Tim Bunting is a Fundamentalist Bible teacher at the West Harlem Church of Christ in New York. Earlier this year, Bunting wrote a post for the Downtown Demure website titled, An Open Letter About Modesty From a Brother in Christ. Here’s an excerpt from Bunting’s letter:
Okay, before I begin, I get it. You’re tired of talking about modesty. You’ve put forth some effort to conform to all these different standards being thrown at you, but no one ever seems to be satisfied. I know what you must be thinking. “Don’t they know modesty is a hassle? I’m just trying to look fashionable and attractive. People at church continue to stress the importance of modesty while the boys give more attention to the girls in more revealing clothing. Not to mention the fact that no one seems to have any standards of modesty for them anyways.” All this confusion, legalism, hypocrisy, and double standards is just about enough to make you stop caring about modesty all together. What’s the point anymore?
Well let me tell you, I’m tired of talking about modesty as well. I understand. However, we have to keep talking about it as long as it continues to be a challenge in this sexually saturated society.
Keep in mind that immodesty gets so much attention because it’s a visible sin. As saints trying to please God, we can’t ignore sin (I Corinthians 5:2, 12). As long as immodesty is around us, we will continue to have to deal with it. “But aren’t there much deeper problems to worry about? Isn’t immodesty just a physical external thing?”, you might ask. Yes! I concur completely. However, even though immodesty is external, the way we choose to present ourselves is directly connected to our hearts and has great significance on our souls. My hope in this letter is to get to the heart of the matter. I want to thank you for all efforts you’ve already made to be modest. I want to clarify some misconceptions about modesty, and I want to remind you of the real reason you should be concerned about modesty.
But why does God care about modesty? God cares about modesty because He is a holy God who calls us to be holy as well (I Peter 1:16). Sexual perversion is unholy, and it’s [sic] participants are unholy (I Cor 6:15-20). Sexual perversion includes any sexual activity outside of a marriage relationship (Hebrews 13:4). That includes lust (looking, thinking, desiring sexual things outside of a marriage) (Matthew 5:27-28). We are also told that anyone who is a stumbling block to others is also held accountable (Matthew 18:6-7). This principle is used to condemn the man for divorcing his wife and tempting her to commit adultery (Mathew 5:31-32). So if there is someone lusting after a person who has presented herself in a sexually appealing way, both parties are guilty of sin, whatever side of the equation they may be. Proverbs also illustrates that one who draws others into sexual sin is condemned along with the one drawn into sexual sin (Proverbs 2:16-19, 5:3-6, 6:24-29, 7:6-23). God wants you to be modest, because God wants you to be holy, pure, and free from sin. God wants you to be these things because this is how He can have a relationship with you, and if you want to have a relationship with Him, then you should care about modesty as well (Psalm 15:1-2).
Still, I know what you might be thinking: “If a guy wants to lust, I can’t control that! No matter what I wear, some creep can think sinful thoughts about me. So why am I held responsible for that?” Those are fair questions. Allow me to clarify something. Lust is a choice. Lusting is the choice to indulge yourself with sexual thoughts. God can demand a man to abstain from lust because, regardless of what any person might be wearing, we can choose to not indulge in sexual thoughts. Sexual attraction, however, is not a choice. A man will be attracted to sexual things because God made him that way (He made women that way too). However, a man needs to be led by the Spirit, and not by his fleshly desires (Romans 8:13). A man will be attracted to the many sexual images that surround him on a daily basis, but he must choose to not indulge in lusting over them.
Let me provide an analogy. Imagine you see something cute. A puppy or kitten. A newborn baby. Or perhaps newborn baby taking a nap with a puppy and a kitten.
What happens? You swell up with warmth, and an involuntary “awwwwww” escapes your mouth. Why? Because that’s what happens when you see something cute. You didn’t decide for that puppy or kitten or baby to be cute. They inherently are. You couldn’t stop thinking it’s cute even if you wanted to. Imagine if that warm fuzzy feeling of cuteness is sin. Imagine you are sinning every time you squeal in adoration over something adorable. What could you do about that? How could you stop? You can’t help but think it’s cute. That’s not even a conscious decision. You’d have to look away. You’d have to stop going to pet stores. You’d have to avoid new couples at church with their newborn babies. Cuteness is all around, but you have to make sure you don’t lust after it.
This is kind of what it’s like to be a guy. We didn’t decide for you to be so appealing. God did. God made both sexes to be that way. And it’s a blessing that he did! However, it’s a blessing that can only be enjoyed in marriage. So, a man’s responsibility is to not lust over the things he is sexually attracted to by keeping them from his eye sight. Your concern is to make sure you aren’t one of those sexually appealing things his eyes have to avoid. Here’s the conclusion: you aren’t in sin because someone is lusting over you. You can’t control that. You are in sin if you are presenting yourself in a sexually appealing way. You can control that.
Let me summarize Bunting’s “loving” letter to Christian women:
- No one seems to have any standards of modesty these days. What those standards should be, Bunting does not say. I will assume then, that Bunting’s standard of modesty is his personal opinions and that of his church. The Bible say little to nothing about modesty other than to say women should wear modest apparel. The Bible does not define what is modest/immodest, so Christians make up the rules as they go. What is considered modest or proper attire is culturally driven, often changing from generation to generation.
- Immodesty is a visual sin. In other words, women who violate Bunting’s dress code are sinning against God. This means that no immodestly dressed woman is a Christian. That’s right…follow my logic here. Christians say that people who habitually sin against God and do not repent are not followers of Jesus. A woman who regularly dresses immodestly is habitually sinning against God and no habitual sinner will inherit the kingdom of God. Imagine a conversation in Hell one day between a man and a woman. The man asks the woman, why are you here? She replies, cleavage. The man responds, me too.
- Immodestly dressed women are responsible for the lust of men. In other words, women are culpable for how men think.
- Women dressing modestly leads to holiness, purity, and freedom from sin. Evidently, in churches that follow Bunting’s dress code, men don’t lust and they never fuck anyone they are not married to.
- Sexual attraction is not a choice. Men are wired by God to want what they see, and to fuck their way indiscriminately through the fair maidens of the church. The only way to keep these horn dogs in their place is for women to dress in ways that don’t lead to lust or boners.
- Women are like puppies. When people see cute puppies they say “AWWWWW.” And when men see immodestly dressed puppies, err I mean women, they do the sexual version of “AWWWWW“– whatever the hell THAT is. Make sense? Didn’t make any sense to me either.
- Women are sinning against God if they present themselves in sexually appealing ways.
I know, nothing new here. Bunting is just one of a countless horde of Christian preachers who think God has given them the duty and responsibility to police how women dress. Bunting tries his best to not blame women for what he calls male lust, but he ends up talking out of both sides of his mouth. If how a woman dresses can cause a man to lust, then she is responsible for the man’s lust. This is a classic case of laying blame on someone else for one’s own actions.
Bunting says that he plans to keep preaching the gospel of modesty until women heed his words and put their breasts and legs under the cover of oversized feed sacks. And I plan to continue to preaching the gospel of freedom and personal responsibility. Both men and women are responsible for their sexual behavior. Men, in particular, need to learn how to responsibly handle sexual desire. It is normal and healthy to see an attractive woman and sexually desire her. In my gospel, such thoughts are normal. Not in Bunting’s. Desiring any woman sexually besides your wife is a big sin against God, the very God who supposedly wired men to sexually desire women (and for gays, men). Makes perfect sense, right? For weak, pathetic Christian men who are driven to Pornhub by seeing too much cleavage on Sister Sue, the answer is for women to dress modestly. However, wouldn’t it be better if men grew up and owned their sexuality? Wouldn’t it be better if Christian men learned that it is never right to leer at or sexually harass women, and it is most certainly not permissible to touch women without being invited to do so.
According to my gospel, personal responsibility and accountability are paramount. Both men and women are responsible for their own sexual behavior. Christian morality cripples people, making others or outside forces responsible for bad sexual behavior. If church women would just dress modestly, men would be able to sit through the sermon without engaging in lustful thinking. And if women outside of the church would dress as Muslim women do, why Christian men would be able to go through the day with their only stirring being the Holy Spirit. What a wonderful world, one without sexual want, need, and desire; a world where sexual intercourse only takes place within the bonds of marriage and only in the missionary position. Of course, such a world, thanks be to Eros, does not exist. Sexual attraction is here to stay, regardless of how women dress. Clothing, as past human history shows, is not a barrier that protects people from wanting or desiring others sexually. All any of us can do is act decently and respectfully towards others.
About Bruce Gerencser
Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.
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