CTBHHM: What about the Head Covering?

Created To Be His Help Meet, pp. 248—250

Once again, Debi starts with a letter.

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Pearl,

I wonder if you would explain to me just what it means when Scripture says that a woman should wear a covering. A good friend sent me a booklet called “Should She Be Veiled.” God has convicted her about wearing a covering, and she wanted to share the joy of the covering with me. My husband things I am silly and refuses to even talk about the issue. He told me I could do what I wanted, but if I did what he wanted, I would not “wear the silly rag.” He did ask me tow rite you, because he knows that I read your child-training literature. He also knows you are well known for telling women to honor their husbands, and he thinks you will stand with him on the matter. I am writing, as I do, wondering why some of the women I have seen in your No Greater Joy pictures have head coverings on and some do not. Either you stick by your convictions or you don’t. Which is it?

Darlene

I actually don’t find this letter implausible at all.

Dear Darlene,

The reason you see some women wearing extra coverings on their head and some are not is because the church is not the head over the wives—the husbands are. If a man wants his wife to have an additional covering, she should do so; but if not, then she shouldn’t. The convictions belong to the individual men, not the women and not the church. God’s Word clearly states that the church has “no such custom” (I Corinthians 11:16).

The Scriptures to which you refer are I Corinthians 11:2-16. As you read the passage, you will note that the subject is the spiritual chain of command. This spiritual chain of command is called an ordinance. God says “keep the ordinances”. The text makes two things clear: the head covering is a custom that is not part of the church, and the headship of man over his wife is an ordinance that God commands us to keep.

The subject is not head coverings, which verse 16 calls a custom; it is the chain of command. The woman has a head—her husband. The man has a head—Christ, and Christ has a head—God. That is God’s chain of command set forth from the beginning. This chain of command is an ordinance that God commands us to follow.

In other words, the whole point of the head coverings passage is that wives need to obey their husbands, so obey your husband already.

Debi then quotes the entire Bible passage, adding commentary after nearly every verse. I’m not going to bore you with that. I’ll simply quote a few key points Debi makes.

This is a spiritual issue put in place at creation. The woman who remains under her husband’s authority with the outward sign of the long hair, or some other head covering that stands in for the long hair she does not have, is saying to the rulers of darkness of the world, “I belong to this man, and I am safe under his safe spiritual headship; you can not mess with me.”

Huh. And here I thought Debi said it was completely up to the husband. This bit makes it sound like either long hair or a head covering is frighteningly necessary.

After quoting verse 15—”But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering”—she then adds this:

The covering God gave a woman is her hair. No second covering is ever mentioned.

According to Debi, the head coverings passage means you need to have long hair. Again, didn’t we start out by saying that this was up to the conviction of the husband? If long hair is so important as a head covering—you’ve got to be protected from demons!—how can the head covering thing be simply up to the conviction of the husabnd?

Now that we’re past the Bible verses, let’s go on:

Whether you have short hair, long hair, or wear a scarf, God’s rule is still for all women (married or single) to keep silent in the church, which includes praying and prophesying. This is not hard to understand, but many find it hard to accept.

Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are committed to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church” (I Cor. 14:34-35).

The church, of course, is not the building (I Cor. 14:23a). It is the assembly of believers for the purpose of worship, preaching of the church, and ministry of the gifts.

More about not speaking in church, and asking your husband and believing what he says instead. Lovely. It’s worth noting that scholars think that verse was inserted by someone else later, because Paul speaks of women praying and prophesying only a few chapters earlier (in chapter 11, actually, the one quoted at length in Debi’s book just a moment ago).

Now to answer your question, Darlene, “Do we stick by our convictions, or not?” Yes, we do. The Scripture clearly teaches that the only safe place for a woman is under her husband’s authority.

Wait. Wait wait wait. That sounds like a “no,” not a “yes.” Darlene is convicted to wear a head covering, but Debi is telling her not to. I sounds to me like she is saying we do not stick by our convictions if they conflict with our husband’s convictions.

As I sit here typing, several really “bad wife” examples come to my mind. These are “older-wiser-spiritual” women who have run their husbands off, or, for all practical purposes, have shut the bedroom door to them. Most have long hair and wear headscarves and pious dresses, and they are the most rebellious, cantankerous women who ever tormented a man. I have seen them in many places in the country; some denominations breed more than others. Many claim to be the “bride of Christ” or a prophetess, and spend their lives “helping” others. Scripture clearly teaches that they will not be any better as brides for Christ as they were as wives to their husbands.

Today, women rebel against their husbands so they can express their submission to God. Strange indeed! But nothing new.

More about obeying your husband here. Obeying your husband is the only thing that seems to matter here.

God told you what he meant for women to do concerning hair and left it up to you to honor his will. Without being commanded by the church, since it has no customs regarding these things, if you want to fall in line with God’s will as revealed in this passage, ask your husband, “May I grow my hair out long?” Watch his eyes light up. He will say something like, “I’ve been asking you for years to grow your hair long; I would love it.

Debi has said in this passage both that the head covering thing is up to the husband and that the Bible says nothing about a cloth head covering and instead commands women to have long hair, which communicates to demons that they belong to their husbands and cannot be touched. These two things seem contradictory. Here Debi tries to draw them into line by telling Darlene she can follow what scripture says and still submit to her husband if she grows her hair long. This assumes that—

Wait a moment. Did Debi seriously just suggest that Darlene should ask her husband’s permission to grow her hair long? Really?!

Anyway, this assumes that Darlene’s husband prefers her hair long rather than short. What if Darlene’s husband prefers her hair short?

However, neither long hair nor a scarf on your head are necessary for a heavenly marriage. I know of couples who are bathed in love for each other, and the lady’s hair is shorter than my husband’s.

Wait a moment . . . what about ensuring that demons know the wife belongs to the husband and cannot be touched? Did I just imagine that section? Let me flip back—nope, that wasn’t my imagination. Debi, come on! You’re confusing people when you do this!

Oh, but I would be remiss in not telling you: Long hair casts a spell on men that is unparalleled. When the veil of my long hair falls about my body and hips, my old husband loses his mind. We have counseled enough men to know that this is a fantasy they all have in common.

Uh . . . well, okay then. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that some men probably prefer women’s hair short. Debi seems to think, continually, that all men are like her husband Michael. Thankfully, this is not true.

But this does raise an important point. Any time Debi addresses what should happen if God’s commands and a husband’s commands conflict, she assumes that it will work out because the husband will come around. Remember when she said a working mother who wants to stay at home with her children should simply convince her husband to buy a smaller house and take fewer vacations and so make it financially feasible, so he couldn’t say no? Debi’s solution to “what do you do if God says to have long hair as a covering but your husband doesn’t want you to wear a head covering” is to ask your husband to let your hair grow out, because all men (apparently) like long hair.

For the very few ladies who have husbands who want them to wear a scarf, but they do not want to, I say this: “Stop being rebellious. Get under your husband’s authority and cheerfully, thankfully wear what your husband requires, knowing that by wearing it you are obeying God—and pleasing your husband.”

Debi

You know, this book could be a lot shorter. “What about Birth Control?” “Obey your husband.” What about Head Coverings?” “Obey your husband.”

Next week we finally—finally—get to learn about making an appeal. Debi’s mentioned this enough times without explaining what it actually involves that I really think she should have put it earlier in her book, in one of the first few chapters. Oh well, at least we finally get it!

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.


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