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Jesus Loves You… in that outfit.

May 4, 2007

Disclaimer: Please, before you read this article I want you to understand that these are just some beginning, feeling out observations of some people in some situations. It is not meant to be a rash generalization of everyone, so please do not read it that way.

I came across a funny word play the other day. Some of the critics of the Emergent Church have used the words “sola cultura” as a critique against current emergent theology/philosophy. If this does not strike you as humorous let me explain: the fathers of the Reformation identified “sola fida” (faith alone), “sola gratia,” (grace alone), and “sola scriptura” (scripture alone) as central to their protest. Insisting that a movement has abandoned these three and turned to culture as the organizing principle is a serious charge, but the charge is made in a cleverly subtle way that makes me giggle.

As I thought about how culture affects our interactions and what its role in the church may be some other thoughts came into my head unbidden, and I began to ruminate on how some people dress when they go to church, and I thought I would share some thoughts with you. I promise to be as open as possible on this subject, try and not get dogmatic, but I believe there is a problem.

It seems to me that in current secular culture “good looking” means sexually desirable, and little else. Good looking simply means sexually desirable. While this may not be sustainable across all of culture it is nevertheless deeply, deeply rooted. Watch some commercials, movies, and read some magazines. Our standard is sexualized, and often people are encouraged to mimic that standard. The way we mimic that standard is by eliciting a sexual response from the opposite sex. Here is a very important point that I don’t want you to miss: this response does not need to be overtly sexual or flirtatious. He knows that she knows that he knows (or vice versa) is enough. Now here’s my question: what happens when we bring that societal standard with us into the church?

This is a complicated issue; particularly, because there are so many Christians going to church today that are completely unaware of their worldview (heck some are so naïve they think they don’t even have a worldview), do not know their Bible, and have a difficult time determining between the standards of Christianity and culture—with apologies to all the prosperity seekers, relevant churches, etc., believe it or not, the world and the Bible actually do set up different standards sometimes. Who woulda thunk it? But because there can be ignorance someone getting dressed for church on Sunday morning unaware of where their value set is coming from can dress like a dirty pirate hooker and honestly believe they are simply looking “good.” We need to be understanding towards these people and help them along.

Of course, the argument from some people is “I look good and you need to deal with the lust in your heart.” This can be true for some, and further complicates the discussion because there are some people that have severe lust issues and it does not matter how someone presents themselves they are eye raping them anyways. But what about when you don’t have to undress someone with your eyes because they showed up that way in the first place? What about the person that is wearing pants so tight if you put a quarter in their back pocket you could read the year at 20 feet? What bothers me is the question of whether this is a biblical ideal or a cultural norm. I have a hard time believing that someone could biblically support the ideal of eliciting a sexual response from all Christian brothers or sisters.

There is an interesting word in the Greek skandalon. This word is often translated as “stumbling block,” or “offense.” However, it does have another meaning that is sometimes more appropriate (I won’t bore you with the corresponding classical Greek and Hebrew). This other meaning is the stick in a bait trap on which the bait is fixed. On these occasions we are not to be the bait in a trap and tempt our brother and sister to sin. In this sense the onus for behavior is on the dresser not the looker with lust in his/her heart.

I have wondered that if someone was crazy enough to let me on their platform again at a church if I should go out and start speaking with my zipper part ways down and no underwear on. Not all the way mind you… just enough to show some neck. When the appropriate uproar was over I suppose that if I responded, “What? I look good. You need to deal with the sin in your heart if this bothers you,” it would not sway the majority of the imaginary people to my side.

If this is making you angry I apologize, but I would suggest that you consider what I have to say and whether your judgments are coming from the Bible or society, and whether being thought of as “good looking” is very important to you and why. The first person I discussed this with got very angry with me, and wondered if he should sell all the clothes he had and buy some Grandfather clothes from Goodwill. That wasn’t my question or solution, I just wondered if he was presenting himself in a way that was attempting to elicit a sexual response, and if he wanted women to find him sexually desirable. He was very irate with these questions. Funny thing is I found out a few months later that at the time he was in one affair and beginning another. I think I got my answer.

I feel like an old man, “You kids and your new fandangled fashions!” What’s next a post on turning down music? Probably not, but I think we have let a deeply sexual society determine some of our norms and we need to be aware of that, specifically, in the way that it affects our own hearts and motivations. Some students from my school went to a Sikh Gudwara. One of the “Christian” young ladies wore a shirt that was very revealing, and by revealing I mean I could have lobbed a cantaloupe from the other side of the room and it would have found safe haven in her cleavage. It was a shocking contrast to the way the Sikh women were conservatively attired. I am aware that I am using some extreme examples, but for those that are unaware of their social integration, or struggle with this, I think a very important question to answer is: are you hoping to elicit a sexual response from the most of the opposite sex you meet (or just the “hot” ones)?

I imagine there will be some interesting comments on this one. Be nice.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. WhoreChurch permalink
    May 4, 2007 8:33 pm

    You know I gotta comment on this one…

    “dirty pirate hooker” – somebody likes playing dress up, arrrrg.

    I’m afraid that if the congregation saw your “neck” you might be laughed off the podium. Just a thought.

    OK on pubic, I mean public, nudity…

    I think you are correct. And I don’t know that my redhead always dresses as modestly as she could. In fact, your post caused me to re-think that a bit since I kinda like it when she looks hot when we go out. (That is until someone asks what my daughter will be having.)

    I think it’s a problem at church, but it is also a problem everywhere. Clothes go through cycles. Right now skimpy is certainly in. I’m kinda glad I didn’t have any girls of my own because I’m sure they would have hated the baggy clothes I made them wear.

    I would also point this out: Several years ago my redhead was getting ready for church. She had a fairly short denim skirt on and was going to wear pink thigh-high stockings with mary jane shoes. She had worn regular tights with similar outfits before and simply thought this was a “cute” look.

    I had to explain to her that stockings would not be seen as “cute” by many of the men, and that her outfit looked much more sexy than she thought. She changed and it was cool.

    I share this only to say sometimes women really may not know how the way they dress might affect a man’s perception. I think it’s up to us to inform our children and wives about how they dress affects other men.

  2. May 8, 2007 5:42 pm

    Pope-A-Dope,

    I agree with you… and I think it is extremely important to be as understanding as possible with those that are acting a certain way out of ignorance – as I allude to and you point out these are the issues that make a topic like this so complicated: some people are just unaware of their worldviews or how their actions affect others… but there are still those actively seeking to elicit a sexual response from the opposite sex whenever they can which is definitely not a good Christian virtue to be cultivating.

  3. May 14, 2007 4:16 am

    I think some of this arose out of church having a “dress code”, and your religiosity being tied to your Sunday-go-to-meeting outfit.

    The impression for too many is that God is at church – and when you enter His “sanctuary”, then you had better act accordingly. So the idea arose, that you had to show respect, on God’s day, in God’s house.

    Which becomes subtly deceptive (and pretty convenient), because then God is put into a building, and interaction with Him, and the Christian life becomes a Sunday only thing.

    And out of this, you get your Sunday actions, and attire – then your “other” stuff. And then when some churches realized that dressing a certain way doesn’t help your walk with God, they wore their “other” clothes to church.

    And they’ll ask: “If it’s okay to wear ‘this’ outfit to school/work/pirate whore convention….then how come it’s not okay to wear it to church”?

    In one way it is okay. It won’t affect your salvation, or how God feels about you. But perhaps it’s not okay, if you’re trying to live a life of discipleship, responsibility, and love. And if that’s the case….perhaps it’s not okay to wear it other places as well.

  4. lonetruth permalink
    July 30, 2008 11:19 am

    What a thoughtful article. And here I was thinking that this blog was all about blasphemy and Jesus Jokes🙂

    I know what you mean… at my catholic church I see a bunch of people who dress inappropriately (always women, never men… we just wear our Sunday Suits). I don’t always blame them 100% though, because if you think about it, Church is one of the few places that “good” people go to find a “good” lifelong mate (as opposed to going to clubs dressed like a whore).

    HOWEVER. The need to sexually attract the opposite gender is FUNDAMENTAL in our genetic makeup (especially when unmarried). Sometimes some people don’t know how to “suppress” it at church and just focus on worship. If a guy likes you, God will inspire him to come up and talk to you, even if you are wearing the most modest clothes.

    Biological imprinting often clashes with Christian and civilized life. I wish that this wasn’t the case.

  5. meinmysmallcorner permalink
    August 6, 2008 6:35 am

    I like that the original post does not simply talk about the way women dress. The issue here being dressing to sexually attract – and that goes for either gender.

    It is a common stereotype that only men find the way women look/dress problematic. However, it works both ways – how many men, if if its only their ‘Sunday suit’ don’t look at how that suit sits on their shoulders, or waist…? How many ignore whether the cut of the suit flatters their shape??

    Even if it is a more commonly male problem, there is equally an issue about women’s weakness for relationship and emotion. Men are often inconscient of the trouble they cause women by the ways in which they act with us emotionally/relationally. Yet, because it is basically impossible to actually physically see these issues, people assume its not a problem.

    Do women sometimes consciously dress to attract approving attention? Yep. But not any more often than men sometimes consciously act to attract affirmation.

    The biggest issue here is that as men and women we do not love each other well at all. Too often sin screws up the beautiful community God intended between those He made in His image.

  6. August 18, 2008 4:52 pm

    Hey, I’m totally into Grandfather clothes these days! And, dammit, I look good in them!

  7. windy permalink
    August 19, 2008 9:37 pm

    one word: Jan Crouch
    well two actually

  8. Jorge permalink
    November 29, 2011 6:41 am

    The problem with all of this is that when confronted with the problem of immodesty in church, Pastors and church leaders will do a song and a dance around it with these responses: “I don’t see it as a problem.” ” We don’t want to offend anyone by preaching about this.” ” I rather err on the side of liberty, than that of legalism.” “We have to take care of our eyes and lust issues.” “It’s the culture and the way this generation dresses, we can’t change that?” (But I can change by leaving your ungodly leadership and cease to support it with my money) “I don’t think that what the bible says about modesty is what your saying it means.” “Anyway there is only one verse in scripture that talks about this.” (I guess the “all scripture is God -breathed …” does not apply here).
    These were actual responses that I received from the Pastors of my needless to say,former Southern Baptist Convention church, after years of imploring them to do something about this issue.
    As a deacon I thought it my responsibility to look out for the health of my brothers in Christ and unsaved visitors who have seen this as a distraction and a stumbling block.
    And by the way, I never spoke about implementing a dress code or was not referring to visitors, but simply holding those in ministry to a higher standard and preaching about it.
    Who needs to see their Sunday School teachers or worship leader displaying their breasts?
    Then you go on Facebook and you see some of these “leaders” posting pictures of sensual dress, clubbing, kissing vodka bottles,passing out drunk, having simulated sex with statues, using vulgar language, promoting the film “Sex and the City” etc.
    These are your Sunday School teachers, worship leaders, Vaction Bible School leaders, etc
    And the Pastors and leadership do nothing about it. I’m the one with the problem for making this “such a big issue.”
    I refuse to be part of a congregation that allows such shameless flaunting of sin in God’s
    face!
    We have become desensitized to sin. Nothing bothers us. We are just as wordly as the world and some Pastors today are so weak-spined and gutless that they refuse to do anything about it. The shepherds are not sheperding. The sheep go astray and they don’t care. They need to step down from the pulpit and go sell shoes instead, or better yet, immodest clothing at some store! They will have to answer to God one day for this shameful spirit of compromise!

  9. Jorge permalink
    November 29, 2011 6:46 am

    By the way, sripture says that Jesus is coming back for a church that is “…without spot or wrinlke…” no one without clothing displaying its nakedness!

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