My wife sent me a link last week knowing that I would just have to comment. I have written at least three posts about the subject after all. I didn’t ask this exact question though: Why is it that girls can be “boyish” but boys can’t be “girlish”?
Perhaps that is the wrong question. The more pertinent question is: How do we define what is “boyish” or “girlish”?
The article in question discussed several points like clothing preferences (colors and sparkles) and personality traits like compassionate or caring vs agressive and aloof.
To the first: preferences like these are almost completely cultural. What one culture considers feminine may very well be masculine in another culture. Pink and blue are not inherently gendered. A flashy man is not a less masculine man. There just happens to have been a movement towards dull drab colors on men in our culture over the past 120 years or so. If your son likes rainbows and flash he is not less of a boy for it, he just likes something less boring than the current culture would like him to.
To the second: what makes character traits feminine or masculine? Sure, there are definite hormonal and physical differences between males and females that result in slightly different personalities, but these are hardly universal. And they aren’t even that big of differences when we really look at them. My sons are definitely different from my daughters, but the differences are so subtle I couldn’t tell you if it was gender or simply their personalities.
Why this cultural push to make gentleness and compassion a strictly “female” trait? Why assume that a gentle man is effeminate? Why assume a woman who is strong and courageous is “acting like a man”?
Personally I think we are a culture much too obsessed with sexuality and gender. Since when are people narrowly defined by who they want to have sex with? Since when does gender dictate every character trait and personality quirk?
It’s gotten to the point where people even worry about their sexuality in church. Someone was complaining that worship songs in their church sounded “gay” because they call God “beautiful” or express a sentiment of wanting to be with Jesus. While I could agree that the theology of these types of songs is usually lacking and they are usually set to fru fru tunes it is ignorant just to lay them out as “gay”. Are those sentiments incorrect? Was it “gay” when Jesus washed His disciples feet or when we are told to greet one another with a holy kiss? What is it about expressing love in a gentle fashion that is “gay” or even “unmanly”?
Back to the first question though: Why is it that girls can be “boyish” but boys can’t be “girlish”? For that answer you’ll have to wait for next week.
From my previous posts you have learned that I don’t oppose all forms of birth control, but that I urge caution about hormonal birth control.
I have two reasons for this: the first is the fact that hormonal birth control can be an abortificant. The second is much more personal, hormonal birth control can really create havoc on your body and mind.
Shortly before we were married, my wife went to her gynecologist for a routine check and pre-wedding screening (not like she needed it but whatever). While there, the doctor told her she should start taking birth control a couple of months before the wedding. “You don’t want to be inconvenienced by a baby.” she told her. Being young and naive my soon to be wife acquiesced and started taking what the doctor prescribed.
The side effects began her first week on the pill. At first it was a near constant nausea which kept her in bed most of the time. Next, a nearly insatiable libido disappeared. Then came the depression and anxiety. She reported these to the doctor and was assured they weren’t side-effects, she was probably just nervous about the wedding.
Reluctantly, the doctor switched her pills for the patch. Her nausea abated slightly, but the rest of the symptoms remained in full force.
By the time the wedding came, she had very little interest in sex. There were a few nights on the honeymoon where she cried for hours because she couldn’t understand what was happening to her. She didn’t want me anymore. What sort of switch happened that would cause her to suddenly stop her interest in me?
Upon our return, my new wife reported these problems to the doctor only to be told that she was probably just regretting her decision to get married so young. “Depression is not a side effect of birth control.” Nonetheless, her doctor agreed to change the medication again, this time to the Nuva Ring.
While the ring was better for nausea, the depression worsened dramatically. There were nights I would wake up next to a sweating, rocking, tearful woman. Sex was nearly impossible. She contemplated suicide.
All the while, the doctor insisted it was in her head.
I don’t remember exactly what clicked in my mind, but one morning I told her to quit the birth control. While the side-effects weren’t spelled out on the packaging, it was too suspicious to me that they would coincide with her first dosages. She quit taking them, much to her doctor’s chagrin.
Within a month her mood was vastly better. Her nausea disappeared. There were still incredible mental and emotional scars that made sex difficult, but her appetite for it returned in force. Two months after quitting (three months after the wedding), she was pregnant.
After our first daughter was born we ignorantly decided to try the BC again. Breastfeeding was a hellish nightmare (thanks to a lack of lactation consultants) and parenting did not seem like something we wanted to do more of at that point.
Side effects came right back full force. She was told “oh, those aren’t side effects” yet again.
Funny how they disappeared shortly after she stopped taking the pill for the second time.
The labels did vaguely mention that you could have suicidal thoughts as a side-effect. But it was listed as an almost unheard of side effect. Our only guess is that women who do not suffer from Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) rarely have those side effects. Or that doctors simply don’t care.
She was never screened for PMDD, we didn’t know she had it until almost ten years later. But the diagnosis made everything make sense. Any fluctuationin hormones brings about emotional and mental changes in her. Birth control, pregnancy, and breastfeeding each had their own effects, whether nausea or severe depression or decreased libido. Like clockwork she gets severe depression about ten days before her period and starts feeling better immediately upon menstruation. Then she is healthy for a week or so after, before plunging back down again.
Most doctors don’t even know what PMDD is, it’s just not on their radar. They are convinced that BC simply doesn’t have any emotional side effects. They barely listened to her about the nausea.
It’s almost like they have an agenda to push. Hence the “you don’t want to be inconvenienced by a baby” comment.
Needless to say, hormonal birth control is definitely not for us. Since this happened to us we have talked to dozens of women who had similar experiences, even ones without PMDD.
If you decide to use it and you experience similar side effects, don’t let the doctor tell you that you are crazy or that you should just switch until you find one that works. Get your hormones checked and talk to a doctor about the possibility of PMDD. It took a general practitioner about ten minutes to make the diagnosis and prescribe medication and other therapies. Now she is healthier emotionally than she has ever been.
It’s not worth living in misery when there are other ways to go about preventing pregnancy.
Recently I came across a discussion on Facebook that boiled down to this: “How does a woman respond submissively to her husband when he expects her to stay thin during pregnancy and is bothered by her weight gain from 3 kids in 4 years?”
The question then went on to describe his concern that he might fall into lust because he no longer found her attractive. He argued that men are hardwired to find thin and young looking women attractive and cited this article as a source material for his way of thinking.
Now, of course this post rightfully incited a riot. There are several disturbing things going on with this question.
First off, his main concern is not that his wife is a glutton, eating herself to death, and in sin. Even the blog post he cites is mainly addressing gluttony (though it’s focus is a bit off). His main concern is that she is losing her physical appeal to his appetite.
Second, is this really a matter of submission? Is a woman required to keep herself attractive for her husband? Is she required to submit herself to whatever physical standard he deems attractive in the moment?
Third, did he really marry his wife for merely her physical appearance? Is his love dependent on externals?
If he was concerned with her eating habits and not just her baby weight, he may have a case. But he would be wise to approach the subject delicately. The last approach he should consider is the “You’re not attractive” route. Perhaps he should even consider leaving it up to her doctor to discuss it with her. Or offer to cook healthy foods for her (and eat them with her). Or exercise with her. I don’t care how ugly you think your wife is, you don’t have to tell her.
The word “submission” gets thrown around frequently in these sorts of discussions. I don’t believe Biblical submission gives a husband license to ask whatever he pleases of his wife. There are some things, especially appearance wise, that people just can’t change. If this were a question about hair length or body hair or whether or not she wears makeup or certain outfits he has some leeway. But how she gains or loses weight is not something she has much control over.
There is give and take in marriage. There is no Biblical requirement to stay attractive to your spouse. It is definitely a kind thing to do what you can. If you know they have a preference do what you can to meet it. My wife enjoys my beard and hair, and I like to keep her happy, even if sometimes my face itches and my hair gets hot. But I don’t think you’re in sin if you just can’t meet their standards.
Probably the second most disturbing part about all of this is the way these “Christians” are adopting the world’s idea of what is attractive or necessary in a spouse. The Bible warns against putting too much emphasis on physical appearance because youth and “beauty” fade.
Christians should seek to find the inner beauty of their spouse attractive.
But let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 1 Peter 3:4
Inner adornment should be far more important to a husband than his wife’s outward appearance. It’s his job to wash her with the Word and present her without blemish.
Besides, the world has a stupid standard. The average woman will spend most of her life with a post partum body. Why does the world expect women to forever look pre-baby (or in some senses pre-pubescent) when the reality is that most of womanhood is spent with scars from child bearing and age?
I sincerely hope that he married her for more than her looks. A man who concerns himself only with how his wife looks is not loving her, he’s merely lusting over a body or a pretty face. Further still, he’s probably basing his standards of beauty on worldly standards.
The most disturbing part about this question is the fact that he is willing to shift the blame for his sinfulness onto his wife. He is trying to blame his problems with lust on his wife’s appearance. This is nothing new, Adam played the same game when asked about his decision to eat the Forbidden Fruit.
Christians need to stop writing blog posts and books giving men ammo for their blameshifting. His sin is his own, even if his wife is hideous or withholding sex from him, his lust is his sin. She will answer for her sins, be they gluttony or withholding. He doesn’t get to blame her for his sin anymore than she’ll be able to blame him.
I’m glad to see the response to that post was overwhelmingly against this guy’s way of thinking. But the fact that these conversations come up at all is still evidence that we have a long way to go. Stop lusting after women, and stop blaming them.
Last week, I discussed the fact that porn is a drug and corrected some common misconceptions about it. This week I intend to give a couple of methods that I see as useful in preventing and fighting porn addiction.
I recommended last time that those who are hooked should stop right now, cold turkey. But while the behavior can be stopped immediately, I think it’s important to examine the root of this addiction and slavery to sexual sin. What makes so many men (and women) vulnerable?
Part of the allure is wiring. Illicit sex is a very enticing sin to many. We are wired with a strong need for intimacy and human touch, and sex is the strongest expression of both. We are often so needy of intimacy that we will settle for even the cheapest of imitations.
Sex is such a strong desire in our lives, many have over-focused on it and made sexual sin out to be the worst possible sin one can commit. While scripture certainly tells us that sexual sin is especially heinous to the point where one sins against his own body, it is certainly not the unpardonable sin. We need to extend grace to those who have genuinely repented of sexual sins.
It is an understatement to say that we live in a sex-saturated culture. While some of the discussion about sex are healthy and much preferable to the prudishness of previous generations, much if not most of what’s floating around out there is anything but helpful. Most of the sexual discussions out there do not promote healthy sexuality.
What is the root of this porn obsessed culture?
Within the church a large part of it is the “modesty culture.” This sub – culture of Christianity has placed undo sexual meaning to the word “modest” and has created an entire generation of sons who can’t even look around at the mall.
This group of people have so over obsessed with the sexual attractiveness of the female body that even breastfeeding is shameful and should be kept in bathrooms or in one’s own home.
Both the church and the secular culture at large have bought into the Freudian lie that sex is the most basic motivator for all human behavior. Our sexuality and sexual appetites define us now. It has become the biggest definer of our self-worth and self-image.
In the sex-obsessed world we live in it may seem impossible to prevent and kill porn addiction. How do I recommend we do it?
Short answer: we change our perspective of the human body and sex. Instead of adopting the culture’s pornographic view of the body and sex or the modern church’s prude view of the body and sex, we need to instead adopt a proper and Biblical view.
The human body:
Much of what attracts young men to porn is the allure of the forbidden. Growing up many if not most Christian boys are constantly told that the allure of the female body is so strong that they have no choice but to lust when exposed to any part of it.
I believe many young men get into porn as an innocent desire to see what has been hidden. They are told growing up that the sight of a bare breast (thigh, midriff, ankle, etc) will set them into wild fits of lust. They are told to avert their eyes every time a girl walks by in a bikini. This kind of indoctrination creates a curiosity in the young mind. Will the sight of female flesh really make them feel great? What’s under there that is so powerful it must be hidden at all times?
Naturally these boys will look for what is most accessible. Unfortunately, most of what is readily available is highky sexual in nature. The media reinforces the teaching that men can only view women as sex objects by portraying them primarily as sex objects. And, just as prohibiting and limiting alcohol consumption until older and older ages leads many into binge drinking and unhealthy alcohol abuse, limiting healthy exposure to the normal human body leads to unhealthy binge consumption of unhealthily sexualized bodies. What started as a curiosity easily turns into an addiction.
When you are constantly told “don’t look don’t look don’t look” your mind is being trained to view women’s bodies (and women in general) as stumbling blocks, not as people.
I knew guys in college who were proud of the fact that they stared at the sand or the sky every time they went to the beach. They avoided even the slightest sight of flesh. That is not something to be proud of. That’s actually a great sign that you need an adjusted mind. One should be able to see a nude woman (or any part of a woman) without flying into fits of sexual rage.
We should not confuse attraction with lust. Attraction is normal, wild covetousness of women is not. Men who grow up being told that this is how they will react to the sight of women are in a sense conditioned into lust. Well-meaning “bounce your eyes” teachers tell them that even just one lingering glance is lust. If merely looking is lust, why not continue on to do the real thing?
Many of the “bounce your eyes” porn-fighters make avoiding the sight of the female body the cornerstone of their method. I recommend the opposite approach. I recommend seeing it more, specifically in an artistic, non-sexual setting.
This serves two purposes. First, it removes much of the “forbidden fruit” aspect of the body that increases unhealthy interest in it. Second, it trains the mind to view the body as on object of symmetry and beauty, not as a purely sexual object. If the non-sexualized nude body was a normalized sight in our culture this “body = sex” association would be much more difficult to plant in the minds of young men (and women).
If you can train your mind to “not lust” by averting your eyes you are also training your mind to lust when your gaze lingers. A much better approach is to learn a proper perspective of the body not as a pornographic object but as an object made in the image of God and worthy of our respect and admiration.
I found that when I started painting and drawing the human figure, much of the sexual aspects of the body faded into the background. It’s not that the body is not attractive, it just becomes attractive in a different way. When viewed as art, the body becomes lines, curves, and symmetry. The body becomes an object of great beauty, not an object of sexual appetite.
If you think that the body uncovered is sin in itself just stick around for my next CRAS post.
My last posts got called out for being “repressive” and “puritanical”. I hope I did not come across as prude to my mainly Christian audience. My intent is not to make sex taboo or make people think it is dirty and couples can’t have fun with it. Quite the contrary, I encourage married couples to experiment and try new things to keep their sex lives spicy.
Key word there is “married”. That is the box I place sex into. I don’t think it is repressive or “puritanical” (not in the sense most use it anyway) to claim that truly healthy sex is found only within the bounds of committed heterosexual monogamy. Marriage is God’s gift to us and allows us the ability to channel our sexual appetites into a productive and beautiful place, rather than into degrading and harmful places.
In my opinion, one of the best ways to take the steam out of the pornographic culture we live in is to teach a healthy ethic of sex. This needs to be done early and often in our children’s lives. Start with basic biology well before puberty begins and slowly introduce them to the fact that sex feels good and has many positive and wonderful effects within a committed and monogamous relationship.
We need to teach our kids, boys and girls, that attraction is a normal thing. As they grow, they are going to find themselves feeling inclined to look and linger at the bodies of others. We need to teach them that this is normal and healthy and that they shouldn’t be ashamed of it. They should not obsess over or feed these thoughts too much either as they can lead to lust.We shouldn’t be teaching them that this attraction is lust or that every time they notice another person they will lust. They can have these thoughts and feelings and not be mastered by them.
We then need to teach them that marriage is the channel God intended us to put our sexual thoughts and desires into. Teach them that passionate marriages are a good and blessed thing, and that there is nothing shameful at all about sex within that boundary.
To fight porn’s temptation our children need to understand that sex is not a tool for self-gratification. Sex is a building block of intimacy with another person. It is one way we share ourselves with the one person we will (should) spend the bulk of our lives with. It is a powerful part of building intimacy and as such should be reserved for one person alone.
There are many more things I could say, but I hope you get the idea. Perhaps one day I’ll get deeper into these discussions as I’m sure some of you will find tons of holes in this that I simply don’t have the ability to fill in so few words.
But for now, I’ll leave it at this: if you want to keep your self or your kids off porn, work on changing your and/or your children’s understanding of the body and of sex.
Before I talk about ways to fight a porn obsessed culture, I’d like to be frank about a couple misconceptions men and women have about the subject.
Marriage and Porn Addiction
Women, before you get serious about a man, you need to have a frank and honest discussion about this topic. He needs to know you’re serious about this topic, and you need to know whether you can trust him. It’s that simple.
Don’t necessarily come out and directly ask “So, do you watch porn?” on your first date. Look for ways to bring it up. Maybe discuss human trafficking or your opinion on transgender bathrooms, there are no shortage of current topics floating around the internet that have a direct or indirect relation to the topic of sex.
Many of you are probably creative enough to breech the subject well enough to gauge his opinion of porn without directly asking if he’s addicted.
When you do get serious make it a point that there is no marriage until he commits to quitting this habit if you find out he has one. Don’t give a timetable. If he asks how long he has to go without ask him how frequently he would like you to text out sexual pictures of yourself to “friends”, it’s just about the equivalent.
Man, don’t think that just because you get married your problems are going to go away. If anything marriage just magnifies your porn addiction. Just because you’re having sex does not mean your appetite for the drug of porn is going to go away. In fact it may even increase.
Men, don’t think that you can just quit for a couple of months and be rid of the urge. Eventually it is going to come back. You’ll have withdrawal. You will still have the desire and the urges for quite some time. They may not be as strong as they were in the midst of the addiction period but they will still be there. I recommend that you be very honest with your wife-to-be or your wife about your problem. Let her know that you really want to kill it and it is not more important to you than she is. Ask for her help and accountability while fighting your urges.
What is Porn?
Some define porn as anything depicting anyone (attractive) in a state of undress. This is a rather awful definition. Porn is porn in the eye of the beholder. Pretty much anything can and has been used as porn.
Inversely, many things that are commonly seen as porn may not be to all all who perceive it. So don’t automatically assume all men are lusting at Victoria’s Secret posters in the mall.
Don’t assume every artistic nude is an automatic turn-on. But also, don’t be naive and assume that just because a woman (or man) is covered up that she (or he) can’t be the object of lustful thoughts.
Who watches this smut?
People from all walks of life ingest pornography. It’s not just a teenage male problem. It’s not just a male problem. In fact, there is a fair amount of push in our culture to encourage women to watch it so they can somehow be equal to men. Women can now share their addiction with their husbands, because that’s healthy.
Pastors watch it. Your children’s teachers watch it. Young kids are watching it. Even older people are watching it. If there was ever a “everybody’s doing it” excuse, it certainly belongs to porn.
What makes it bad?
I won’t go through the litany again, but I will tell you the worst part of porn addiction is the numbness it produces in normal sexual interactions. In order to maintain healthy sex, porn addicts often have to resort to sex toys or fantasy. They no longer simply enjoy sex, they must do something more provocative to get off.
Perhaps with some of these things out of the way, next week’s posts will make more sense. Check back Wednesday for an unconventional porn fighting idea that you may not have heard of before.
This one word has many definitions, many connotations, and many reactions.
I will not start by telling you why it is evil.
I will not tell you that it give you a false sense of what sex is like, there is quite a bit of realistic porn out there. This is not your father’s unrealistic porn; this is often real people having real sex.
I will not tell you that it gives you a false impression of what women should look like, though it might, but again, this is not your father’s porn. Often these are real women, no photoshop or plastic surgery involved.
I will not tell you that porn is bad because you are lusting for women that are not your wife. It might be, but I dare say chances are you do not want that woman on your screen, you just want the pleasure that you are seeing portrayed on that screen. You covet the sex, probably not the women.
I will not tell you that porn makes you a violent lover or practice “unnatural acts” as a result of seeing it. Sex has been done in many ways for many millennia, porn is probably just capturing what is already out there.
I will not tell you that it’s degrading to women and the women in it are always victims of rape or sexual slavery. While that may be largely true, it is not completely honest. Some are; many are not.
Porn is a scourge on your life. While you think it is increasing your pleasure in life, it’s secretly in the back of your brain robbing you of your libido and desire for normal relationships. It stunts you sexually and makes you weak in the bedroom.
If you haven’t gotten hooked, don’t. If you have just dipped a toe in the waters, get out. Don’t let this refuse infuse into your mind.
If you are currently hooked on it, stop. Quit. Cold-turkey.
If you are a Christian, you are no longer slaves to sin. It’s this simple: you don’t have to. So much of our culture tells men they will. Culture tells men they have to, if they don’t it’s assumed there is something wrong with them. Maybe this is true for the unregenerate, but Christian, you don’t have to. You have a choice. You can stop.
Culture tries to tell us that “boys will be boys” and that men are nothing but insatiable animals unable to control baser instincts and that the must lust for the flesh of women or there is something wrong with them. This is the great lie of our day. Men are not mere animals. Men have minds and consciences and are able to make moral choices.
There are many options out there for men wanting to quit their addiction, from accountability software to men’s support groups. There is even a group called “NoFap” which has a secular spin.
I won’t recommend the “bounce your eyes” option. I don’t recommend you shame yourself (or your sons for that matter) about noticing attractive women. You will be faced with beautiful women your entire life. Avoiding them is simply not an option.
First, we have to stop confusing attraction with lust. There is something about attraction to women that makes many Christian men freak out. But attraction is not lust. Arousal itself isn’t even lust. Was Christ aroused by the thought of bread while fasting in the desert? I would venture a “yes” otherwise it could not very well have been called a “temptation”. Attraction and arousal may play into lust, but they are not themselves lust. Lust involves a coveting or strong desiring to have something that does not rightfully belong to us as our own.
When we lust after a woman, we are objectifying her and desiring to have her for our own pleasure. Attraction is an entirely different animal. Attraction to someone of the opposite sex is merely a natural reaction to the beauty and desirability of the opposite sex. We are made to find the opposite sex attractive.
Arousal happens. Attraction happens. Lust is a choice.
I love luxury cars. I can look at beautiful cars all day. I would love to have an Austen Martin DB9 in my driveway. One could say I am attracted to the lines and symmetry of this particular vehicle. I can imagine myself driving it. But am I coveting it? No. At the end of the day I do not want that car badly enough to steal it or kill for it. It’s just a nice thought. I can admire it from afar and not think, “I must have that!”
We can do the same thing for nice houses, or clothes, or any number of attractive things. Is the attraction to these things covetous? I don’t believe so. I can find these things attractive and even desirable without lusting for them. Lust involves the conscious choice to be overwhelmed with desire to the point that all I can think of is having the object of my lust at all costs.
As I said before, I do not think men lust for the women in porn as much as they lust for the passion and sensation of the sex itself. They may covet the exotic idea of sex with women who are not theirs, but I do not think deep down they actually want the woman. They want that passion so badly that they are willing to endanger their real sex lives in favor of the addiction to a fake one.
We need to teach men to properly channel sexual urges into their spouse or into productive endeavors. We need to also train them to see women as people, more than just their bodies, and not as sexual objects. While they should be taught it’s normal and good to admire the beauty of a woman as a part of God’s creation they should not be taught that those women are objects for their covetous desires.
We ought not focus so much on lust and telling men not to have contact with women lest they stumble. We ought to be teaching what Paul teaches in Timothy:
“I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.”
There are innumerable blogs out there telling women what they can and cannot wear “biblically” . Nearly all of these blogs are concerned primarily with the sexual signals a woman’s clothing conveys. If she uncovers too much, or shows too much shape, or uncovers the wrong part, it is assumed she is giving notice to men about her sexual availability.
The dress-code writers often use the word “modest” to describe a woman “properly” covered up. However, “modesty” in these verses has little if anything to do with sexuality.
“Modesty” in these verses is concerned with the outward expression of the inward condition of the heart. That is a mouthful but it essentially means one can be modest wearing anything or nothing or anything in between. Despite what the Christian sub-culture in the West has decided to call “modest”, there is not a spelled out dress code in scripture. The closest we can find are explicit dress requirements given to OT priests, but those are commonly understood to be ceremonial in nature and applied to the priests, not necessarily to the lay people and most certainly not to those in the New Testament.
Christians should be willing to dress according to who we are reaching. Christians should be “all things to all people” meaning that we should dress down for the poor, dress up for the rich, and overall dress according to the culture one is preaching to. If we adopt the clothing (and manners for that matter) of the culture we are evangelizing, it projects a loving attitude towards those we are hoping to reach with the Gospel. If we choose to ignore their culture it can display to them a lack of charity and love. We should not change our character or violate our personal consciences or Scriptural commands, but we are allowed to conform to the acceptable outward appearance and customs of other cultures to reach them (Timothy and circumcision).
Modesty and decency differs according to culture, where nudity or near-nudity is the norm both are “modest”. In a culture where it would be considered improper to expose a head or a thigh, it would be immodest and indecent to do so.
Does that mean we go naked to reach the naked? Isaiah went naked to make his point. Other prophets did so as well. It would not necessarily be wrong to do so. Is it required or recommended? No. We should only expose what our conscience allows.
In a less dressed culture, one should be willing to dress down as far as they feel comfortable in their own conscience, and in a more dressed culture one should be willing to dress up as much as they need to in order to prevent offense. If the culture you are reaching insists on head coverings and long sleeves, we should have no reservations about adopting both, no matter what our personal liberty allows.
What about make-up, jewelry, and shaving for women? In the 1 Timothy passage above, Paul specifically mentions hair and jewelry and seems to imply that women should have none of it.
Right or wrong, our culture values the appearance of “put togetherness”. Many women shave and wear makeup to feel “put together”. Many women will not leave the house without doing either. Culture has convinced them that to neglect either one is at worst a sign of rebellion against the good order of society, or at best an overt expression of slovenliness.
The male body is not nearly as critiqued as the female body. Men can get away with athletic wear or pajama pants where women are critiqued for it. Men can gain a beer belly and it is barely noticed. Men can also uncover more of their bodies and be socially acceptable.
Is it a lie for a woman to wear make-up or jewelry or to shave her body hair? Does it promote a false witness to others about who we really are? Again, as I said before, our outward appearance is an expression of the inward heart. If a woman feels beautiful inside I see nothing wrong with her expressing that beauty on the outside with the use of nice clothes, jewelry, or make up. The outward expression of her inward self can take many forms.
What does this say about the woman who does not do such things? It can tell us any number of things. Either she feels ugly and unkempt on the inside, or she feels that the normal cultural expressions of outward “beauty” are contrived and she can better demonstrate her inward condition through her smile or through her words or acts of kindness.
Sadly, because of feminism, many Christians would try to label her as a rebel against God. They assume she’s trying to push back against gender norms and trying to be male.
Maybe she is just a rebel against a godless culture which objectifies and over-emphasizes youth and sexuality in the female appearance.
Am I saying that all women who do such things are objectifying and over-emphasizing youth and sexuality in the female appearance? Not at all. They just value and prefer the culture’s preference for “put-togetherness” and do not want to give a false impression to others who may think by their appearance that they are internally wretched. They are presenting themselves externally to the world according to what they believe they are internally.
Many of us cover and hide our natural appearance with clothing and our scent with deodorant or perfume. Is this a lie? Or is it simply deference to culture? The culture should hate us for the Gospel, not for what we do or do not wear.
In 1 Timothy, Paul was writing to culture filled with pagan practice. Hairstyles and jewelry worn by the temple priestesses had no place in the Christian church. We ought to be careful to make sure our church clothing honors God and does not cause others to stumble back into their pagan roots. We ought also to project an appearance of humility in church. We do not want to offend the poor by showing off our wealth, nor do we want to draw attention to ourselves at the expense of the Worship of God.
We ought to be modest in more than simply clothing or adornment, we ought to be modest in our attitudes and treatment of others. Our clothing should reflect our inward person and project a love towards others that cannot be rightly opposed. Our appearance can be accurate in its description, or it can be a lie.
Be careful not to distort reality with your appearance.