Legalism, Modesty and Purity Teachings, Parenting

Enough Already with the Modesty & Purity Hype

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The other day 18-yr old daughter posted this picture on my Facebook with the comment, “What I tell you every time.”

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It cracked me up. But what was interesting to me was noticing the large amount of Facebook friends, also former homeschool kids, who were clicking the “like” button. It was as if they were saying, “Yea, what she said!” I loved some of the exchange in the comments.

Our good friend who acts like our adopted son, who opens our front door without knocking, and raids our fridge commented:

Was he a beautiful black man like myself?

His comment got a few likes. I laughed. My 23-yr old son replied:

Yet when guys do that it’s looked down upon…sinful…creeper status…et cetera. Oh the irony.

Ouch! I think he’s right. There does seem to be a distinction that it’s semi-okay for girls to look at guys, but not the other way around.

Several years ago in 2007, there was a modesty survey put out by homeschoolers, Brett and Alex Harris (Brett and Alex’s dad is Gregg Harris’ son, homeschooling pioneer and ther older brother is Pastor Josh Harris, of Covenant Life Church in MD).

Here’s an excerpt from the survey page:

The Modesty Survey is an exciting, anonymous discussion between Christian guys and girls who care about modesty. Hundreds of Christian girls contributed to the 148-question survey and over 1,600 Christian guys submitted 150,000+ answers, including 25,000 text responses, over a 20-day period in January 2007. For more information, click here.

It has been endorsed by Shaunti Feldhahn (best-selling author of For Women Only), Nancy Leigh DeMoss (author,Revive Our Hearts radio host), Albert Mohler (The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary), Shannon Ethridge (best-selling author of Every Woman’s Battle series), and C.J. Mahaney (Sovereign Grace Ministries). is the home of Alex and Brett Harris and online headquarters for the Rebelution, defined as “a teenage rebellion against low expectations.”

This survey started out in homeschool circles and quickly spread throughout young teens and adults in Christiandom all over the internet, denominations, states, and even the world. I believe the modesty survey was well-intentioned, but the results have not been all positive. Instead, we have discovered a host of other issues that lie beneath the church’s sometimes over-emphasis on modesty and purity.

In the aftermath of the modesty survey, some young men policed the clothing of their female friends and graded the way she dressed by a modesty scale in their head. The way she dressed became a distraction, interfering with relationships. Young ladies were told that they might cause a man to stumble by the way she dressed and this created a lot of pain for young ladies who were burdened with a responsibility they really had no business carrying. And then we had the issue of what to do with young ladies who had curvy figures and no matter what clothes were worn, the curves could not be hidden. Some young ladies resorted to changing eating habits which led to eating disorders to lose weight in order to minimize those curves. Didn’t God create those beautiful curves? Wow, this modesty thing was now crossing the lines into intentionally altering one’s appearance because of not passing a “modesty” scale.

I don’t want to get into all of the problems that came out of this survey because it is very easy to do a Google search and you could spend days reading blog articles and sometimes hundreds of comments on particular popular articles. I really was hoping that after 6 years and hundreds of articles that this subject would die down.

Wouldn’t you know it, the same authors of the infamous modesty survey at the Rebelution blog just last week published a new article: The Other Side of Modesty, this time dealing with guys and how they dress. Really? Do we need to go there? I suppose maybe the young ladies might appreciate a little pushback or balance from their sisters in Christ, but come on. Can we be done with this already?

At our former church, there was almost an obsession on modesty and the topic of sexual immorality came up quite a bit. This was a common verse we heard and probably most of us have it memorized just because we heard it so often:

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:27-28

I think sometimes we confuse looking with lusting. And that is important to note.

I have a funny story from several years ago. Now, this is “my” version because my young adult kids have a slightly different version. But until they have their own blogs, you get to read my version 🙂

Hear no Evil, See no Evil, Speak no Evil monkeys I found in Hannah’s bathroom this morning. Perfect! 🙂

My daughter, Hannah, was probably around 19 yrs old or so and driving with her learner’s permit, so I was in the passenger seat, and my other daughter who was around 12 years old was in the back seat. A police officer pulled us over because of a burned out brake light. Let me be straight up. The police officer was a fine-looking human being and while my kids were used to hearing from the pulpit about how evil and lustful our eyes are, after the police officer went back to his patrol car, I said aloud to my daughters that I wouldn’t mind being pulled over again by that officer. If I remember correctly, there was a pause and then some surprised laughter coming from the girls. Their mother, a married woman said that? They were not expecting that comment from me and frankly, I don’t know if I was expecting that comment to slip out, either. Oh well, it came out loud and clear.

Did I cross the line? Some might think so. I don’t agree. You see, there seems to be a fuzzy line that brings confusion and can start to border on legalism, if not into full-fledge legalism. We were created in God’s image. God saw that what He created was good. At that moment, when I noticed that cop, and acknowledged what God had created was good and called it as such, some people have a problem with that because they think of verses like this:

“But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:28

Was I looking at this guy with lust? No! He was just nice looking guy. Don’t you think everyone from teens all the way through adulthood know when we are looking at someone with lust? Everybody knows what that feels like — you know – – those feelings we get in our body, the places our mind goes. It’s a no-brainer. My brain did none of those things when I looked at that fine specimen.

I have read of men being physically attracted to women dressed in full Muslim attire with burqa and head coverings. Isn’t that something? We need to realize that women and men, no matter how they dress, will be eye candy for someone. We’ve got two issues going on and I think if we look at these two issues in a non-legalistic way, we can find some helpful guidelines.

  • Looking is not the same as lusting. It’s okay to appreciate God’s creation. The key is to do it without lusting. We all know when we have crossed that line. It does not take a rocket scientist to tell us those signs that are happening in our body. If you happened to cross that line, acknowledge it, ask God to forgive you, and move on knowing that His grace is sufficient for you and me.
  • Dress modestly. I think most of us can figure out what that means and I also think that as we mature in Christ, the boundary lines may change from time to time. We all know when we are dressing with the intent to attract the opposite sex and we all know what it’s like to dress when we are going to see grandma and grandpa. This is pretty simple. We can figure this out.

As a homeschooling mom of 20+ years, I fell into the modesty/purity hype and created all sorts of rules for my kids. I regret that it had negative consequences in my family. I’ve stopped obsessing about hemlines, etc. When I stopped obsessing about my boys walking past Victoria’s Secret at the mall and turning the television channel when we saw a young lady wearing a bikini on television, amazingly, my children stopped obsessing.

So, in conclusion, I hope we can learn to treat one another with love and grace on this topic  . . . . and appreciate God’s creation 🙂

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109 thoughts on “Enough Already with the Modesty & Purity Hype”

  1. ….as opposed to being a professing Christiian national leader (Haggard) and crusading very publically against the very thing you practice in secret.

    That’s a form of self-treatment and self-medication, like the old joke about psychiatrists becoming psychiatrists so they can self-treat their own craziness without anyone knowing. Like Rush Limbaugh, Number-One Fan of the War on Drugs while battling a secret Oxycontin addiction. Like recovering alcoholic Billy Sunday constantly preaching against Demon Rum.

    Like Limbaugh, Haggard was a CELEBRITY and CELEBRITIES Have To Be Superhumanly Perfect In Every Way, Totally Without Flaw. Especially when “God Saith!” ramps everything up to Cosmic-level Importance. A CELEBRITY preacher with a problem doesn’t dare go public; instead, he will attempt to self-treat in secret. That’s how I read what happened to Haggard.


  2. Male modesty? Really? Their female modesty survey can be summed up in a word: Misogyny. Its message was as follows: you’re a stumbling block for men just because you’re a woman, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

    Except put on that burqa and never go out in public.


  3. I’m convinced that these folks that are always harping about sexual purity and modesty are the biggest pervs around. When a man is constantly mentioning how women dress, he is the one undressing them in his mind and perhaps stopping off at Victoria Secret for a quick peek and some new underwear for his softer side.

    Again, recovering alcoholic Billy Sunday preaching against Demon Rum and nothing else; Rush Limbaugh cheering on the War on Drugs while battling a secret Oxycontin addiction; Ted Haggard trying to become the next Fred Phelps before getting caught with a male prostie. All trying to self-treat in secret by denouncing in others what was wrong with themselves.


  4. I know this comment may not be well received.
    I think we need to slow down a bit and reconsider what does it mean when you want to go back to get “a second look” at an attractive person or to be waited on by them again, or to entice someone to sexualize or objectify you, or you them. When engaged in this activity, out of the mouth speaks the heart. And if you are keeping mum on this while doing this, you know darn well, it has nothing to do with respect and loving them as Christ does.
    Some would excuse this away by saying that God made beautiful things to look at—-really, is that what you are doing? Do you really think you need to have some hormonal triggering going on to tell you that you have gone too far? The brain is the largest sex organ in the human body and the hormones don’t need to be working in order to get a hit of pleasure from the lust that your heart just unleashed. People, there is a rush of what is called PEA that is a neurotransmitter that washes over the pleasure zone in your brain. A quadriplegic is even able to gain sexual release by just gazing, or glancing at someone they find attractive. This is why Jesus told us that when we look at a person with lust, it is the same thing as “going” there with another who is not yours to have. People really don’t stop to think about why these things are not good to do—and if anyone such as myself calls foul—then the “legalism” card is played.
    I would like to offer the following article by Charles Spurgeon to hopefully shed more light on this topic and that which many would kick up their heels in order to do what we have been told not to do—-and for good reason.


  5. Uriahisaliveandwell: I think the key phrase in your comment is the quoted part “a second look.” I do not believe for a moment that all first looks would cause someone to lust. Second looks, however, can be a different story.


  6. uriahisaliveandwell,
    Your comment is well received, as well as the Spurgeon sermon. There’s a fellow that frequents this blog that often uses the phrase “LAW OR NO LAW” who would benefit greatly from Spurgeon. I would add for JA’s edification, James 1:14 and words spoken to believers:

    “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire (lust). Parens mine.

    The looking doesn’t ’cause’ lust (desires), we come already equipped.


  7. B4B said:

    The looking doesn’t ’cause’ lust (desires), we come already equipped.

    Great news, B4B! I will continue enjoying (not lusting) at the eye candy – God’s beautiful creation. 🙂


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