only thing that bothers me more than bad grammar is bad theology.
heard it again, one more time, on Christian talk radio. “Guys can't
help how they feel. They're visual creatures. Girls don't realize what boys feel physically
when exposed to their bodies. They need to take responsibility to
keep their brothers from stumbling.”
Beautiful Barcelona. We didn't
take any pictures at the beach.
For obvious reasons.
time for this idea to die. I know. It's a pet theory in the Christian world. Championed by well known leaders in the faith. Jumping into the fray is already making folks who are reading this angry. But hold on.
See, the problem is, it's just that--a theory. There has never been real proof. The facts "everyone" knows have been catalogued and repeated. But let's look at some other facts.
The idea has been around, healthy and strong, for
too long. It's dangerous. It's demeaning to both genders. And—it's
could approach this psychologically, sociologically, or logically. However, let's go at the question with the criteria that should always
things the Bible does not teach about modesty—and one it does. [tweet this].
Bible does not teach that the body is shameful.
years ago, we spent an afternoon on a beach in Barcelona. Aware that
parts of the beach were “clothing optional,” we opted for the
first crescent, the one deemed “safe for the whole family.” We
learned, quickly, that apparently tops are optional everywhere. So
our first "exposure" to cultural norms in Spain was a bit of a shock.
you know what? I didn't see a single man on that beach assaulting a
women because she was topless and therefore he couldn't help himself.
What I saw were families and friends enjoying a day at the beach
together, completely oblivious to one another's state of not-dress.
says that the creation of humans was very good. God rejoiced in the
forms he had created. Shame entering the world didn't change that. In
fact, the Bible tends to celebrate beautiful women and strong men—as
well as strong women and beautiful men.
isn't to say that we don't dishonor our bodies when we treat them
shamefully. It's to give a starting point from which to have the
discussion. That start is, and must be, that God created the human
body fearfully and wonderfully (Psalm 139). It is never to be shamed
for its mere appearance.
Bible does not teach that we can “blame the victim.”
can't find a single instance in the Bible where a sexual assault is
implied to be the woman's fault. Bathsheba (2 Sam 11), Tamar (2 Sam
13), Dinah (Gen 34)--all recorded as sins of the men involved, not
women who “had it coming” by the way they behaved or dressed.
one said Bathsheba should not have been bathing naked on her roof. No
one admonished Tamar for going into her half-brother's bedroom
without forethought. No one blamed Dinah for wandering into an area
where “foreign” men might harm her.
solidly places the responsibility where it belongs—on the
perpetrator. They do not get a pass because the women involved were
beautiful or careless and therefore they couldn't help themselves.
as sexist as people claim the Old Testament is, it treats women
better than many modern evangelicals do when it comes to not blaming
Bible does not teach that we can blame others for our sin.
NT follows suit, with Jesus warning that “everyone
who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed
adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5.28). Jesus doesn't add,
“unless she's dressed revealingly” or “except when you feel
like you can't control yourself.” It is what it is—you choose to
look with lust, you can't blame the person you're looking at. To
imply otherwise is to strip from men the power to look away, to make
a moral choice, to obediently honor others.
no other sin do we offer this excuse. Try these alternatives. “Hey,
you parked your brand new sports car in the driveway. You were just
asking to have it stolen.” “The company leaves its books open for
anyone to embezzle. I couldn't help myself—I wanted money.”
one would make such ridiculous statements (except, perhaps the
thief). Yet that is exactly what we say when we tell girls, “men
can't help how you make them feel when you dress immodestly.” No
other sin we catalog gets a pass on personal responsibility. Only
male lust. Yet we continue to perpetuate the lie that our girls have
to cover up to save their brothers from themselves.
can't help themselves, so ladies cover up. That is offensive to guys
of good character and enabling to those of bad. It tells men they are lesser moral beings--which is self-fulfilling to those who want that excuse and deeply hurtful to those who strive to be holy.
anyone who says girls can't be just as visual hasn't heard women
watching the World Cup lately, trust me.)
have more in common with fundamentalist Islam than with Jesus when we
demand that women cover up so that men don't sin. Jesus simply told
the men—it's in your power to look away. Do it. Honor what I
Bible does not teach a dress code. Yes, the
general message of Scripture is to cloth oneself with dignity. But
those verses we always use as proof texts when preaching to girls?
Let's look at them again.
also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with
modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or
costly attire” (1 Timothy 2.9).
let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the
imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's
sight is very precious” (1 Peter 3.4).
context, Paul and Peter are addressing the same thing, and it is not
lack of coverage. It's excess. Women who appear in church flaunting
their wealth on their heads and necks. Ladies who felt the need to
show everyone else how much they could afford to look good. The sin
was pride—not immodestly.
word “modestly” in these verses carries the meaning of “downcast
eyes”--in other words, Paul is advocating humility and
self-control. Funny, I hear plenty of teaching on how girls must
cover themselves up to obey the Scripture, but I have yet to hear
about how they should ditch the gold and pearls. Lots of folks want
to expound on how tight a dress can be, but no one I've listened to
recently has commented on the expensive designer label inside.
scripture warns against “playing the harlot.” It warns against
seductive behavior. But this behavior is clearly one of attitude and
intent, not dress. It is a warning for women who do try to use
their sexual power to get what they want, certainly a valid warning
for our day.
terrible trend of our girls mimicking stage idols who sell their
bodies for fame and profit has a host of consequences those idols
don't have to live with but our girls do. I've written quite a bit from that side of things, too. (See this.) It is a pride problem when women dress revealingly to get attention. But the behavior described
in Proverbs is that of words, looks, and actions, not of a woman
walking down the street in a low cut shirt.
what does the Bible teach about women's dress?
Bible teaches self (and mutual) respect. Am I saying women should
be free to wear (or not wear) whatever they wish? Rather, I'm saying
women (and men) should be taught the truth about why they dress with
should learn that their bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit,
amazing creations of God, costly purchases bought by Christ for His
purposes. They should learn to respect and love their bodies as the
image of God.
so should men. The treatment should be equal and no different.
a girl understands and believes this, truly? She will dress in a way
that self-respects. It's a natural reaction. It's the reaction of
loving obedience, not shame. It's the reaction God wants from us all.