One of my brother’s friends posted the article Is Modest Really Hottest? from Relevant Magazine and basically asked for comments and thoughts. It sparked quite an interesting discussion, but true to form, I have more to say than what will fit on a facebook wall comment box.
So, I thought I would expound on my thoughts here.
First, let me start with, Matthew Paul Turner the author of the article did one of the better jobs that I have ever seen in terms of addressing the spirit of the debate, and highlighting an area or two that are inherently flawed in the modesty debate as it stands in the Christian culture right now. When I first clicked the link I was already mentally preparing to be frustrated with what the article was about to tell me, and I was gearing up my arguments and defenses about what is wrong with the current state of the debate about modesty. However, surprisingly (and thankfully) I found none of the typical answers or comments I was expecting. I was impressed (and humbled) by the lack of finger pointing to the female population; which I am fairly certain is a first for me in regards to the modesty discussion.. or debate.. or argument to date.
At this point, I am going to divert my thoughts from the article itself to the discussion about modesty as a whole. I see some serious flaws with the debate as it stands right now. I am fairly certain I have heard all of the reasons and debates behind “modest is hottest” and as a general rule I agree, but I vehemently disagree with the way in which it is expected to be carried out by the female population. Let us just start with some logic in this debate…
Since I am a Christian single woman who would like to some day get married… let’s say I decide I am going to do everything possible to help my Christian “brothers” out in the lust department. I think this is a noble thing, but the problem is which brother am I helping?.. The one that is my elder? The new Christian brother that is still trying to disentangle himself from his past? The non-Christian but seeking brother? The solid brother who is married but easily distractable from his wife? The brother who is a solid Christian and single?.. And, my overarching question, “How do I know if I have succeeded?” Who will tell me when I have done a good job or failed with an outfit? Am I really subject every single day to other men’s ideas of whether I am successfully modest? Which man’s opinion do I pay attention to? So, you see, before I even getting into the culture or region element of the debate, I already am having problems defining who my target audience is and the litmus test by which I will know success. The inherent problem with “helping my Christian brother” is each man has a dramatically different perspective of what modest is!
How does region and culture play a role? It is a fairly well known fact that the further south (or closer to the Equator) you get the less clothing is worn. Purely from a practical standpoint, it is just too hot in Florida to wear the same clothing that is a necessity in Alaska. And, from an economical stand point, standard clothing in the US (say bras for example) are not seen in the African countries (Ghana, Swaziland, and South Africa) I have been to. So, I am sure an argument can be made with the “when in Rome….” perspective, but the problem is, that still leaves modesty in the eye of the beholder.. region.. culture.. etc.. A never ending moving target dictated by an ambiguous definition.
However, each of these two vantage points removes responsibility from both players. Men are removed because they have no accountability in their own actions in regards to women and modesty. But, women are removed because it turns into what they should or should not do based off of a moving target. Neither perspective takes the heart into account at all; which is really where my trouble with the modesty debate as it stands right now lies.
No female will ever be able to be completely modest. Ever. Which means, we have been set up to fail.. and our hearts are keenly aware of this fact. Deep down we know that our moving ambiguous target of being “modest” to help our “brothers in Christ” is a battle we are doomed to fail because, men cannot even agree on what is modest.. or hottest. Some men are attracted to hair, eyes, legs, butts, chests, stomachs or some combination there in. So, the debate quickly becomes an “in the eye of the beholder” debate over personal preference.
Basically women can wear a mu-mu and still be found attractive.
One of the things that I appreciated the most about the article is it points out how one sided the debate has been to date. Men are essentially free from responsibility. Thank you Matthew Paul Turner for finally pointing out this flaw.
I would like to point out that it is incredibly disturbing from a woman’s perspective that we are held to the standards of each individual man, most of which we have little or no contact with ever. How can I possibly be held to the standards of a man I may never interact with? That is not biblical at all. In fact, I think now is a perfect time to loop the Bible into this debate…
“The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.” – Genesis 6:5 – We cannot do it alone, our only hope is the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ.
” Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.” – Psalm 4:4 – How is that for an action item of what to do when you lust?!
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil” – Proverbs 4:23-27 – Again, this requires each person to take responsibility for their own actions.. including lust.
Talk about loving your neighbor in regards to the way modesty is approached:
“Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” – Proverbs 12:25
And finally, “My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” – Colossians 2:2-3
I cannot find anywhere in the Bible where our hearts and actions are held against someone else for the role they unknowing played in our struggle. The Bible is full of taking responsibility for our own actions. We will stand before the Lord for our OWN heart’s intent, and if we believe Christ, He will as He has already done, take our sin on Himself and pay the price. We cannot blame someone else for our own heart and eyes lusting or struggling.
The entire modesty debate is
really a way of diverting our own responsibility by pointing to someone else
and demanding they take responsibility because of
our own rights to wear what we want
or our struggles to look away…
Modesty is a two part dance, each partner has their role to play. Girls (I) must check the heart’s intentions, actions, and reactions. That is our role in the dance.
Guys must do the same, but it is crucial to point out, girls are not involved in the guy’s role, we cannot do it for them, and we are not held responsible for their part of the dance; and vice verse.
The entire issue of modesty is just like every other element of life, it is between each individual and Christ.