Do people get dressed up for church anymore? I think the answer is yes, though it would appear that the more difficult question would be defining what dressed up means. Certainly it is not the case if dressing up implies a suit and tie. For it seems the polo shirt has trumped the more formal shirt and cravat. Personally, I don’t think I have a problem with the switch for, who knows, perhaps I’d be donning the same clothes myself were I in other shoes. Suffice it to say that our tastes have changed. One doesn’t have to show up in a three piece suit to appear respectful. Moreover, the overwhelmingly strong argument has been made that appearances aren’t everything: it’s inside that counts.
In a 1998 newspaper article I randomly found in a google search (here) we are given many examples of how lax things have come: from altar boys wearing tennis shoes to a woman who attended church wearing a sports bra. The Rev. Bruce Benson, quoted in the article, has seen it all and concludes, “… I think we have figured out it really is the heart that matters. If they don’t know it’s disrespectful, then it’s not disrespectful…”.
First of all, I think the average person knows to differentiate between what is and what is not respectful. Whether we are dressing a little more leisurely nowadays than our parents might have is one thing but a line has to be drawn somewhere. Just because we’ve deemed formal wear not necessary for the average Sunday church service (maybe only when the Patriarch comes to town) doesn’t necessarily mean that anything goes. It is ironic, though, that when we look at old, old pictures of church services people were dressed in such a way you’d think their churches were air conditioned and nice and cool inside. One would think the opposite seeing the polo shirts of today.
Perchance we’ve gotten a little too comfortable; maybe a little too familiar with our inner selves. Or, maybe it can be that those who are guided by the presumption that it’s what’s in the heart that counts after all are in the end too concerned in defending their unorthodox appearances that they’ve failed to see that, like their outer appearance, maybe there is something lacking inside as well.