Sexless in the City

Sometimes reading romance novels doesn’t quite prepare you for a love life...

For this 30-year-old urbanite, love is always a misadventure: The Harvard Lickwit, Hippie the Groper, the 5% Man, and the Ad Weasel. These and many other men wander in and out of her life — but never her bed.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Immodesty in church?

Rhett Smith has a couple fascinating posts on his blog this week: Showing Skin at Church and Showing Skin Continued. Basically, these posts discuss the issue of dress in church and whether there should be a difference between our attire in sacred spaces and the rest of the contexts we interact in. Before you get up on any “here’s more sexism” high horse, read the posts to hear what he’s saying. Some interesting points from several people.Personally, one of the biggest things that comes to mind from reading these two posts is, once you get past the blame game and deciding who bears responsibility, how do you go about changing things?

It seems to me, part of the problem is more of a cultural/generational one. In the last couple decades, many churches seem to have adopted such a “seeker-friendly,” church-as-entertainment mindset that there’s almost no sense of reverence in our attitude and attire. How many of us who worship on a regular basis put as much time and attention toward our appearance at church as we do for a date, presentation or job interview?

I remember once talking with a relative who doesn’t normally go to church about how much we had both appreciated a visit to a more formal, traditional service. After all, we weren’t going to church because it was just like every other program or ritual available to us; we were going because it offered something unique. Just as you behave differently at a museum or a symphony, the sense of reverence that church service modeled seemed appropriate to the service.

I’m not trying to make a case for instituting a dress code or moving away from jeans-wearing … but if offices and some schools have no problem doing so, why should church be any more casual? Besides, if the challenge of dealing with immodesty is that it tends to wind up pitting one sex against the other, a move toward slightly more reverent attire asks change of all of us.

Coming back to my question of addressing the problem of overly sexy dress, then, I would make a few general recommendations.

For men troubled by revealing attire

  1. Examine your own dress habits to see if there’s anything you can do to show more honor for God in your own dress.
  2. Pray for the women of the church, that God would help them find their identity less in their bodies and sexuality, more in being God’s beloved daughters.
  3. Look at your own interactions and relationships with women to see if you’re giving more attention to their sexuality (which can happen with praise, gaze and criticism/correction) than other aspects of their personality.
For women troubled by or dealing with revealing attire

  1. Build rapport with and pray for women who seem to be dressing more provocatively before you even consider saying something about their dress. Correction and criticism are best received in the context of a loving relationship and, in fact, that very relationship may help meet the needs driving the tendency to wear revealing clothes.
  2. Examine your own dress habits to see if there’s anything you can do to show more honor for God in your own dress. I know from experience how scary it can be to dress more modestly, when you don’t feel very attractive or able to get the male attention you long for without accentuating physical assets. But in my experience, whenever I’ve tried to trust God with this, He has always honored my obedience (see chapters 2 and 12 in Sexless for more on this).
  3. If you feel that you really need to say something to another woman, do so very prayerfully and remember the admonition to correct with gentleness. If there’s ever a verse I haven’t heard preached on that needs to be, it’s probably Galatians 6:1. Remember that the goal should not be to shame another or protect your own “purity” from their impurity, but to help others grow toward becoming the people God created us to be. When correction affirmation is balanced with loving affirmation that makes clear your feedback is not an attack on the person, it has a chance of doing real good. Ultimately, though, only God can change people’s hearts and mend our broken sense of identity. In that, He probably needs our words of correction for others far less than we think, and our prayers for them far more.

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