Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved. For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.

if you are a man wearing something on your head while praying or prophesying you dishonour your metaphorical head. On the other hand, if you are a woman not wearing something on your head while praying and prophesying, you dishonour your metaphorical head. So part of what is at stake in this tradition is the honour of Christ and man.

How are Christ and man dishonoured? Paul talks more about the woman/man than man/Christ. He says a woman’s uncovered head is comparable to short hair or a shaved head. It is a disgrace for a woman. Therefore a woman should cover her head while praying and prophesying.

The meaning is this: there is something about long hair that is appropriate to women – it is womanly – and wearing a covering on her head while praying and prophesying is equally womanly. Therefore, failing to cover her head while praying and prophesying is an unwomanly disgrace.

But how does she also dishonour man when she prays and prophesies with her head uncovered?

If womanliness is connected to a woman covering her head, then it is womanly to recognise man as her head. Isn’t that what covering her head does? Therefore, a woman who prays and prophesies with her head uncovered is symbolically rejecting man as her head, and so dishonours him.

So Paul is saying if a woman prays or prophesies without covering her head, she is dishonouring man by rejecting him as her head and (in doing so) rejecting her own womanliness.

When we read Paul this way, we can appreciate just how serious he is about women covering their heads. He links it to their very purpose, to their whole feminine identity. This is no cultural symbol to keep the pagans happy. This goes deep into the way we are made, male and female.

This is very serious.

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