Disclaimer: I don’t feel like I’ve said this perfectly or even particularly well. There are some things that I work out on “paper” and you are reading along. I reserve the right to edit or even change my mind.
I’m on a journey. Now, I don’t know about good drivers, but for me, a journey is often unpredictable and sometimes I end up somewhere unexpected along the way. Currently, and by that, I mean for the last few years, I am journeying through the “whys” of my faith. Most people wouldn’t even notice the journeying, because I’m sticking fairly close to my fundy roots, because there’s a lot I do believe deeply, unequivocally. But some of my questions revolve around “the rules”. What does the Bible say and what is Western culture? When am I operating out of fear instead of faith? What really matters to Jesus, because He is my friend and I love him, so I want it to matter to me.
One of my greatest problems with some of the current modesty teaching is the weight of responsibility it places on women. I grew up with some of this, living in fear of making a brother stumble at any moment. In retrospect, I think I probably overestimated my sensual threat level.
As teenagers we were taught, and later, as youth pastors, we taught the girls that they were blazingly hot Bathshebas walking around with their weapons of sexuality, slaying Davids all over the place, and we taught the boys that they were victims of rampant sexual desires with very little power or control over their urges. We also inadvertently made their sexual purity the central theme of their young walks with God.
For women, there is a message in culture in general: you are a body, not a soul. Your power is in your sexuality, and that is your only means of power. Is it possible that we’re presenting the same message in the church? Young woman, we say, you are a threat and a weapon against men of God. Fear yourself, cover yourself. It’s the same message with a different application. Not only does this put women in an impossible place, where her very womanhood is a shame to her, it also negates the responsibility of young men to develop righteous habits, to learn how to appreciate beauty without sexualizing beauty.
Do we, as Christian women, have a responsibility to protect other Christians from lusting? I don’t know if I’d say responsibility. The responsibility is theirs. Do we have a responsibility to love them? Yes. And sometimes that’s going to affect the way we dress, because of love. Where’s the line? you ask. Bikinis or burkas, v-necks or turtlenecks, skirts instead of pants, exposed ankle bones? I can’t make that call, because it depends on the people you’re around and, to some degree, their battles. I can say that there is nothing wrong with being shaped like a woman, and being beautiful and comfortable the way God made you. There is no shame in being female.
Men have an equal responsibility to love, choosing to see women as more than their physical frame, not placing the weight of their own battles or shame on someone else, because it’s their battle. Because of love, a man might have to take a thought captive, not because of fear. It’s about love.
I have struggled through this post, feeling like I’m missing a thousand things, like I’m not saying it the way I want to. Ultimately I just wish we could love God and each other and not live our lives in fear. I’m on a journey out of fear, into faith. Stay tuned.