I grew up in one of those Judeo-Christian homes that apparently strike terror in the hearts of the likes of Betty Friedan, Alan Grayson and Kathryn Joyce. My parents never had sex until they got married to each other. Theirs is an enduring...

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Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Nonfunctionally Tired, and I Write

I received this e-mail recently.

What are your thoughts on this article?

I'm kind of bummed, because I hoped to delve into the topic of clothes one day, and this is not what I had in mind. But, I'm way behind in my average of one post a month, so here it is.

It was a great article. Um, it described one aspect of what Mrs. Albert Mohler has been up to lately. I did completely crack up over her not allowing her daughter to wear this reasonable list of articles of clothing which could be problematic and don't ever need to be worn anyway, and then adding "or anything made by Abercrombie and Fitch". I thought that was funny.

Modesty is really a hot-button issue, for several reasons. One is that contextually (and in a cultural, historical context as well), when the word "modesty" is used in the Scripture, it has little to do with refraining from wearing mini-skirts or short shorts. There is no record that any woman, pagan, barbarian, Greek, Roman, Christian or Jew... or even prostitute for that matter, ever saw the light of day in a mini skirt or short shorts, or in a skin tight shirt, in, say, 30 to 300 AD. What a woman wore in that day to be seductive was made without elastic, without sewing machines, actually, without powered weaving machines, without electricity and like as not without scissors. It was washed without the aid of a washing machine. Cloth was actually hard to come by, let alone clothes, and your average woman like as not owned two garments, possibly per year, because with daily wear, they would, well, wear out. In the context of the New Testament passages regarding modesty, from a face-value reading of the whole passage, it seems women were cautioned against extravagance or finery in the choice of their garment(s). They were not to try to impress people with their clothes.

What we call modesty today is advised in the New Testament where women are cautioned to be chaste. But the current culture of dressing to invite lust is nearly impossible or at least extremely unlikely in a society in which every woman's clothes must be hand-woven from scratch out of hand-spun fibers. The very existence of said culture springs from an effort to sell people more clothes than they need, because of a new ability to handily make far more clothes than are needed. Otherwise, what are they going to do? Put several hundred-thousand people out of work? How many clothes do people really need? A person probably absolutely must have two sets at a time: a set to wear, and a set to wash. And when you go to all the trouble to spin fiber to weave cloth- if you can get by with one item instead of two, it's probably better to wear clothes that are too warm than too cold. I guess in a warm climate, you could own an over-cloak for several years because you wouldn't wear it every day. So in a purely [edit 2/11/12] subsistence society, what we call modesty is a very different kind of issue. It's an issue without stores, without marketing, without models, without mannequins, and without peer-pressure.

Another reason is that the issue is full of hypocrisy. There is the hypocrisy of people who preach it while their wives and daughters wear things that are inconsistent with their message, evidently with their complete blessing. There is the hypocrisy of the attitude of acceptance or dismissal of the character of an individual based on, actually based on the individual's behavior, which, if God overlooked our behavior and accepted us, who gives us the audacity to reject another person based on behavior? There is the hypocrisy of an inconsistency in clothing standards. To one person, this garment is immodest, to another it's that other garment, until, well, some cultures have solved this hypocrisy by banning the appearance of a woman from society altogether, save for her eyes. And there is the hypocrisy of calling repeatedly on a passage in the Word of God which clearly says not to try to impress people with your clothes, in order to justify an attempt to impress people with how godly or "modest" our clothes are.

The issue is also very two-sided (maybe four-sided). It is very difficult to tackle both sides well, in the same discussion, and unfair to tackle only one side. In which case, the article you sent did splendidly. Mrs. Mohler is evidently, as a woman, addressing women and girls. And that is where the discussion of chaste clothing, pertaining to girls, probably ought to take place. Chaste clothing will not eliminate lust. Nor will unchaste clothing cause lust. And yet, to wear clothes which deliberately invite lust is distinctly unloving and unlovely. For a guy to try to urge a girl toward more chaste dress is probably as awkward as it would be for a girl to try to urge a guy to control his thought life.

In this regard and I may be wrong, I suspect guys need men, and girls need women. And most men should have a wife to capture their imaginations one day, and Doug Wilson says the "power on her head" verse indicates that in all of the submitting, this is one area a woman should exercise authority over her husband. I'm not completely sure what I think of this, but Paul says that each married person's body belongs to their spouse... And most girls should have a dad and one day a husband, to provide insight into the weaknesses of men and instruct their wardrobes.

(Other sides to the issue, rarely addressed in the Christian community, making it possibly four-sided, are women who lust, and immodest men, though a man probably rarely defrauds a woman through her eyes.)

I don't know if this is anywhere near what you wanted, but you asked what I thought about the article, and not having any outstanding thoughts about it, other than my first paragraph, I made some up. Basically, I agree with Mrs. Mohler, somewhat, or mostly, and think she's doing a great thing. Why?


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