Time to talk about modesty (he says, as we begin the transition from summer to fall). Note that this is part one of two.
Fair warning for non-Christian readers: these are in-house matters, and will likely not be of much interest to you.
Recently, I’ve noticed an uptick of activity in the blogosphere regarding the subject of modesty. As with all things within the Christian (or any) community regarding matters relating to sex and sexuality, the debate has been…heated.
There are two possible extremes to this debate. The first one can be referred to as the “burka option,” while the second can be referred to as the “nudist option.” Most of the debate, at least regarding women’s clothing, is along this continuum. Take note—I’ll be discussing male modesty shortly. Yes, apparently this is necessary, guys. I know, I was just as confused as you currently are when I was introduced to the notion that it was necessary.
But anyway. I won’t spend a lot of time on the first extreme because I haven’t really noticed anyone giving it as an option, largely because it seems fairly clear that your sin is your sin, and is not, technically, someone else’s fault. Maybe there are some dark corners of the internet or the backcountry where this is taught. I haven’t seen this.
Tendencies towards the second extreme, however, are something that I’ve noticed bandied about, and seriously at that. First, let me explain what I mean by the “nudist option.” This is the notion that, should a completely unclothed female person walk into a room full of Christian men, if there is a single prurient thought in the entire room as a result, that the girl bears no responsibility whatsoever, and that the men are merely perverts who aren’t sufficiently sanctified.
I’m not really exaggerating that much here. Thing is, some of this is a reaction to the first extreme, as well as the perceived immodesty of men. Some of it is also people caught up in the zeitgeist of the culture that says that men are to blame for everything.
Now, let me explain to you why this isn’t a good way to look at the situation. Let’s suppose that I went hiking one day. Now, whilst hiking, I come upon a tree across the trail. I sigh, look at it, then get around the obstacle either by going under it, over it, or around it—all of which are a bit of a pain.
As I go along, this happens again. And again. And again. Soon enough, I’m dealing with trees across the trail every hundred feet or so. However, I hear an axe up ahead, so I figure that I’ll find the miscreant doing this soon enough, and maybe get some answers out of him.
Well, when I round a bend in the trail, I find a forest ranger chopping down a tree in a way that is going to cause the tree to fall across the trail. At which point, I holler at the ranger “What are you doing?”
“Chopping down this tree.”
“Why are you blocking the trail?”
“Well, you hikers have had all your own way for far too long, just traipsing through the forest,” he says, as he gives the tree a final whack and steps out of the way so he doesn’t crushed as it falls, “and besides, chopping down trees makes me feel all ranger-y.”
“What the—do you have any idea how much frustration and inconvenience you’re causing people?”
“Well, those negative emotions and thoughts are your problem, aren’t they? It’s not my fault if you don’t have patience.” At which point, he takes his axe, places it on his shoulder, and walks away into the forest, whistling.
Now, regarding the complaints I’ve seen from women about men dressing immodestly, here’s what I have to say for a lot of us: Our apologies. We had no idea that this was a problem.
No, seriously. And here’s why: We were never told that this was a problem. Let me explain how my church, at any rate, told us guys how to keep girls from sinning in this area: A. Don’t try and get them into bed; B. Do as much as you can to keep them from getting too involved on an emotional level. That was it.
Before I went to college, I’d maybe heard once from a Christian source that girls could think pruriently. I’d heard such from other sources, but I’d almost never seen it acknowledged within the Christian community that women even so much as looked at porn. The first place I ever heard that observed within the Christian community? Last year at college.
Should I have figured it out based on other sources? Yeah, I should have. Are there those among my brethren who understood that this was a problem and decided to take advantage of it? Yeah, there are. Are we actually going to do something about it? We better. I’m not sure what yet.
However, and this is true for both parties, I am unaware of the passage that says that having a stumbling block put in front of you entitled you to do the same.
Now, doubtless there are those reading this who are saying “Why is my brother’s/sister’s weakness my problem?” To which I reply, please read 1 Corinthians 8—you know, the passage about meat sacrificed to idols. Because here’s the thing—there is nothing inherently wrong with walking about in the buff, or in whatever state of dress one chooses to be in. However, there are times, rather more often than not, when it is wrong to do so. The reason for this is that nudity has become associated with intimacy, most often of a sexual nature. That appearing in public in said state of undress can easily lead to lust should be apparent.
“Well, it doesn’t have to, does it?” I hear a voice say.
No, no it doesn’t. But you can step around or hop over an obstruction. The person who put it there is still wrong.
Now that I’ve spent a lot of time explaining myself about why we should care about this, there are probably people asking “Well, what do we do?”
Now, here’s what I’m not going to do. I’m not going to talk about one-piece vs. two-piece, tight vs. loose, or whatever the issue du jour is.
This is my recommendation: Think, guys and girls. Consider, before you go out in public, if what you are wearing encourages others to think of you as a sex object rather than a human being.
Now, I know that there are going to be immediate complaints about perverts. See above for why that’s not a justification. Just put yourself in the head of an average person—and actually devote some effort to thinking like them.
In other words, how about we all help each other out, eh?
‘Til next time,
Lowell Van Ness