To my younger sisters…

Yesterday I saw one of the more impressive female posteriors I’ve observed in a while.  The lovely form was displayed to maximum effect in a skirt, the tightness and shortness of which would have earned an appreciative stare in any nightclub without a pole on the stage.  Only thing is, the owner of said glutes is too young to go into a nightclub, and the sighting was not Saturday night on the town, it was Sunday morning at church.

I know…coming from a guy in his late 40s this probably sounds icky in the extreme.  But, my younger sisters, may I have your leave to get personal here?  I’m writing to you in the hopes you will realize that what you wear matters more than you might think (and please understand, I’m addressing you as “younger sisters” not to convey any disrespect or sense of superiority, but rather my genuine, non-sexual fondness for many of you, my friends…I hope you understand).  First, a few disclaimers:

  1. I’m an extremely happily-married man.  I love my wife more than anyone or anything else on earth, and I would never willingly cause her the pain that I know infidelity would bring.
  2. I believe God actually meant what he said about adultery, and that it still matters today.  The way I read my Bible, “adultery” means any sexual relations/activities outside of monogamous marriage…which means, by the way, that there’s an awful lot of adultery going on in many Biblical stories.
  3. I believe that guys need to be responsible to honor girls as important, valued human beings and not as the sex objects society makes them.  Guys are not excused from this responsibility just because they happen to find the girl tempting–for whatever reason.

But having said all this, my sisters, let me tell you a little something about us guys.  While not universally true, the vast majority of us are a fairly lusty subspecies.  Even if we keep our hands and other anatomy to ourselves as we ought, believe me our eyes, and our minds, have a tendency to wander.  Simply, if you display it, we’re likely to look at it–and our minds may not stay in the holiest of places while we are looking.

I grant that much of conservative Christianity suffers from a combination of repression about, and obsession with sex that is unhealthy.  It’s balanced (if you can really call two excessive opposites “balance”) with an un-repressed obsession with sex in the broader Western world.  While I am reluctant to get on the bandwagon about “sexual addiction” that I sometimes hear declaimed, it is an incontestable reality that many men have a weakness around the area of sexual purity.  This weakness is exacerbated by the endless parade of female parts on very public display in every corner of our society.

You would not, I hope, set an open bottle of Jack Daniels in front of someone you know to be struggling with alcoholism.  You would not leave a stack of twenties and a deck of cards on the table beside a compulsive gambler.  I trust you would not place a loaded 9-mm in the hands of someone who you know may be suicidal.  I’m asking you to consider, sisters, that your bodies on public display may be just as powerful an enticement for many a young (or not-so-young) man.

I’m not trying to create or advocate for sartorial legalism.  I’ve lived in groups where there was an over-obsession with modesty (as defined largely by older men), and I don’t think that helped matters any.  I don’t know that there is even a hard-and-fast rule I would propose.  The truth is, the female human form may be one of the most beautiful things God ever created, and nothing short of a burqa will prevent that beauty from being attractive to a man.  What I’m suggesting, perhaps, is that you, my little sisters who follow Jesus, re-affirm the difference (and there is a difference) between “attractive” and “sexy.”

And maybe one more suggestion.  The church fellowship is a place where people who are wounded, and broken, and struggling, are supposed to be welcome and safe.  As such, and without getting back into the sloppy “this is God’s house” stuff we’ve all heard in the past, I do think that the place and time of worship should merit special consideration in this regard.  As an illustration:  I enjoy a good beer from time to time, and I have no ethical issue with going to a bar with friends to have one.  But I would not bring a six-pack to a church function where I know someone else there may be struggling with alcohol dependence.  That person, in turn, knows to stay away from a bar.  In the same way, might you consider that the same outfits that are fine for the beach, or the back-yard picnic, or a night on the town, might not be appropriate in the context of our corporate worship?  Not for God’s sake–he created you in all your glory and knows exactly what you look like–rather, for the sake of your brothers who may be weaker than you realize.

3 thoughts on “To my younger sisters…”

  1. Jonathan

    Good thoughs, Dan, and I especially like the point you made about the responsibility we as men have to show the utmost respect and honor for all women; we must be about loving them as Jesus would.

    I would take the point of male responsibility further, though, because so much of the legalism (and, as you said, largely male-defined) surrounding this issue is heaped onto women. Also, this legalistic mindset usually, though inadvertently, makes men out to be base and animalistic, without the ability to control our own thoughts and actions.

    For that reason, I think it’s important that men be led to understand that this sin is, like all others, nailed to the cross of Christ and we can be free from its grip on us.

    That being said, you’re right on with your comparison to tempting the alcoholic with booze.

  2. Dan Martin Post Author

    I completely agree with you, Jonathan. This is why I tried to make the point that the reason I’m asking women to be more careful with their clothing is not because they are somehow responsible for the totally-reprehensible stuff guys might do to them. For example, yesterday’s NPR reported about the SlutWalk demonstrations across the country. While I’d disagree with their approach, these women have a point. You’ll notice I was addressing believing women, not all women.

    But for the believer of either sex, what you might encourage in the weaker brother or sister matters too. That’s the real point, for example, of Rom. 13:14-23 and 1 Cor. 10:23-33…not that we (or in this case, the scantily-dressed Christian woman) are necessarily sinning, but because we/they should consider the effect we/they have on one who is weak in the area we/they might offer temptation.

    In other words, while the “SlutWalk” crew has a point that nobody, nowhere, no time deserves or earns sexual assault–and that point is inviolable in my opinion–they are wrong if they insist that their “right” to look any way they want has no deleterious effect on those around them.

  3. Jonathan

    I’m completely with you, Dan. And I take the point of the Slutwalk people. My wife told me about when she was at university in Canada, they would have rallies called “Take Back the Night” in which a massive group of women (or men, if they chose) went on a walk through a dangerous part of town in the middle of the night.

    But, in general, is that prudent? No. Is it going to make much of a difference? By itself, I don’t think so.

    I think you hit it on the head in your last statement. Do women have a right to dress however they want? Pretty much, as long as it complies with basic legal standards. But for Christians to use that as an excuse for themselves to me is clearly not in the spirit outlined in the texts you cited.

    Well done.

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