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Two Views

September 24, 2015

Earlier today I read an internet article entitled The Bikini is Destroying the Christian Girl’s View of Modesty.  It is a passionate appeal from someone in the “purity culture” of evangelicalism to her sisters on the urgency of modest dress.  I wasn’t sure I agreed with all she said but did not feel it was my place to comment on it.

But then, a few hours later, I read this article written by another woman who grew up in the purity culture that was truly heartbreaking.  It is a frank tale of the pain she experienced in that culture and how it has haunted her into adulthood.

Some thoughts on these two articles are rattling around in my head so I thought I might just list them.

  • There are a great many Christians who are deeply concerned with the increasingly sexualized parts of our culture.  They are probably right to be concerned.
  • That concern, as it manifests itself in the purity movement, causes great stress on untold numbers of girls trying to live up to standards that they are being told are urgent.
  • The purity movement is as dangerously obsessed with sex as the most extreme factions of our secular culture.
  • The purity movement has equated modesty with sexual modesty. The Bible does not do this.  I Peter 3, for example, speaks more to what might be called economic modesty; not flaunting costly attire.
  • Modest attire as espoused by the purity movement seems more like a 1950s norm than anything that might be called “biblical attire.” Take the bathing suit.  Does the writer want us to go back to just before the bikini?  Or back to the full-body suits of 1900? Or where?  Perhaps this study of the history of bathing suits might be a guide.

As I learned on the mission field, the definition of modest dress varies greatly from culture to culture, to say nothing of over time.  To pick one definition of modest dress and call it right, or worse yet biblical, is sure to be anxiety-causing for women who must comply; knowing they will be judged.

Culturally modest attire is something that all women and men must decide for themselves.  Parents are right to assist their children in this area.  But as we do, we need to remember these wise words from Corrie ten Boom, a modest dresser if there ever was one.

“Most people thing that God’s final word on modest dress is what was popular when they were young and that everything since then has come straight from the Devil.”

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