This is a post that I’ve been meaning to write for a while now. And since it keeps coming up, I figured that I wouldn’t procrastinate any longer, but just put up my thoughts and let them fall where they may.
I’m talking about the modesty debate. You have heard it in Christian circles. I’ve heard it. My daughters have heard it. You really can’t send you kids off to a Christian camp during the summer without it.
It’s this. “Girls, listen up! These guys are your Christian brothers! When you dress immodestly, you are putting stumbling blocks in their way to purity! They are always tempted to lust, and you girls have to understand that, and dress accordingly.”
This sounds good on the surface, and many don’t give it a second thought. Except, of course, for the girls.
The problem with it is this. It’s degrading to women. It’s degrading to men. It’s degrading to Christ and his work. It’s thoroughly unbiblical, and therefore of no use whatsoever to salvation, purity or holiness.
Here are my problems:
First, it is degrading to men.
The assumption of the modesty debate is that men are creatures of lust who can’t help it – especially if a woman is dressed immodestly. Really, it’s her fault. The woman that you put in front of me, Lord, she gave it to me and I did look.
Piffle. Men, get this through your head. If you are in Christ, then you are being conformed to his image. Are you really saying that Jesus would have looked and lusted if a scantly dressed woman approached? The Bible teaches that each one is led away of his own lusts and enticed (James 1:14). The problem is your heart, not her skirt. Further, the Bible teaches us that if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
In other words, we men do not need modesty laws to have a pure heart. What we need is Christ. We need to stop blaming the girls, the advertisers, the catalogs, the TV shows, and point the finger right where it belongs. At our filthy, corrupted, sinful hearts. We need to fall on our knees and beg God again for the Holy Spirit to create in us clean hearts that look on women as creatures made in God’s image, worthy of honor and dignity.
The strongest modesty laws of all are in sharia law, and those who hold it the most strictly are so consumed with lust that they keep slaves…
Second, it is degrading to women.
When we teach “modesty” laws to our daughters, what do we say, “Dress modestly so that you won’t cause men to lust”? Or do we say, “Dress as a daughter of the king. You have dignity, beauty and worth as a greatly loved daughter of God. You are made, body and soul, in his image and belonging to your faithful savior, who died for you.”
Unfortunately, I fear that we too often do the former. The message that we send our daughters is that their bodies are NOT good, and made in God’s image. But something shameful with no other purpose than to arouse men’s desires. I would ask at this point is this is really the message that we want to teach our daughters, but unfortunately I have met too many of their fathers who don’t seem to see anything wrong with that. But there is something greatly wrong with it.
It teaches women that their only purpose is to be lusted after, to gratify their husbands frequently so that he won’t lust (I have another post to write about THAT one), and to keep their opinions, with their legs, carefully hidden so as not to cause a fuss.
Let me use an example. I just finished watching a very moving video here. It got me thinking. In Christian circles, we have been shouting about too much sex and scantly clad women in advertising for years, to no effect. But what reason is given? Because you are causing men to lust. Our boys are being led astray. Sexual enticement everywhere.
Yeah. I agree. It still works, so they’ll still do it. But why are they finding so many of our daughters willing to do that? Because we have taught them that it is the only thing they are good for!
We see our sons’ eyes glaze over when the model comes on the TV and we blame the way she is dressed, rather than teach our sons how to guard their hearts, and seek Christ and his Spirit. We miss a perfect opportunity to teach them that this singer on the music video is a human with dignity and worth, with value as a human being. Instead of teaching them that sex is a tremendous gift of love that God has given to us for the holy state of matrimony, we teach them that it is a dirty thing, to be ashamed of and never spoken of, except with contempt and disgust.
I have never heard anywhere a Christian pastor, mega-pastor, conference speaker, or Christian author talk about what message these advertisers are sending to our daughters! I may have missed some, and I hope that to be the case. But their voices are being drowned out by warnings of seduction! But seduction wouldn’t even be a problem if Christian men dealt with the heart issue (above), but I digress.
What is the message that they are sending to our daughters? It goes right along with the message Christian summer camp is sending to our daughters. You aren’t worth honor and dignity. All you are is a pair of legs designed to entrap and entice men. At Summer camp we tell them to cover up. And the advertisers tell them to use it to sell. Either way, the heart of the issue is the same.
I know that I’m going to get some flack from certain circles for linking that video, but I did it anyway. If your hearts aren’t crying out for these girls locked in a cycle of abuse; if all you are thinking when you see it is sex and seduction, then your heart is desperately in need of cleansing, and only Christ can do that.
I’m very sad to live in a world where we talk about thigh gaps.
Why is it, to sum up this rambling post, that whenever we see sex used to sell a product, that we immediately start to think about the effect it has on “innocent” men, rather than the horrible effect it has on our daughters, who are absorbing the doctrine that their bodies are only for the purpose of arousing lust; that they aren’t good and created in God’s image, but they are something to be ashamed of, hidden away, lest a good man stumble?
Sorry for the ramble. It’s late. But the worst part of it all is this:
It is degrading to Christ
Whenever we shift the blame for our sins upon a woman’s dress or mannerisms, or even on her sinful behavior, we have unwittingly confessed that salvation lies in getting these women under control. But this is really idolatry, isn’t it?
Isn’t salvation reserved for Christ, and Christ alone?
I also was once a teenage boy, and needed no help from anyone to lust in the heart. I went to a school where dress codes were strictly monitored. We didn’t have any of those “hippy clothes” when I was growing up. No mini-skirts, no bikinis, none of those kinds of thing.
And I still blush in shame at the thoughts of my heart, and the conversation of my friends about girls that were created in God’s image. I didn’t need a monastery. I needed Christ. And I still need Christ, every day.
These girls that the Christian church looks down on as tramps or harpies are made in God’s image. They probably have sins of their own. They may indeed be dressing to attract undue attention from men for reasons of their own.
But they are broken sinners in need of redemption; not tramps to be despised and avoided, to be shamed and ridiculed, and certainly not to be used to sell clothes or beer.
Jesus looked at the multitudes with compassion, because they were as sheep without a shepherd. They had no protection, no one leading them to quiet water and green pastures.
Instead of looking at the world with disgust and self-righteous contempt, maybe we should pray for a heart to view the world with that kind of compassion.
We must be careful not to bless God with our tongues, while at the same time calling down curses upon men and women made in God’s image, no matter how they may be dressed. We must seek to know, to understand and to speak to all people as human beings of dignity and worth – whether the world understands it or not. The danger is in our filthy hearts, not in the length of the skirt.
For more on this topic, please see my follow-up post here