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Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Women Need to Stop Causing Horndog Evangelical Men to Lust

modesty

Over a year ago, I tried to encourage a young Christian woman to dress modestly. You would have thought I’d counseled her to murder little children! All her friends wore their clothes that way, she reasoned, so who was I to tell her what to do? She was only following the fashion trends!

Fast-forward to Christian Twitter this past week, where a pastor bravely offered a man’s perspective on Christian women who dress provocatively. I’ve seen a lot of Christians vilified for standing on Biblical principles over the years, but never to this extent. According to his critics, he’s objectifying women while ignoring the responsibility men have to control their lustful thoughts. His critics ask what gives men the right to say when a hemline is too high, a neckline is too low or an outfit is too tight. They claim that, once again, men are oppressing women.

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Men definitely need to take control of their minds, but we women have a responsibility not to place stumbling blocks in their paths. We can look down our noses all we want, correctly calling out their sin, but we must understand that we can either shield them from temptation by dressing modestly or incite temptation by dressing provocatively. If we choose the latter, Jesus has some sobering words for us:

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And don’t you dare manipulate verse 7 by emphasizing the word “man” to get yourself off the hook! God doesn’t judge women more leniently than He judges men. If we come to church, work or even the grocery store dressed in ways that might cause men to look at our bodies, we share in their sin.

Again, I know there are men that will lust after a woman even when she completely covers herself. In cases like that, women bear no guilt. It’s sad that I need to pepper this post with so many caveats just to fend off “what about” challenges that seek to discredit the truth that how we dress can (and often does) elicit improper reactions in our brothers.

Let’s accept the premise that dressing in certain ways does, in fact, encourage men to entertain sinful thoughts about us. Once we acknowledge our part as stumbling blocks, shouldn’t we ask ourselves whether or not we love these brothers in Christ more than we love our cute clothes? Christian love sometimes requires us to sacrifice our personal freedom for the sake of our fellow believers. Instead of judging our brothers for their sin, shouldn’t we love them enough to do whatever we can to discourage them from sinning?

— DebbieLynne Kespert, The Outspoken TULIP: Discipling Women For Discernment Through Doctrine, Don’t Tell Women How To Dress, They Say, February 15, 2022

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Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

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6 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Karen the rock whisperer

    Modesty is in the eye of the beholder. Some people think that anything less than a burkha is immodest. An old joke among software and chip design engineers (I was one for a couple of decades) says that if you’ve covered penis/plumbing outlets/mammary glands, why isn’t that good enough? Far more important is showering occasionally. The truth is somewhere in-between in the West. Well, except for the showering part, that needs to be done more than occasionally.

    When I was a child in the 1960s, growing up Catholic in the US, it was incumbent upon women to wear head coverings in church. I remember having to tie a scarf on, hating it, and wondering why my dad didn’t have to do it. The requirement offended my sense of justice. (That requirement went away sometime during my childhood, don’t remember when.) I’m reminded of that when I read about this modesty BS.

    What I’d like to see taught to young women is not modesty for the sake of enabling men to not learn to control their minds, but targeted modesty aimed at being recognized as fiercely competent people. There are clothes that show a lot of skin or are tight-fitting that, along with how a woman carries herself, scream, “Look at me, I am woman, hear me roar.” There are clothes that show the same amount of skin, but along with the appropriate carriage, scream, “I am an object, not worthy of respect, only lust.”

    I want a world where our culture says of the former, these are the desirable women, the true partners, the ones who will have the backs of their beloveds always, as long as they’re treated with respect. I want that culture to say of the latter, grow up, girls, and be fully functioning human beings.

    I’m aware that this is a fantasy. Allow an old woman her fantasies.

  2. Avatar
    amimental

    “a pastor bravely offered a man’s perspective on Christian women who dress provocatively”
    Jesus H Christ. ‘Bravely’. So some stick-up-the-ass dickwad pastor decides and decrees how women should dress and this is brave? This reminds me of all the man worship I saw in churches as I grew up. I’m remembering a giant fat guy and his little teeny wife. She drank nothing but hot tea and ate rice cakes at a weekend retreat my mom went to. Apparently he did not want his wife to display sin, and ‘gluttony is a sin’.

  3. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    DebbieLynne, mind your own business. “Modesty” is a subjective issue that varies from culture to culture, time period to time period. In the 1980s my great-grandmother (born in 1895) wore a dress every day. She shut shamed her daughter (born 1926) who wore Bermuda shorts while cleaning her own house (I am glad I witnessed my grandma telling her mother that in her own house, she would wear whatever she deemed comfortable). My mom (born 1943) was low-key shamed from the pulpit for wearing pants to church (I don’t think my mom wore a skirt or dress in the last 2 decades of her life); my mom was obese and felt more covered in pants than in dresses and wouldn’t wear dresses. My mom dressed professionally for work and church, enjoying colors and jewelry, and was crushed when this pastor said something. Fortunately, after I graduated from fundamentalist Christian school, I have never allowed anyone to dictate my clothing choices – the one exception being a visit to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi – because I chose to see the Mosque, I followed the clothing rules. Otherwise, I wear what I deem appropriate. If someone doesn’t like it, they shouldn’t look.

  4. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    Obstacle–I share your philosophy: I will follow the sartorial dictates of an institution, out of respect for its people, if I choose to enter it. Like you, I covered myself when I entered mosques in Turkey, Syria and Lebanon, just as I followed rules against shorts or sleeveless tops when I entered cathedrals in Europe and southeast Asian temples (including the Angkor Wat). Otherwise, I wear what’s appropriate for a given situation.

    Now, if someone really can’t control him or her self when seeing me in a tank top and shorts on a hot day, well, I never knew I –just steps fromt the threshold of Social Security–could have so much power!

  5. Avatar
    Ben Berwick

    Men have lustful thoughts all the time. A lustful thought is not the same as actively courting another sexual partner whilst already married. It’s in our instinct to be sexual but it’s also in our ability to control those urges. A look, a glance, a mental note of ‘she’ pretty’ does not suddenly mean I don’t love my wife. For any good man, that should always be the case.

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Bruce Gerencser