A few weeks ago, I wrote a post explaining why I don't talk to girls at church about their clothing. One loyal reader (okay, my dad) took the time to write a thoughtful critique of my argument, making a well-reasoned case for why we should acknowledge the prettiness of frilly dresses and the handsomeness of toddler bow ties.
I'll let you read it and decide what you think.
OK dear daughter, here is why I disagree with your recent blog post. It is thoughtful and well written as usual.
I certainly agree with what I believe are your twin concerns: connecting more deeply, spiritually with little ones in the church and not communicating the false idea that who they are is mostly about pretty dresses. Agreed. But I don’t think reaching those goals requires the method you have chosen.
It strikes me that your view is a kind of incipient Gnosticism. (How’s that?) You come across as: “All we really want to engage is the little girl’s soul, not the whole person.” But since she is an embodied person it is difficult to see how your position does justice to this. It seems to me that your position then requires no comments on anyone physically. (Except, perhaps between husband and wife.)
Using your principles I think I would have to refrain from referring to your sons as handsome or to comment on how big they are getting. After all, according to your post, this would send the wrong message. And maybe I shouldn’t even say that they are getting really good at baseball or legos. Doesn’t that send the wrong message? I get what you are saying if such things were all I ever said to your sons or by analogy to a little girl in the church.
But I will still compliment little girls on pretty dresses for the following reasons:
1. There are weightier matters of the law and this is a very simple thing, not to be shunned. Shunning this almost makes it more important than it is.
2. I am in fact speaking truth, she is wearing a pretty dress.
3. It builds a bridge into this little girl’s world for speaking about the weightier matters of the law. Perhaps with each compliment I should ,without missing a beat, ask what her Sunday school class was about. Point taken.
4. I wouldn’t dream of not telling a new bride how lovely she looks. Complimenting a little girl on looking pretty in some small way points her to the day when she will be a lovely bride. For exactly this reason I might say to little boys that they are “getting big” or “looking handsome” or are “quite the ball player.” They are pre-men, little men who are heading toward being grown men. Men get bigger, grow more handsome and sharpen their skills. I want to encourage that.
5. The fact that her mother dressed her does not take away from this, it adds to it, in my opinion. Aren’t we all about being clothed by another, with the beauty of Christ? That is beauty worth praising so the fact that her mother dressed her does not prove we should not acknowledge her pretty dress.
6. I used to compliment you on how pretty you looked and you turned out pretty well!
Again, dear daughter, I agree with what I think your concerns are. I respectfully disagree with your approach.
_________Brad Evans is the pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Coventry in Coventry, Connecticut. You can follow him on Twitter @BDEvans61