Thank you for your kind reply. At no point have I had vicious or resentful feelings towards any of my former staff or classmates, and I continue to think very fondly of the relationships we had. However, I am not sure that I would agree with you that “many of them were already at the place where [I] have arrived.” But perhaps you have felt that their place of arrival and my place of arrival are the same because I haven’t explained myself clearly enough. I will make another faint attempt — and since you have particularly noted the issue of dress reform I will continue along the same vein.
When I first arrived at the conservative school, I obediently came with knee-length skirts because I had been informed that this was school policy. I was quickly informed by the school principle that my knee-length skirts were not long enough because my kneecaps peeked out when I sat down. I was reminded that it would be a very terrible thing to cause men to sin by showing off my body. So I went to the Goodwill and bought longer skirts. I didn’t buy expensive skirts because we had to wear them to class, to work, on walks through the woods, and even on camping trips. In none of these situations were trousers allowed for women. I remember with acute embarrassment the day I walked down the street with some friends and my long, flowing skirt caught a gust of wind a blew up past my waist. My male classmate looked quickly away but I knew he had seen everything. There are many immodest aspects to skirts, even long, loose ones.
I am familiar with the articles on your website and I must congratulate you on the many helpful documents you have, particularly in explaining traditional Adventist views on Daniel and Revelation. I have also read your article on dresses. What leads me to mention it is a particular section of your comment above, where you mention that the dresses-only message has not had much “sticking power.” I was unclear as to whether you meant this as admonishment or as a mere observation. If you meant it as an observation, I would agree, because as far as I understand, Ellen White’s messages are intended to be interpreted according to time and context. We all know the famous bicycle quotes, and we’ve figured out how to extract the principle behind these particular incidents. And I interpret Ellen White’s comments on dress in the same way. I do my utmost to dress modestly, healthfully, simply, attractively, and femininely. And my style, fitting those requirements with a clear conscience, includes pants. For the dresses-only message to not have “sticking power” is quite clear when I seek to apply the principles to my context.
However, some years ago when I read your article on dresses-only (http://www.bibledoc.org/lifestyle/thoughts-on-dress-a-little-grace-or-looking-at-appearances-2/) I noticed that you repeatedly refer to dresses as the style of clothing that “pleases God,” seemingly inferring that other styles do not please God. The beginning of this particular article states that one of the purposes of the paper is “To bring members of Christ’s church more into line with dress that would be pleasing to Him.” And your conclusion is, dresses only. If you don’t believe the dresses-only message has as much “sticking power” as our fundamental beliefs because, as you say, they were merely “inferred” by the prophets, why do you make such strong statements on your website? Perhaps you have also benefited from progressive revelation but have not had time to update your article yet. I hope I am not misunderstanding your or placing words in your mouth, but the article on your website does not seem congruous with your observation that dress reform is “loosely inferred.”
But, notwithstanding the inherent flexibility in such lifestyle principles, I have personally felt that they are used in the conservative world as boundary markers to signify who is “with us” and who is still “outside.” Recently, while attending the last GC session, I met some old friends from my school. I was wearing jeans and a flowing tunic top that reached halfway between my waist and my knees. One girl looked me up and down and told me, “I didn’t think that was the kind of thing Clare wore.” She stopped talking to me after that. Like I said, I am not resentful, but feeling displaced and hurt.
I have taken great comfort in Romans 14, with the emphasis on God as our judge. I recognize that the passage speaks primarily to those who differed over the ceremonial law, but I find the principles useful for my “lifestyle” situation as well. “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.” Romans 14:4. We are commanded, “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” And this is what I attempt to do. I believe that Jesus died to not only pardon the sins of my past, but to cover me with His perfect righteousness, making me “accepted in the Beloved.” There is nothing I can do to be more or less accepted. I am either “in Christ” or I’m not. I do believe in sanctification and victory over sin, but I believe that when one becomes a Christian, Jesus takes over that work to complete it in you. My job is to remain connected to the vine and keep saying “yes” when He wants to change me or redirect me.
My main problem with the lifestyle extremes of ultraconservatism is the general belief that certain behaviors can increase or decrease God’s favor. In my understanding, “lifestyle” teachings are a) for my own earthly benefit, b) for the benefit of other people, or c) to safeguard my connection with God (through which every other blessing comes). I had two classmates who used to argue passionately about whether eating white, refined pasta was a sin. One of the two would literally go hungry rather than eat white pasta, because he was really “persuaded” that this was sin and would incur God’s displeasure. I say no — a bowl of white pasta, a pair of jeans, lip gloss, and a potluck dish with cheese in it — these have no power to make God less or more pleased with you. However, if you eat cheesy white pasta every day and don’t exercise, your health will suffer and you’ll probably get a fuzzy mind that can’t hear the impressions of the Spirit very well. Which is why I believe God is interested in the earthly lives we live. We are not gnostics. We don’t believe in dichotomizing the spiritual and physical world. But let’s be careful not to give too much emphasis to one or the other.
Now I have written a tome for you. Sorry for being so long-winded. I hope you will reconsider your views on dresses-only and, as a respected spokesperson for the conservative world, please help to communicate to others who are like I was that the most “pleasing” thing we can do is to be in Christ and let HIM do the work in us. As others in this thread have commented, we can do nothing to make God love us more or less.