Thursday, February 4, 2016

Musings About Head Covering for Religious Reasons

Lately I’ve been thinking about head covering.

It’s a strange topic for me, a proud feminist and theological egalitarian. It all began when I started praying about a Lenten practice. Well, maybe it began a little while before that.
A few years ago, the French government banned the hijab. And I was (am) fiercely opposed to their action. Why? For one simple reason: when a group of men (conservative imans, politicians in the Judeo-Christian tradition, male fashion designers) declare what a woman should or shouldn’t put on her body, it is oppression. Frankly, it’s oppression if a group of women do it as well (looking at all the women who demand high heels).
Lately, a certain President wanna-be declared that all Muslims in the US should be registered. My initial response was that I would also register as a Muslim – that if EVERYONE, Muslim or not, registered, we could prevent that form of discrimination. Think about it. What else could render such a registration meaningless? And as a Christian, it is my calling to fight against oppression and discrimination. (I realize many will disagree with me on this point. That's fine - I'm not asking your opinion or agreement).
And now, the question of Lent. When I first began praying about Lent, it occurred to me that I could wear a hijab during Lent. A sign of solidarity with Muslim women who are oppressed. At that point, I had not heard about Larycia Hawkins. As I considered it, I thought about the Christian head covering movement and decided to do some research. That’s when I learned more about the Jewish head covering movement and the PAGAN head covering movement. Yes, some Pagan women cover their heads as an expression of faith. Head covering is more than just patriarchal oppression.
And now I’m just curious. Having read accounts from women (Jewish, Christian, Pagan, Muslim) who choose to cover, I’m wondering what would I learn? I’ve abandoned the idea of the hijab. I don’t believe that is what God is talking to me about. Because I do believe that the Holy Spirit is talking to me about head covering. But the hijab is not the covering I need, if I need one at all.
What would – what COULD – the Holy Spirit teach me if I chose to cover my head during Lent? What would I gain and what would I lose? How would those around me react?
I asked my husband about the issue this morning. We are egalitarian, so I certainly wasn’t asking permission! And he would hardly see a head covering as some sort of license to oppress me. However, as someone who goes out in public with me a lot, as someone who is affected by my actions, I want to know his opinion. He was bemused. After our chat I experimented with some head coverings, goofing around with a pirate look and a wrestler look. Because there's nothing wrong with having a little fun!
Having done my research, IF I choose to cover, I will likely not adhere to any one style or tradition. I have a number of scarves, which I will simply wrap around my head. I’ll leave my bangs exposed. I may even leave my ears exposed. In fact, I’ll try to make it somewhat inconspicuous - I will avoid any covering that indicates a particular faith. After all, this is a personal devotion, a private Lenten practice. It’s about changing a habit to create space for the Holy Spirit to speak to me. And isn’t that what Lent is about?

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