United Pentecostals, also called Oneness Pentecostals, are known for their rejection of the Trinity, which is a hallmark doctrine in orthodox Christianity. They are also known for their belief that water baptism and speaking in tongues are necessary for salvation. Besides doctrine, one practice the women are known for is not wearing makeup or jewelry.
United Pentecostal women don’t traditionally wear makeup or jewelry because they believe doing so violates the Bible’s instructions about associating with the ways of the world and what constitutes proper dress appearance. Refraining from outward “adornments” is a mark of holiness in the tradition.
What is the purpose of the tradition’s restrictions on physical appearance? What Bible verses do United Pentecostals cite to defend their teachings and practices? Why do women in the tradition have long hair? How do secular and Christian critics of these practices argue against them? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.
United Pentecostal Women: Clothes, Hair, and Beauty
United Pentecostals aren’t alone in forbidding women in their organization from wearing jewelry and makeup. Many religious traditions include rules and regulations for the outward appearance of women.
What’s the purpose of the restrictions on the appearance of women? Reasons for such instructions are often rooted in safeguarding a woman’s character and not participating in the norms of secular society. They also have the intention of preventing men from looking at them with lust.
Where do the rules and regulations come from? For United Pentecostals, the prohibitions on jewelry and makeup come from certain passages in the Bible. Critics of their interpretations of Scripture charge United Pentecostals with mishandling the passages they cite, which leads them to unfounded applications.
What Bible verses do United Pentecostals cite for forbidding jewelry and makeup?
Old and New Testament verses are cited in defense of the United Pentecostals’ position. Passages from the writings of the Apostle Paul are particularly important.
I will that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands without wrath and doubting. In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works (1 Timothy 2:8-10, KJV).
What is modest apparel? The Greek word translated “modesty” refers to dressing without shame. This means wearing clothing that isn’t revealing. Sexually suggestive attire reflects poorly on a woman’s character, according to the United Pentecostal’s interpretation of the verse.
Why does the passage forbid braided hair and jewelry? In general, such outward adornments copied the dress of unholy women in the first century. In part, therefore, the instruction regards refraining from association with the world. However, some scholars believe that Paul is describing the appearance of first-century prostitutes.
Avoiding worldliness in outward appearance
Another passage United Pentecostals cite is found in 1 Peter 3. The context of the instructions regards marriage. In the passage, both the wife and the husband are given instructions. Part of the instructions to wives is to focus on the beauty of character instead of the beauty of physical appearance.
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair or gold jewelry or fine clothes, but from the inner disposition of your heart, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in God’s sight. For this is how the holy women of the past adorned themselves. (1 Pet. 3:3-5a, KJV)
What does “outward adornment” mean? The Greek phrase literally reads “garments of the world.” The Greek word for world in the verse is “cosmos”. It’s where English gets the word cosmetics. Like in 1 Timothy, braided hair, jewelry, and nice clothes are associated with worldliness, and women should avoid them and focus on their character instead.
Why do United Pentecostal women have long hair?
Another passage United Pentecostals cite is 1 Corinthians 11. In this passage, Paul teaches that men should have short hair and women should have long hair. This passage is a primary reason why many women in the United Pentecostal tradition have long hair.
Is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering. (I Corinthians 11:13-15, KJV)
How do critics respond to United Pentecostal teachings about a woman’s appearance?
Non-Christian critics charge the United Pentecostal tradition with an oppressive, misogynistic, and outdated mindset that leads to restricting women of liberty and self-expression.
Christian critics of United Pentecostal teaching on a woman’s appearance generally affirm the wisdom of modesty in dress and focus on building inner character as opposed to obsessing over physical appearance. But they define modesty differently.
What is modesty?
According to critics, the United Pentecostal tradition practices an unhealthy application of the biblical principle of modesty.
In general, they agree that a woman’s identity shouldn’t come from her physical appearance. However, what she looks like is part of who she is and that shouldn’t be suppressed.
They argue that a woman can dress in modern styles, wear braided hair as well as makeup, and still be modest and defined according to her character.
The argument isn’t against modesty, but that the descriptions the New Testament gives are examples from the first century and aren’t universal prohibitions for every time and culture. Christian critics affirm the general principle of modesty as articulated in verses like:
- “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” (Prov. 31:30, ESV)
- “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion.” (Prov. 11:22, ESV)
- “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.” (PRov. 31:25)
What is applicable for today?
Christian critics also criticize the United Pentecostal interpretations of Scripture for misunderstanding that some instruction was given specifically to the first century and isn’t directly applicable to today.
If the scholars who teach that Paul’s descriptions of hair and jewelry described a prostitute in the first century, then the rules and regulations were given to women in a particular context at a particular time in history.
Therefore, the application to modern readers doesn’t necessarily concern braided hair and jewelry per se, unless that’s how modern prostitutes dress and identity themselves.
The Episcopal Church is one of the historic branches of Protestant Christianity in the Anglican tradition. Episcopalian ecclesiology values the sacraments that Jesus himself instructed people to...
The Episcopalian tradition has a rich history that includes the extensive use of reading the Bible in church services. Some individual members of the Episcopalian tradition also have the habit of...