Charisma News recently ran an article entitled When Christian Celebrities Dress Like Porn Stars, chatting up new examples in the modesty debate that seems to rear its head every couple of weeks in the evangelical online community. This time the target for the modesty police is Erica Campbell (of gospel duo Mary Mary), who is under fire for wearing a very form-fitting dress in cover photographs for her upcoming solo album.
A few worthy discussion points are brought up by the article.
What role does body type play in the modesty issue?
Many outspoken modesty advocates seem very cut and dry: some outfits are either modest or immodest, no matter your shape and size. But curvier women in the Christian community, like Campbell, know that they are much more likely to be scrutinized, picked on, or criticized for their outfit choices. Not because they are wearing more scandalous outfits than their thinner sisters, but simply because they have more to look at (no matter how well it’s covered up).
Fair or unfair, it’s a daily struggle of the Christian woman. iBelieve contributor Laura Rennie suggests, “The real trick to being modest and fashionable isn’t simply to find high necked tops or long skirts—it’s finding clothes that fit your body properly.”
Are certain body parts inherently sinful to display in public?
Much gets lost in modesty discussions, and a big one is culture. Biblically, the word “modesty” implies appropriateness, humility, and reverence - that we shouldn’t dress to call undue attention to ourselves (1 Timothy 2:8-10). But different cultures and people groups around the world have different definitions of what that means. In Paul’s day, it meant braided hair, gold, pearls, and expensive clothes. In Amish and old order Mennonite communities, it means zippers, buttons, and patterned fabrics.
Over at the blog Ramblings of an Undercover TCK (Third Culture Kid), Danica Newton tells a story of growing up in an island culture where it was totally accepted for a girl or woman to be topless, but it was considered indecent to display her knees, “especially at church.”
All these examples, I think, should remind us that even as we seek to dress appropriately and modestly according to our own cultural standards, we must remain humble enough to recognize that universal standards of clothing-appropriateness are truly nonexistent.
Sometimes the modesty debates (and surrounding issues) leave women feeling ashamed or nervous about their bodies – even to the point where sexual intimacy with their husbands is difficult or painful. April Motl’s article, When You're Uncomfortable in Your Own Skin encourages women struggling with body image issues to pray over the following thoughts:
“If you can have a discussion about your worries, try talking to your husband about them. Every time I’ve ever let my husband in on the doubt-filled internal dialogue that goes on in my head, he has sweetly wiped away those anxieties. They aren’t part of the picture for him, so they shouldn’t dominate the picture for me.
Make sure your identity is rooted in how God sees you, not just the mirror or any of the other host of “definers” we allow into our lives…
Pray before you make love to your husband. Ask the Lord to show you how He designed intimacy to be. Invite His truth into your heart and into your love making.
Pray for the Lord to use your intimacy to fulfill His purposes. Proverbs 5 lays out some pretty racy language about husbands being satisfied with their wife’s body. Since praying Scripture draws our requests closer to God’s intention for us, I’m a firm believer in praying Scripture over every part of my life, including intimacy. So pray those verses over your interludes."
“Now that I think about it, I’m sorry doesn’t seem to cut it. But I’m going to try. I’m going to finally say everything I should have said long ago.
I’m sorry I’ve treated you like a burden, instead of a gift.
I’m sorry I’ve verbalized every single flaw, instead of finding joy in all of your perfection.
I’m sorry I’ve compared you to every woman I’ve seen, instead of making sure you knew you were loved.
I’m sorry for never thinking you were good enough.”
So, what do you think? How do we balance modesty as a heart issue AND body issue? How do we learn to dress appropriately without shaming ourselves, or shaming our sisters, for the beautiful bodies God gave us? Write your thoughts below!
Editor's Note: This blog has been edited from the original to ensure that the opinion of the author of "When Christian Celebrities Dress Like Porn Stars" not be misconstrued.
Debbie Holloway is the Family Life Editor for Crosswalk.com
Publication date: December 18, 2013