The Governing Body
Service department of Jehovah’s Witnesses
2821 Route 22
12563 8th Aug 2016
In this letter, I would like to give you some positive and constructive feedback regarding one of your articles in Septembers Watchtower study edition entitled “Does Your Style of Dress Glorify God?”
Firstly, from what I have read, you appear to be inching in the right direction regarding freedom of choice when it comes to dress and grooming. I very much welcome this. I also wholeheartedly agree that it is important to ‘Do all things for God’s glory’ as the theme scripture mentions at 1 Cor. 10:31. We are worshippers of the true God and need to reflect that in every aspect of our lives. I agree with the scriptural references you highlighted to specifically explain why we need to dress ourselves appropriately as this also reflects on our God Jehovah.
I especially like the point where you mention that ‘he has permitted us to exercise our free will and make sensible personal decisions, which should be guided by sound Scriptural principles. Thus, even in our dress and grooming, we can show that we want to ‘walk in modesty with our God.’—Mic. 6:8. 19. It was also nice to read how a Dutch Newspaper made a very favorable comment about the way Jehovah’s Witnesses adorned themselves at one of the Conventions. To a point, this particular watchtower study will be a helpful reminder to all Christians about the importance of dress and grooming.
However, there were a few points you made that I would like to draw to your attention to, which you may find useful for future reference. You quoted 1Tim 2:9,10 which says “9 Likewise I desire the women to adorn themselves in well-arranged dress, with modesty and soundness of mind, not with styles of hair braiding and gold or pearls or very expensive garb, 10 but in the way that befits women professing to reverence God, namely, through good works.”
So clearly, we see here that women should be ‘modestly’ dressed.
Your Read scripture at Deuteronomy 22:5 says - “No garb of an able-bodied man should be put upon a woman, neither should an able-bodied man wear the mantle of a woman; for anybody doing these things is something detestable to Jehovah your God.
You then go on to explain that ‘From God’s stated direction about clothing, we clearly see that God is not pleased with styles of dress that feminize men, that make women look like men, or that make it hard to see the difference between men and women’
God’s word is clear on these matters. However, could I humbly point out an interesting fact which pertains to our day. The law in Deuteronomy was given to the Israelite's during their sojourn through the wilderness after the Exodus from Egypt. At that time both men and women wore cloth skirts! This is what is mentioned on the following site
While a woman's garments mostly corresponded to those of men: they wore simlāh and kethōneth, they also evidently differed in some ways from those of men(see Deuteronomy 22:5). Women's garments were probably longer (compare Nahum 3:5, Jeremiah 13:22, Jeremiah 13:26, Isaiah 47:2), had sleeves (2Samuel 13:19), presumably were brighter colors and more ornamented, and also may have been of finer material. Also worn by women was the sadin, the finer linen underdress (see Isaiah 3:23, Proverbs 22:24).
So in biblical times, Israelite men and women generally wore a skirt of some sort; though women’s clothing was different from men’s as described above. Where am I going with this? Well, very often on my way to the kingdom Hall on a Sunday, I walk past very modestly dressed individuals on their way into their local church.
I have observed that the women attending often wear a mixture of dresses, skirts AND slacks. The women wearing slacks don’t look any less modestly dressed than those wearing skirts or dresses. All of them look very modest and smartly dressed. In today’s society, ‘in Western lands’ it is acceptable for women to wear trousers/slacks, skirts and dresses.
You then go on to say in the watchtower study that ‘We do not need detailed lists saying which styles of dress are acceptable and which are objectionable. Rather, we are guided by Scriptural principles that allow room for personal preferences’.
I am glad you highlighted the fact that we have personal preferences. Yet, though you don’t say it outright, I know for a fact that sisters are frowned upon for wearing slacks at the kingdom Hall, or even spoken to by some over zealous elders. The only exception to the rule is if they live in a very cold climate and have no other choice as mentioned in your correspondence guidelines on page 20 (which I downloaded quite easily on the internet via Google search). In all my years as a witness, I personally have never seen any sister wearing slacks at the Kingdom Hall. Obviously, I understand the view that some individuals can draw attention to themselves if wearing very tight clothing. I get that! But surely it should be the right of ALL women to choose whether she wishes to wear a dress, a skirt or modest pair of slacks if she so wishes. That’s just the women. I don’t even have to mention the fact that ALL brothers (particularly) in western lands have to wear suits. No choice there! So as things currently stand in regards to the way we dress, it is in reality wishful thinking that ‘We have the freedom to choose what to wear’ to our meetings.
You mention 1 Corinthians 10:32, 33 where it says 32 Keep from becoming causes for stumbling to Jews as well as Greeks and to the congregation of God, 33 even as I am pleasing all people in all things, not seeking my own advantage but that of the many, in order that they might get saved.
You state the following:
‘In some cultures, a neatly trimmed beard may be acceptable and respectable, and it may not detract at all from the Kingdom message. In fact, some appointed brothers have beards. Even so, some brothers might decide not to wear a beard. (1 Cor 8:9, 13; 10:32) In other cultures or localities, beards are not the custom and are not considered acceptable for Christian ministers. In fact, having one may hinder a brother from bringing glory to God by his dress and grooming and his being irreprehensible. —Rom. 15:1-3; 1 Tim. 3:2, 7. 16.
At first glance, it would appear you leave it to personal choice; but then you end the paragraph by saying that beards are not acceptable in some cultures or localities (I take it you mean Western lands). Elder zealot will interpret this as it is intended. As an exercise, let’s say, Bethel was based in the Middle East. The paragraph could so easily have been written this way.
‘In some cultures (western), being beardless may be acceptable and respectable, and it may not detract at all from the Kingdom message. In fact, some appointed brothers are beardless. Even so, some brothers might decide to wear a beard. (1 Cor. 8:9, 13; 10:32) In other cultures or localities (Middle East), being beardless is not the custom and is not considered acceptable for Christian ministers. In fact, being beardless may hinder a brother from bringing glory to God by his dress and grooming and his being irreprehensible. —Rom. 15:1-3; 1 Tim. 3:2, 7. 16.
As I am sure you are well aware, whether you agree or not, the organisation is continuously perceived as a high control religion. I have often read experiences where brothers (particularly those reaching out) are advised against growing a beard. In the UK, many men grow their beards. It’s perfectly acceptable in our society. Some men prefer to grow a beard, some don’t! It’s really a matter of personal choice and a non issue. Yet, I know for a fact that brothers are often called to the back of the hall, whereby an elder will ‘highlight’ the reasons why brothers within the organisation don’t tend to wear beards (I have experienced this personally), I am not talking about some 17 year old youth with a bit of fluff on his face. I am referring to men in their 30’s, 40’s and older who have simply grown a neat trim beard. The reasoning tends to be that it could stumble the brothers!! I can understand a brother being spoken too if he clearly had an unkempt beard or prone to swaggering about the hall in a pair of extra tight pants.
I have to ask you brothers, what ‘other’ Christian organisation, denomination or group do you find a grown man tell another grown man that he is not to grow a beard? Please tell me? Let’s suppose Jesus miraculously walked in to one of your meetings at Bethel, would you frown on him for wearing a beard! I think not! What is very sad about this is that most elders blindly follow such rules to the letter (as directed on page 20 of your branch correspondence guidelines - http://www.jwfacts.com/watchtower/beards-jehovahs-witnesses.php); Yet if these same elders were updated tomorrow in a letter written by the ‘Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania’ that the brothers now have permission to grow a beard if they so choose (similar to when the elders were informed that the use of tablets on the platform at Kingdom Halls was acceptable), they would switch their thinking on this ‘non issue’ right away.
Your many rules and policies continue to choke mine and others spirituality - and stumble many to the point of leaving the organisation. Such rules allow those opposed to Jehovah’s Witnesses to highlight that we are indeed a high control religion. This in turn stumbles many individuals who are curious about our beliefs, but then find we have all these incredible ‘man made rules’. This then puts people off looking any further. These ‘many’ rules are an unnecessary and unfortunate distraction, which clouds the wonderful message of the bible. To many, we are a restrictive, rule driven religion. That is how people perceive us! It begs the question…. why? When you know that this is how we are perceived, why do you continue to hang on to all these unnecessary man made rules and traditions of men?
Yes we should be modest in our dress and grooming. Yes our dress and grooming should not make people conclude anything other than that we are worshippers of Jehovah God. Yes Jehovah has high standards, and we happily strive to reflect those standards. But brothers, you need to jettison the unnecessary rules that go beyond what is written. Allow the brothers and Sisters the freedom to worship God without experiencing the feeling they are controlled and judged by others, especially the elders.
I very much hope you take on board my honest and candid feedback Brothers. It is time to let go of the past. You can and have done so when needed / required. For example, you no longer use ‘Masonic symbols’ which were often shown in your literature during the early years of the Watchtower Society; something of which Charles Taze Russell had an apparent interest in. So, that is why I thoroughly believe change is possible.
Thank you once again for reading my letter Brothers
Bro J M
Witness for Watchtower reform