I created this blog to discuss controversial and touchy topics. And the touchiest subject being brought up right now is modesty. That’s right folks, modesty has become one of the most sensitive issues for the Church particularly for believers in the West. Why? Well, the answer isn’t being offered from militant atheists or some obscure corner of our non-Christian culture. It is coming from Christian women. More specifically, women who are taking a stand against rape and “rape culture” (a societal norm where rapists are ignored or where rapists are the victims and women the root cause for it). And that is what makes this so interesting and so divisive an issue.
First it should be noted that these ladies are not promoting members of their gender to dress like hookers or porn stars. Their argument, usually, is not that they should be free to wear whatever they want without male approval. Rather, they are upset that they are accused for being the cause of men’s lust. And since the only difference between rape and lust is one acts out the thoughts and the other doesn’t, they conclude that blaming women for lust is indirectly promoting rape culture. And to an extent this is a reasonable argument. Just because a woman is scantily clad doesn’t mean that she wants sex or wishes to be raped. A fashion style or lack thereof doesn’t mean “Yes” or “Take me!”
However, there are some problems with this because often times the argument is used when an authority figure or friends indicates a girl or young lady’s clothes are too suggestive and are causing the men around them to stumble. The comment was probably not even intended to blame the woman for being the sole guilty party when it comes to lust. Yet because the word “caused” was use, they believe it implies that responsibility belongs solely to women and not men. And while I agree that men are the only ones who can be held accountable to what goes on in their minds, I disagree with the idea that men alone need to be taking action and women are the innocent party.
Consider Genesis 3, specifically verses 11-19. Now Adam and Eve have just eaten the forbidden fruit and are standing before God. When questioned about the matter, Adam blames Eve and God. Eve points to the serpent. Sound familiar? It should because that is what’s happening in most dialogues concerning lust. Men are blaming women as their reason for lust. Women are blaming men for promoting an environment for rape. Neither is willing to accept responsibility. Yet God finds both guilty, as seen in verses 16-19. Also, take note of the serpent. The devil never shoved the apples (no one is quite sure what the fruit was) down their throats. He never coerced Eve to eat the fruit and share some with her husband. He only suggested that she ought to have a bite. According to the logic being used about lust, the devil is free of any responsibility. He is not to blame. But that is not how God sees it. He punishes the serpent for instigating the whole affair, despite the fact he didn’t have control over the actions of Adam and Eve.
Some might think this is a little over the top and perhaps insensitive for comparing immodest women to Satan. I wish to say that is not my intent and that there are other verses and passages which make my point. I used Genesis because it includes all parties and not just the one. Look at another example in I Cor. 8. Paul is telling the Corinthians that though they may have new freedoms and rights because of their faith, they shouldn’t to take those same freedoms and rights cause others to stumble. He even goes so far as to say that he would stop eating meat (because most meats sold were originally sacrifices to idols) if it caused one of his brothers to stumble. This is Paul, a man called by God to be an apostle, who is acknowledging his responsibility for being the cause of another’s sin even though it is the responsibility of the other person not to sin. In Mark 9:42, Christ agrees with this concept and places blame on both the cause as well as the one committing the sin.
Now let’s clarify by what is meant by causing someone to sin. The devil deserved to be judged because he was consciously trying to get Adam and Eve to sin. Most women are not doing that when they get up and pick out their outfits for the day. But what about unconsciously? (I won’t go into subconsciously because I’m not God and I can’t know ultimate intentions without some form of revelation or discernment). My response to this question would be to look at Paul and I Cor. 8. Paul knows that some of his brothers and sisters in Christ struggle with eating meat “polluted by idols.” And since he knows this, would he be honoring and loving them if he ate such meat in their presence? Even if he wasn’t intending to offend or cause others to stumble? I would say no. He knew they were weak in part of their faith and still chose to do that which they find repulsive. Therefore I would say, “Ladies be careful of how you dress, because it can prove to be a stumbling for your brothers in Christ whether you intended it or not.”
So how should women dress? Well in my perfect world, everyone (men included) would dress as residents of medieval Scotland or the aristocrats of the Roman Republic. But since we don’t live in that world, I say: use common sense. Some articles of clothing like leggings, bikinis, tight jeans, short skirts, etc. have no real functional value other than to show off a woman’s body. Others like yoga pants do have a function, usually to make working out more comfortable. However, that is their purpose: to be used while exercising not as a substitute for actual pants. I can’t say what is appropriate dress for women since I believe even Muslim men lust after women who are completely hidden in their burkas. Therefore there are no lust free clothes. Some are more provocative than others. Which leaves us with my final comment. Men do need to take responsibility and I believe the Church has been moving in that direction. There are many websites like XXXchurch.com as well as accountability groups at local churches to help men with their struggle against lust. However we cannot slack off and we shouldn’t blame our sisters and neighbors for our short comings. God will deal with them as he sees fit. Let us worry about ourselves and our own souls.