There seems to be this weird new drift in the concept of Christian modesty. Perhaps it’s just a non-theology reaction to truly poor theology; but, whatever it is, it’s growing…especially in the “relevant” crowd. In other words, the people who seem to support this new “barely there modesty” concept rarely use Scripture to defend or support their ideas. They just ramble on about legalism, uptight Christians, and a loose, self-styled “liberty” that pushes holiness into the ambiguous zone and redefines modesty into oblivion.
I recently read a disturbing article by a pastor who verbally rolled his eyes at Christian modesty. In his blog post, he was responding in protest to Jessica Rey’s video about the history of the bikini. I’m hoping his attitude doesn’t reflect a trend, but after the defensive attitudes I observed when Soul Surfer was released, I have to wonder.
This “relevant” pastor (who is also a husband and father) was basically saying it shouldn’t matter what anyone wears (or doesn’t wear) swimming, and that he loves the fact that most women at the beach “feel comfortable” enough to parade around in front of him and other men in their bikinis.
He goes on to talk about his wife’s “black and gold bikini,” which he admits leaves “little to the imagination”…as well as her “double D’s” (as he refers to what’s “hidden by those triangles of fabric”). He extolls her right to display herself at the beach, while condemning any man who may be tempted to lust after her in response. In fact, he doesn’t even seem to mind the thought of his own daughters being gawked at. He says:
“There were several women I noticed as beautiful that caught my eye. Observing these pretty, God-created beings brought a smile to my face as I imagined my own daughters grown up, laughing and strutting down a beach such as this, blissfully enjoying the beauty they’ve been blessed with.”
Sadly, Isaiah 3:16 kept coming to mind. He also described the way one of the “most stunning women” on the beach that day couldn’t seem to keep her red bikini bottom up, as she innocently romped in the water. Seriously. And he wasn’t complaining. Rather he was using her as an opportunity to brag about his effortless self-control, exposing, if nothing else, his spiritual snobbery.
This young pastor was trying to make a point that, though he noticed plenty of half-naked women around, he was never tempted to lust after them—that men who do so are behaving like “animals” and that we should all just relax and enjoy the “beauty of God’s creation” (i.e. one another’s near-naked bodies) without getting hung up on how much breast or back sides we’re forced to view.
On one hand, he is right; a mature, Christian man should have the self-control and focus to be unexpectedly faced with a naked woman without lusting after. Lust is a heart issue and there is no room for blame when it comes to our own sin. A man should respect his wife enough (as well as women in general, clothed or naked) to guard his thoughts.
But to say that we women have no responsibility to use discretion in how we dress around others is immature thinking. To imply that public nakedness is no big deal is to ignore Scripture and the Christian’s call to chastity. And it’s unloving. But what’s love got to do with it, right?
If I force you and your husband to participate in my nakedness by publicly parading myself, the only person I’m loving is me. I’m satisfying my own comfort, convenience, or desire for attention. I could care less how it affects you. And if I blog about the freedom I have to offend you, I’m rubbing your nose in it too. But, hey, it’s my Christian liberty, dontcha know?
“Saying that those who pursue modesty are ‘uncomfortable with their bodies’ or ‘ashamed of their sexuality’ is comparable to saying that I am uncomfortable with my expensive silverware because I refuse to use it to feed the pet mouse. Just as my valuable silver is too precious to put to common use, so the treasure of the human body should be too valuable to use in any but the appropriate context.” – Robin Phillips
Modesty isn’t (or shouldn’t be) about legalism, rules, hiding, fear, body shame, or uptight-ism. Since modesty is included in our call to be chaste, it’s about covering our nakedness in public (which the Bible actually does present as shameful), so that we might represent Him honorably before the world. It’s about hallowing His name.
“The nations shall know that I am the Lord,” says the Lord God, “when I am hallowed in you before their eyes.” (Ezekiel 36:23)
It’s about selflessness. It’s about honoring marriage. And beyond that, ladies, it’s about love—loving our brothers and their wives. After all, modesty promotes friendship in women; and, when we remove the awkwardness of sexual immodesty, it promotes a relaxed, comfortable friendship with our brothers as well.
The “barely there modesty” philosophy is not even consistent. How many women would stand around in their “me-oh-mys” in front of an open window where a bunch of construction workers were on lunch break at the house across the street? But these same women will wear the equivalent of their underwear in front of a crowd on the beach or at the pool.
Though this pastor/blogger seems to think he is a spiritual giant, I would guess it is more likely that he, like so many in our culture, has desensitized himself to nakedness by freely and regularly exposing himself to it.
“When a thing is enclosed, the mind does not willingly regard it as common.” – C.S. Lewis
How sad. A woman’s naked body is supposed to elicit more than a yawn from a man. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. But, like any of God’s gifts, freely revealing the intimate parts of our bodies to one another is supposed to be enjoyed within the boundaries that God has generously provided—in this case, within the oneness of marriage.
As a loving deer and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times; and always be enraptured with her love. Proverbs 5:19
Keep your eyes on your own wife. And women, concentrate on satisfying your own husband…privately.
And that goes for guys too. We ladies aren’t immune to lust or distraction, and nakedness goes both ways. But, remember, it’s not always about lust; sometimes it’s simply about dignity. So keep your shirt on! Literally.
I love exposing my nakedness…to my husband. And I love enjoying his nakedness too! Shocked? You shouldn’t be. But you should be shocked if I decide to take it all off at the beach.
Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled… (Hebrews 13:4)
It is good and right for a man to be excited by the body of his wife. But, if society manages to desensitize him by making nudity and sexuality common place (perhaps even boring), then the attack on marriage is subtly effective. God intended nudity to stir a reaction in us within marriage; we are wonderfully created to be sensitive to it. As nudity becomes common, and sexuality becomes almost mundane, it robs marriage of what is glorious.
CLICK HERE to download a free PDF of Jeff Pollard’s Christian Modesty and the Public Undressing of America
While some of this may sound like my personal opinion, I plan to post more soon about why I believe God has indeed given us a few specifics on what parts of our bodies he wants both men and women to cover in public.
“In his book The Sexual Revolution, Wilhelm Reich (1897–1957) described the means for achieving a society without any external sexual morals, “a free society” that “would not put any obstacles in the path of the gratification of the natural needs.” The road to the sexual utopia he advocated lay in first getting rid of the shyness and embarrassment surrounding sex. In particular, Reich believed that before traditional morality could be completely vanquished, a society must be achieved where people “should lose their shyness to expose…erotically important parts of their bodies.” Reich attempted to facilitate this by asking his clients to remove all their clothes during his psychotherapy sessions.
“Reich would be pleased if he could see a European summer today, which is more in keeping with his ideal than what we find in brothels. In a brothel, women have overcome the natural shyness surrounding erotically important parts of their bodies in order to advertise sex; on a sunny beach, scores of women can be seen who have overcome this natural shyness with no thought of sex at all. Indeed, by refusing to explicitly acknowledge the erotic implications of minimalistic attire, we are approaching Reich’s ideal of a society in which shyness has been overcome and flattened of its innate potency.
“Reich looked forward to a time in which sexuality would be treated as something merely common. “Profane” best describes Reich’s ideal and its realization in contemporary realization, given that the term originally meant “to treat as common.” Part 5 The Disenchanting of Sex – Robin Phillips
A few negative connotations of public nakedness in Scripture:
You shall make for them linen trousers to cover their nakedness; they shall reach from the waist to the thighs. Exodus 28:42
Nor shall you go up by steps to My altar, that your nakedness may not be exposed on it. Exodus 20:26
“Your nakedness shall be uncovered, yes, your shame will be seen…” Isaiah 47:3
“You have uncovered yourself to those other than Me… you have loved their bed, where you saw their nudity.” Isaiah 57:8:
“She revealed her harlotry and uncovered her nakedness. Then I alienated Myself from her…” (Ezekiel 23:18)
“The nakedness of your harlotry shall be uncovered, both your lewdness and your harlotry.” (Ezekiel 23:29)
“[I] will take back My wool and My linen, given to cover her nakedness. Now I will uncover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and no one shall deliver her from My hand. (Hosea 2:9–10)
“Behold, I am against you,” says the Lord of hosts; “I will lift your skirts over your face, I will show the nations your nakedness, and the kingdoms your shame.” (Nahum 3:5)
“Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbor, pressing him to your bottle, even to make him drunk, that you may look on his nakedness!” (Habakkuk 2:15)
“I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed…” (Revelation 3:18)
Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame (Revelation 16:15).