The gospel of Jesus Christ is simple. It consists of an admonition to love God and love others, with ordinances designed to help individuals develop that love.
The simplicity of the gospel means that it can be adapted to any culture, to any time or place. Because of this marvelous flexibility, the church—the organization responsible for promoting the gospel of Christ’s love—looks different across time. It has different cultural trappings.
The disadvantage of this responsiveness is the possibility that a member or leader of the church will fail to distinguish between the gospel and its current cultural iteration. We can insist on a certain outward appearance, for example, forgetting that God looks only on the heart.
Insisting on a particular cultural trapping is dangerous because it subverts the very purpose of the gospel: to include all people in the embrace of Christ’s love. Instead of gathering the lost sheep, we alienate even the sheep who are already in the fold. During His lifetime, Jesus frequently pointed out this mistake: treasuring behavioral rules for their own sake while disregarding the purpose of the rules to point people to God’s love.
Wear Pants To Church Day—now in its second year—follows Christ’s example by pointing out the distinction He did. As in Jesus’ day, our church culture has grown too insistent on particulars of outward appearance, giving us an insularity at odds with the expansiveness of our mission.
God does not care whether people wear dresses or pants to church, whether we have facial hair or wear ties or dye our hair vermilion or pierce or tattoo our bodies. God does care whether we create loving, inclusive congregations where all people feel welcome regardless of their appearance.
Last year on Wear Pants To Church Day, I wore a purple ribbon and no tie. I felt so liberated without a tie cutting off circulation to my head that I have not worn one to church since. Over the past year, I have noticed something subtle and wonderful: my small act of tie-less cultural nonconformity created tension, but it also opened up a space for other people who do not match Mormon cultural patterns. Members who did not have nice clothes or who chose to dress more comfortably seemed to feel more included. Feminists in the ward talked to me, as did my LGBT sisters and brothers, liberals (*gasp*), and people with different theological leanings. In other words, Wear Pants To Church Day helped me become a better disciple of Christ.
I hope you will join me and many others in showing visible support for this year’s Wear Pants To Church Day. If you do not feel so moved, I hope you will find some other way to create space in our wards—in our societies, in our lives—to welcome all of our Heavenly Parents’ children to the great banquet of Their love.