Modesty: A Man’s Perspective
Modesty has been a part of Christianity since time immemorial. It finds itself in terms today like, “Modest is Hottest,” and in my father’s days of being at Bible school, “Don’t Smoke, Drink, Dance, or Chew- or Go with Girls that Do.” These lenses of what is and isn’t correct or modest are problematic because they come from a worrisome place. We choose to quarantine, rather than wrestle, we choose to cut off and lock away, rather than live in the freedom we have been given, and rather than ask and answer tough questions like, “Why am I looking at women or men like that?” we choose a safer, less open option. Much like the choice of my parents to say that courtship, for me, was their only prescribed and allowed form of achieving the status of marriage; Parents, leaders, pastors and so many others, choose covering over entirely, assuming that Chernobyl was a great example for male and female relationships. Like another Abrahamic religion that chooses to minimize and marginalize, they choose a hijab or burqa, emotional or otherwise.
Modesty has its basis in sexuality and the church has been overwhelmingly silent and skittish in that regard. Modesty is an easy way to tell girls what to wear in a direct sense; however it’s the deeper issue that’s at stake. God made us as sexual beings. Let that sink in. God made us as sexual beings. He’s the one that invented sex; he’s the one that built in attractions toward one type of person over another. Sexuality, then, is a part of each person’s story. It’s not concealable and it’s not ignorable. Further, if God builds it in, then sexuality isn’t any one person’s fault. It’s not a girl’s fault that a guy gets turned on because a girl wore a low cut shirt, or a guy’s that a girl was attracted to a his arms and chest. This is called victim blaming. It’s a prosecutable, illegal act. It’s wrong because it says that the true guilt lies on the innocent person who wore what ever they put on that day, not the person who was aroused, who chose to let those feelings kindle from sparks to flame.
For these leaders, their ideas come from a really good place, and these leaders have the best intentions; they think back to the heartbreak and hormones and the all-consuming desires that they had. It’s wrong though- hindsight is incredibly vivid for all of us. That view of our past is ours, not someone else’s: not your child’s, not your student’s, nor your parishioner’s. It’s your story and you are the keeper of it. You can use it as a cautionary tale, should it have been, or as a tale of joy that you can impart, but letting it be the case study for your decisions as a person of authority is neither a safe, nor careful bet. The evidence also speaks for itself: My parents dated before they got married and so did each of my sisters, save one that married her high school sweetheart. Most of your parents did as well. They went through those struggles. They wrestled. They didn’t put a big cone over the top of an option. They probably messed up too, and asked for grace and forgiveness also.