings

I received the following question via a Facebook message from an acquaintance who has loved and served Jesus for many years.

“I have a question for you …this is pretty random, but you are the only person I know who used to wear a “head covering”. We have a couple young ladies at church who are asking a lot of questions as to why we don’t follow what the Bible says about women and head coverings, they have since started wearing one, and my daughter is the one they are coming to with questions , could you shed some light on why you did wear one and why you stopped.”

It’s an honest question and I’m happy to do my best to answer it. Not only did I wear a head covering for several years, but I also required and instructed two of our daughters to wear head coverings, when they were preteens. The idea comes from the New Testament in 1st Corinthians 11 where Paul instructs women to cover their heads when praying. It is symbolic of a woman’s agreement with Biblical Patriarchy teachings.

Books have been written for and against this subject, so I’ll try to make this as short and concise as possible. Let me start with part of my friend’s question, “could you shed some light on why you did wear one?”

My story starts on a Sunday evening, October 16, 1971 when my life changed radically. By a series of events in my life, I ended up at a church service with a friend. I was finally at the end of myself and along with that the Lord God was passionately pursuing me to turn from sin and self. With His help I did just that. I was a young girl the age of 15, very insecure and not really knowing who I was.

I was living on the wild side and my friend who has invited me to church had more wisdom than most adult Christians…instead of telling me to quit smoking cigarettes or marijuana, she told me “Don’t worry about anything, the Holy Spirit will take care of it all.” And the Holy Spirit, now indwelling me, did just that! He removed old desires and gave me new desires. It was that supernatural experience that Jesus explained to Nicodemus in the 3rd chapter of the book of John.

What do I remember most about that church? Those people loved me exactly as I was, imperfect. It was a beautiful thing to experience. Of course there were problems, this is a broken world we live in, but after all these years that first fellowship was one of the most loving I’ve ever known. I met my sweet husband Danny there and was married there and our first two children were dedicated to Jesus there. Life was good.

A family friend started telling us about the homeschooling movement and we thought about it. Since our oldest still took a two hour nap and had a fall birthday, we decided to wait one more year to enroll him in our local private Christian school. By the time the next school year had rolled around, we were convinced the Lord would have us embark on the amazing and challenging journey of home educating our children. This venture would gap six children and 28 years of teaching.

It was through home schooling conferences and magazines and books and groups that I learned of the patriarch movement. We both were first generation Christians and desperately wanted to follow God and raise a Christian family. We were convinced there were things we needed to do in order to succeed and one was to follow the Bible’s instructions closely.

Let me pause and make something very clear – I love the Holy Bible and I have studied the scriptures for the past 44 years. However, the Bible can be a complicated book to understand, especially when we try to follow it literally. I started covering my head because I was trying to do just that – obey the Bible. Sounds okay, how could there be anything wrong with that?

What was wrong is it caused my eyes to get off of Jesus and onto myself. It caused me to start looking at God’s Holy Word as a book of rules rather than the love letter it is. It caused me to start on the long slippery slope of legalism. (See for more info on what exactly legalism is.) We all tend to go there. The tragic thing about legalism is the bar is never high enough, and we are always left striving.

I thought I was pursuing holiness and that would make God pleased with me. The Bible actually teaches that holiness is the result of pursuing Jesus, not something we should pursue. I did not understand my identity in Christ and years later I would discover that God is pleased with me because I am His creation and not because of anything I had or had not done.

So the bar got higher, I started wearing a head covering at church, and then in my private prayer times. Then I was “challenged” by  someone that said, “Doesn’t the Bible say to be always praying?” The bar was raised again and I started to wear it all the time. I started to read only the translation that was deemed acceptable by these peers.

Our family even changed denominations and started attending a church that was more “like-minded” and agreed with the following: “Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy” published by Vision Forum.

  • God reveals Himself as masculine, not feminine.
  • God ordained distinct gender roles for man and woman as part of the created order.
  • A husband and father is the head of his household, a family leader, provider, and protector.
  • Male leadership in the home carries over into the church: only men are permitted to hold the ruling office in the church. A God-honoring society will likewise prefer male leadership in civil and other spheres.
  • Since the woman was created as a helper to her husband, as the bearer of children, and as a “keeper at home”, the God-ordained and proper sphere of dominion for a wife is the household and that which is connected with the home.
  • God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply” still applies to married couples.
  • Christian parents must provide their children with a thoroughly Christian education, one that teaches the Bible and a biblical view of God and the world.
  • Both sons and daughters are under the command of their fathers as long as they are under his roof or otherwise the recipients of his provision and protection.

I bought this hook, line and sinker.  It was easier for me than most women as I was married to an unselfish man who truly loved Jesus and truly loved me. That brings me to the second part of my friend’s question, “could you shed some light on why you stopped?” I remember that day distinctly, as it was a day that the bondage that had overtaken my Christian walk was shattered. I am so thankful.

I was in my late 30’s and had become seriously and chronically ill. in hindsight I am sure much of my illness was generated from the stress of living a legalistic Christian life and being in a church with others doing the same. I was laying on the couch exhausted and the knot of that bandanna tied at the back of my neck was hurting. I said out loud, “I am so SICK of wearing this thing”. My husband looked at me and gently asked, “Then why do you continue to do it?” I was dumbfounded.

My husband had allowed me the freedom to follow what I thought God was calling me to. For a Godly man, it is a real burden to have to micromanage everyone in the family, including your adult wife. It’s hard enough to work out your own salvation and keep your own heart right before God. As I again studied the scriptures on head coverings, I realized these passages were truly cultural and not applicable to our 21st century lives. The head covering came off for good.

Time has proven that for many men in the Patriarch movement the temptation to be so focused on managing their wife and children has resulted in them neglecting their own life. Plenty of them became selfishly controlling and abusive. We now know many leaders in this movement had hidden lives of sexual sin and their families have suffered the consequences.

Several of my friends who spent years trying to live as if they were women of the first century, I now know have lived quietly under abusive situations. Some feel like they failed somehow. Some have divorced and others continue to live a life behind a facade. And some, like myself, have found the courage to say we think we were wrong.

I now regret how I instructed my daughters and other women to submit to their husbands. I thought I was giving them Biblical instruction. I realize now that much of this Biblical instruction was given to the first century church in a culture where women had the same rights of cattle…basically no rights. Jesus came as a liberator of men and women both. I believe much of Paul’s instruction was for the purpose of keeping civil order in that culture.

We do live in the 21st century and we do have rights in this society as women. I think that choosing to live without accountability in our marriages is simply not wise. Much of the truth in the Holy Bible was truth written for that specific culture, head coverings being one of them. In healthy Christian homes we help each other, submit one to another, and ALL submit to Christ.

In Ephesians 4:1-3 Paul says, “Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.”

So how are those daughters doing? Those girls who were taught to submit and had to endure wearing head coverings? Well, they were also taught to think and use the wonderful mind that God gave them. One challenged me to read the book “Jesus Feminist” by Sarah Bessey. This is one of the most encouraging, humble books I’ve read. It helped rekindle my first love for Jesus years ago.

These daughters have grown up strong and know who they are in Christ. They are amazing wives and mothers. They are proof positive that God establishes His own. They hold their uncovered heads high and I am learning to do the same.