My Only Comfort: The Modesty Debate

woman wearing hijab
Is this the only way how women should dress to be regarded as “holy” and “not a stumbling block for our brothers”? Yuck.

Sam Powell is pastor of First Reformed Church in Yuba City, CA, (USA), and the face behind the blog My Only Comfort. Browsing over Tim Challies‘ A la Carte series, I found that he linked to a great post written by Rev. Powell who really struck a chord with me. I think I am not the only one, since due to popular response Rev. Powell wrote not one, but two follow-up posts.

The overt theme of these posts is the debate on modesty and how this virtue is taught at church, especially to women. But the subtext is much larger. The issue is not only modesty; it is, as Rev. Powell rightly states, misguided views about sex, and a culture of misogyny and shifting blame to ladies for gentlemens’ sins.

But there is another subtext, that even Rev. Powell does not mention. And I think this is more serious: under “concern” for other people’s holiness, Christian are labeling beauty and a lot of other good things as sinful. And this is not only incorrect. It is sinful, even to the point of being blasphemous; because we are calling sinful something that is a reflection of God’s beauty (Acts 10:15 rings in my head).

So, let me share with you Rev. Powell’s three posts, which I fully endorse. This madness has to stop. Hope you like them.

1. The Modesty Debate

“Girls, listen up! These guys are your Christian brothers! When you dress immodestly, you are putting stumbling blocks in their way to purity! They are always tempted to lust, and you girls have to understand that, and dress accordingly.”

This sounds good on the surface, and many don’t give it a second thought. Except, of course, for the girls.

The problem with it is this. It’s degrading to women. It’s degrading to men. It’s degrading to Christ and his work. It’s thoroughly unbiblical, and therefore of no use whatsoever to salvation, purity or holiness.

The Modesty Debate


2. The Modesty Debate Follow-up

First, I never claimed that women should dress like harlots. In fact, I never commented on HOW women should dress at all (other than the statement “Dress like a daughter of the king.”) My ONLY point was that blaming the attire of a woman for the thoughts of men’s hearts is unbiblical, unhelpful and wrong. Perhaps I wasn’t clear.

It seems a bit strange that there were so many who took issue with that. Some said that since we still live in a fallen world, guidelines for dress are necessary, just like law in general. I find it interesting how little men understand their daughters and their wives. The assumption, again, is that if we men don’t lay down the law, our women will just rush right out to Backroom Boutique and buy stilettos and fishnets.

The Modesty Debate Follow-up


3. Modesty – yep, again!

Why do I get so worked up about the modesty debate? So much ugliness and misogyny!
It is one thing to say that we should teach our daughters to dress like daughters of the king, loved by Christ and honored. It is quite another to teach them that they are responsible for the lust of men’s hearts. One lifts up and encourages. The other leads to the date rape mentality.

If she is responsible – even a little – for my lust, why can’t I say that she is responsible when I attack her? Oh, that’s right. WE DO! God, though, is not mocked. You stand alone before His judgment throne. I would URGE you to quit griping about Jezebels in your midst and deal with your own ugly hearts!

I hate abuse. I hate blameshifting. I hate the despising and belittling of women and children. And I really, really, really hate the idea that women are responsible for the lustful hearts of men.

Modesty–yep, again!

There you have. Go there, read the posts, and think prayerfully about what your church is really teaching to their men and women.

(Photo credit: Woman in Desert near Sharm el Sheik, CC-BY-SA 2.0, by David Dennis/Flickr)

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