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Let’s hear it for (gulp!) MODESTY! (Part One)

Morals have so degenerated that sensuality has become a lost art. In its place is a stark, barbaric, National Geographic-ish exhibitionism. Modesty is actually sexy now.

I was in a fundamentalist camp one summer as the missionary speaker. The rule was that none of the girls could wear pants, just culottes. Fine. The problem, however, was that these girls in the West were active and wanted to do everything the boys did. Fine again. That is unless you are acting as volunteer balayer for rock climbers.

Since I had had a little bit of experience in rappelling and rock climbing I belayed while teens took turns trying to ascend the cliff. Every time I looked up to check on my culotted charge, I caught an eyeful of panties. I mentioned to the pastor that pants would be much more appropriate for the activity. They would be more modest, I suggested. He said, “Modesty is not the issue.” Then he proceeded to lecture me on how women shouldn’t wear anything that pertains to men and blah, blah, blah. (The day you catch me in my wife’s jeans is the day I’m registered Section Eight.)

Well, I don’t really care if you are a no-pants-on-women type of person. I don’t think it makes sense, but everybody has a right to not make sense. My wife wears pants as often as she can. (And so do I.) However, whatever your view about clothes, I happen to think that modesty is the issue. It is the issue even for those people who have liberated themselves so much from the legalism of the culottes-only Gestapo that the mere mention of clothes stirs them up into an intifada. Whenever we begin to talk about clothes they begin hurling the worst insults they can think of: “You Fundamentalist.” (Ouch!) Then they get explicit and pious: “You hard-nosed, out-of-touch, typically-legalistic Fundamentalist. Clothes don’t matter. It’s all about the heart.” But clothes do matter. And since we live in an increasingly immodest society where God’s men are going to have to address the issue (even at the risk of being called a legalistic fundamentalist), I’m going to take the risk.

My wife and I spent the day in Chicago last week. We relaxed for a couple hours at a Starbucks café on the street corner watching people go by and talking. It’s the kind of atmosphere we love: a peopled place that constantly provides fresh reminders that we are commissioned to love them and preach to them. We love people. We love the city. And the city is where people are. People and their belly buttons.

If you’re sitting, your eye level is right around every pedestrian’s midriff. We must have seen a million belly buttons (innies and outies) in the time that it took to sip a caramel macchiato. I consider myself to be a red-blooded male who has a somewhat accurate notion of sexiness, but for the life of me I can’t figure out what is sexy about the navel. And, of course, that’s the least offensive of the exhibitions we were accosted with by our half-naked fellow citizens. But sex appeal is no longer relative to the issue of modesty because immodesty is degrading. An entire culture slouches with the baggy pants. Sensual dress has slipped from the merely coquette to the crass. Immodesty has descended from sensual to just plain stupid.

Morals have so degenerated that sensuality has become a lost art. In its place is a stark, barbaric, National Geographic-ish exhibitionism. Modesty is actually sexy now. A woman with dignity, put-togetherness, and clothes has an appeal that the bare-breasted tribal Amazonian could never have, but half of Chicago dresses like a tribe from some barbaric hinterland. I half wondered if my attractively modest wife didn’t catch the ogling eye of men just because she stood out in a sea of shameless indecency. I know we had to stand out. We were modest.

Now, we are not super-models. We’re not even models. We would never be considered for modeling anything unless there was a job for modeling average. And I don’t want you to think that we were dressed like Mennonites. (Or certain Baptists, for that matter. My wife and I can spot the jumpers and culottes from a long distance whenever we go to Wal-mart. They might as well wear placard signs that say, “I’m from _________ Baptist Church.”) No, my friends, we were not dressed like the Mennonites or culotte-only Baptists. We were dressed like Americans dress when they don’t take their clothes off. I was in shorts and sandals with a polo shirt. Jennie wore capris and a stylish, but loose-fitting top. Hardly Amish. But when a young couple obviously on a date passed our table dressed very much as we were, we wondered if they were Christians or from another planet! Then my heart sunk: probably Mormons. They both looked so attractive I nearly pulled a muscle straining my neck to observe their every move. I don’t even recall what they looked like, but they were attractive because they appeared fresh, clean, and to be the owners of a lost treasure: dignity.

If you want to start an argument, talk about clothes. Suggest that it matters to God how one dresses and you will guarantee vehement opposition from the freedom police within evangelicalism/fundamentalism who are just as obnoxious, emotional, and unbiblical as the clothes police in right-wing fundamentalism. But it is a conversation that God’s men should not shrink from. Some people think that it is none of our business as leaders to offer our opinions on the clothing of God’s people. While I have thoughts on style and ideas about modesty, the point of these posts will not be about how much skin should actually be covered, but rather a justification of the man of God’s interest in the subject of clothing. (And hopefully a kick in the pants to whoever needs to stand up and start addressing it.)

Why talk about clothing? I will suggest five reasons:

1. The ambassadorial obligation.
2. The historical consideration.
3. The attitudinal implication.
4. The sociological impact.
5. The Biblical imperative.

1. The ambassadorial obligation. It should be natural to talk about clothing because we are called to reflect the glory of God in the ambassadorial work of reconciling men with their Maker. Thus, the nature of our calling and the nature of men call for careful consideration of the subject of clothing.

2. The historical consideration. Saints who have lived before us considered the subject of clothing to be one of critical importance to Christian living. The Puritans recognized the importance of a Christian view of clothing.

3. The attitudinal implication. Modesty is not as much about covering as it is about attitude. This is one of the intangible aspects of modesty that cannot be taught by anyone but the Spirit.

4. The sociological impact. There are sociological and psychological implications in clothing.
5. The Biblical imperative. The Bible clearly talks about clothing as in I Timothy 2 and I Peter 3. Clearly, it should not disturb the Believer to talk about what God talks about! Nor, should it surprise us if He has some instructions for us to follow. If we are truly yielded to Him we will not hesitate to seek out the mind of God on this sometimes sensitive subject.

Stay tuned.

39 Responses

  1. Pastor Bob Bixby modeling???? Bad Mental Image!!!! 🙂 🙂 Thanks for the article Bob! very timely and well written.

  2. Thanks for the post Bob, I’m with you on this one. We do need to reevaluate the way that many define modesty.

  3. As a bi-vocational pastor, I don’t jump in often to offer my thoughts. This area is on my mind a great deal, so I consider it worth my time (and hopefully worth yours to read my thoughts).

    To set the background of who I am, I have been in the midst of culotte people (in my distant past, really). I live in Iowa, where “modest” would apply to anything short of nudity anymore. I’m also married to a woman who does not wear pants, but used to (her choice and my happiness), and who doesn’t own a set of culottes (and hasn’t, that I’m aware of, for over 20 years). I’m also the father of 9 daughters (NINE) who wear dresses, skirts, and pants (no culottes – maybe we’re clueless). My wife and I are trying to instill a sense of biblical modesty without the often accompanying legalism.

    Having rubbed shoulders for a short time with some that hold to a no-pants mentality (to me, a more legalistically held perspective), I have found, as has Bob, that some rules or thoughts don’t always hold up under scrutiny.

    I’m still studying and searching, but here’s a quick summary of my thoughts to this point on modesty:

    Men Are Tempted (or at least teased more – temptation is subjective, I understand) By At Least the Following:

    1. SkinWomen should cover themselves. Where you draw the line is the tough thing. Some areas of skin are probably (obviously?) thought less sensual than others to most.

    2. ShapeWomen should hide their curves. You can wear a dress and still be immodest. You can wear pants and be modest. Loose-fitting clothing is essential (regardless of the shape, and not dealing with the sloppiness issue). Shape-hugging clothing isn’t modest. Modesty hides. Clothing was given as a means of covering our bodies, not as a device to reveal them.

    3. Shifting (sorry about the illiteration) – Women should keep things from moving around. Hard to say more on this.

    These have come by observation and discussion. I have no verses per se, and I understand this.

    Also, regarding Bob’s comment about belaying for a climbing wall, here are some thoughts:

    1. Not all activities are meant to be done in mixed company, because God made us male and female. Why would a man be belaying for gals anyway? (strength? skill?) Why would this be “required”? Why not say “no thanks”?

    2. Not all activities are meant to be done. There are no commands to climb walls, strip down and swim, etc. Just because it can be done doesn’t mean it should be done. Can we not defer, and do things that may place us in immodest situations?

    3. Activity does not define modesty. A swim suit that equates to coverage of underwear or a mini-skirt doesn’t instantly become modest because we’re swimming, etc. Modesty defines modesty.

    Some Bible-related preliminary thoughts:
    1. Clothes were given to cover our bodies, not to reveal them. (and not just for women, if God’s response in the garden means anything). God clothed Adam & Eve both with cloaks, which appear to be long, covering pieces of clothing.

    2. Clothes are to signify gender. (yes, the Deut passage). There is such a thing as masculinity and femininity in dress.

    3. Clothes (& even hair) are to identify gender and gender roles. (1 Cor 11; our gals don’t wear head coverings, but I see certain logic for them).

    Other thoughts:
    1. Gender is seen in clothing even in our now mostly pagan culture. What signifies gender on a bathroom door?

    2. The loss of modesty, or the revealing of one’s body, draws attention to oneself rather than one’s Creator. Immodesty can happen without sensuality (per 1 Tim 2 – gold, jewelry, costly array) potentially by anything that draws attention to oneself (brand name, color [purple hair], flashy clothes, etc.).

    3. Modesty (kosmios) seems to bring with it the idea of “according to God’s designed order”. (“Doesn’t even nature itself teach you…” – nature being God’s created design).

    I offer none of this to argue anything. If it can be used to help think things through (and your responses to help me continue to do so), that’s great.

    I have been challenged to come to some conclusions, but it has been very difficult to get to specific styles or details. As Bob says, it seems to be in the attitude. I would add that it is also in the definition and purpose of modesty.


    — Kevin Subra

  4. Good thoughts, Bob. My wife, son, and I were downtown for Greenville’s 4th of July celebration, and had much the same experience as your Starbucks observation point.

    I was struck, first, by the fact that even Greenville, SC is not even remotely evangelized, and, second, by exactly the same sentiment you expressed about the stand-out nature of modesty. We were dressed exactly as you described you and and your wife being dressed, and I was amazed that we (especially she) were anomalies. At one point, I leaned over to my wife and said, “I’m glad you are dressed the way you are,” and she knew exactly what I meant.

    I wondered if it had anything to do with the fact that strangers singled us out of the constantly streaming throng walking up and down mainstreet to show us their own babies or tell us about themselves. I’m sure the cute nine-month old in our arms had something to do with it, but I think it was more, something that made us stand out in the sea of jaded exposure that–as you noted–has about lost its effect.

    Good post.

  5. Good thoughts, Bob. You might consider the following read, “A Return to Modesty: Doscovering the Lost Virtue” by Wendy Shalit (Touchstone, 1999).

  6. Kevin,

    Thanks for your thoughts. Just in case it was missed, this is the “introduction” post. I’m going to take a stab at the whole concept of modesty in the following posts. My main goal is to justify our right as pastors to speak to the issue. I don’t intend to get into the details of skin, shape, and shifting per se, but I think your input is very helpful.

    I’ve gotta check again. But did you say NINE girls? Wow! When are you getting your honorary doctorate?


  7. Bob,

    Yup. 9 girls and 4 boys (4 more reasons to understand and teach modesty). Doctorate or kids. I chose kids, and am blessed beyond measure.

    I understand your purpose. I’m not sure how you can discuss our right (& responsibility) to speak out on modesty without at least endeavoring to describe and/or define it. Your discussion does enter into it, even if it’s what modesty is not.

    Good stuff, Bob. Thanks.

  8. Thanks Bob. You make some excellent points and very insightful observations.

    Of course I’m writing to add my 2¢ worth, so here goes.

    ‘Modesty,’ as we generally refer to it, is an important subject which Christians need to be thinking about and discussing. Part of the reason that some Christians are characterized as “no-pants Gestapo” is that many of us stopped thinking about this subject long ago. Only the very foolish would deny the important implications of this subject for both Christian men and Christian women, so it is really our duty attempt to understand the issue biblically.

    At the outset, I would like to substitute the word ‘decency’ to refer to what we typically mean when we say ‘modesty’ (avoiding dress that exposes too much or communicates sensuality). The issue of decency in dress is, of course, within the linguistic range of the word ‘modesty,’ but I think that the tendency of Christians to cast the issue in that way is unfortunate for two reasons.

    First, casting this discussion under the heading “modesty” sometimes leads us to misread scriptures like 1Tim 3:9-10 (I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God) and 1Peter 3:3-4 (Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight). 1Tim 3:9-10 explicitly refers to modesty, but if we read these verses carefully, we can see that what Paul specifically condemns is extravagant or ostentatious apparel, not lewd or indecent apparel. 1Peter 3:3-4 mentions the same three things—braided hair, jewelry, and fine clothing. Really, the point in both of these passages is that women, who naturally desire to be beautiful, should focus more on spiritual adornment (as manifested by good deeds and a gentle spirit) than physical adornment.

    I’m not saying that that these passages have nothing at all to do with decent dress. They can apply to decency in dress, but only by implication—beauty of spirit implies that one would not choose to wear indecent clothing. I’m simply pointing out that the passages do not mean what we often, when we are discussing modesty, pretend they do. We probably fall into this error because, when we look to the scripture for teaching about this subject, we fail to recognize that scripture nowhere specifically addresses the issue of decency of dress.

    I am not saying that clothing choices do not matter! I am saying that we must make decisions about clothing based on broader principles we find in scripture rather than on specific teaching. I’ll come back to those principles in a minute.

    The second reason I believe that the word ‘modesty’ is not the best heading for the discussion of decency of dress is that it very often leads intelligent and well-meaning Christian women to misunderstand the entire issue. This is difficult for us men to believe, but women really do not naturally understand how clothing choices relate to sexual temptation. Women tend to subconsciously assume that clothing functions only as they intend for it to when they don it. So, when they are planning on swimming, they really think that “its just a swimsuit,” but if they intend for it to catch men’s eyes, then that garment has a different function. Further, when they hope to be noticed by a specific man, they assume that the eyes of all other men will be unaffected.

    Again, this is very difficult for us men to believe. We have had to fight sexual temptation every day of our lives since the minute we hit puberty. We cannot imagine that anyone could be so naïve as to think that her clothing only has the effect she intends it to. But, that manifests our own male sort of naïveté. Sexual temptation is extremely real to us; we must fight it every day of our lives. But, it is pretty naïve for us to assume, on that basis, that women face the very same kind of temptation, even on a lesser scale. The fact is that women generally do not face sexual temptation on a regular basis.

    Try this exercise, men: imagine your life without sexual temptation at all. Not that you are asexual, but that you never struggle with wrong sexual thoughts. You are male and capable of all normal male functions, but to you sex is little more than one step in the process of procreation. That’s pretty tough to imagine, isn’t it? Believe it or not, ladies, that exercise is beyond the capacity of most of us men. We simply cannot imagine life without the component of sexual temptation—it is like trying to imagine an alternate universe where circles are square and triangles have four sides. If we did live such a life (i.e. free of sexual temptation), we would think of clothing in a very different way—its primary purpose would be either adornment or utility. The notion of covering oneself for sake of decency would probably not even rise to the level of an afterthought.

    But, women actually do live like that. They do not face sexual temptation on a regular basis, and so they do not naturally think of clothing (and most everything else in life) the same way men do. This thought is strange to us men, but keep in mind the fact that our world (in which we must constantly battle sexual temptation) is just as bizarre to women as the women’s world (comparatively free from such temptation) is to us. So, perhaps women should not be too sharply criticized for failing to understand the struggles of men.

    How is it, then, that classifying the issue as ‘modesty’ can throw intelligent, well-meaning women off the trail to what we really need for them to see? Remember that any time we are confronted with a new idea, we try to understand it from our experience. That is why men have a hard time believing that a woman of the ‘knockout’ variety could truly be attracted to a short, chubby, bald geek with bad posture more than to a tall, dark athlete. In the men’s ‘world’ attraction is not so separable from appearance. Conversely, in the women’s ‘world’ (where the notion of daily and hourly struggle with sexual temptation sounds like third-rate science fiction) discussions of ‘modesty’ are very difficult to comprehend and are misunderstood in a variety of ways.

    Sometimes when we talk about modesty women think we mean something comparative. So they reason that they must moderate their clothing choices between whatever they view the extremes to be (perhaps Britney Spears on the one hand and conservative Muslim women on the other). While this approach does many times lead to decent dress, it is very subjective. A woman’s view of the extremes is based on her own culture and experience; one person’s ‘middle ground’ will inevitably be another person’s ‘indecent.’

    Other times women interpret ‘modest’ to mean frumpy, frilly, prudish, shy, or a combination of the above. In these cases, well-meaning women tend to develop mental lists of clothing types or styles which they have determined to be ‘immodest.’ But the criteria for those determinations is often vague, shallow, silly, or applicable only to very specific cultural contexts. Perhaps the most unfortunate aspect of such list-keeping is that anything that is not on the list is deemed ‘modest’ without any further consideration.

    Probably the most bizarre interpretation I have encountered is in situations where women understand ‘modesty’ to be related to comfort. In such a case a woman might argue that ‘g-string’ underwear—which men don’t even see if it is worn correctly, i.e. under other clothing—is immodest because it is uncomfortable. The fact that so many women misunderstand the issue of modesty in so many ways suggests to me that all our talk about ‘modesty’ really has not communicated very well.

    Here are my thoughts on how to communicate better. First, the key issue in the entire discussion is compassion. We all recognize that choices of clothing demonstrate many things about a person, such as their attitude, their self-image, their level of confidence, and even how much sway the world has on their thinking. There are also many factors other than decency which a people may legitimately consider as they choose their clothing, such as comfort, durability, and appropriateness for the situation (rappelling requires different clothing than Sunday School). But, as far as decency is concerned, the governing concern must be compassion.

    In his wisdom, God has given to men (yes ladies, all men—even godly, Christian men) a powerful and completely unscrupulous sex drive, but he has forbidden that we give it free reign in our lives. The battle to restrain that drive is incredibly difficult, and it consumes a great deal of our spiritual and emotional energy. And from our standpoint as beleaguered warriors who never—not even for a day—get to leave the battlefield, it frequently seems like even the Christian women around us are fighting on our enemy’s side. The reason it seems that way is that they do things (like wearing suggestive clothing) which make our struggle more difficult.

    Because of this and the ambiguity of the word ‘modesty’, I would like to suggest that it would be more helpful to talk of “compassionate dress” than of “modest dress.” Compassion is what we Christian men beg of our sisters. When I say ‘beg,’ I mean just that. We are in a position of weakness, and we do not pretend to have any right to command you to consider our plight. But we have no option, so in weakness we beg.

    Second, though scripture does not specifically address the issue in question, God does give us principles which relate to this issue. As an issue of compassion, the most applicable scriptures are ones like Romans 14:13, “Make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.” and 1Corinthians 8:9—“Be careful, however that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.” This is certainly not a list (of good or bad clothing types), but it is God’s word to us (you may feel like a list would be more convenient!).

    A final thought. Though I’m sure it must happen, I personally think occasions in which Christian women consciously attempt to contribute to the intensity of men’s battles with lust are extremely rare. Perhaps less rare are the cases in which a Christian woman simply does not care about the battles her brothers in Christ face (not to mention non-Christian men, most of whom see little reason to fight), but they are still rare. I really believe that most Christian women are generally willing, by God’s grace, to do what they can to ease the intensity of their brothers’ battles, but they have almost no understanding of the battle and no clue at all about what kinds of clothing, etc. are helpful or harmful. As such, I would suggest that women who seek to dress ‘compassionately’ should frequently consult the godly Christian men they know about how their outfits, etc. will affect the men around them; and they should try to be genuinely open to what those men have to say. If God has blessed you with a Christian father or husband that would be ideal. As men, they know all about the battle, and can be a great help to you in making your compassion more effective.

  9. Wow. I am reluctant to jump into a topic of this magnitude in the few minutes I have here for a break at work, but…

    I am a bit confused about some of Mr. Regal’s points which seem to need clarifying. I’m particularly disturbed by the sentences which say, “Women actually do live like that. They do not face s—– temptation on a regular basis.” If this were true, the trashy romance novel and soap opera producers would be out of business. If this were true, then many of the godly women that I know would be strange deviations from the norm. Women may not face s—– temptation in the same way that men do, but they most certainly seem to face it. This is an issue that is overlooked with teen girls in most churches and Christian schools. A quick look at statistics concerning junior high and high school girls and their rapidly increasing s—– activity would show that this is a serious area.

    I am also confused by paragraphs that follow that statement which seem to imply that Christian women rarely understand the issue of modesty and thus that most of them cannot be accurate judges of modest apparel.

    The Christian woman’s focus on modesty, in my opinion, would be healthier if the s—– temptation of her Christian brothers was the secondary issue, while the primary issue was her own modesty as part of her s—– purity before a holy God.

    (I am forced to use the little dashes to get by your comment police, Pastor. It won’t let me post that word.)

  10. Yes. I’m the only one that can post that word on my site. 🙂

    Karyn, you make a point that I am going to make in the following posts: the s____l modesty question is/should be secondary in my opinion.

    I’m busy running a camp ministry at the moment (and worrying about hydrangeas). I’ll soon be back on topic!

  11. Karyn,

    I am glad you are willing to jump in. It is by discussions of this kind of thing that we learn and grow.

    And, you make a good point. I understand part of your confusion; let me make a couple of points that I hope will clarify some things.

    First, I am certainly not trying to imply that women are never tempted to sin sxually (I can see how it might have looked that way, especially to readers who are women). Actually, what I mean to say is that sxual temptation is such a very different thing for men than it is for women, that it hardly seems correct to call the two “creatures” by the same name. Your examples of things which might serve as stumbling blocks to women in that area (novels and daytime dramas), actually illustrate this pretty well. Men generally aren’t so tempted by those things.

    I did focus, in my response above, entirely on the temptations which men face. That might seem unfair to women, but then the topic of “modesty” is always unfair to women. Women are tempted to sin, but an “eyeful” of a man’s briefs just doesn’t have the same effect on women that an “eyeful” of panties has on men. From what women I know have told me, they find such an unintentional sighting of underwear either repulsive or funny, but nothing else. Men recognize the distaste and humor of such situations, but they also have triggered within them a sense of delight (a sinful delight). Women turn from the sight of an unclad male just as naturally as they would from rotting road kill. Men have to force themselves to turn away from the sight of an unclad woman. Women typically find the men’s variety of super-small skin-tight swimsuits distasteful (they really don’t want to see everything he owns). Though it is wrong for us to want this, we men have something within us that makes us like to see women in such swimsuits—something within us wants to see everything. That illicit desire is what Christian men have to fight in order to obey God.

    The net effect of that is that women (if they seek to avoid being a cause for stumbling) have to pay more careful attention to how they dress than do men. I know it’s not fair, but is so.

    Your paraphrase of my recommendation that women who seek to dress compassionately should seek the advice of godly men has a much sharper tone than did the original. I want to be careful about how I say such things, but I really don’t know what is confusing about it. Do you really believe that women somehow know intuitively what things tend to cause men to struggle?

    I concur with what you said about “modesty” in dress being a secondary issue. As I wrote in my original response, decent dress is implied by the principles taught in 1Tim 3:9-10 and 1Pet 3:3-4 but never explicitly discussed in scripture. Of course, all truly good conduct flows from faith in God.

    But decent dress is not necessarily related to a woman’s “sxual purity before God.” It is possible for a woman to be completely right with God in her own thoughts and actions regarding her sxuality but still be a stumbling block to men around her out of carelessness or (I think more common) ignorance of how her appearance can affect men.

    I am curious about your “healthier” statement. I’m not sure what it is that you feel is unhealthy about my approach, but it is good for us to have our weak points critiqued. Please, tell me what you see.

    If you are interested, I recommend The Sxual Man by Archibald Hart (this is hard reading), Every Man’s Battle by Stephen Arterburn, et al (fairly easy reading), or For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn (very light reading, but makes some excellent points). Each of these books does a good job of explaining the enormous differences between male and female sxuality and how lack of understanding often causes problems. Feldhahn (who is a woman) writes specifically to women—hence the title (yes, I read the book anyway).

  12. i’ve been following this post for the past couple of days now, and so i thought i’d chime in on a question kevin posed. (hope i don’t steal your thunder, karyn, but i’d be interested in reading what you think as well!)

    kevin asks:

    do you really believe that women somehow know intuitively what things cause men to struggle?

    if i were speaking german, i’d say “jein” (yes/no combined).

    there are some women (younger and older alike) who i honestly think simply don’t think about it. they just wear what they like. perhaps some are naive; others just honestly don’t take the time to evaluate the fact that their clothing is too tight or low or whatever. for the most part, however, i believe these women are exceptions.

    my opinion is that women who dress immodestly/indecently are basically out to get a man’s attention. women want to be desired and want to be considered physically beautiful. they may not know (or even take time to really think about) what’s actually going on in a man’s head to the extent that he could actually be sinning, but i think they pretty much do know what can cause a guy to look at them or to take a second look.

  13. Thanks for discussing this with me. Once again, my only internet access is lunch at work so this might be harried a bit.

    I totally understand your point about the difference in men’s and women’s sxual temptations. My interest in your clarification was due to the wording that you used. It made be a bit nervous to think that maybe other women didn’t face sxual temptation. I’d hate to be the last woman sinner out there.

    I have to say that I agree with Melanie’s answer about your question, “do women intuitively know what things cause men to struggle?” Yes and no. There are important elements that help a woman become discerning in dress, things such as teaching by older, godly women or men and the working of the Holy Spirit upon her conscience. It is true that ignorance or carelessness can cause unintentional problems. However, there is another level at which most women know instinctively if what they are choosing to wear or how they are wearing it will draw that kind of attention from men that they meet. I do believe that proper training of Christian women as to their clothing choices is important. I also believe that women need to be honest with God and themselves about their motivations in choosing what to wear.

    I suppose my use of the word healthy was a bit odd, but it was what came to mind when I think of this from a personal standpoint. While I am thankful to the training I’ve recieved regarding what would cause a Christian brother to stumble and I do take that into account, it would be unwise for me to dwell on that issue as the prime focus while I make modesty choices each day. I’m aware that the men in my church struggle with those issues, as do all men. I definitely want to be responsible in my dress so as not to hinder them spiritually. But my mental focus must be on my own responsibility to answer to God. I do not want to be carrying the thought of men’s sxual temptations in my mind in a way that it causes me to be awkward or self-conscious in my manner. I don’t want to read into every conversation or glance that occurs when I am at church or with men. I guess I was using the word healthy to imply balance and priority. Honoring God must be first in my mind, helping other Christians second, or it somehow gets out of wack and distorted. I’m not sure if that came across clearly or if I just my point more fuzzy.

    I really do think that dressing modestly should be considered part of a Christian woman’s sxual purity. The quote on this blog from Joshua Harris’ book emphasizes that as well. There are levels of maturity and growth that influence a woman’s clothing choices, too. Even lately, I find myself learning to avoid choices of clothing that I really don’t think are an issue for any men around me. They are clothes that I must “mess with” throughout the day or clothes that make me self-conscious. Especially when I’m at church, I want my clothes to be the last thing on my mind and on the minds of others. I want to stand in front of my mirror at home and determine the modesty and appropriateness of the outfit and be free from focusing on myself the rest of the day. I’m not the “older godly woman” yet. I’m still learning.

  14. Melanie,

    Thanks for your thought. Of course you are in a better position to speak for the hearts of women than I am, but I prefer to give more benefit of the doubt.

    Part of the reason I tend to attribute more of the problem to ignorance than to sinful seduction or wilful negligence is that I have known so many women who, despite a genuine and earnest desire to please God in their choices, seem to have so little understanding of the male issues that make female “modesty” so important. I saw an article on the subject by one Christian woman who I very much respect, but reading the article drove me to the conclusion that she had no idea what she was talking about. Every single example in the article had to do with women who insist on wearing clothes that fit too tightly due to unwanted weight gain, and the core exhortation of the article was a list of clothing types which she would never allow her daughter to wear. I have no doubt that this woman really wanted to be “modest” and to honor God, but–speaking from a man’s point of view–I have to say that she just doesn’t get it.

    As in my original response, I don’t deny that there are occasions on which Christian women seek to be seductive. I simply don’t think that the majority of cases are that. What you seem to be saying is that women often make clothing choices that they know–or at least suspect–could be a problem for the men around them simply because they like the attention they get from it. That is selfish (thus sinful), and I don’t deny that it happens, but I would have to say that even that is a little different than overtly trying to be a stumbling block.

    One other point. In my response to Karny I asked if she believed that women know intuitively what things cause men to struggle. Perhaps that wasn’t clear. Intuited knowledge is knowledge that a person has without ever having to learn it. Of course women can and do learn some things about what attracts the eyes of men. But I believe their understanding is generally very rudimentary and often flawed. It is not that women cannot know anything about what can cause problems for men, but that they usually do not know enough. Therefore it is wise for them to try to learn more, which is what I suggest. The wisest people are those who recognize that they have a lot to learn.

    Women who make lists like I mentioned above tend to be very confident that they are never a cause for stumbling to the men around them, because they rigorously follow their list. But what they often refuse to realize is that their list, though convenient, is an atrocious oversimplification of the issue. It is far less likely to prevent stumbling than it is to cause legalism. In my experience, the attitude tends to be “I have the right to wear anything that’s not on list” (along with the presumed right to make up the list as they see fit), rather than “if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.”

    Thanks again for your thoughts. It is pleasing to me to see women thinking carefully about this issue.

  15. Karyn,

    I just realized I misspelled your name in my response to Melanie. Sorry about that.

    Actually, I don’t think Melanie and I disagree much as it might seem at first. Your point is pretty much the same as hers–that women do have instinctive knowledge; I would argue that the knowledge of which you speak is not intuitive or instinctive. It was learned, even if you don’t remember the time at which you learned it. Perhaps you tend to think of it as instinctive because you never have (perhaps can’t) reduced it to propositions–because its more of a sense than a settled understanding. Nevertheless, it is knowledge that you were born without, so you learned it sometime.

    Even if it were instinctive, though, the understanding that women have is very often inadequate or simply incorrect (I gave a few examples in my initial response to Bob above). So, I think they have something to learn. It would seem that the best source for such knowledge would be those who have experience–i.e. men. Of course this could only be appropriate with godly men to whom you have a close relationship; that is why I suggested husbands or fathers.

    Let me ask a question. I sense a strong resistence to seeking the advice of men on this issue. You are willing to consult other women, but seem closed to the idea of seeking the counsel of men. Why? The woman I mentioned who wrote the “list” article really did intend to help other women (she would be of the “older women” category), but I think she really only succeeded in leading them into legalism. That is why I argue that the point of the issue should be to avoid being a cause of stumbling (compassion), not that of having the right items on your list or following whatever list you ascribe to diligently. Just like the issue of eating meat, this issue will require different choices for different situations.

    I understand your concern about being morbidly focused on your own appearance and the possible sins of others. I would also consider that to be bad. That is actually the kind of thing that certain people–by virtue of their personality–are much more susceptible to than others (I remember a guy I went to college with who I believe would have walked ten miles to avoid stepping on one blade of grass–I think he qualified as “morbidly” conscientious). Also, I agree with your point that your responsibility is primarily to God, but I don’t think it really changes anything. All genuinely right conduct flows from a heart that is submissive to and trusting in God. But most of that conduct also involves relating to other people. I can say that loving my wife is a secondary issue–the primary issue being a right heart before God. But that doesn’t change the fact that I must think hard about what it is to love my wife–including what things make her feel (in her own subjective way) loved. Remember that Paul was fully convinced that eating meat was right in God’s sight, but it was necessary, he tells us, to consider how exercising that freedom might adversely affect the spiritual condition of his brothers. I think the priciples Paul teaches there are directly applicable to the issue of “compassionate” clothing choices.

    As far as avoiding morbidity, I’m not quite sure what to say. My initial inclination is that people who tend toward such extremes are really placing too much trust in themselves and too little faith in God. In many many situations of life, God expects us to do the best we can with the information given; and we honor him if we do that. I think the most helpful book I have read on this is Decision-Making and the Will of God by Friesen and Maxson (unfortunately, it’s obscenely long–430pp!). The issue of clothing choices is a good example of one in which women do not have enough information to make solid, black or white decisions most of the time. But honoring God requires that they get all then information that they reasonably can and make the best decsions they can based on that information. And consulting one’s husband, father, etc. on this issue seems to be well within reason.

    You mention the Josh Harris quote (actually a citation of Mohler). I agree with what he is saying, but I am arguing that a woman’s responsibility–if she seeks to avoid being a stumbling block–doesn’t stop there. Mohler was saying that it is wrong for a woman to intentionally draw men’s minds to sxuality (what he cleverly calls “commiting prnography”). I most heartily agree, but I am pointing out that a woman may avoid that sin but still be guilty of the kind of sin Paul mentions in 1Cor 8:12. Lumping the entire issue under the category of “sxual purity” would be the equivalent of Paul lumping the whole issue he discussed under the category of “dietary purity” and declaring that he was free before God to eat anything on any occasion. Paul distinguished between his personal responsibility before God and his responsibility to consider the effect of his actions upon his brothers (which, he says, is also a responsibility before God). I think women need to do the same thing with the issue of clothing choices.

  16. wow. Since I used the exact term “godly women or men”, I am surprised that you would take my comments to mean that I am “closed to the idea of seeking the counsel of men.” I am discouraged to think that my commenting on this blog or any other aspect of my life would cause someone to believe that I am a woman who does not cultivate a joyful respect for and submission to her God-given male leaders or authorities. My pastor’s, and other men’s, preaching and teaching has been invaluable to me on this subject. My questioning of your points was not meant to carry a wrong idea or tone toward the godly men who help me grow each day.

  17. Karyn,

    You misunderstand me. I was not accusing, but asking. If you feel no such reluctance, then that is good.

    I’m interested in your response to the rest of what I said as well.

  18. Hi, Kevin [Regal].

    I lived with Karyn for a couple years, and Pastor Bixby’s my pastor, and Mr. Subra has told us some about his life as a pastor, husband, and father of 13. I know Dave Deets and have been in touch with Jon and others, at least their online presence. All of us commenting here seem to either have blogs or online profiles at SharperIron where people can read up a little on who we are.

    Sometimes communicating graciously and effectively online gets a bit complicated because we don’t know with whom we are dealing, can’t bring to the table our past experiences and presuppositions, can’t discern nuances of tone, etc.. Would you mind telling us just a little about who you are, maybe how you came across Pastor’s blog, what about this particular post provokes such earnest involvement from you, etc.?

    Knowing the conversants helps people to remember to give benefit of the doubt when tempted to take a comment a certain way, etc.

    Besides the effectual communication thing, plain old curiosity makes me want to ask who you are. Curiosity about what drives individuals to participate, what “ups” the stakes for them, is just as human as erring is. =}

  19. And just an observation about your verbiage, Mr. Regal. An observation offered as objectively as possible (two strikes against true objectivity here would be *1* my womanhood and *2* my unfamiliarity with your personal character and your consistent treatment of the women whom God has placed in your life).

    You explicitly state, repeatedly, that women lack understanding. There is a very fine line between categorically saying that women lack understanding and categorically saying that women lack the ability to comprehend. I.e., It’s possible to convey unintentionally that what you really think is that women are stupid and haven’t the capacity for that superior understanding inherently achieved by men. For example, you have said, above:

    “The second reason I believe that the word ‘modesty’ is not the best heading for the discussion of decency of dress is that it very often leads intelligent and well-meaning Christian women to misunderstand the entire issue.

    “Conversely, in the women’s ‘world’ (where the notion of daily and hourly struggle with sxual temptation sounds like third-rate science fiction) discussions of ‘modesty’ are very difficult to comprehend and are misunderstood in a variety of ways.”

    “Christian women are generally willing, by God’s grace, to do what they can to ease the intensity of their brothers’ battles, but they have almost no understanding of the battle and no clue at all about what kinds of clothing, etc. are helpful or harmful.”

    “I saw an article on the subject by one Christian woman who [sic.] I very much respect, but reading the article drove me to the conclusion that she had no idea what she was talking about.

    “I have no doubt that this woman really wanted to be “modest” and to honor God, but—speaking from a man’s point of view—I have to say that she just doesn’t get it.

    I have known so many women who, despite a genuine and earnest desire to please God in their choices, seem to have so little understanding of the male issues that make female “modesty” so important.”

    “The fact that so many women misunderstand the issue of modesty in so many ways suggests to me that all our talk about ‘modesty’ really has not communicated very well.”

    “Karyn, You misunderstand me.”

    “Intuited knowledge is knowledge that a person has without ever having to learn it. Of course women can and do learn some things about what attracts the eyes of men. But I believe their understanding is generally very rudimentary and often flawed. It is not that women cannot know anything about what can cause problems for men, but that they usually do not know enough. Therefore it is wise for them to try to learn more, which is what I suggest. The wisest people are those who recognize that they have a lot to learn.

    Modesty cannot be reduced to a Men Are from Mars; Women Are from Venus mentality, Mr. Regal. The reading of many books might contribute to, but they cannot provide, a lasting resolution to the issue. Yes, women and men do think differently and operate according to different priorities; but implying that learnin’ them women what it is they jest cain’t seem ta git thru thar haids about how we men jest suffer so on account of ’em is not the answer, either.

    Whether or not you intended for your suggestions to sound chauvinistic, the fact is that they do convey chauvinism — particularly since they seem bereft of any concessions to to the possibility of similar lackings in males. Perish the thought that perhaps men’s knowledge or understanding might be susceptible to deficiencies as well. Such polarity of opinion, even couched as suggestions and questions instead of outright accusations, comes across as masked arrogance and, ironically enough, masked ignorance — a lack of understanding. Men are, after all, the ones instructed by Scripture to know and to love their women.

    We women find it difficult to swallow verbiage that suggests we have inferior intelligence. Women truly are paradoxical. They respond with respect to men who exhibit humility. They respond with trust to men who acknowledge and seek to mend their lackings. They respond with tenderheartedness and willingness to change to the degree that men teach and model blamelessness for them. Women want to be wanted — which is why immodesty is a problem. But women also want to be made holy. It’s a lot easier for us to accept divinely penned descriptors such as “weaker vessel” and “submit” because we understand Who the Author is, what His character and works are like, what He has done for us. We understand the Author’s heartset toward us and the context of the whole big picture of who and what we are in His paradigm.

    Many of us Christian women are aware of some relevant, yea, vital, factors. We are aware that both men and women “suffer” sxual temptation. We are aware that we can become stumbling blocks. We are aware that we help to set the tone. We are aware that we are prone to seek affirmation and attention where it ought not be sought, with means which we have no business employing. While acknowledging our shortcomings and limitations, many of us do strive for a femininity that honors Him. Many of us Christian women want to help you help us, for Christ’s glory’s sake. Help us to keep wanting that, help us help you. Help us want to be and to look like daughters of the King, for God’s glory and for your best good. Please don’t provoke us, by repeatedly suggesting we are stupid, to desire instead your maiming and disfigurement. =}

  20. Wow. We’re far off the path of modesty, and onto a discussion of the value, intelligence (and equality?) of women.

    I think “we’re” missing the point, Joy. I must say I’d use similar terms as Kevin Regal, without any thought of demeaning women. I think that even your responses illustrate the vast differences in the way our Designer made men different from women. I didn’t gather that from Kevin (as a male), but you did (as a female).

    I do think that there’s something to be said for Eve being deceived, and Adam not so (he was just arrogant, stupid, or what have you), and Paul certainly makes that point. That doesn’t categorize women as unintelligent (if so, then I “lucked out” when I married my very intelligent wife); it simply means, as I believe you would agree, that mean and women process information differently.

    I seriously doubt if many women have thought deeply about modesty. Maybe it isn’t understanding – maybe it’s effort. Something’s missing, and I dont’ think it’s the ability to understand, per se (and I think what Kevin Regal is trying to say). Many women don’t get it, for whatever reason, or they get it and don’t care. I only guess that part of that (if not most of that) is how the genders view, approach, and process information (and that doesn’t make the “male” process better, just different).

    I will be bold and speak for Kevin, and myself. Regardless of how tediously and carefully we type our words, words maybe just aren’t fair (let alone what is lost in the format of writing by itself, as you’ve expressed). We think women are very intelligent, and not in anyway less so than men (if they ain’t smarter). Somehow, many, or most (but not all), miss the point regarding modesty. That is observation, as subjective as it is, and all that Kevin is trying to relay.

    I agree with Kevin Regal’s points, and would have stated them in similar fashion. It’s discussing them from a male perspective, and it’s in no way trying to devalue or denigrate women. I’m just not sure how he or I would state it differently.

    Help us with the modesty discussion by discussing modesty. Knowing what little you do of me, trust me to say that this is not a discussion of the intelligence of women. It is not in our hearts or heads. “We don’t git why them women don’t git it”, and that puzzles us.

    — Kevin Subra

  21. Mr. Subra, points well taken. =}

    Let me clarify that I’m not automatically inferring maliciousness from either of the Kevins, nor do I presume hypocrisy or pride where there is none. I grant that I don’t know Mr. Regal well (which is why I asked more about him), and I personally try to assume the best by default rather than the worst. I’m merely trying to express, for the sake of ultimate profit in the conversation, that, regardless of honorable intentions, a perceived tone or inferred content can obliterate both the hoped-for tone and the meaning of the content.

    As for the issue of modesty itself, I’m pretty much in accord with what’s already been posted. I would hope that what I apply in practice evidences the likemindedness I believe myself to have with my pastor’s opinions and interpretations. His 5 points sound viable to me, as do your 3 points. I know he’s got a to-be-continued furtherance of this post in the hopper, so I look forward to what he has to say. I’ll continue to think on the topic, but I don’t know that I have anything to add that hasn’t already been sufficiently and convincingly established and agreed upon.

    Karyn and Melanie and I have by no means “arrived,” and I suspect we’ll have to remain vigilant and subject to correction (both for outward and inward modesty) for the rest of our lives. I know these particular girls (Melanie for 9 years and Karyn for 3), however, and I know my own heartset. I know our habitual wardrobes and demeanor — and I can testify that the ladies so far involved in this forum do indeed strive to understand and promote modesty, and we do indeed endeavor to subject our attitudes and actions to the scrutiny of the Word and the human authorities to whom God has given us.

    As to the enigma of women who have been taught and informed and schooled and trained, women who say they “get it,” and yet women whose appearance habitually undermines their so-called “understanding” of men’s struggles and propensities, I am in the same boat you are. I agree that background, cultural mores, exposure to teaching, and individual personality traits all help to shape a girl’s concept of modesty — but I cannot account for why girls who have been taught “better” persist in multi-definitions for what is “modest.” I don’t want to be postmodern about it, but there do seem to be almost as many applications of a biblical interpretation of modesty out there as there are people willing to write books on the subject. When it comes to myriads of men and women defining and applying biblical modesty, about the only thing that seems consistent is the inconsistency between “word” and “deed and truth.” Thus, my voiced hopes that my own daily attempts to apply biblical feminity truly do jive with my mental and emotional submission to the biblical principles that my pastor has begun to expound above.

    About the issue of ineffective communication between men and women and how the crossed wires can affect conversations like this one negatively, I agree that enough has been said. Not that it’s hopeless — we can all work on the disembranglement and work toward mutual understanding. Romans 1:12.

    Will think on it more. =}

  22. Well said, Joy. Well said. Your comment stating “that background, cultural mores, exposure to teaching, and individual personality traits all help to shape a girl’s concept of modesty” is very insightful, and true for both girls and guys, I think.

    Also, I would agree with (but am frustrated by the truth of) your statement that “there do seem to be almost as many applications of a biblical interpretation of modesty out there as there are people willing to write books on the subject”. That may stem from your quote from my first paragraph.

    Additional “typing out loud” (hopefully with thinking attached): Experiences are subjective, but I think they can lead to deeper study and insight. I’ve wrestled, thought, and pondered on this topic for years, and am still doing so. My exposure was first legalistic (which I and my wife thought through and eventually rejected). However, my most recent ponderings have been in the area of gender distinction, which has brought me, to this point, in being probably more desirious of more clothing on women (and men) than when I was of the legalistic mindset. I’m more “conservative” (if that’s a worthy word) now than I was then, but for what I think are more valid, biblical reasons. I cannot draw lines that are as distinct as legalism would desire (a “no pants” line, for example), but at the same time my reasons would push me in the direction of less revealing, and more feminine dress for women (which still tends to a “no pants” view, though not nearly as hard and fast).

    Repeating information, my wife hasn’t worn pants in years, though she did growing up, and for awhile in-between our thinking this through. She chose to stop doing so, as much to please me (though I did not demand it) as to be feminine (and her dress is modest, in addition to being feminine). My daughters wear pants as well as dresses, and skirts. We’re trying to instill in them concepts of modesty and femininity, without drawing an artificial line (which is very, very hard). We seldom have issue with it, but it’s still something my daugthers seem not “to get” at times even then.

    Thank you, Joy, for your kind and understanding spirit, and your deep insights, which indeed help me. Thanks to the rest as well, and Pastor Bixby for the stimulation and encouragement to more deeply think this area through. I look forward to the ongoing discussion and installments.

    — Kevin

  23. Kevin (Subra),

    Thanks for your defense. I couldn’t agree more. Karyn and Joy may have difficulty believing this, but I have been trying to word things very carefully. I want to promote understanding; the last thing I want to do is provoke anyone.


    A few points in response to what has been said.

    1) For this kind of discussion to really work, we all have to be careful of interpreting points of disgreement as personal attacks. Having reread everything on this post, I do not believe any of it was written with that spirit. For us to be able to learn from one another, we have to be able to disagree with one another without disrespecting one another. For example, I respect Bob Bixby and I think he respects me, but we have quite a few disagreements–see his 2/19/05 post. It is by disagreeing with each other in this way that we can learn from each other.

    2) As 21st century people, we tend to have inherited from our culture a faulty presupposition which we bring subconciously to discussions like this one. It might be stated something like this: “Unless men and women are the same (or virtually the same) in every respect, then one gender must be inferior to the other.” This idea is patently absurd, but it is exceedingly common in our culture. Even we Bible-believing Christians are very much affected by it. It tends to lead us to a sort of unspoken “tit for tat” rule according to which we must, any time we note any positive or negative tendencies about one gender, give a similar sort of strength or weakness about the other or be guilty of chauvinism. But, as Bible-believers, we must reject that faulty presupposition outright. We believe that God is the one who gives value to everything. Though we know that God makes no value distinction between men and women (gal 3:26-28) we see the different way in which God created men and women and the different roles he has given to each gender. The presupposition that men and women must be either virtually the same or unequal in worth would make these biblical truths incompatible, so we must reject that presupposition as faulty.

    In addition to rejecting the presupposition, we must try to eliminate reliance upon it from our reasoning processes. It is reliance on that faulty presupposition, I think, which causes us to become angry when someone makes a negative observation about one gender without stating a similar negative about the other. I remember being guilty of this when I was in college. I was serving as a counselor at a Christian camp where there was a swimming pool, and I was incensed by the policy of keeping all the boys “locked up” deep inside the buidling during the girls’ swim time but allowing the girls to sit out on balcony over the pool during the boys’ swim time. I didn’t really want to sit on the balcony during the girls’ swim time, I simply thought that it was demeaning for us to be treated differently.

    But it is illegitimate to deem such treatment demeaning. Those who made the policy did not hate boys and think of them as perverts (at the time, that’s what I believed they thought). Rather, because males and females are different, it is normal that they should be treated differently in certain situations. Differences (and the different treatments that arise from recognizing those differences) do not imply a lesser value for one gender or the other.

    This understanding is important to thinking about “modesty” because modesty, as I observed before, ends up being a responsibility of women much more than of men. Please, then, don’t infer from the fact that we are talking mostly about women that we somehow think women are less intelligent than or more sinful or selfish than men. It simply isn’t so.

    3) Another thing we have to be careful of is misrepresenting the opposing arguments. Of course there will be misunderstanding in any such dialogue (note that misunderstanding does not imply lack of intelligence). The aim of back and forth dialogue is to improve our understanding of views of others and vice versa. But we can, if we are not careful, wax rhetorical and present the opposing arguments in a way that we know is not really what that person believes–simply for effect. This makes for powerful rhetoric, but it is very detrimental to the productivity of the discussion.

    Here is where I think Joy went awry. I don’t think she really believes that I am arguing the the whole of modesty is a Mars/Venus issue (actually, I said it was a compassion issue). I also don’t think she really believes that I suggested that women are stupid or malicious (she writes “Please don’t provoke us, by repeatedly suggesting that we are stupid, to desire instead your maiming and disfigurement). Thus she is not really addressing the points I made. The fact that Bob found her rhetoric quotable doesn’t mean that it is accurate–I’m disappointed that you fell for the rhetoric, Bob. Actually, I have never heard anyone try to reduce the whole issue of modesty to a mars/venus issue. Probably the most egregious example here is the demeaning rhetoric “learnin’ them women what it is they jest cain’t seem ta git thru thar haids….” Nothing in what I or anyone else has said here suggests that mentality.

    4) One other thing that can really harm the productivity of such a discussion is the use of diversionary tactics (sometimes called red herring). One way that this happens a lot in our society is what might be called the “trump card” (e.g. the infamous “race card”). What we saw here could be termed “the chauvenist card.” First of all, no one believes that I am a chauvenist. Second, whether one believes that or not, he or she should be addressing the problems in the arguments I make rather than suggesting that I believe something that most of us find reprehensible.

    5) Though I would like to, I really have nothing more I can say about the real discussion right now, because none of the points I made in response to Karyn and Melanie have really been contested. I am eager to know what you all–especially you who are women–think about what I have said; that is how I learn and grow. When you point out a weakness in my thought, I either have to explain why I don’t see it as a weakness or adjust my thought on the issue. As women you have a perspective that I do not; the more you can teach me from that perspective the better understanding I will have of the issue.

    6)–and finally: Though I know we all do this to some degree, it is counterproductive for us to “pigeon-hole” a person before we consider their argument. What Joy says about it being easier to interpret a person’s tone, etc. when we know something about them is definitely true. But it is also much easier for us to–unintentionally–accept or reject a person’s argument before we ever read it. Just a caution. As for me, what do you want to know? I’d be happy to say, but I don’t want write a whole biography when a few simple answers will probably satisfy.

    Again, none of us believes that women are inferior to or less intelligent than men, and none of us is suggesting that women are somehow more selfish or sinful than are men. As I said before, I really respect Karyn, Melanie, and Joy for being willing to think carefully about an issue that our society tends to scorn. I hope you all will continue discussing.

  24. Mr. Regal,

    Thanks for the thoughtful response. I stand guilty as charged with the use of rhetoric. Judging by your reminders to everyone reading that everyone reading knows that I don’t really believe these extreme implications are true of your intentions, nor do I really think that the perceived reality is true of your tone and content, you have picked up (as hopefully “everyone” else has), that I was deliberately exaggerating for sake of some levity and clarity. My post was not to convince you to stop obsessing over immodesty, nor was it to get you to stop thinking women are stupid. I think modesty is a valid concern, and I do not think you truly disdain women’s capacities. I was merely cautioning you that, whether intentional or not, your emphasis on women’s ability to process information was indeed undermining your credibility and detracting from your arguments. That some women are dense is not the pivotal problem. The pivotal problem is that men and women fight indwelling sin, that it (along with our backgrounds and presuppositions — including what we think others are thinking of our ability to think — and our exposure to teaching and our personalities) factors into the battle for biblical manhood and womanhood.

    So yes. Guilty, perhaps, of rhetoric, both implied and inferred. Guilty of essentially saying (warning >> the following is devoid of rhetoric and is the straight truth): “Hey, you know, buddy, I don’t really know you. But I do know that I had coffee with Karyn last night after prayer meeting and she, you know, was maybe getting just a little, um, ‘discouraged’ (?) with the persistent way that you know, keep on and on reminding her that she, uh, keeps on and on misunderstanding you. And how you seemed sort of perpetually unheeding to her remarks about, you know, how women are just flat out sinners and that might have something to do with this problem of immodesty — almost, almost mind you, as though maybe you weren’t really understanding her, either. So maybe, you know, it might be a good idea to tone down the insistence that we’re just not ‘getting’ you. Maybe we could all just cut back to the chase of the issues at hand. Because I know that she (and others like her) are about ready to scrap the whole conversation because of the perceived reality.”

    That would’ve been the rhetoric-less version. I know I get caught up in verbiage. I was an English major! I’m a grammar geek. I’m an editor and a writer and a teacher. It’s not just what I do; it’s who I am. And I’m ultra-compulsive-obsessive-verbose, quite overreactionary, granted. PLUS — this won’t be hard to believe — I’m definitely a sinner. So I concede that I came on too strong with the intricate and relativistic postcontinuum legionary-legendary labyrinthicalmythologicalsuperciliousalacalafragilistic superdeluxemealwithabiggiefry theories of intergendercrosscultural communication.

    It was bad. It was distracting. You’re right.

    Let’s talk some more about how to effect and exhibit and encourage modesty.

  25. Oh, and the curiosity stuff would just be along the lines of geographical orientation, marital/familial status, vocation, educational-affiliational-denominational backgroundage, interests, military rank, phone number, age, sea level, coordinants, SSN, life story, the usual, you know. I will say it’s appreciated that you’re not anonymous, and we are learning in our day and age to try hard to take comments at face value even without a face. But it’d be nice to know a bit more than the name in this case.

  26. Joy, you crack me up. Deeply. Intellectually. Har. I can tell that you are a grammar geek. I thought I was, until I “met” you. Press on! – Kevin (Subra)

  27. hello. joining the conversation again. i hope that what i have to say doesn’t ruffle any feathers here (because i’m a female to the core and know how much camderadie is important to women…), but i have to agree that kevin r.’s comments didn’t come across as being personally negative.

    perhaps this has to do with my own pride, as well as knowing even a smidgen of karyn (since i know she was joy’s roommate and have seen pics of her, etc). that is, i’ve never gotten the impression that karyn would be the type who’s not concerned about modesty or who wouldn’t seek to become more educated on the issue.

    i guess when kevin was talking about women, i just thought he meant generally, or when giving a specific example (as in the lady who wrote the book on modesty), well, that she–and some select others–was just one who was a bit “off.” i’ve read books about “no pants on women” and sincerely wondered how such a thing could even be published in the first place. it was so poorly done on many accounts: style, logic, etc. about that example, well, i just decided she wasn’t one of “us,” as in not like karyn and not like me (and not like you either, joy; however, you hadn’t joined the conversation yet.). but i suppose that’s where my pride comes in, that i naturally believe i’m “above” women like that. which, of course, is wrong thinking.

    naturally it’s dangerous for anyone to make sweeping generalizations, and one does have to be careful.

    as to the instintive knowledge, i’m just not sure what kind of decision i can come to on that. i mean, i can remember a time when i was a young teenager ready to get dressed for a party and how i purposely chose to wear a certain pair of jeans because i thought a certain boy would like them. apparently he did, considering the amount of attention i got that evening. yes, we’re still talking about selfish attention here, but no one had to teach me what that boy would like. somehow, i just knew it.

    in fact, it wasn’t until probably 2 or 3 later that i remember hearing for the first time a message about how girls needed to be careful in the way they dressed because “they didn’t even want to know what it made men think.” that was a shocker for me.

    to an extent, kevin r. is probably right in that many (but not all) women lack a complete understanding of what goes on in men’s minds and how they struggle. by the same token, however, i do believe that many men don’t understand the struggles women face, either. i personally believe that there is very little out there addressing the problems that women face in this area. no one wants to talk about it though because it’s embarrassing. i daresay the struggles aren’t the same, yet they do exist, and they are just as serious because they are sinful problems. in fact, i sometimes feel that women are sometimes excused more often than they should. but they indulge in lust too. it may not be in the exact same way, but lust is lust.

    and as to the asking of men for modest clothing advice… kevin, just to clarify, was that a question posed to women in general or karyn specifically? because when i first read it i read it as to women in general, yet now, after reading the comments again, i could see how it was possible for karyn to take those comments personally. i know you said something about being misunderstood in your next set of comments, but it might help to clear that up.

    i do believe that the women who are concerned about modesty do ask men about it. at least i did when i was living at home with my father. i’m 28 and there are still times when i go home and after shopping ask him if something looks ok or not.

    however, now i’m living alone in a foreign country with really no man to ask. for a while a i had a brother-type friend whom i got together with on a more regular basis; however, he’s married now and i rarely see him anymore.

    so what are women in these types of situations supposed to do? i’m even thinking of unmarried women who have unsaved fathers or who have lost their fathers to death or fathers who’ve run out on them, etc. or even married women who’ve somehow lost their husbands. what are they to do?

    i personally wouldn’t feel comfortable asking another man in my church about this. it would just be weird, i think. but maybe that’s because i don’t have any real close friendships with the men at church (few of them that there are.) what would you suggest? other than that, men are different too. for example, i could ask my father if i look modest and he could say yes, yet if i asked another man he could give me a different response.

  28. Joy,

    Obviously you were exaggerating (and you are really good at it), but levity and clarity are the last things you might achieve by doing so. I appreciate the fact that you recognize that such rhetoric does not further actual understanding of the subject at hand.

    However, your last post is equally rhetorical (though it doesn’t sound as angry–that’s good) and equally unclear. What you seem to mean (I am not really certain) is that you and especially Karyn just don’t like my position and you think I must be unaware of the impact of what I am saying. You write “So maybe, you know, it might be a good idea to tone down the insistence that we’re just not ‘getting’ you. Maybe we could all just cut back to the chase of the issues at hand.” I never denied anywhere that sinfulness was a problem for women, but sinfulness often takes different forms in women than it does in men, and that sometimes makes it difficult for us to understand how we might be a stumbling block to those of the other gender. That is, in my view, one of the big problems to be overcome in the endeavor to dress compassionately (as I have called it). Hence a discussion of “modesty” in dress (the issue at hand) entails discussion of the fact that women cause men to stumble and often do so unintentionally. You may disagree with me on or detest me for that, but the fact that someone out there disagrees with a view or detests a view does not argue against it. If it did, Jesus would have been obliged to change his view about his own deity (or at least tone it down)–there were certainly a lot of people who disagreed with him on and detested him for that.

    Again, no one is denying that women are sinners (as if that’s an equal opportunity that one would want to fight for), but there are different forms of sin–as I have said in response to both Karyn and Melanie. Intentionally trying to cause men to stumble is sinful (I’ll call this malicious seduction). For a woman to intentionally dress in a way which she knows or suspects could be a problem for men simply because she wants attention is selfish and sinful (I’ll call this selfish seduction). But those are not the only problems to be concerned with in issue of “modest” dress. For Christian women, I think malicious seduction is quite rare; selfish seduction is probably more common. But, it is also possible for a woman to simply not care about the effect her appearance has on the men around her (I’ll call this willful negligence). This is also sinful, but I think it is uncommon for Christian women. The category which I think is most common for Christian women is what could be called unintentional ensnarement (if anyone can think of a better label, let me know). This can happen in many many sorts of ways, from someone’s dress blowing up in the wind to someone choosing clothes that she likes not realizing that they could be a cause of stumbling for the men around her. These sorts of instances–so long as they are truly unintentional and not reasonably avoidable–are not sin, but,if they are intentional or avoidable with reasonable effort, then these instances actually fall into one of the other three categories. For example, if a woman knows that she will be walking in a windy place (or rappelling in mixed company), she could choose clothing that would be unlikely to lead to unintentional exposure. Failing to excercise reasonable caution would be to sin in at least one of the other three ways.

    Similarly, if a Christian woman can with reasonable effort come to understand better what kinds of clothing and behavior could cause men to stumble but doesn’t bother, the situation is not one of unintentional ensarement but one of the other three categories I mentioned.

    Note that the necessity of compassion for brothers in Christ, like Paul discusses in 1Cor 8, applies to each of these categories. It is true that malicious and selfish seduction are sinful in other ways, but they also fall short in the sense that Paul mentions in 1Cor 8:12 (When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ).

    Also your post seems to convey the idea that you and Karyn are upset by the suggestion that you might not understand men perfectly. If that is accurate, I’m not really sure why that suggestion bothers you. Most women I have known are quite aware of the fact that they don’t understand men (and vice versa). What’s to be upset about?

    Regarding me: again, what do you want to know? If you have serious questions I’ll be happy to answer.

  29. Melanie,

    Good to have you back.

    You are right, all the examples I gave were generalities–true of most, but not all. I was not making an accusing any specific individual (except the one woman who wrote the list article–she’ll remain anonymous). And your right about the question I asked about reluctance to consult men. That is something I’m not sure about, and I am interested in feedback from women. Is this resistance I sense there? If so, why? If not, what is it that I am misinterpreting as resistance?

    I appreciate your personal example about the boy an the jeans. You say that no one had to teach you about it, but I doubt that you reached the age at which you wanted attention from boys without doing some reading or having some conversations or watching some movies that at least gave you some ideas about what boys in general might be attracted to. Though you never (I hope) attended Seduction 101, it seems very unlikely that you did not learn the things which made you think that boy would find you applealing in those jeans.

    But, the idea that girls start out with a sort of blank slate with regard to what goes on in the minds of males is not necessary to my point. I merely argued that because none of us have ever lived life except as a person of the gender that was determined for us at conception, we tend to assume that people of the other gender are substantially like us. Teenage boys really think, unless they are taught otherwise, that girls are secretly desiring to see what’s under the boys’ cloths, not because girls have told them that, but because they feel that way about the girls and they assume that the reverse must also be true. I have talked to married men who believe that their wives hate them and consider them ugly and disgusting because their wives don’t want to have marital relations very often. But their wives never told them that, they simply drew those conclusions based on what they know would be the case if they did not want to have relations with their wife. And for their part, the wives generally had no idea how incredibly hurtful it was to their husbands when they said or implied that the husbands were perverted or animalistic for wanting to have relations multiple times each week (sometimes only/month!). Based on these and many other experiences that I and others have had, I simply cannot believe that men or women instinctively understand each other.

    Another point from your example is worth mentioning. When you wore those jeans to get attention from that boy, you apparently did not consider that all the other boys would see you as well. It is likely that you also did not realize that the attention he gave you was from a completely different motivation than the attention you were giving him. You probably would not have wanted it if you had realized that. The message you heard a few years later was, though shocking, right on target. It seems almost inconceivable to men that a woman could really think she is only gaining the attention of one male by dressing for attention, but various women have affirmed to me that they themselves and other women they know have dressed to get a specific man to look at them and then–on the very same occasion–become angry at other men for looking.

    You mentioned the reverse–how women are tempted. This is a very legitimate topic, and there really is very little out there that addresses it. I will be the first to admit that we men are mystified about what such temptation must be like for women or if there are ways in which we could change our behavior to ease their struggles. Seriously, when men realize that women aren’t sxually tempted in the same way that men are, they tend to ask, “Then what interest do they have in men? Why would they ever want to get married? What’s the point?”. Basically, we just don’t understand. On this subject, all I can say is that I doubt that it has much to do with modest dress. Other than that all I know is that I don’t know anything. I would love for someone to explain. Maybe it should be you.

    Regarding seeking the counsel of men on issues of dress: I think you showed wisdom in seeking your father’s advice when it was available to you. I also realize that God hasn’t made that kind of advice available to every woman, particular single women who no longer live near their fathers or women whose fathers and/or husbands are not believers. These women must do the best they can with the knowledge they have (“Only let us live up to what we have already attained” phil 3:16). God has given you everything you need to live your life in a way that honors him; just do your best to do so. But from those to whom God has given more (e.g. those who have a Christian husband, father,uncle, etc. whom they could consult) he expects more.

    I think your inclincation is right. It would really not be appropriate to ask that kind of counsel from just any man at church. However, if you have any close women friends there who are married, usually they can find out whether or not their husband would approve of them wearing a particular kind of outfit. I know my wife asks me sometimes “what do you think of what so and so is wearing?” I think she only intends to further her own understanding, but I am sure she would share her knowledge with friends if they wanted to know. Of course this would only get you general information most of the time (types of clothing, etc.). Again, though, God will provide what you need.

    Your last point is also a valid one. The whole think is so subjective! That is one reason why lists are so unrealistic and ineffective. All I can say is that women must do the best they can. If they must err (and inevitably they must sometimes), then I recommend erring on the side of caution. Remember, though, that your task is to do your best to avoid becoming a stumbling block, not to keep anyone from sinning. The latter is far beyond your control and God does not expect it of you–that is his job.

    You (women in general) must realize that in your attempts to dress compassionately, you will not always hit the mark dead on. God has not given you enough information to do that in every case. When you miss the bullseye, learn what you can and go on. So long as it really was unintentional, don’t let it bother you.

  30. Hi again, Mr. Regal. Apparently my attempts to not offend your sensibilities as far as rhetoric go were ineffective in the last post, but I will continue in the following post to abstain as much as possible.

    As for anger (?!), I’d thought I’d couched the words of all my comments in terms sufficient to convey to you that I was/am primarily interested in staving off frustration and angry communication for the sake of the most profitable discussion here, and I gave you the benefit of the doubt. If you sensed anger in the admittedly-rhetorical, exaggerative attempts to bring some levity and clarity to the table, then I submit that I have certainly failed to accomplish my purposes, and I assure you that any “anger” was inferred and not intended. I was trying to give you a heads-up that perhaps your language choices weren’t the best for the sake of the discussion. To her credit (or perhaps, better, the Holy Spirit’s), Melanie is not easily-offended, and I thought I had made clear that I assumed better of your true opinions of women than what others might. My comments were not offered in reactionary anger.

    Frankly, I’m having a hard time discerning the finer points of the argument now. On precisely what do you think we differ? I never contended against the prospect of educating women in an appropriate manner about how they might compassionately avoid being a stumbling block to their brothers. I never debated the exercise of “reasonable caution,” nor would my words or personal practice contradict your statement of the “necessity of compassion for brothers in Christ,” and we’re in complete agreement that “intentionally trying to cause men to stumble is sinful.”

    I know that you did not deny that women are sinners, and I know that you did not deny that women are tempted sxually. I pointed out that the perceived reality being conveyed by your verbiage was coming across as unwillingness to concur that women, too, could possibly “suffer” anything close to a man’s capacity for sxual temptation, or that you had any hope that they could possibly begin to “understand” men’s struggle against “unscrupulous” appetites. I had to acknowledge, and was hoping that you would, as well, that such an interpretation would be a reasonable one for anyone to make after reading comments like this one:

    “Keep in mind the fact that our world (in which we must constantly battle sxual temptation) is just as bizarre to women as the women’s world (comparatively free from such temptation) is to us.”

    We’re all agreed that we’re all sxual sinners. We’re all agreed that women could stand some perspective-adjustments on the issue of how their immodesty can be a detriment to their brothers. We’re all agreed that men and women are wired differently and that that’s a good thing. We’re all agreed that men and women think differently, and that that doesn’t necessitate inferior thinking capacities for either gender. We’re all agreed that men and women are all responsible to help each other toward holiness and fellowship in Christ.

    Since you don’t really seem to believe what it was you were really seeming to say up there, then I don’t really see how our viewpoints are all that incompatible. (?) [Ok, that was, I confess, a bit of a rhetorical statement. Still true.]

    I did not intend to convey upset-ness at not being able to “understand men perfectly.” I imagine you are referring to comments I made with Mr. Subra’s laments in mind (about all of us “not” getting it/efforts to understand one another communicatively in order to make some progress on the issue itself). As someone who communicates for a living, I admit frustration with poor communication, whether it’s between or among men and women, whether it’s others’ (1) unwillingness to listen to others’ thoughts, or whether it’s others’ (2) inability to process repeatedly-clarified attempts, illustrative examples, or black and white statements, or whether (3) it’s my own inadequacy to convey my intended points — and this would be the most discouraging form. These are communication frustrations that transcend this tiny corner of the web, and I don’t mean to impose them (however relevant or not) onto this thread.

    I have merely seen how it is that hurtful phrasings (unintentionally offered) or non-PC language (unnecessarily employed) can deter folks from a conversation that could otherwise prove very profitable. That is the sole reason I pitched in anything close to 2¢ in the first place.

    In other words, your last two paragraphs are non-issues for me, becoming more and more so by the moment. I wasn’t upset and/or don’t feel driven to rectify anything; and I am losing enthusiasm for the diffusion of what still persists as, for all practical purposes, your virtual anonymity. It’s ok.

    Since my concerns (at least, the only concerns upon which I can perceive we disagree) were related to striving for the most effectual communication, and since I’ve been back-peddling and apologizing for offering them ever since as a result, I will, again, say, “Let’s talk some more about how to effect and exhibit and encourage modesty.”

  31. After reading and responding to Mr. Regal’s comments as directed toward me and toward my pastor in a more recent post, I’m respectfully bowing out of this. I seem to have caused more harm than help and (the crowd sighs relief!) don’t have anything further to offer. I regret that I have helped to gefuddle the conversation and provoked needless rebuttals against men for whom I have respect.

  32. For those who don’t know me, I’m a friend of Joy’s, and I’ve met Bob on a few occasions. I don’t think I’ve met the rest of you.

    Joy, you did sound angry. Unfortunately, frustration tends to come through as sarcasm in digital communication. It’s just hard to get around.

    Kevin R., the ladies (particularly Joy) have simply been saying that your choice of words sounds demeaning to them. The connotation of your words, particularly certain passing phrases, is that women aren’t smart/are “stupid.” From the rest of your commenting, I know that’s not your intent. But it’s difficult for a reader to move past a perceived insult. Again, digital communication has tight limits for emotional expression.

    (Additionally, K.R., Joy did ask at least one specific in her original “who are you?” request: how did you come across Bob’s blog? Just thought I’d point that out.)

    Generally, and this moves slightly off the “modesty” topic, I think the men should be focusing on their responsibility rather than every woman’s wardrobe. 😉 (And I’m not saying that Bob shouldn’t be writing about modesty/decency. I’m interested to hear his thoughts.)

    The truth is, temptation will be there, whatever it is that tempts you. Since we cannot avoid all temptation, we must learn to trust Christ and turn to him at all times for the holiness and salvation we deeply need. Educating others may help alleviate some temptation or struggle, but our own internal change and growth, revealed through our thoughts and actions, has much greater value than someone else’s external compliance.

    To shift the topic yet again, as a single, nearly 30-year-old man, I find these sxual obsessions sad. When I see a woman on a billboard, TV, etc. dressed for a night out, so to speak, I do not find it remotely tempting. I find it repulsive. I see it as a cheap manipulation. And manipulation does not turn me on. I’ve heard that if I were married and not “sxually dead,” I would likely have a different perspective. But I am not married (or dead–or a liar), and my perspective is what it is: despite the sweeping statements and conclusions offered here and commonly found elsewhere throughout Christendom, not all men are tempted in the same way. Many or even most may be, but all are not.

    This again leads me back to personal responsibility. We must each know what affects us in what way and learn to turn to Christ for growth, protection, and holiness.

  33. kevin r,

    i’m not so sure that there is a resistance from women to consult men about the issue of modest dress. i’ve never really considered it though. in fact, i’m not even 100% sure why you sense that there is resistance. perhaps you could clarify?

    you asked why women want to get married in the first place. lots of reasons: women like to be led, to be protected, to be needed and wanted. they like to have someone whom they can communicate with and with whom they can pray with and share their burdens with. they desire someone who can help teach and guide their children. women are all about relationships, and so i think that’s another factor. i’d also say, however, that they want the intimacy of relationship on all possible levels: spiritual, emotional, and physical.

    jonathan, i think you bring up some good points. it is all about our heart. and that’s the thing, we can’t control our external circumstances. but that’s when i need to go to the Lord for help and protection. to change me first. to take away my appetite for things that take His place or are not pleasing to Him.

    sometimes i think that if i could just run away from an external problem that somehow the problem will be solved. although it might help to alleviate things for a while, i always have to remember that i still take myself along wherever i go. therefore, it’s possible that the difficulty will just pop up somewhere else.

    pastor bixby, i was also wondering if you’re planning to address how modesty works in a different culture. i live in europe, and it seems to me that it’s quite often that folks here (even christians sometimes) have a different approach than we americans. that is, they often to be more “natural.” does that simply make them different, or should they be looking at the situation differently? i suppose there are other cultures (tribal cultures, perhaps), which view modesty even more differently. just curious about your thoughts!

  34. Melanie,

    Thanks for your thoughts. I guess the thing that made me think there might be a resistence to consulting men is the reaction that I have sometimes received at the suggestion. Perhaps some women have assumed (incorrectly) that I am saying they must ask permission from their husbands and fathers to get dressed. That’s definitely not what I’m advocating. No husband or father, etc. wants to be completely responsible for the wardrobe choices of someone else (some of us don’t even trust ourselves to pick out our own clothes–my wife is a great help to me in that), but they are generally willing to share their impression of an outfit, etc. if that can be done without conflict. I don’t know. I’ll think about it some more.

    As for why women want to get married. Actually, that was only a part of what men tend to be mystified about. From a man’s point of view, all those kinds of reasons are valid, but the posibility of legitimate fulfillment of sxual desire is a huge huge huge factor that(for them) is not separable from the whole picture. So, when we hear the reasons women want to get married, they almost don’t sound real (especially for those men who have never been married). Does that make any sense?

    I am also interested in your thoughts about whether there is anything that men tend to do which can unintentionally become a stumbling block for women. Like I said, our knowledge is so limited. I can honestly say that I don’t know. I hope I don’t do anything which causes women around me to struggle, but if I do, I have no clue what it might be.

    Your point about different cultures is also an excellent one. I have not had the priviledge of living in any other culture, but I am very interested in what those of you who have lived elsewhere have to say.


    You are absolutely right about the responsibility of men. We will not be able to cry, when we stand before God, “But the women dressed so provocatively.” Whatever temptation God allows to come our way, he will give us grace to endure. The reason that hasn’t been mentioned is that this discussion is about modesty in dress. It is very true that men get no free pass to lust, no matter how women around them are dressing or behaving. That was just not the issue under consideration.

    I would say, though, that if you find those things repulsive, that that is because the grace of God. Men do not naturally find such things repulsive. Don’t you agree?

    Christians do, though, have a responsibility to consider how their otherwise permissible conduct might adversely affect others–especially if it can be a “stumbling block” to them. That is why the discussion of modest dress occurs.

  35. kevin, perhaps women have misunderstood your idea about “checking with dad/husband” first. i don’t know. i can honestly picture friends of mine consulting their fathers/husbands if they had the feeling that something they were wearing was borderline or possibly suggestive. as i’ve already mentioned, i’ve done that myself, so i don’t feel any resistance to the suggestion. asking my father to pick out an outfit on his own from my wardrobe might be quite a different story though… (i have to help him sometimes too, probably similarly to how your wife assists you.)

    i do think i understand more clearly about what you were saying about men being mystified about a woman’s desire to get married. it sounds to me like there’s perhaps just a different level of importance that’s going on. don’t you think that makes men sound a bit shallow?

    perhaps a woman’s lust seems “nobler” because for her it’s the whole package deal. it’s the whole person and most likely all levels of intimacy, not just one aspect of a relationship.

    that doesn’t mean, however, that women are totally repulsed by men and the way they look. why else would one hear about girls “checking guys out” and why would publishers put pictures of burly men on the front covers of romance novels? and why else would men’s physical features be described even in so-called christian romance novels?

    i’ve tried to think of specific ways in which men could be stumbling blocks to women. although i haven’t encountered this a lot, i do know of young men who go around with no shirt on or who purposely(?–i did hear of one case like this) buy and wear smaller t-shirts just so that they can show off how buff they are. maybe some women find that gross; however, i’m sure there are those who think otherwise. if chubby, hairy backed men did this, however, it would most likely be unattractive. but who knows… maybe there are girls out there who think that’s nice!

    maybe another thing would be the physical proximity a man maintains in regard to a woman. you’ve probably heard before that women are stimulated by touch; therefore, if received from the “right” person, i could see how it could cause problems for a woman. some men are more affectionate, and that’s not even necessarily a bad thing, but in an inappropriate context, it could be harmful for the woman since it could lead to desires which will not or cannot be fulfilled.

    on a whole, though, i can’t really think of a bunch of specific ways in which i would consider men to be a stumbling block. however, i can’t speak for all women. moreover, like men, all women are different and so their struggles may be different.

  36. Melanie,

    I think a lot of men, particularly those who are not believers, are pretty shallow, even by a man’s estimation. But then I want to be careful. “Shallow” is really a subjective idea. To a lot of men (and mature women, I suspect), romance novels seem pretty shallow. Maybe “shallow” is really just a label of disapproval that we all apply to those who value things that seem unimportant to us. For example, I have sometimes heard churchpeople accuse those who place a high value on fellowship (like me) in church gatherings of being shallow.

    From what you say, it seems like it really is easier for a man to avoid being a stumbling block by way of physical appearance. It sounds like we are in more danger of becoming a stumbling block to women who are our friends than just any woman who happens to see us. Am I understanding correctly?

    Let me make up a situation and see what you think. Suppose a man becomes really good friends with a woman whom he works with regularly. Does he need to be more careful around her than around other women? What kinds of things might he need to watch out for or avoid in order to avoid potentially becoming a stumbling block to her? Would it be a good idea for men to purposely avoid developing too close a friendship with women they work closely with?

    Here’s another example: my wife’s cousin just married a man whom she had worked with for a couple of years. This man never asked her out or showed any signs of interest in her until the day she resigned. He asked her out that very day and they were later married. He said that he felt it would be ethically questionable to attempt a relationship with her while she worked with him. Do you think he was being overly cautious or that we would all do well to follow his example?

    You mention that touch from “the ‘right’ person” could very likely be a stumbling block. Are you referring to someone that the woman is involved with (i.e. a boyfriend) or just saying that certain men–not necessarily those she is romantically involved with but not just any man either–could be a cause for stumbling in this way? If it is the latter, how can a man know if his demeanor could be a problem for whoever the woman in question is?

    I hope these questions make sense. I am “shooting in the dark,” so forgive me if they are way off target.

  37. Pardon me for jumping in so late, but my wife just ran across this and pointed it out to me. Since I do not believe that I have met any of you, I will add that I grew up in a Christian home, typically (but not always) attended Baptist churches, graduated from a “fundamentalist” Christian university, and now am a father of two, a lawyer, and a lay preacher. And for the record, I am not “no pants.”

    Modesty is a topic that touches many nerves and even some “hot buttons.” That is obvious from the thread. Consequently, it is especially important that we be cautious in how we handle the issue.

    First, we need to be cautious in how we define the issues. As is evident from this thread, there are divergent views of what modesty is. We must recognize it, but I see danger in giving too much attention to it. Why are there such differences. Lack of teaching? Moral relativism? Culture? All of the above and more? Should we not focus instead on whether God lays out, either directly by specific precept or indirectly through applicable principles, a standard for appropriate conduct? If not, then is there anything left for discussion? By that I mean, how can what I say bind you and your conscience? But if God has spoken, then our obligation to Him as our Creator and Savior takes priority. The many differing views of men may still be factors in how we teach modesty, but they are not the point in how we define it.

    Thus, I would advocate a focus on an objective judgment as to what is modest and would draw a subtle, yet important distinction between modesty (an objective judgment about whether particular attire on a particular person is modest) and the attitude with which a person approaches that topic. To me, the distinction is quite similar to that between whether a particular statement is honest and a person’s attitude about honesty. Thus, I question Bob’s proposition, assuming that I am understanding his intent, “Modesty is not as much about covering as it is about attitude.” However, I would readily agree that the attitude is absolutely critical (persons with an attitude hostile to modesty are less likely to remain modest).

    One other point on definition now. After pondering it a bit, I am troubled at trying to narrow modesty to decency. That is often what first comes to mind. Indeed, it was in that light that I started to disagree a bit with Bob’s statement about modesty being “the issue.” Yet as I think further, I see modesty as much more than decency. Similar to the usage “a modest home,” modest attire would stand over against that which is overly showy or ostentatious, for example, and thus I find myself leaning more in Bob’s direction on that point. I will be interested in how he addresses that in further posts.

    Second, we need to be cautious with regard to weaknesses in our own approach to the topic. Kevin Regal made the point about our trying to understand through our own experience. Often we do. Yet often, when we do that, we do not recognize that we are doing that. Further, a focus on that experience can hinder our listening to and understanding others, for we can tend to interpret others statements in light of our own experience.

    Kevin R., I wonder whether some of your particular experiences are limiting your perspective. Do you have enough experience to make your generalizations about women? For example, I think you go to far in saying women do not understand the effects of clothing on temptation, for it seems to me that women generally recognize that clothing can be chosen and used for its effect on men. Further, you need not go that far to make the point that many women who desire to be Godly and modest do not realize all aspects of the effects and thus all the potential pitfalls or to make the related point that, consequently, teaching can be helpful. Likewise, Kevin S., you may “seriously doubt if many women have thought deeply about modesty,” but as another man, I think we must be cautious about underestimating the efforts of our Christian sisters. Moreover, I do not think we need to go that far to make the point that further thought and understanding is warranted.

    Further, I think Kevin R. goes too far in saying, “God has given to men . . .a powerful and completely unscrupulous s_x drive, but he has forbidden that we give it free reign in our lives,” Do you really mean that God gave the unscrupulous part? Is that not the corrupting influence of sin — man’s choice, not God’s choice?

    I am also troubled at the following “Compassion is what we Christian men beg of our sisters. When I say ‘beg,’ I mean just that. We are in a position of weakness, and we do not pretend to have any right to command you to consider our plight. But we have no option, so in weakness we beg.” I agree with the desire that our sisters in Christ not lay down stumbling blocks, and I intend to teach my daughter exactly that. But where is the emphasis on the responsibility of us men. Perfectly modest attire by every Christian would not end my need for “eye control”: in the workplace and during my commute I cross paths with many who do not dress appropriately.

    Third, we need to be cautious about how we view others with different views. For example, I share the concern over the legalistic adoption of culottes at the expense of modesty and, even more, the pride of some women who wear culottes and men who require them that they are more spiritual than those women who wear pants and the men who agree with such. However, I am also concerned that we who accept pants not become proud of our spiritual judgment or become scornful (in either word or attitute) of those who wear/advocate culottes out of a genuine desire to honor God — even if we believe their judgment incorrect or misguided. Thus, I believe that we need to be cautious in how we characterize others, especially when we generalize.

    Anyway, given the time that I have spent on this at this late (early!) hour, I hope that it is evident that, for a number of reasons expressed by Bob and others, I agree that modesty is important issue in judging dress. Consequently, I readily agree that modesty is something that spiritual leaders in homes and churches need to address. In that regard I was struck by Bob’s point that he was not yet trying to address the substance of the issue but rather that at this point his “main goal is to justify our right as pastors to speak to the issue.” I think it a telling point about the spiritual state of our age that a pastor would feel a need to defend a point that is so evidently true.

    Oh, FWIW, if you are still following this Joy, your contributions to this thread did not come across as angry to me.

  38. kevin, i will attempt to answer your questions, but briefly. not because they aren’t valid, but partly because i think they’re getting away from the modesty issue.

    it’s probably true that women could struggle more with men they already know. yes, men should use caution, and your male relative seemed to have shown wise judgment in the professional situation you mentioned.

    i personally think a good piece of advice for a man in such a situation is to do his best to make it evident that he treats all women with the same respect and courtesy. if a woman reads into that, then that’s her problem.

    the touching thing goes for those who are in a relationship and those who aren’t. it’s natural for some people to be more of the “touchy” type, but if they are, i think they need to be careful that it’s not being misunderstood to be something more than it really is.

    btw, i think romance novels are pretty shallow too. i prefer to read something “stronger than an oke.” (that was for joy in the case that she’s still following.)

  39. Melanie,

    You’re right, it is getting off of the subject, but thanks for your insights.

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