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The Dangers of Reactive Theology: A Word to those with a Bad Head Covering Experience

The Dangers of Reactive Theology: A Word to those with a Bad Head Covering Experience

I listen to a lot of music and for me it’s one of those things that are most connected to specific events in my life. Certain songs or albums recall vivid moments from my past. One song reminds me of a high school dance, another reminds me of my wedding day while another recalls living in a certain place. I’m sure you’ve experienced this too where you hear a certain song and you’re instantly taking a trip down memory lane. This extends beyond music too as your mind can connect almost anything to past events that will open the floodgates of memories when you think of it. Your particular object then becomes symbolic of a past time or event. This is wonderful if it’s connected to a good memory, but not all are.

Growing in Grace

Though head covering is now a minority view, certain groups have continued this practice to this day. Unfortunately, many of these groups hold to heretical teachings and/or are legalistic. When one is a part of these bad churches, head covering often is seen as one of the things that separate them from other churches. It becomes a distinction of that particular church/movement and becomes closely associated with it in ones mind.

Freed from Legalism

When one puts their faith in Christ, a process called sanctification begins. This process is where the Lord makes us more like Him as we grow in our knowledge of Him and repent of sin. As we grow, we often find out that many of the things we thought were true, were not Biblical. We also find our approach and attitude needs correcting as it’s not fuelled by grace and biblical love. Many will find themselves convicted by patters of harshness, judgmentalism and/or contentiousness. As the Lord grows us, those who are in these bad churches will find that they no longer agree with the teaching or approach of their church in many areas. Since the Lord is changing how you see things, your desire to remain in that church/movement wanes. When one comes to understand more of the love of Christ and the depths of Grace they often experience feeling FREE for the first time. The person having experienced this new found grace will often leave that bad church as well as the teaching and practices that were closely associated with it. It is at this point when many women will stop covering their heads in worship and may start to look upon this doctrine negatively. As this shift happens, the good often gets thrown out with the bad.

Reactive Theology

Just like a certain song reminds me of a past memory, a head covering may remind you of a past time. For many people, that memory is not good. The head covering in your mind may remind you of that time you felt trapped under bondage, legalism and guilt that it makes it hard for you to objectively consider what 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 teaches. You may now feel love, freedom, grace and closeness with Christ like never before and reconsidering head covering sounds a lot like reconsidering prison when you’ve been freed. I sympathize but must warn you that this is dangerous ground. When we allow our emotions and experiences to LEAD our study of Scripture we will likely neglect true teachings and practices. We must fight hard to try to understand what the Lord says apart from our past experiences. If the Scriptures teach it and it’s true, you can have confidence that it can practiced it in a way you may not have experienced before. You can practice it  in the midst of your current relationship with the Lord without going backwards and re-taking on chains.

At HCM we hear from people regularly who have had these bad experiences with head covering. I’d like to share some of their comments anonymously so you can see the pattern for yourself.

“I do not cover because I don’t believe it will affect my salvation! I was raised with a mom who did and still does so its not anything to new to me.”

“My wife and I will not participate in a practice that is so prevalent among many churches, knowing they are so deeply connected to a lifestyle of the Pharisees.”

“This is why my wife does not wear the covering. She grew up in an Amish Mennonite community where the covering was practiced and taught with such aggressiveness that it became as important to daily life as salvation in Jesus.”

In each of these examples, the teaching of head covering was connected to something negative. The reason for their rejection was not based upon an in-depth study of 1 Corinthians 11, but a bad experience. A mom and a church taught it was a matter of salvation, another saw it as connected to legalism (Pharisees) and the way in which it was taught (aggressiveness) turned another off. If you can relate to these comments or have experienced what they’ve gone through please allow me to challenge you. If you wore a head covering before you discovered the gospel of Grace, fullness of joy in Christ and/or freedom from legalism, the thought of wearing a covering again may remind you of that dark time and you may be hesitant to do so because of it. However, this is where it’s important to try not to react. Try your BEST (and pray for help) to separate the covering from that bad point in your life. With an open mind, carefully study 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 and if you agree that it should be practiced today, remind yourself of what God designed it to symbolize. It’s meant to teach us of the created differences of men and women, not to be a reminder of bondage. The Lord commands us to practice it and because of that it’s GOOD. If we don’t see it that way, it’s our thinking that must be corrected.

Jeremy Gardiner

Jeremy is the founder of the Head Covering Movement and the author of Head Covering: A Forgotten Christian Practice for Modern Times. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and is a member of Fellowship Baptist Church. He is a husband to Amanda and father to four young children. Jeremy is also the founder and operator of Gospel eBooks, a popular website that provides alerts for free and discounted Christian e-books.

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  • Pole

    Thank you for this very mature, wise, and balanced approach not only to this issue but to the Christian life in general. We do tend to be reactive. I agree with your encouragement to approach scripture with an open, seeking mind and heart.

  • Joyce Ruhl

    I TRULY appreciate this article and it’s purpose and focus for the most part. However, I come from (would still be in if it were my choice) one of those ‘bad churches’. Someone may become more conscience of Jesus and living for Him solely – but the heart can still have a problem when it decides that biblical practices are religion and not of Christ. If the church points that out to them… that doesn’t make the church ‘bad’. (not saying there have never been bad experiences in the church – but don’t assume that everyone who declares to you these kinds of things – it really was that way in their church experience.) Most of these statements/testimonies that were shared are very judgemental themselves… from ‘the other side’. So who is calling who black? (if you will?) I am very Mennonite in my belief and practice – that does not make me a legalist if what I’m believing and practicing are centered around God’s word. We are to make righteous judgements (not hypocritical ones however) – that is not legalism either. We the church are to be a pure, holy people – w/o spot or wrinkle – awaiting the coming of our Lord – again not legalism for a church to be teaching and leading in this regard. Grace – it is not a license to disobey scripture as many are believing in their ‘freedom of Christ’ thinking. Obedience to NT commands is not ‘living under the law’ (again – something I hear a lot). But let’s not give churches that are upholding said commands a bad name. They have error just like other churches for sure… but not necessarily more so. And I clearly see Jesus and a desire to serve Him fully in them every day. Is obedience necessary to continued salvation? That may be where some churches disagree – but again – scripture as we search out the NT will have some things to say in that regard too. We can’t base our theology on isolated verses – but on an accumulation of verses. God Bless the readers here and may we continue to fully seek the face of Jesus and follow Him where his Word leads (which can’t be different than another ‘word’ we may feel we’ve received.) I too want to be fully in love with Him – and obedient… and I’m still growing… let’s spur each other on.

    • jobeob987

      Thanks Joyce, you are right. I have been reading a lot of Anabaptist teachings for the last 2 years. Recently I have been studying Grace. Grace is far more than pardon. It is an empowering force that helps believers live holy lives. Look at all the things grace does in this one passage, “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,” Titus 2:11-12 Grace is also strength for those that are weak. Look what is said about grace in 2 Corinthians 12:9 “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Grace does so many different thing is a Christians the definition of unmerited pardon is lacking.

    • Sara June Thompson

      Yes, God saved us to live pure holy lives in the power of the Holy Spirit, not to continue in our sin. So many Christians nowadays want to know how close they can get to sin and still be saved, rather than how close they can get to God. Wearing a head covering for church (and sometimes other times) helps me draw close to God. It is a good thing. I think if someone had a bad experience in a church that practiced head covering, all they need to do is try a different type of covering to not have those associations. But they can still obey the principle.

    • David Pendleton

      Joyce, do you think it is reasonable to assume that one of benchmarks of these “bad churches” is that they make practices like the head covering a test of fellowship? It seems to me that these churches fall into the ditch of legalism when they start requiring more of the members of their church than God requires for salvation.

      • Kay

        The downfall of any given assembly begins with “leadership” deciding on rules that define true believers. They often will overlook obvious signs of apathy or rebellion, instead focusing on what we wear, how often we attend, or how much we tithe. There could be known fornication, foul language, gossiping, etc. that is never dealt with.

        Yet we wonder why Christians are widely known as hypocrites.

        • David Pendleton

          Yes, Kay. I completely agree.

  • Norma Lebold Miller

    I appreciate your thoughts here. Blessings.

  • Heather

    I began wearing a covering nearly 20 years ago after an in depth study of 1 Corinthians. It was an agonizing time for me because it went against my fashion sense & my nature to wear a covering. It opened me up to ridicule and accusations. At first my husband wasn’t in favour of me wearing a covering, and I had zero support from any of my Christian friends or family. In time, my hubby also studied 1 Cor. and supported me. As God was growing us up in his Word, we found that we fit in less and less with mainstream Christianity, and we were getting really discouraged. At that time we were introduced to the Amish & Mennonite denominations, and we thought we’d at last found the support we needed to be able to practice what we’d learned. To make a long, painful story short, we tried to assimilate into a Mennonite church, but there were so many un-scriptural, man-made rules that we couldn’t follow, way too much gossip & judgmental attitudes, and so after a couple of years, we left. I still believe in wearing a covering, but I must admit, it hasn’t been easy to continue, and i often falter & fail. I was delighted to see this site which encourages & supports what I do. Thank you!

    • Sheryl Lynn

      I can so relate to you Heather.The Lord led me to covering 10 years ago. We also tried to fit in the mennonite church, but there was seriously too much legalism. I mean seriously, what color SOCKS my baby can wear? We then found a charity type church, which was a better fit until it started drifting back toward their mennonite roots of legalism. At the moment I am the only woman covering in a Baptist church. My husband has totally given up on organized church, so I go with my children myself.

      • Heather

        It’s good that you’ve found a place to worship, & I hope that you will be a blessing & mentor to other Christian women as you faithfully wear your covering. Does anyone question why you cover? Unfortunately our children were emotionally & spiritually damaged by our time with the Mennonites & then to make matters worse we got involved in what turned out to be a rather toxic home-church group. We currently don’t go to any organized church & can absolutely identify with your husband. This doesn’t mean we’ve given up our faith ~ not at all! I’d be interested in knowing what kind of covering you wear.

        • Kay

          We worship in a small home meeting that is basically like Plymouth Brethren, but not affiliated with them. The worship and assembly “model” (for lack of a better term) is what I feel is the most important aspect of it. There is no hierarchy, just brothers and sisters meeting for worship or study or fellowship. Elders, pastors, teachers, are obvious, but not labeled. Right now it is mostly family, and there are challenges in that respect, but I can’t imagine trying to worship with any denomination that I know of, regardless of their statement of faith. I admire many things about Charity, Mennonites, and Amish. We have gone to some meetings with a local Charity assembly, but didn’t seek fellowship there permanently because I have been married previously to my current marriage, and would never be accepted in either Mennonite, Amish, or Charity assemblies.

  • Rhonda Schlabach

    Wow… I just read through this article and also through the comments and just felt like I should comment too. I am a Mennonite and have been all my life. Unlike a lot of people’s experiences mine has been wonderful! I was not taught that the covering is a salvation issue but an obedience issue. In John 14:15 Jesus says “If you love me, you will keep my commandments”. To me that’s not bad teaching or legalistic. It’s just loving God and trying to do what he asks of me. I feel so privileged and blessed that I was brought up and taught this way. I know there are churches in the Mennonite circles that probably come across legalistic etc… but I guess I just wanted people to know they’re not all like that. It seems we’re on this narrow road with a deep ditch on either side. The one side is rules and legalism. You.have.to.do.do.do.to earn God’s love. On the other side is the ditch of freedom. You.can.do.do.do.anything. God is a God of grace so it doesn’t matter what we do. Both of these are dangerous ditches to be in and I’ve often wondered, if you have to err to one side of the road which is better? To err on the side of too much obedience or to err on the side of too much grace? Don’t really have the answer to that… I have been so blessed to see people are studying God’s Word and it is spurring them to obedience!! That is exciting and I want to encourage all of you that are covering and it’s not easy for you… God is so pleased with your obedience and he will give you the strength and courage to face whatever opposition comes your way. Stay faithful!

    • Joyce Ruhl

      Thank you Rhonda! I’m glad to hear another who’s ‘mennonite’ experience hasn’t been awful. I guess a critical question we all need to wrestle with is – is ‘obedience’ related to salvation in any way? I believe it is as I read thru the various scriptures. For sure I don’t believe obedience equates legalism. Bless you for sharing about the dangerous ditches and affirming that not all obedient churches are horrible. (never had to deal w/ what color socks my baby wore – or I might feel it was awful too!)

      • Kay

        I think what is missing in many anabaptist teaching, is the foundation of who we become when born again. There is a lack of understanding (I believe) in most of Christianity about the work that Christ accomplished. As sin came in and ruled by one man (Adam) so does justification in the believer come through one man (Jesus Christ). It is not something we obtain, or keep by our obedience. The secret to obedience to the simplicity in Christ, is first understanding our security in Him, and our own lack of ability in keeping the law in any form. It doesn’t matter how much you pare down the requirements for keeping our salvation, we will all fail at some point. So where do we put our trust? In the sealed work of the Spirit in the believer. Sit at Christ’s feet, learn of Him, worship Him, and understand that we have been given rest from our own works through His perfect work. *Then we are made able to follow Christ in obedience (though while in this world, with fleshly bodies, surroundings, etc., we will still fail at times), realizing that it isn’t for our own benefit, but to glorify God.

        • Christine Glover

          I feel that obedience to the Scriptures is neither earning salvation, nor holding onto salvation, but is the heart’s response to the loive of God in Christ in giving us salvation in the first place.

  • Manfred Nissley
  • Norine Lyn Sabine

    Thank you for this opportunity at discussion of the head covering. As a young Christian in the late 70’s I was convicted that women were to wear head coverings in public worship, from the Scriptures alone, as none of the churches we attended or attend to this day practices it. It has been difficult at times, mostly from being the sole adherent to this admonition in the congregations where we attended. My husband at first did not see the need, but after much study, he, too, saw that it was Scriptural, and although we may not fully understand the why, we certainly agree, that it is commanded. I do not understand why more people who profess to accept the Scriptures, will not accept this teaching, but for me, it is an act of obedience. Thank you again for this good opportunity at sharing, and also for the article, on “because of the angels”. People may not like the fact that the head of woman, is man, but they cannot argue, that the Scripture says, for this reason, and because of the angels, the woman is to have a sign of authority on her head. Many thanks.

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