Do You Have Modesty Police in Your Church?
Before we came to the church, our family had general guidelines on modesty. It wasn’t a big deal. There were no rules, but I shared with my daughters to generally try to wear clothes that didn’t draw attention to female body parts or cause distraction. I tried to show them clothes that exemplified beauty. It wasn’t set down as rules,but was discussed as we experienced life, while shopping and trying on new clothes, maybe while watching something on television, or perhaps watching a situation where a young lady is dressed provocatively and we can see how others look at her, or rather her body parts instead of looking at “her”, etc. This worked well for us then.
God gave us His word for guidelines. His Holy Spirit works in us as we read His word. Here’s one such verse that talks about modesty – – – wait, I just checked – it doesn’t say modesty. It’s talking about holy living. Imagine it, God doesn’t need to spell it all out in detailed fashion, but let’s the Holy Spirit work in us:
So think clearly and exercise self-control. Look forward to the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:13-16
What does holy dress look like? We don’t have it clearly spelled out before us, but we know that God wants us to be holy. Is God breathing and living through His word in our lives? If so, then I believe He is able to speak to us and guide us.
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
At our former church, we were instructed to stay away from public swim areas and places where people were dressed immodestly. I wondered how we would have dealt with that issue if we had those same rules while living in Virginia Beach where we lived years ago. I thought back to that time. Because Virginia Beach is a touristy beach town, it is normal for people to be wearing beach attire as they walked in town and shopped. By beach attire, I am referring to cut-offs and bikini tops, etc. We dressed in shorts, sleeveless shirts, etc, (no bikini tops for this mama). I don’t think this kind of pastor or church would have been able to co-exist in that town.
From the pulpit, men/boys were instructed to look the other way if they saw a woman jogging on the sidewalk or side of the street. This was brought up a number of times. I did not like the results I saw in my family and others. It almost became a game to look for female joggers so they could quickly look away and act holy.
Another rule was about swimming. There was to be no mixed gender swimming – unless they were very young children. The Smith family disobeyed this rule. We go to a Christian family camp each year at a lake and we had been going for several years before attending this church. I remember the first year we went to camp after attending this church and tried to imagine if we obeyed all of these new rules, what it would be like for our family at this amazing lake camp. I remember struggling with this modesty issue while there at camp, knowing that our pastor would be greatly displeased knowing that the Smith family was participating in co-ed swimming with their parents’ approval. We didn’t discuss this obvious conflict with the kids, we just did what we had been doing for the previous years – we swam and had a great time. The camp has their own basic dress code, such as no bikinis and they preferred one-piece suits for ladies. It had always worked for us.
However, in the church environment and out of the church environment, we became Modesty Police. If we saw sexually explicit magazines in the grocery aisle checkout line, we turned those magazines over so that people couldn’t see the front cover. Our children were trained to be on the lookout for inappropriately dressed people whenever we watched shows on tv or movies. If something inappropriate showed up on the screen, someone immediately got up and turned the channel or fast forwarded the scene. If we saw inappropriately dressed people in smaller confines, ie, Baskin Robbins, it would be safer to wait outside until those people left before entering the store. Those are the kinds of things we did in order to avoid immodesty in the world around us and “protect” our children.
I wonder how many of us remember taking our boys to the mall or strolling through department store’s lingerie section or walking past Victoria Secret. How many moms covered our boys’ eyes so they wouldn’t see the mannequins in their sexy bras and thong panties. How many of you former BGBC members just cringed reading this? Did Julie Anne really type “sexy bras” and “thongs”? Yes, I did – lol! I might be pushing that comfort line for some of you. I wonder how our boys felt when we physically covered their eyes with our hands? Did they find it embarrassing to have their mother’s hands across their eyes in front of pure strangers?
Modesty was a bid deal at church. On one occasion, a young lady came to the church during a time we were having Praise and Worship practice. This was after hours on a Saturday. The pastor answered answered the door, but quickly excused himself and got a woman from the Praise and Worship team to talk with her because he claimed she was dressed immodestly I wonder how she would have felt knowing the pastor did not talk to her because she was not dressed properly? I now wonder what the lady from the Praise and Worship team told her as to why the pastor didn’t want to talk to her.Is this not sending the message: “I can’t talk to you because your outward appearance does not measure up to my Christian dress code standards?” Ouch!
Try to imagine why a stranger might come to the door of a church? Perhaps she was someone in dire need of help – maybe a financial situation, perhaps emotional or maybe she just someone to talk to. If someone got the impression that they wouldn’t be accepted because of their attire – I wonder how that would make them feel loved and welcomed?
One year a very new Christian came to the church camp in WA.This sweet young Christian was cognizant of the church’s modesty issues and asked her friends if what she was wearing was appropriate for the camp out. Her friends told her she was fine. When she got to camp, she was given an obvious stare down by a prominent woman in the church. She was puzzled. Eventually, she went up to the woman asking if there was something wrong with the way she was dressed. The woman told her she was dressed very immodestly. This was the same outfit that her other friends had said was fine.Imagine the shame and guilt this young Christian felt at being scorned for dressing “immodestly”. There are many, many more stories like this of Modesty Police issuing verbal scornful citations to church members. You get the idea.
. . . . to be continued