26 June 2008

Sister... show mercy! (Annual repost #1)

[With some encouragement, I've made an executive decision to make this post from 2006 a yearly thing — with any editing I see fit to make — until I think the message has gotten through. It hasn't, so... Here y'go!]

Preface: "What are you? Nuts?!"
Just thought I'd lead with the question you'll be wondering in a few minutes. I am about to stick my finger in the fan, about up to my elbow, and I know it. But I really think someone needs to say this — and why not me? I have less to lose than many who've thought the same thing, but daren't say it.

So here we go.

What will change, and what won't. Spring's sprung, and summer looms. Mercury rises, fashions change. But one thing that won't change, unless I'm happily mistaken: some good Christian sisters will not dress as helpfully as they could.

I chose that word with care: "helpfully." I am not talking about sin, shame, indecency, wantonness, or the like. Perhaps I could, with some justification. But that's for another time — and probably another writer. At this point, I just want to talk about being helpful.

Sister, if there's one thing you and I can certainly agree on, it's this: I don't know what it's like to be a woman, and you don't know what it's like to be a man. We're both probably wrong where we're sure we're right, try as we might. So let me try to dart a telegram from my camp over to the distaff side.

"Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, and never satisfied are the eyes of man" (Proverbs 27:20). Solomon doesn't use the Hebrew words that would indicate males exclusively, so this and Ecclesiastes 1:8 may apply across the gender-board. Libbie pointed out very ably that we men wrongly assume that we alone battle with temptations entering through the eye-gate.

But. But if men aren't alone in the battle, they may have a particular weakness for this aspect of it. Consider passionately-godly King David, whose psalms express aspirations after God beside which our own are pale, bloodless things. One day King David is in the wrong place, at the wrong time; sees a naked woman bathing next door, and boom! he's gone (2 Samuel 11). Family, kingdom, God — all forgotten, consumed in the flash-flame of a lust that was only visual in its inception.

And what of that Israelite Philistine Samson and his own "eye trouble?" He sees a fetching young pagan, and bellows at his dad, "Get her for me, for she looks good to me" (Judges 14:3 NAS). Where did Samson's passions take him? How did his course end?

Unless all the men I've known personally or at a distance are completely unrepresentative, it's a lifelong struggle, a lifelong weakness. As I recall from a Proverbs lecture on mp3, Bruce Waltke says that his dad, at around age 100, told him, "Bruce, I still have the same struggles I did when I was 50." It was sobering for Dr. Waltke to hear; sobering for any man! (In fact, put me down for "disheartening.")

Where am I going with this? Oh, don't try to look so innocent. You know exactly where I'm going.

This is... church? So here comes this brother into the assembly of the saints, hoping for a rest from the battles of the week, a moment to regroup, sing, pray, get the Word, fellowship. He looks up to the choir, or to his left or his right — and in a tick of the clock, he's facing the same struggle he faced every time he turned on his TV, opened a magazine, or went down a city street. He's seeing things that make it far too easy for him not to keep his mind focused where it needs to be focused.

And he's not in a nightclub, he's not at a singles' bar, he's not at the beach. He's in church.

Now, some very direct disclaimers:
  • Every man's sin is his own, and every man's struggle is his own (Proverbs 14:10)
  • No one makes a man think or feel anything (Proverbs 4:23)
  • It is each individual's responsibility to guard his own heart (Proverbs 4:23)
  • Beauty is a wonderful gift of God (cf. Exodus 28:2; Song of Solomon 1:8, 15, etc.)
Having said all that: while it may be true that I'm the one holding the matches, you won't help me if you pile twigs all around my feet and douse them with lighter fluid. To be a little more specific: if you know I've had trouble with drunkenness, you won't offer me a glass of wine. If you know I battle covetousness, you won't take me window-shopping in high-end stores I've no business frequenting.

That is, you won't do those things if you love, if you care for me.

So I put this question: what are some sisters thinking, in how they dress?

"Attractive"? As the ladies pick clothes, they'll consider what's pretty, what's flattering, what's attractive. Who could blame them? But, "attractive" to whom? In what way? To what end? With what focus?

I want my lure to attract trout so they will bite and get hooked, and I can kill them and eat them.

A business wants to attract buyers so they will spend money and acquire their product or service and make them rich.

By that blouse, those pants, that skirt — what are you trying to attract? Attract to what, so that they will feel what, and want to do what?

Consider the questions again. "Is it pretty?" Fine question, no evil in it. "Is it comfortable, is it complimentary, is it fun?" No problem. I'd just suggest you add one more question: "Is it helpful, or is it hurtful, to my brothers in Christ? Will this unintentionally contribute to their having a focus that is harmful to their holy walk?"

Now, lookie here:
In that day the Lord will take away the finery of the anklets, the headbands, and the crescents; 19 the pendants, the bracelets, and the scarves; 20 the headdresses, the armlets, the sashes, the perfume boxes, and the amulets; 21 the signet rings and nose rings; 22 the festal robes, the mantles, the cloaks, and the handbags; 23 the mirrors, the linen garments, the turbans, and the veils (Isaiah 3:18-23)

...likewise 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, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness--with good works (1 Timothy 2:9-10)

Do not let your adorning be external--the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing-- 4 but 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 3:3-4)
What it isn't. Immediately we'll swing in, as we always do, and say, "Now, the writer's not saying that women can't dress nicely, or wear jewelry, or blah blah blah." And we'll all disown our Fundie forebears who focused on nylons and lipstick, and came up with precise hemline measurements. We'll want to make sure that we're not advocating a new line of Bible Burqaware™ for evangelical women. All that will be true and valid enough.But... what is it? But I'm concerned that, in our anxiety to be sure to prevent the wrong interpretation, we effectively cut off all interpretation. We have swung from making the passages say silly things, to not letting them say anything. These passages have to mean something! They must have some application! What is it?

Surely the passages warn against vanity, externality, sensuality; and promote a focus on a godly character as true beauty. Who you are; not just what you look like. Remember: "As a ring of gold in a swine's snout, So is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion" (Proverbs 11:22 NAS).

Oh boy, I'm going to make it worse now. Deep breath....

Say what? What are your clothes saying about you, sister? What are they supposed to say to your brothers? "Hey, look at this?" Well, they actually are trying to look at the Lord; it's not good for them, not helpful for them, to be looking at that. No, it's not your fault that they have a problem. We established that. And it's really great that God has made you beautiful. May your husband (present or future) celebrate your beauty.

But, please hear me: you can help the brothers who aren't your husband, or you can not-help them. Which are you doing? If you're not married, and a man looks at you, is he thinking, "What a great character"? Or are you giving him reason to think something else about you is "great"?

I know many of the responses. I've heard them. "You don't know what it's like to buy women's clothes, you ignorant man!" Mostly true. My first just-for-fun purchase of (what I thought was) a pretty blue dress for my wife was, well, it was appalling. What a good sport my wife was. I took it back to the store immediately, and made a much better choice.

"I caaaan't." But this: "I can't find anything modest! It's all too revealing! It's impossible to get something that looks nice, yet isn't too tight, or too short, or too-something / not-something-enough!"

Sorry, but baloney.

I put "modest women's clothing Christian" in Google, and 43,200 pages come up. Yes, some are funny and quaint at best. But are they all Amishwear? "Can't find?"

More fundamentally: I do not accept that anyone has to wear clothes that are too tight or too sheer or too short — unless you are the largest and tallest woman living in the hottest part of the planet. Because I see larger, taller women than you walking around in hot weather, and they're all wearing clothes, every last one of them. They got those clothes somewhere, I reason. You could too.

"But — but they won't look good on me! The shoulders will be wrong!"

Need-to-not-know. I'm not sure that's necessarily true, but let's accept it and pose a counter-question. You tell me. Which is worse: your shoulders hanging a half-inch too low? Or a blouse/skirt that simply (shifting into turbo-delicate) provides need-to-know information to those with a need-to-not-know?

I'm sure we all agree that there are clothes that show off what others have no helpful business seeing. Here's what to show, in clothes-selection: show a Godward focus, discretion, a godly character.

And show mercy.

Parting thought. Darlene pointed me to a statement by Arthur Pink, which makes everything I've just said look awfully mild. But there's no denying that Pink has a point. I'll close with it:
Again, if lustful looking be so grievous a sin, then those who dress and expose themselves with desires to be looked at and lusted after-as Jezebel, who painted her face, tired her head, and looked out of the window (2 Kings 9:30)-are not less, but even more guilty. In this matter it is only too often the case that men sin, but women tempt them so to do. How great, then, must be the guilt of the great majority of the modern misses who deliberately seek to arouse the sexual passions of our young men? And how much greater still is the guilt of most of their mothers for allowing them to become lascivious temptresses?
Now, note, Pink and I speak to different ends. I speak to those who I charitably assume are inadvertently dressing in an unhelpful manner. Pink speaks to those whose intent is to allure. Between the two of us, I can pray we've provided food for thought, prayer, reconsideration, and needed change.

One last thought: it is a mistake to think I have church-attire in mind. I am thinking of anywhere where both sexes are present.

Dan Phillips's signature

122 comments:

John said...

There was a booklet given to me by a lady where I once went to supply preach. It was titled “The Sin of Bathsheba.” I read it and understood what the brother was saying who wrote it. My wife read it and was shocked. She thought he was crazy.

Thanks for writing this. You are brave, my friend, and I’m thankful for it.

Regardless of how sanctified we want to be, we are still sinners. I am discouraged to hear that it doesn't get easier with age - I used to wish that I was older so that my struggles would be less. But with grace from God and the help you are calling for from the sisters...

JackW said...

AMEN!

Libbie said...

Wondered why I was getting hits on that post! Of course, this doesn't apply to me any more.

*ducks as her friends come running over waving accusatory avatars*

DJP said...

Thanks, bro's.

I wanted to put this in the post, but it was already so long. So here it is.

I honestly do not assume I know what women think. Maybe sisters can weigh in. I want to think that the ones to whom this post speaks honestly don't know the impact of their dress... but at times, that's awfully hard to believe.

So assuming (as I am wanting to do) that a woman just is unable to discern, what can she do?

My simple advice is: ask a man. Ask a man whose Christian wisdom and candor you can count on. In many cases, this will mean ask your dad; but that's just one option.

Here's one father who spoke to his young daughter with brutal (and memorable) candor. It still shocks me to read. But I can't help but think that maybe, if some sisters had heard such candor from their dads... it might have helped.

Frank Turk said...

You should just schedule this one again for next year around Memorial Day weekend, DJP.

Just for the record, my family was getting ready for church last weekend, and my daughter was having a hard time finding something to wear (as usual). My wife picked something out for her, and in 30 seconds the girl was out in the kitchen complaining about the dress because she didn't have a t-shirt to wear under it.

"It looks fine without it," my wife consoled her.

"But MOM," she pressed, pointing at the one-inch zone of skin showing under the base of her neck, "you can see my BREAST like this."

.


.


.


We value modesty in my house.

Pastor Doug said...

Good post. "kosmios" is modest in I Tim. 2:9 and good behaviour in I Tim 3:2 when talking about the pastor. So if a person can distinguish what is and is not good behaviour for their pastor, it shouldn't be an issue to know what to wear. Dress how you think you pastor should 'act'.

donsands said...

Very well written article. I would guess there's a lot of pressure on teenage girls today to dress modestly.

My daughter made it through with clothes that were for the most part modest.
The picking out a bathing-suit caused some friction though.

I'm glad she's grown now, and understands what the Lord wants His daughters to attire themselves in.

Mike Riccardi said...

From the linked article: Too many parents don't want to tell their daughters this truth: slutty dress carries with it the sign "slutty behavior, just ask". It is a proposition to every man who sees her to view her in a purely sexual way.

Well said.

You too Dan. Very helpful post.

Kim said...

There are modest dress choices out there. I've found them. It just takes effort and patience. And it may mean you spend a little more and you have only three tasteful skirts instead of eight less than tasteful skirts. You can definitely improve on the modesty of your clothing by choosing not to wear that size 4 when you are clearly a size 8.

I've seen it among the girls at our youth group. The inside of the heart is indeed reflected by the outward apparel. One of the sweetest, kindest, gentlest, most godly young ladies is also the one who dresses the most modestly.

I remember very well when I met my dear Buggy. An unregenerate sinner, I knew exactly what I wanted to wear to attract his attention. Young women, even at the age of 16 and 17 years old, know exactly what kind of power their physical appearance can have. It's a power trip.

Unfortunately, even our young Christian women equate demonstrating their sexuality as a reflection of their beauty.

Solameanie said...

Dan,

This encourages me greatly, especially after I put my neck on the chopping block last night and went after the tattoo/piercing issue with all guns blazing.

I'll never forget sitting in church one morning (in the balcony) and turning around to look in the upper rows and seeing a woman up there in the process of sitting down. She had a mini skirt on way, way, way above her knees, and let's say it was a, well...a Sharon Stone moment.

I turned back to the front immediately and glanced around the sanctuary to be sure I was still in church and hadn't been teleported into a red light district somewhere.

Garet Pahl said...

Good re-re-post, Dan. I think you strike a healthy balance in this post and I have forwarded on to friends in the past.

As I commented last time, there is such thing as cultural relativity when it comes to dress and attire and even the aspects of the feminine form that are enticing. I think we bear with one another when we take our own sin captive by not condemning in our mind those whom we think are immodest due to our particular predilections as men(in this case). I certainly have my own, and I shouldn't impose them on someone else because of my unique manifestation of depravity. For example, I have always found the mysterious fit of turtle-neck sweaters to be enticing, yet most sane people wouldn't call that style of dress immodest.

As much as our sisters should show us dudes mercy by accounting for our depravity by helping us avoid lust, so should we show them mercy by accepting the responsibility of taking our thoughts captive regardless of how they are attired. Indeed, the brain is the most powerful sexual organ, and it is the place where sin is truly killed. As our sanctified minds begin to put the transient things of this world into perspective, the grasping at worldly thrills should proportionally diminish.

Whether it be drunkenness, gluttony, covetousness,or lust, I think we must believe that it is the Gospel that transforms the worldly whims and desires in due time and we must be equally vigilant to ensure that we are never imposing "self wrought mortification", as Owen has said, on others for the assuaging of our own guilt and lusts.

"Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

Sarah L. said...

"So dress and conduct yourself so that people who have been in your company will not recall what you had on." - John Newton

You don't have to dress in ugly clothes, just don't dress so as to attract attention.

DJP said...

Well, Garet, i think you're exactly right. And (as you discerned) that's why I set the stage by affirming loud and clear from the start that MY sin is MY sin, and nobody MAKES me sin.

HSAT — if I know that my friend battles temptation to drunkenness, and that it's a live issue to him, and I indulge my liberty in his presence, and dismiss his concerns with "That's your problem, buddy" — is there anyone who wouldn't say I was a brass-plated, USDA choice, double-A grade jerk?

In this analogy, it's probably fairest to assume that all Christian men are "battling temptation to drunkenness."

Sad to say. But there it is.

Jay said...

My college has consistently ranked in the Top 10 in lists of campuses with the "most attractive student body" (they've never seen me at eight in the morning, apparantly). Add to that the fact that it's in a beach town and I can understand greatly why many of my Christian brothers talk about their struggles with purity so much (I, on the other hand, have struggled with SSA my whole life so my struggles aren't really affected by the female form).

There are a lot of beautiful sisters around in a beach town and I can understand that it would be a hard sell to get them to wear less revealing clothes (and swimwear), but I think you've outlined some good reasons why it's important.

Mike Riccardi said...

I'm surprised this post isn't getting more play.

I guess most of the guys, if they're thinking straight, are all going, "Uh huh. Yep. Definitely." But I'm particularly interested in what the ladies have to say about this.

Thanks to Libbie, Kim, and Sarah for commenting already.

matt said...

Great post Dan,

It reminded me of a series of posts that C.J. Mahaney did not too long ago. It was a series of seven posts that, if I remember correctly, were the contents of a single chapter from one of his most recent books. I haven't read the book, but the blog posts were very convicting. I apologize that I'm not providing a link... I'm still trying to figure out this blogging thing. But for those willing to take a moment, I went back to his blog. The first post was made on April 24th. The last on May 14th. There were some un-related posts thrown into the middle. Its a long read, but worth the time in my opinion.

My intention is not to point the reader away from your well stated and obviously earnest post. But rather to share even more (hopefully helpful) content on this very important topic.

The Doulos said...

Well said, Dan, and thanks for having the cyber-guts to replay this issue. I continually am baffled by the apparent lack of advice from mature and godly parents in our church to their teenage daughters regarding the appropriateness of their clothing choices. In or out of church. Thankfully, my maturing-too-fast 12 yr old daughter tends to be more like the females at Frank's house.

Solameanie said...

BTW, since we're picking on the ladies, let's pick on the guys too.

What profit is it when Christian young men stroll nonchalantly downtown (or through the church halls) with their pants pulled down to their knees and their underwear (and at times, strategically located body hair) are visible.

I've often wished for a .410 loaded with rock salt when I spot this.

Sharon said...

Mike:
But I'm particularly interested in what the ladies have to say about this.

Hey, I qualify!

To me, it's just one of those "Well, DUH!" posts. I guess I don't understand how young ladies can be so . . . so "un-discerning" when it comes to appropriate church clothing. And that goes for sloppy jeans, shorts, T-shirts and tank tops, as well.

We have a raised platform at church, and sometimes must remind the ladies that a mini-skirt becomes a micro-mini skirt when they are several feet off floor level.

All it takes is a little forethought and planning to dress modestly for worship. Why that is so difficult for some, I have no idea.

A Musician by Grace

DJP said...

LOL, Solameanie

But (no pun) here's a difference — or tell me whether you agree it's a difference.

I think just about any guy, seeing another Christian guy dressed like that, would be on him like a politician on a photo-op. He'd be all over him. "Dude, what the heck are you thinking?! Pull up those pants, or I'm getting a nail-gun."

But do sisters do the same as openly to other sisters?

DJP said...

Thanks, Sharon, but let me point out that I'm not talking about church exclusively.

It's just all the more problematic that it's seen EVEN in church.

Ralph M. Petersen- Always Right;Sometimes Wrong! said...

Yeah, you really do have guts. This topic has been on my mind as a possible post for a long time.

In our Southern California culture I have seen the extreme downgrade in my own "conservative,fundamental," Baptist church in just a few short years. And whenever ANY man addresses it, the women immediately object that we must be some kind of perverts for even looking or thinking. Come on, give us a break.

And I think mothers go way beyond just allowing their daughters to dress with indiscretion; the actually encourage it. I was out having lunch one day with my wife and accross the aisle were three attractive young moms with their "tween" daughters dressed and made up like little Britney Spear wannabe tarts.

But I think what bothers me most is having that in my face at church. The young teeny boppers, with their breast-hugging tops and bare midriffs, "leading worship" or the more mature moms singing in the choir with six inches of plump cleaveage visible over their plunging necklines is a distraction from the worship of God and directs everyone's attention on them.
There was a time in my recollection when pastoral leadership set the standard for appropriate dress in the worship services. Those standards were set high out of respect for others and for God.

xfrmdxrenewal said...

Bro!! Thank you so much for the boldness to post and be committed to reposting this! I have played the role of the older woman coming along side a younger woman and it is not always easy. As I did it I really wished she could understand the thoughts she was causing her brothers to have to cast down. I have had to bounce my eyes when I've seen other women because a myriad of thoughts have presented themselves from judgmental to unclean thoughts. Before I was a Christian I was addicted to pornography, yes even as a woman it can happen. Dressing helpfully is primarily a concern for the women in consideration of their brothers but now always. And not just always because of lustful thoughts. We women can be a mean lot and can shred a sister "in Christian love" in our minds and with our mouths faster than you can imagine. Sister So & So to Sister Such & Such "Why! Did you see what Sister Does She Own A Mirror was wearing today!" and the feeding frenzy on a fellow sister begins...
Sisters our brother has thrown himself in the fray we need to step to the plate and obey scripture Tts 2:3-5
the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things--
that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children,
to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.
In our culture the fact is many of the young ones may simply not know, realize... they believe they are being modest by the worlds standards.

Chuck said...

I invited a friend to my church for a bible conference. His summary: if the pastor's wife had a nickel in her back pocket, you could tell if it was heads or tails.

My family used to spend a week each summer at a bible conference ground. In some idle moments, after visiting the chapel, a restaurant, bookstore, an ill-advised visit to the beach, I thought some appropriate promotional material would say, for instance, "Many Barely Clothed", or "Mammaries Barely Concealed". I imagined a play by play from the illustrious Marv Albert: "YESSS!"

I'm thinking of making up a greeting card, "Hi! Welcome to the killer 'B's. You've been selected by a panel of experts. Want to know what the 'BEES' are? Ask your mom or look in the mirror.

I have to go now, it's time to fast forward the movie my kids are watching.

Kim K. said...

Good post. We can never start too young with our little girls. And modest dress must be exhibited by the older, er, I mean more mature women.

I have addressed this topic with church leadership in the past and have been told that there are "good church families" on both sides of this issue. IOW, let's not offend anyone by pointing out that they or their offspring need to cover up.

On a related note, pregnant women need to realize that while pregnancy is wonderful and children are a gift from God, super-duper tight maternity clothes are also not helpful. We had a pregnant lady sing a solo at our church recently and the whole congregation was able to see that she was at the stage of her pregnancy where the belly-button goes from inny to outy. Yuck!

Mike Riccardi said...

So here's a situation.

20-something girl is concerned about modesty. She does her best to be helpful. She comes to church and sees the girls in the Senior High Youth Group dressing unhelpfully. She decides they need to be confronted. What does she do? How does she confront them? What does she say?

Keep in mind that she doesn't know these girls all that well. When she was in high school they were in elementary or middle school. So the relationship isn't a terribly strong one. Also, it's not only the girls she'd be confronting, but also the parents (at least in some way), because the parents are the ones who seem to approve of their daughters dressing this way in church. Does the girl confront the parents too? Before, after, or at the same time? Only the parents?

What do you guys think?

Sharon said...

DJP: Thanks, Sharon, but let me point out that I'm not talking about church exclusively.

Sorry, I missed that point of the post. But you're right--I see it everywhere and just don't get it. What really frosts me is girls who dress like that, and then are shocked and offended when they are a target for rape.

Ralph: . . . or the more mature moms singing in the choir with six inches of plump cleaveage visible over their plunging necklines . . .

Two words: choir robes

A Musician by Grace

Frank Turk said...

Garet:

um, that link? It's not the turtleneck. It's the raw brilliance. SMart is always more sexy than sexy is sexy.

maritus imperfectus said...

Great article. I also recommend the series on CJ Mahaney’s blog (as well as talks by both the Mahaney’s on this subject). In my home, the modesty issue has been one of more and more conviction for my wife and I. We often wrestle with being modest w/o being ‘legalistic’ about it. What has helped is to approach it from the angle that our bodies are for each other and no one else. If my wife wears clothing that reveals much of her to others, not only is she being unhelpful, she is showing others what should only be for me to see. The reverse is true. This is also something we are trying to instill in our children (especially our daughter), so they are aware of the preciousness of their bodies and saving them for their spouses (this includes our sons and how much of their flesh they flash). Well, that’s my $.02. The boss is looking for me so I best be back to work . . .

Jay said...

There are some moments when a woman can only be so helpful and it really does go back on the guy to take their thoughts captive. I mean, we can't be asking the ladies to head to the beach in circa-1900s swimsuits (I had a funny picture but couldn't figure out the HTML for a link). ;-)

Mike said...

I put "modest women's clothing Christian" in Google, and 43,200 pages come up.

Now it's 43,900. But did'nt you look in your wife's closet?

Dave .... said...

Two things. First, "mercy" is an amazing issue to bring up. Apt. I just remember the growling "MER-cyyy" in Roy Orbison's "Pretty Woman". One of the most lust-expressive single words in the whole culture. Dan, you've turned it into a plea for relief (of a godly kind). Nicely done, even if not intentional.

Second, it is easy to wax on about how the world has affected our sisters' fashion sense. (Back in the day we called it "barbed wire fashions" - enough to keep out intruders without obscuring the view.) What I try to do is give them the benefit of the doubt about their intentions. I purpose to pray for them and myself about unintended sin. That's in my generous nano-seconds.

I fear that "in the church" this is just another camel's nose in the tent and a symptom of things we are not dealing with.

Great post. Sign me up for the annual renewal.

DJP said...

RiccardiHow does she confront them? What does she say?

Why, of course, she says, "Have you ever seen this really cool blog, 'Pyromaniacs'? You should go there. Today!"

(c;

DJP said...

Ralph M. Petersen — here is a mother of 12 making a very similar point.

Rabbit said...

Another sister here, weighing in.

What am I thinking as a 40-something, saved-by-grace mom: "do I look fat in this?"

As a young, unsaved collegiate, here's what I was thinking: "what will make him (if I was dating) or them (if I was prowling) look at me?" AND "what will make me look better than her, her, and her?". That was ::cough cough:: 20 years ago but I imagine that nothing's new under the sun, except that 80's fashion was considerably less revealing than today's.

I doubt men can fully understand how much our culture SCREAMS at females to be pretty, skinny, and sexy. Attracting male attention is the definition of success in this arena. Looking good = power. Worldly parents encourage their daughters - I was in the dressing room at Macy's and witnessed a mother extolling her teen daughter's beauty in a dress that was so short and tight, I doubt the girl could lift an arm above her waist without exposing herself. It's so pervasive, so everywhere, that the call for loving and merciful modesty is like trying to be heard calling for Jesus while the rabble hollered for Barabbas.

Within the church body, I believe this is a Titus 2 issue of mature women coming alongside the younger.

DADS: make certain that your daughters and wives hear you praising their godly character a million times more than they hear you complimenting their physical beauty. Frank mentioned (regarding the link to Velma in her turtleneck) that smart is more sexy than sexy sexy. Be sure y'all act like it. :)

trogdor said...

I think this post also deserves the "what you win them with is what you win them to" tag. At least that's how I tried to address this issue when I was in youth ministry. Well, that and keeping a nice supply of cheap modest shirts on hand, and implementing the "put on more clothes or go home" rule.

Mike Riccardi said...

Make certain that your daughters and wives hear you praising their godly character a million times more than they hear you complimenting their physical beauty.

That's gold.

Pray that I'd do that when I have a wife (in less than a month!).

DJP said...

TrogdorI think this post also deserves the "what you win them with is what you win them to" tag.

Done.

Dude, you need to have a blog. I'd read it.

Mike Riccardi said...

So that's what WYWTWIWYWTT means!

I always felt too dumb to ask.

ReformedMommy said...

Random thoughts from another sister -

- I wonder often whether some of the negative aspects of this issue (immodesty, either intentional or un-) come from the challenge men (Dads, brothers, husbands)have in affirming and encouraging the character and attractivenss of their daughters, sisters, wives in a positive way. Women joke (ungraciously, sinfully) about how "simple" men are in a lot of ways, but women are pretty simple sometimes too. Heap praise on us for our character and appearance when we do display it appropriately, and watch us excel still more. Please note - I embrace and endorse wholeheartedly all of Dan's admonitions about our sin being our sin; just trying to add some thought around how to work offensively as well as defensively.
- Re: the eyegate for women - baggy pants etc. don't make me want to do anything other than whack the pseudo-wearer over the head with a stupid stick. But yes, if you happen to be blessed with a very fit physique and "celebrate" that state through the wearing of inordinately fitted clothes, that can be an issue for sure.

Another eyegate point - There are a LOT of makeover shows on T.V. right now that ostensibly purport to help people, especially women, dress more flatteringly for their shape. While some of the advice may be minorly helpful, it is packaged in an incredibly immodest way, with discussion of parts that fifty years ago one never even acknowledged having in public, let alone discussed the arrangement thereof. I'm guessing these shows aren't helpful. At least, I realized recently they aren't for me and don't watch.

As far as helping one another in church goes, don't have a lot of answers for that. It seems like it ought to be built into the culture of a church, from Jr. High up, to teach our girls how to speak to one another and encourage one another in this. We're in the process of revamping our Women's Ministry program - making mental note to bring this up.

Thanks Dan. Once again, a little painful to read as I write this with one eye on my open closet and note that there could be some improvement. But, indeed, very helpful.

ReformedMommy said...

IOW, what Rabbit said. :)

frenchcanadianmissionary said...

Dan,

Granted, this post is primarily directed to Christians in the church (and a well-written and appropriate post at that), but how about this situation?

Many first-time non-Christians come to your church to check it out, as friends of members, etc. Obviously, every church wants this to happen. Then they are transformed by God's grace, become Christians, are discipled, grow, etc.

But what about between first-time visitor and Christian? Just someone who is interested and keeps coming for a few weeks... and dresses very inappropriately.

CONTEXT: When you see how ALL of their friends are dressed (except their one Christian friend), you realize that this is normal in their current, unsaved culture... AND, you realize that they are not INTENTIONALLY trying to make a statement or cause a stir in the church. They are just continuing the way they ALWAYS dress. (I am surrounded by many people in Quebec whom I have NEVER seen dressed appropriately... even in the winter).

Yes, the church needs to be a refuge in a sense... amongst Christians. But in another sense, I don't think the first thing that visiting woman needs to hear is how inappropriately she is dressed. She needs to hear the gospel, and get connected with Christian women who will disciple her through these issues.

Anyway Dan, how do you handle this issue when it concerns visiting non-Christians?

Staci at Writing and Living said...

Yeah. What Rabbit said.

I agree with everything Dan said.

What would you say about a situation where a Christian sister is dressing immodestly, and it's her husband who is picking out her clothes?

And no, it's not me. :)

Sharon said...

Staci: What would you say about a situation where a Christian sister is dressing immodestly, and it's her husband who is picking out her clothes?

Coincidently, we have that same situation at church--the husband seems to encourage clothes that are (at least) 2 sizes too small and way too immodest for a woman of her, um, seniority. I wonder if they realize how many of us gals roll our eyes when we see the latest bright orange/pink outfit?

A Musician by Grace

Solameanie said...

Dan,

At one time, I would have immediately said "yes" in agreement that another Christian guy would get the nearest cane and yank the saggy-pantser off the stage like pronto.

Now, I am not so sure. In fact, I doubt it. Instead, we're liable to see middle-aged guys in search of their lost youth wearing saggy pants despite their paunch sticking out like the prow of a ship.

I would LOVE to be proven wrong there.

Renee Ann said...

Great post. I know you are not talking about church-wear, but I have to say to the other women, make church-wear even more modest. It is even distracting to me, to sit a few rows behind a woman with a strapless sundress on so that the pew makes it appear she is not wearing clothing at all. The hard work of worship is to focus on Jesus. Any unnecessary distraction is unhelpful.

Solameanie said...

Garet,

I'm afraid Velma's in trouble. That mini-skirt is WAY too far above the knee. I think she must be trying to compete with Daphne.

Rabbit said...

What would you say about a situation where a Christian sister is dressing immodestly, and it's her husband who is picking out her clothes?

Gentlemen, tell me this: would I be right in assuming that a less- or un-sanctified brother would be proud of a sexy babe, drawing attention to the fact that she is on HIS arm?

I'd guess that the issue here is one of maturity, both for the husband and the wife. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, husband may not even recognize that he is aiding and abetting his wife's immodesty and his Christian brothers' lusts. Again, time for the more mature to come alongside - male and female - with truth delivered in love.

Frank Turk said...

For the record, Funny is more sexy than sexy also.

Smart and Funny: I married the only one.

DJP said...

Smart and Funny: I married the only one

Duh. She married you.

Phil Johnson said...

We can repost old stuff?

I don't have to write something fresh every time it's my turn to post?


Cool!


I just got half my life back.

DJP said...

(...leaving the "only" part uncommented-on, it should be noted)

DJP said...

PhilWe can repost old stuff?

Evidently.

Rabbit said...

Well, guys, for the record, smart and funny are trump for us girls, too.

Pull your pants up properly, suck in your prow, I mean your paunch, and be wisely witty in a bibley way. We'll dig ya for sure.

Look like Sean Connery while you do all the above, and I'd positively swoon.

Mike Riccardi said...

I don't know that I've ever seen the Pyro's post successively in a comment thread. ... I like it!

FC Missionary,

If it was happening continuously, I'd politely explain the situation to her, and ask her to do something about it. You offend the unbeliever before the believer (1Cor 10), and certainly before you throw your congregation to the wolves.

Staci,

If I were a woman, I'd confront her about it anyway. She'd say that her husband is picking the stuff out. Then I would say that she should explain that they're immodest and would prefer different selections, or to pick her own clothes. If he needs to be talked to, I'd ask my husband to talk to him.

Garet Pahl said...

Frank: Speak for yourself. :-)

Although, I've always been a big fan of dark framed glasses too- beauty and brains are a devastating combo- one that my wife ko'd me with. And she's funny, but only inadvertently...

Sola: Fred was always so obvious... "guys let's split up... Daphne with me, Velma with Shaggy and Scoob."

michelle said...

I applaud what Rabbit and Reformed Mommy has said.

My father has always expressed the beauty of my mother and of me - both the inner beauty and the outer beauty he sees. And I have always been mindful of what I wear because my first thought has been "what would my daddy think??" (YES - even as a 35 year old woman, I STILL think this)...

So, all you fathers who are reading this, if you have daughters, please PLEASE affirm the beauty you see on - in and out - in your daughters. Your love and approval goes a LONG way in the life of your daughter, and in the way they deal with issues like this.

Bonnie said...

I think men have this sense of confidence that is separate from their bodies that women do not have. My body, many days, consumes my thoughts. I've always been ashamed of it - and it has oftentimes controlled my life. I think many women feel this way, even Christian women. We are much more prone to downswings in confidence, and our bodies are tied into that. Dressing and impressing gives women confidence - it may be an empty confidence that only makes our body image problems worse, but seriously sometimes it's all we have. When relationships are going badly, when work is going badly, or even when things are going great - we scrutinize our bodies. We are also much more prone to jealousy and competitiveness than men are, so other women affect the way we feel about our bodies.

All my life I have felt ugly. I was overweight growing up and was never told I was beautiful. My mother always made comments about my weight, and kids are incredibly cruel to fat kids. So it's almost trained in us as women that our bodies are all we have. Our looks are all we're worth. Look good or you're not worth anything. I was smart and made good grades growing up, but I deliberately studied harder so that I had at least one thing I could feel good about - that I was smart, that I wasn't just the ugly fat girl. It's hard to break something that ingrained, and still years later this is the biggest problem in my life.

I do not dress revealingly, ever. I'm pretty sure men never look at me because I'm no looker. Thank God my husband doesn't make me feel bad about it.

But I know plenty of women who do dress revealingly both in church and out, and they do it because they want to feel something they don't feel - wanted. You may look at her and say well how could she be unhappy, she's got this and that or whatever. But many women are incredibly unhappy and terribly conscious of this idea that they aren't good enough - aren't good enough as mothers, aren't good enough as wives, aren't good enough as lovers and what have you. It is this constant feeling of not good enough and not wanted that drives many women to dress provocatively, because they just want to feel it, they just want to be distracted from the disillusionment of being a female in today's culture. They, like David, can do something entirely wrong just to get that fleeting feeling of pleasure. Because if our bodies are all we are, then the utmost in praise is when people look on with lust.

I graduated from a Bible college, and I rarely saw girls who weren't obsessed with their bodies. All the best-looking ones got asked out but I never did - was their selection based on character? Of course not. Psychology tells us that the best way to train something or someone is to reward it. Women are rewarded all their lives for dressing revealingly and looking good. They are punished for modesty, and I would say it's fair to say that many married women in the church attracted their husbands because they looked good and dressed to attract. It's a sick cycle.

Ralph M. Petersen- Always Right;Sometimes Wrong! said...

Thanks again for the courageous post and the inspiration. I just unloaded all my random thoughts about this subject on my own site (not nearly as sensitively as did you) for the benefit of ignorant and unthinking women.

Ladies, please think. Your girls need you to be mothers, not another goofy, girl friend.

~Mark said...

You should see the lumps on my forehead from staring at the ground while I walk through some places!

This however, is a bad tack to take when driving. Effective, but baaad.

Seriously though, few things hurt like a sister in Christ who says "well that's your problem", and few things are of such personal spiritual encouragement when as when a sister says "I dress carefully out of consideration for others."

Rick Frueh said...

Biblical admonition. Very timely.

We men have to account for our eyes and minds as well.

~Mark said...

Bonnie,

thank you for sharing that. One point I do want to make is that we guys have that pain too, we just treat it differently because, as your point makes, it isn't one of the deciding factors of our lives. Though I realized how deeply they root when seeing friends who I knew in high school just a bit ago, and they reminded me of what some used to tease me about back then, and it most definitely still stung.

~Mark said...

Sorry for th etriple postings but I missed the edit button! :)

Concerning women rewarded for revealing gear, I'm 38 and looking forward to marriage. ALL my male friends, saved and unsaved, 100% agree that a woman who knows how to cover artfully is much more exciting than a woman who reveals it all. Modesty with confidence is a bigger attractor than probably any woman would believe.

Check out this site, it's a refreshing encouragement.
http://modestlyyours.net/

Libbie said...

Affectionate, sisterly hugs of appreciation for lauding your wives in public. Love it when you guys do that.

Frank Turk said...

Phil:

It has to be worth reading a scond time, so ...

Penn Tomassetti said...

Obviously women have a hard time with this for many, many reasons. However, the lack of Biblical understanding, seems to me, to be the main reason why so many women in the church don't understand what is appropriate. That, and mere unbelief, since love flows from faith (Gal. 5:6). And I think the same goes for the men in other areas.

I just heard an online sermon about Holiness the other day, and it was good, until the pastor gave the application - the main lesson we learn from the holiness of God is that men should wear ties and not dress shabby in church if they are growing in their faith. That made me question the whole sermon. Seemed kind of a shallow application to me.

Where I live, understanding the Bible is unheard of, so I expect women and men to follow the world. But it does deeply trouble me and cause me to question the salvation of most church members anymore, both male/female, young/old. Even in the best churches, and especially the biggest churches, unsaved church members is an issue you can't ignore. I thank God for older women who are courageous enough to set the standard for the younger in love, patience and grace. That is beautiful!

Annemarie said...

oh heavens! This was a subject that was recently discussed on a homeschooling forum and it made me want to toss my computer out the window as I read post after post of these "moms" who, not only defend their right to wear a bikini, but call those who don't, judgmental prudes. These are women who claim Christ.

Actually, that was tolerable until their husbands joined in and said that a woman's body should be appreciated, not lusted after, and that it is the man's job to make sure he is merely appreciating what he sees.

Arrgghh! This is a hot button issue for me as it is *never* addressed in our church....except when Voddie Baucham preached.

Thanks for the post. Another permanent sidebar link for my blog.

DJP said...

Men for whom, I would say, it is 'way more than just a river in Egypt.

Staci at Writing and Living said...

Ah, homeschool message boards.

I once happened upon a discussion where one woman asserted that Every Man's Battle was a misnomer because her husband didn't ever struggle with lust.

Mmmmkay.

ReformedMommy said...

Bonnie - I've lived on both sides of the appearance spectrum. I've been overweight and very physically unattractive. I've also been very fit and considered very attractive (pleasant to look at? Pretty? I'm so self-conscious of all those words now - GAAH! :) ) What strikes me about the admonition of (Lemuel???? I'm sure Dan knows) to his son in Proverbs 31 is his use of the word "vanity" in describing beauty. No matter how much you have, and how you conspire to cling to it, display it, exaggerate it, it DOES. NOT. LAST. It is the ultimate exercise in futility. (I'll let Dan take on what could be an entire sermon on why more men don't heed that counsel.) I'm actually reading a book about Crime Scene Investigation and the study of body decomposition after death - not recommended reading during mealtime, but an even starker reminder of what the end of all of our earthly bodies is.

What does last, even into eternity, is a heart transformed and made perfectly beautiful by Christ. It is true, and sad, that men of this generation have a war to fight, not just this battle as Dan's described, in this regard. All the more reason for this generation of women whether mothers, daughters or sisters, to show what that heart looks like, to one another and our brothers-in-the-Lord. Elyse Fitzpatrick's newest book "Because He Loves Me" has really helped me with these things - I really recommend it.

Ralph M. Petersen- Always Right;Sometimes Wrong! said...

Staci at Writing and Living said, "I once happened upon a discussion where one woman asserted that Every Man's Battle was a misnomer because her husband didn't ever struggle with lust."

That woman is either naive or her husband is lying. Maybe both.

Strong Tower said...

Thanks for the memories...

The other end of this. The mental picturola just keeps adding footage... well make that various body angels, but you get the drift.

Take out the eyeballs, but you cannot kill the memory (sung to I shot the sheriff).

Seems like I just read that what do you want to be remembered for thing recently.

Susan said...

I'm going to comment BEFORE I read any of the metas this time:

Great, GREAT post, Dan. Why make it an annual post when you can make it a semi-monthly (or even WEEKLY) post for summer?? Reruns like this can NEVER be too much of a good thing. I'm a woman, and I say "AMEN"!

Susan said...

A.W. Pink: "And how much greater still is the guilt of most of their mothers for allowing [the "modern misses"] to become lascivious temptresses!"

How about mothers who themselves dress inappropriately and have sons only? Equally guilty?

I'm not here to bash on other women--I've fallen short of the "character" criterion of clothing many times. In my younger days it was skirts that were a bit too short; now it's not an "exposure" problem as it is a matter of vanity, i.e., "I just HAVE to have this dress." Neither is right--but causing a brother to sin by one's inappropriate dress is by far worse (IMHO). Can it get any worse than that? YES--if you have the girls who are SERVING in church ministries dressing that way and think you a prude for telling them to think twice because they no longer think their dress is considered inappropriate by everyone else (except YOU, of course).

All right, I better stop before I start spewing more venom toward the members of my own sex and neglect my own sins!

carrie*postma said...

Fantastically balanced post about this issue and lots of excellent comments to follow it up. Thanks for re-posting!

Hadassah said...

Great post!

I am so discouraged when I meet women, particularly Christian women, who have bought into the lie that their value lies in being physically attractive to men.

Immodest clothing is a knife that cuts two ways--it is, as you said, unhelpful to men, and a terrible trap for women as well. As with most traps, it can be fun for a while, but in the end, you are just trapped.

I love the gold ring in a pig's snout verse. I did a post using that verse on exactly this topic a few months back.

Hugh said...

No sense of humor...

Susan said...

Sorry, everyone, I was getting a bit too emotional in my second comment today--but that's because I've been burnt by some women I know. My needing assurance for modest dress even cost me the chance of being a bridesmaid at a friend's wedding (even though I was partly to blame--long story). It comes down to selfishness, sorry to say. If we really loved our brothers unselfishly, we wouldn't choose to wear certain kinds of clothing. Lack of trust in the Lord's sovereignty in our lives is also another issue. Can we trust that he is for us and not against us, and that modesty is one of his provisions to protect us? Common sense, it should be.

I really enjoyed reading everyone's comments, especially the sisters', for they have spoken sensibly and sensitively, adeptly pointing out the many nuances in our decision-making regarding what to wear. Thank you and may you keep up the good work!

Garet Pahl said...

I see the term "modesty" being bandied about somewhat cavalierly as if it is a word that refers explicitly to covering up skin, when really the meaning of the word is much different then that- much broader- and not necessarily a Biblical category.

C.S. Lewis said this:

"Perfect humility dispenses with modesty."

I wonder what he is referring to?

I would recommend picking up Mere Christianity again and reading Ch. 15 on Sexual Morality, it puts some concepts aright.

I will submit that women tend to dress more for the approval of other women and less for the provocation of men. Gossip. Status. Gossip. Repeat. A woman could dress in a fashion the least bit titillating to men, and still be very immodest.

I would also say that my 59 year old mother wears a bikini to the beach still, but to suggest that she is immodest would be foolishness if you new her.

Garet Pahl said...

So glad Algore invented the internets.

Sexual Morality, Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis

The first paragraph is gold.

Stefan said...

Hmmm...I remember this post from last year. That's when I learned that for almost every TP post, there's one reader whose pet objection lines up against the post's contents.

Well, we all have our wooden asheras and our high places....

Garet Pahl said...

If you are referring to me Stefan be a man and claim it. My pet objection is to codifying of cultural norms and beating people people into guilty submission with them. I objected to nothing in the post and heartily agree with Dan's very balanced view, but the comments often become an opportunity to bemoan the lack of virtue on the part of those who are less sanctified and a promotion of personal holiness. I've come out of the woodwork to comment on dancing, drinking, and rock music too. There is just as much idolatry involved in erecting false devils as there is in false gods.

SolaMommy said...

Amen, Dan, AMEN!!!

GrammaMack said...

Great post, but this comment made my heart sink:
"What really frosts me is girls who dress like that, and then are shocked and offended when they are a target for rape."
Rape victims are not to blame for the horrific violence that is inflicted on them, whether they are seventy-year-old grannies asleep in their beds in flannel nighties or young girls walking home at night in tight dresses. There is no justification for rape. Surely we all know this?

Sharon said...

Grammamack:
I was the one who made that comment, and it was probably out of line. I didn't mean to imply that all rape victims "ask for it" and I apologize if it came across that way.

Carlo said...

Frank: SMart is always more sexy than sexy is sexy.snip snip

For the record, Funny is more sexy than sexy also.


Great, now I have to get out of my mind the fact that Dan is smart and funny.

Carlo said...

One of these days, I'm going to learn how to do a url link on blogger, but the Desiring God Blog has a great blog on modesty in the church.

You can dress beautifully without being a stumbling and not look stupid. Rather than draw gaze to your body parts, draw the gaze to your eyes and face.

Stefan said...

Garet: I am absolutely, categorically not referring to you—and I agree with your comment, although knowing full well that I struggle with this, too.

I'm sorry for any misunderstanding my comment might have caused, but I was just recalling the general trend of last year's comment thread.

Polycarp said...

Well said Dan! You really nailed this all-too-common issue with sensitivity, accuracy, logic, and...most importantly, scriptural backing! However, I can already hear all of the "legalistic," or even "sexist," accusations of some being hurled at the wisdom in this post! I'm # 88 and I haven't read any of the comments so far on this (something I rarely do), as I just logged on; perhaps the hurling has already begun??

Stefan said...

My first non-trivial comment in, like, the last month and a half, and I flub it.

Lynne said...

May I say a few things as an "older" woman? (Old enough to have adult kids)
I grew up in the 60's and early 70's, the age of the miniskirt, and I wore what was fashionable at the time (less extreme than some, but still ..) i can truthfully say that I had NO IDEA I was wearing anything inappropriate, I was too innocent to really have a clue. it was only after I got married that I became aware (how shall I put this?) of the power of my body over a man. then I became much more careful what I wore; besides, I regarded my body as now belonging to my husband, and didn't want anyone else to look at me the same way. You still won't catch me wearing heaps of clothes in an Aussie summer (so many places here, including churches, have no a/c) but it's really not that hard to make sure one is decently dressed.

Another observation: 2-3 years ago my daughter went to a uni christian camp, where they had a separate session for the girls on modesty in dress. She reported to me that themost common reaction from these girls (many of whom are very serious about their faith) was astonishment -- they had never heard of such a thing before! My daughter's comment: "It's like none of them have got mothers who care!"

And on the issue of self-esteem, I think it's a huge factor. Most women are horrendously insecure, many are looking for the approval their father's failed to give them. (the implications for fathers are obvious) there's something in the female heart that desperately craves male approval, and for many if she can't get the right sort of approval she'll settle for the wrong sort rather than have none at all. Ultimately, of course, we need to find that from God rather than any human being, but that can be a long hard journey to understand, and it's a rare woman who has reached that place while still young in the faith. maybe more young women (or even not so young) need to be told that they don't need to cheapen themselves by displaying their physical assets when their -- some other aspect of their personality you can sincerely compliment -- is so very attractive. Building them up rather than shaming them is more likely to have a positive approach.
just my thoughts ..

Polycarp said...

nope, I was wrong in that prediction. Not a one! Very cool!

Chris said...

I remember sitting in church as a new believer in anticipation for the service to start. It finally did and when the preacher was about to begin some late comers walked and were led by the ushers to sit directly in front of me. The late comers were three very attractive young ladies and they all had bare backs. My view of the pastor was obstructed by a wall of skin. I had to move.

Susan said...

Garet said: "I've come out of the woodwork to comment on dancing, drinking, and rock music too. There is just as much idolatry involved in erecting false devils as there is in false gods."

Point well taken. However, I still say that women's not showing too much skin or wearing things that are overly tight is a good thing for both sexes. Of course we can never reach Jesus's perfect standard for purity (cf. Mt. 5:27-28), but at the same time Scripture highlights the unique characteristic that makes sexual sin stand out among other sins: the person sins against his/her own body, the temple of the Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Co 6:18-20). Knowing the potential spiritual damage our dress can cause our brothers, then, should really sober us. I personally know some brothers who are really bothered by some sisters' dresses when it comes to special occasions such as weddings. However, they don't think it's appropriate to approach these sisters themselves (for obvious reasons), so they either ask other sisters whom they know are equally bothered by it or--worse--they suffer in silence and try to ignore it, which I don't think really helps.

Once again, Dan, thanks for the great post. It was well presented and not legalistic nor sexist. Just hope more sisters will be more careful in their dress choice....

Garet Pahl said...

Stefan,

Thanks for the clarification. And I apologize to the general assembly for the stridency of my response- it was late, and I was irritated- a good time to bite my metaphorical tongue.

SolaMommy said...

"So here's a situation.

20-something girl is concerned about modesty. She does her best to be helpful. She comes to church and sees the girls in the Senior High Youth Group dressing unhelpfully. She decides they need to be confronted. What does she do? How does she confront them? What does she say?

Keep in mind that she doesn't know these girls all that well. When she was in high school they were in elementary or middle school. So the relationship isn't a terribly strong one. Also, it's not only the girls she'd be confronting, but also the parents (at least in some way), because the parents are the ones who seem to approve of their daughters dressing this way in church. Does the girl confront the parents too? Before, after, or at the same time? Only the parents?

What do you guys think?"

Oh my goodness, Mike, THAT'S ME!!! LOL

Glad/sad to know I'm not the only one.

Stefan said...

Garet:

No problem. Anyhow, even though I didn't write the comment with the meaning that you read into it, my comment didn't contribute anything constructive or God-honouring to the discussion. There's a lesson to myself from James 3:1-16 here: not to cast about idle comments, all the more so if there's a risk of misunderstanding and offense to a brother or sister—even if unintentional.

Garet Pahl said...

Solamommy:

"She decides they need to be confronted."
This is an important sentence.

I think the first person that needs to be confronted is the 20 something girl herself, to examine herself closely to ensure that her motivations for confrontation are based on reasonable, Biblical grounds and not personal convictions. I can think of at least 4 or 5 female students I have had who were very self-righteous and would constantly go around confronting female peers and younger female students over their perceived indiscretions, some quite legitimate others matters of personal preference(the terrible indeceny of exposed shoulders comes to mind). It was a log in the eye kind of situations that were startling for the lack of charity, and always resulted in bitterness and animosity on both sides.

Therefore, if such a 20 something year old girl came to me asking for advice, I would recommend she speak to her pastor first to validate her concerns and turn the situation over to someone who exercises Biblical authority over households, which is where such a problem emanates from in the first place (as you have rightly pointed out).

I believe that when young women dress in a sexually provocative manner, it is because they have a low view of Christian marriage. The same goes for young men and women who engage in a "worldly" kind of dating life. The answer is not a system or a standard to correct the problem- that is religion. A band-aid on a mortal wound. I think for lasting change exemplified by humility and chastity, it requires a clear understanding of marriage to act as the compass for navigating all these complex issues in a way that is true to the Gospel and Christ exalting.

Stefan: Ya man, no worries. I assumed it was referring to me because it appeared directly below my post.(aren't I humble- yuck) I get the gist of your original intent, although it was a little unclear. Perhaps a lesson to the both of us.

frenchcanadianmissionary said...

Garet:

I believe that when young women dress in a sexually provocative manner, it is because they have a low view of Christian marriage.

Couldn't agree with you more. But what do you do when it is a non-Christian woman who is visiting to find out if this Jesus fellow really does have something to say after all? Imagine a girl who is struggling with the fact that she is a nude dancer and in her search for meaning in life, she begins visiting the church, dressed inappropriately. For her, she is already much more covered up normal...

Thoughts on how to breath grace in that situation?

-Rob

SolaMommy said...

Garet,

I'm not sure about the woman in Mike's post, but in my situation, there have been MANY adults in the congregation who have complained about the attire/lack of attire of certain senior high girls. I know that a mother of two of the girls was confronted and complained that "this society" (she is from Germany originally) "is too fixated on the female body." She went on to say that topless women are used in advertising and on packaging in Germany all the time, because men there aren't fixated on these things. My thought is, why would they use such things in advertising if it didn't sell their product?

But I digress. The point is, in my situation, I don't have a "holier than thou" attitude about it...a number of men and women in the congregation have complained, and nobody seems to know how to handle it.

I feel like someone my age (28) could maybe have more of an impact on the girls since I'm not young enough to be cool, but not old enough yet to be their mom...however, what can I say if their moms are going to just tell them that they can wear whatever they want? Right now there are a couple moms begging me to do SOMETHING but I'm not sure what.

I can tell you that senior high girls are not thinking about Christian marriage, they are thinking of getting attention from boys their age (and all of them are dating).

DJP said...

FWIW, I was asked permission to reprint the first post and distribute it at church. As long as the source is credited, I gave my okay.

Similarly, feel free to distribute thus under the same requirement.

Garet Pahl said...

Rob: I've actually had to deal directly with that. Fortunately, we had a wonderful sister who was an ex-stripper who would identify and come alongside many of these girls and gently help them understand how their mode of dress was a distraction, often by having little make-over parties- the transformation was like the ending of one of those reality tv make-over shows, very heart warming. The rest of us bore with it while trusting that the preaching of the Gospel and God's active grace would shape their opinions about themselves and about sexuality- it always did.


Solamommy:

Having spent time in Europe,the attitudes towards that particular part of a woman is much less sexualized. In Sweden women just strip down when it's hot and no one seems to care. On the beaches of France, the only people gawking are American tourists. But indeed indulging that conversation would take us far off topic.

I can tell you that senior high girls are not thinking about Christian marriage, they are thinking of getting attention from boys their age (and all of them are dating).

That is exactly my point. I know they are not, I'm just a few years older then you and I have been in youth ministry for about 12 years. They aren't thinking about it and their ignorance is demonstrated by their behavior. Remember, we are "transformed by the renewing of our mind". I am afraid sometimes when we try to rush the issue of conforming with particular standards, we can substitute moralism for grace. The "why?" question needs to be answered beforehand, and it needs to be Biblical.

Which is why this is a Pastoral issue. Unfortunately, parents aren't pastoring, and a lot of pastors aren't pastoring. How could no one know what to do about it? Church discipline is prescribed with clarity. If parents have been approached by other parents, then it needs to go to the elders of the church. If your church isn't willing to deal with the issues cropping up in faith professing households than they are playing church, but not being the church.

Jeremy & Jennifer said...

I usually like Dan Phillips’ posts, but I am very disappointed by this one. As a Christian male, I believe Dan missed the mark. This post should be directed at Christian males and not Christian females. The post comes across sounding too much like Adam in the garden blaming the woman for eating the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:12).

If modest clothing is the answer to curb men’s lustful thoughts, then why isn’t lust and sexual immorality eradicated in strict Muslim societies? There the women are completely covered from head-to-toe and yet sin still abounds. Mistresses are celebrated, women are treated like property, and female circumcision is even practiced. Also, male prisons and the Catholic clergy are examples that prove women are not the problem when it comes to men’s lust. In male prisons, there are no women around to entice men and yet some men engage in homosexual behavior to satisfy their internal desires. Some of the Catholic clergy molested young boys to satisfy their lusts when no women were present to entice them.

This post reminds me too much of the Promise Keepers. When I attended the Promise Keepers meetings, the men seemed to always want to discuss Ephesians 5:22 but didn’t address Ephesians 5:25-30. Do we not understand that the Law increases sin (Romans 5:20) and the more we focus on rules but not the heart, the more sin will abound?

When Jesus addressed this issue, he did not blame the woman, but instead went to the heart of the matter. When talking about looking at a woman with lust, He does not address the woman but the eye (Matthew 5:27-30). For Jesus teaches us that what comes from within is what defiles a man. (Matthew 15:19)

Should women be modest? Yes, so should men. But that seems to be missing the point. Also, as one commenter stated, modesty isn’t only about wearing clothes that aren’t titillating. The passages that Dan uses concerning 1 Peter and 1 Timothy have more to do with flaunting riches and thinking oneself better than others (Romans 12:16) in connection with what James says about showing favoritism. (James 2) For at what time in human history was the wearing of gold and braided hair associated with enticing men into impure thoughts? Modesty also has to do with not being haughty.

We need to be as Paul and make our bodies a slave keeping them in submission (1 Cor. 9:26-27) by walking in the Spirit (Romans 8:12-13). Do we not realize that lust and sexual immorality is tied to all lack of self-control? We can not fully address this problem if we do not also address the problems of male gluttony, idleness, and anger. These issues of the flesh are linked to one another. If you cannot control your fleshly desires when it comes to overeating foods that bring pleasure, you will not be able to control fleshly desires when it comes to sexuality. Both are doing what feels good to a weak body. I would also suggest if men would stop watching the world’s movies and reading the world’s magazines, maybe they could start thinking in ways that weren’t so worldly. (James 4:4) We should focus on ourselves before we focus on women.

Jeremy

Staci at Writing and Living said...

Well, as a woman, I got Dan's intent perfectly. I think he made himself clear in the meta and in the following quote that in no way is he absolving any man from his own sin:

"while it may be true that I'm the one holding the matches, you won't help me if you pile twigs all around my feet and douse them with lighter fluid."

As other women have said in the comments, it's a heady thing for a young woman to realize that she can dress in a way that attracts attention. And sometimes women, even if we know better, continue the same practices.

If a woman shows up somewhere in a short skirt with high heels and a tight, low-cut blouse, she's not dressing that way for comfort. Trust me.

Even if every woman in the planet dressed modestly, men would still struggle with lust. But Christian sisters could do a lot more to help their brothers in this area.

GrammaMack said...

"Should women be modest? Yes"
Well, then, Jeremy, you are in perfect agreement with Dan. Maybe you should reread his post.

"If you cannot control your fleshly desires when it comes to overeating foods that bring pleasure, you will not be able to control fleshly desires when it comes to sexuality."
So you can tell if a man controls lust by his weight? Thin men have lust under control and overweight men don't? Hmm, I don't think so!

Janet said...

I loved this post the first time and I'm so glad you posted it again!

Julie said...

Love that quote from sarah l. ("So dress and conduct yourself so that people who have been in your company will not recall what you had on." - John Newton ) Amen, sister! And the same goes for make-up... if anyone remembers it, it was Wrong!

Some of you spoke of training your girls, and the value of praising them for their character and inner qualities. Amen to that.

I would add this: I have three boys. We haven't hit the "carbonated hormone" stage yet, so I'm not yet truly in the battle, LOL. But, beyond the "Every Man's Battle", mindset, I am trying to instill in them an appreciation for ladies who are "low maintenance". I don't mean slobs, but the un-self-conscious... inner beauty.

They're responsive :0)

veiledglory said...

Dressing modestly and attractively is easy - one only has to take some lessons from Hijabi Fashionistas. They combine all sorts of clothing options to gain the level of fabric coverage their religion requires. It can be done, even while shopping (if you must) at a modern mall. I suggest thrift stores for even more unique clothing choices.

~Anna

Mike Riccardi said...

I am trying to instill in them an appreciation for ladies who are "low maintenance."

As a guy, I can attest to the fact that this is so important. Everyone in our culture is lying to us about what we should like and find attractive, and so many guys are just pigeonholed into focusing on looks first. We need to see the heart.

And it's also good because so much of the reason girls do dress "unhelpfully" is because of the power they wield over guys because of it. If we were suddenly driven nuts by a beautiful character and (by comparison) couldn't care less about their measurements, the allure would disappear for the girls as well.

Really good words from the ladies on this thread.

DJP said...

Really good words from the ladies on this thread.

I agree, Mike. It's actually one of the high points of my week that the first to try really hard to miss the point of the article (and ignore its pre-emptive responses to his objections) was a man (Jeremy), and he was immediately answered — by sisters.

DJP said...

Veiledglory, I don't know how to take your comment. In isolation, it reads like a reactionary slam. But I go to your site, and it seems you're on the same page.

So, to be painfully clear: I'm far from advocating Islamic stylings, or Islamic-anything-else. It's possible for a beautiful woman to dress helpfully without looking like a burrito or a mummy or a papoose. I've seen sisters dress beautifully and mercifully/modestly, again and again. And they weren't wearing burqas.

Julie said...

Oh rats, if only I could remember where I hear/read things, perhaps I could quote them better.

Who said, (something along these lines), regarding modest women's dress: that her clothing should be "fitted enough to show that she's a woman, and loose enough show that she's a lady"?

I tend to err more on the "burrito" side... not out of legalism, but due to a certain lack of 'fashionista genes'. This tends to damage my credibility in lovingly confronting the immodest, because I assume they are thinking, "Well, if you were beautiful, you'd dress like this too!" Perhaps not, but there it is.

So I see the pastor's wife, (at our former church,) in her skin-tight leopard-print dress and her four-inch heels... and I cringe. And I pray that some of the ladies who are both modest AND lovely will speak with her.

Would you men be bold enough to speak with the husband in a situation like that?

Jeremy & Jennifer said...

I did not ignore anything. Dan may have used some Bible passages to state that man is responsible for his own lust, but then he used the rest of the article trying to say that women throw gasoline on the fire. Dan and I may agree that modesty is important, but we disagree on the reason why modesty is important. Folks should be modest for the Lord, not for man. It has to do entirely with motivation. What is your motivation for behaving a certain way? No one answered to the fact that modest cultures are still ripe with sexual sins and lust. This proves that the wearing of certain clothes will not remove the gasoline from the fire. I also never said that thin people don't have a problem with lust. Even the Westminster Confession of Faith Catechism recognizes that idleness and gluttony are violations of the seventh commandment, "Thou shall not commit adultery." Sins of the flesh are interconnected because they demonstrate a lack of self-control or a lack of the fruit of the Spirit.

DJP said...

If that's your best surrejoinder, and your most withering criticism, I do think I'll still be able to sleep tonight. You've still lodged no complaint not anticipated and dealt with in the original column.

Mike Riccardi said...

Jeremy,

Here's what you ignored:

-------
Now, some very direct disclaimers:

* Every man's sin is his own, and every man's struggle is his own (Proverbs 14:10)
* No one makes a man think or feel anything (Proverbs 4:23)
* It is each individual's responsibility to guard his own heart (Proverbs 4:23)
* Beauty is a wonderful gift of God (cf. Exodus 28:2; Song of Solomon 1:8, 15, etc.)

Having said all that: while it may be true that I'm the one holding the matches, you won't help me if [To change the metaphor: matches + explosives = bad combination] you pile twigs all around my feet and douse them with lighter fluid. To be a little more specific: if you know I've had trouble with drunkenness, you won't offer me a glass of wine. If you know I battle covetousness, you won't take me window-shopping in high-end stores I've no business frequenting.

That is, you won't do those things if you love, if you care for me.
----------

You skipped everything until right after "Having said all that." You went ahead and made the points Dan was making in the part you skipped over. He was wonderfully balanced; he didn't focus too much on "blaming" women for the problem. That's evidenced by all the women who commented and agreed with the thrust of his post.

Dan's saying that given this is a guy's problem, and that these lessons have been and continue to be hurled at guys as often as they can take them, -- given all that -- there are some things women can do to help the situation, and there are things they can do to worsen the situation. That's all. Not "You're to blame for my lust," but "There's certainly some things you could do to help me keep from sinning."

And that's the essence of love: "Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble" (1Cor 8:13). And not doing that is sinful: "For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died" (Rom 14:15). "By sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ" (1Cor 8:12).

Jeremy & Jennifer said...

Do you know how devestating it is to know that my only value as a woman is how I look? I can't even go to church without knowing that every man is secretly (?) eyeing every attractive woman and wishing he were being intimate with her. My husband tries to tell me that this is not the case, but I don't believe him. You are all very convincing. If I'm attractive, I get your attention = I have value. If I'm not attractive, I don't get your attention = I don't have value. I've never seen or heard a man discuss how he struggles with being attracted to a woman's character. I wish every day that I was never born a woman.

DJP said...

Your comments are becoming more and more unhinged. None of these issues is coming either from the post, or the comments. If this is your attitude, see your pastor for help. Otherwise, it honestly just sounds like a man who can't admit he was offbase.

Mike Riccardi said...

Wow...

Unhinged isn't the word...

CaliGirlinVegas said...

1 Corinthians 8 comes to mind.

I tend to stuggle with the modesty issue from time to time, not because I want to cause brothers to lust, but because I don't realize just how bad the temptation is for men. I think that's the case with most women-we just don't understand that even what in our eyes may be a decent-length skirt can be tempting to a brother. Although they have responsiblity for their own sanctification and holiness, we can fall into sin by causing them to stumble. Out of love, lets make an effort to help our brothers with this temptation instead of getting self-defensive and upset about it.

Kim said...

You know, the only person I can control (and even that is fairly uncertain most days) is myself. I can't control the guy who waits on me at the convenience store. I can't control the guy sitting across the church from me. I can't control the guy who stands to close to me in an elevator. All I can do is assure that I am above reproach.

People can say what they want about motives, fashion, grace, law, blah blah blah.... this is the simple fact here, coming from a woman who has a woman's mind, who has been a teenager, and has a teenage daughter: Women will abuse the fact that men are visually-wired. They will get a charge out of knowing they have turned heads. They may not be able to articulate it, but it is there. I have been there. I have seen young girls do it. I have heard the comments of the young boys who see this and wish that the girls would be careful.

Because we know that men are very visual, it behooves us to dress in a way that does not make it any harder for our brothers in the Lord. Yes, I dress modestly to please the Lord; and what pleases the Lord is that I not be a stumbling block.

natalie said...

Excellent post. Well worth reading again. I think the main problem we have with immodest dress in the church today is that we have failed to teach our kids that nothing is neutral. It isn't "just a shirt" or "just a pair of jeans". It is something that is either serving those around you by being modest and beautiful, or it is being selfish by being immodest and/or ugly. Christian women are to be beautiful and to be modest. Yes, it can be hard. (No, I don't have it all together.)

On the topic of what do you do about immodest sisters- I would say unless you have a relationship, it will be very difficult to talk to the immodest sister. She will feel attacked and defensive. I think the best thing to do is to model modest and beautiful attire, and work on relationship building. Or ask the pastor to preach on modesty!

Staci at Writing and Living said...

Jennifer,

If you truly "wish every day that I was never born a woman," Dan is right, you need to speak to your pastor. If you were just throwing that phrase out as an invective, perhaps we can look at this from another angle.

I love my husband. He is a godly man. I am humbled by his commitment to the Lord and to our family. He is my best friend, and I am very grateful for the way he serves us by being the spiritual leader in our home.

He works very hard and is a good provider, and we have everything we need and most of what we want, but by US standards we are not wealthy. So if I'm with a friend who is wealthy, standing in her gorgeous house with its all-singing, all-dancing kitchen, and I catching myself wishing that *I* had an all-singing, all-dancing kitchen, it does not mean that I believe that a man's worth is only measured by his earnings. It just means that I am a sinner, susceptible to the cravings of sinful man. My weakness tends to be built-in appliances and nice cabinets.

Let's keep from derailing this by saying that I don't expect my friends not to have nice kitchens. This is my problem only. Just as a lot of men will still struggle with lust even if we all wrapped up in burkas. But Kim is right. Women get a charge out of knowing that they've turned a man's head. We do need to be careful to examine our motives behind some of our fashion choices.