"This is the biggest load of crap I've heard in a LONG time!"
The outburst above represents one of many responses to my latest article on Crosswalk.com's Singles channel. In just a few days, it's become the fourth-most-popular current article on their entire website.
Frankly, I'm surprised it's generated this much interest. Yes, I knew it's a touchy subject, and when I submitted it to my new editor at Crosswalk, I asked her to be blunt with me if it needed to be watered-down. Nevertheless, after reading it, she thought it was good-to-go as it was. But I've been caught off-guard by the affirmation of over 1,100 readers who agree with her. And me. Yet even moreso by the people who don't agree with us.
What is the topic, you ask? Here it is: "Why What Women Wear Matters."
Yes, that's right - a single fortysomething guy preaching the virtues of modest attire to women in the church. Not exactly the smartest thing I've ever done, and no, I'm not the only guy who's done it. I know people - both men and women - don't like to be told how to dress. And I know a lot of people think virtue is outdated, and, as at least two of my feedback writers have called it, "fundy."
"Fundy." Short for "fundamentalism," which some Christians use as a derogatory term. And in this case, I use
the term "Christians" loosely. Anyone who does not have a proper
understanding of what sin is and how much the Bible teaches about modesty will likely find little with which to agree
in my article. But with all due respect, that's not my fault.
Bear in mind, it's not like I talked to my Crosswalk audience like I talk to my readers here on this blog. Frankly, I realize my audience on one of the world's most prominent Christian webzines is broader and perhaps populated by more people who are less willing to read and analyze information than you, my dear blog visitor. A friend of mine who regularly reads my essays once told me my demographic is too small because I expect my readers to think, to which his good-natured wife bobbed her head and said, only half-jokingly, "that's why I rarely read it!"
Hey - I know some people only want entertainment when they go online. So for Crosswalk, and particularly this topic, I tried to explain in an inoffensive and careful tone what I believe to be the Biblical point of view about modesty, temptation, and sin.
Thankfully, what I wrote has hit the mark for many of my readers. Yet, to be honest, I also found some of the negative reader responses to this article weirdly entertaining.
Even if, at the same time, they are rather discouraging, if these people really believe Christ is their Savior.
Free Speech Doesn't Always Produce Truth
One rebuke that caught my eye came from a missionary to Eastern Europe who wrote, "if you're going to be really 'biblical' about this, it's not a man's place to address women on this subject in the first place, and definitely not from a pulpit or in a public forum." He used as his support the second chapter of Titus, which aside from failing to invalidate the other scriptural supports in my article, talks about older women teaching younger women about purity.
Of course, I'm not sure how this missionary would explain the verses in this same chapter saying men should teach the older women about modesty, and that Christian leaders should "encourage and rebuke with all authority." I'd be more likely to take this reader's rebuke if he had relevant Biblical proof texts with which to back it up.
In several feedback comments, one woman from Washington state insisted, "sorry, not responsible for your sin or your stumble... Men need to take ownership of their own sin. That's like blaming a rape victim..." and "as a person of faith, if I am wrong, God will convict me of it, and until then you and the author cannot convince me of it."
Actually, I wondered if any of my readers would bring up the rape card. My personal philosophy on dressing to seduce and then being victimized when it goes wrong is, "if you're not in business, don't advertise." Pardon my bluntness, but if you dress a certain way in public, how do you expect the public to react? I realize this is a harsh, male-centric response, but sometimes, actions and attitudes have bad consequences. I'm not invalidating the responsibility we males have of keeping our own thoughts, actions, and motivations pure. Nor am I saying that every victim of rape asked for it by the way she dressed. Sex crimes are abhorrent, but sometimes it seems our society wants to have its cake and eat it, too. Maybe that should work in a perfect world, but in this one, the way some women dress can go a long (or short) way of explaining - yet still not justifying - why certain crimes happen.
And as far as trying to "convince" this reader to change her attitude, I'm under no grand illusions that anything I write or for which I advocate can, in and of itself, prompt a change of heart in other people. I'm fully aware that the Holy Spirit alone can point hearts and minds to Truth. However, anybody who refuses to let the Holy Spirit guide their decisions even at the prompting of Biblically-based articles like mine probably won't welcome the opportunity to grow in faith and sanctification. Not that my article is any great treatise on spirituality. But why is this woman even bothering to read anything on Crosswalk if she's not open to learning more about her Savior and how she can honor Him?
Then there's the dismissive man who identifies himself as a salesman from Kohl's who scoffed, "a mix of legalism, fundamental attitude of blame women and nonsense. How fundy."
Ahh, yes, the easy way out of letting truth change one's self. Accusing it of something you like to think makes it inapplicable to you. It's popular in some quarters to brand everything we don't like in the Bible as "fundamentalist," since that term is considered akin to being legalistic. Meanwhile, careful readers of my article will note that I took great pains to not prescribe any particular fashion, lengths, or materials, because I'm not interested in rules. I'm merely trying to remind my sisters in Christ that some fashions work better for our sanctification process than others.
Speaking of the anti-fundy folks, my Kohl's scoffer was followed by a Canadian young woman who wrote, "'women causing us to lust'... uhhhhh that's where all you guys have had the misfortune of being [here she used vulgar language, so I'm changing what she said to simply "taught"] by fundy preachers. My husband did not grow up fundy and no woman no matter how she is dressed is causing him to lust. He couldn't believe that 'men' actually try to blame women for impure thoughts."
Young lady, let me congratulate you for being the only woman in the history of the world to find a man who doesn't lust. Wow. First the vulgarity, then the "fundy" slam, and now claims of a miracle. Please forgive me for not taking your comments with even a grain of seriousness.
They do sadden me for your sake, however.
Inevitably, a couple of feedback writers tried to compare what I wrote to something a Muslim might teach, since most Muslim women are expected to not appear in public unless they're covered from head to toe. The people who wrote these comments don't seem to be regular readers of Crosswalk, or even professing Christians, so actually, I'm glad they visited the site, even if they felt the need to be confrontational. I'm aware that several tweets were sent out by people with their own anti-Christian agenda, hoping to ridicule my content and foment similar discord among their Twitter followers. I hope these folks left Crosswalk's website being even slightly uncomfortable with what they currently believe, even if they mask it with shallow condescension.
Where's the Love?
It seems to me that at least some of the women who took strong offense at my article are women who, judging purely by their photo in context with their comments, may have been able to parlay their physical appearance for their own personal gain. They're women who maybe have figured out how to use their looks and wiles to manipulate men. Yes, I realize this is a completely subjective assessment on my part, and loaded with pejorative assumptions and crass overgeneralizations. But viewing men as simply entities with which to be toyed, or barriers to be overcome, or objects to be acquired, or pawns to be exploited would be an easy way to explain the fact that these women obviously care very little about men, their brothers in Christ, and how we should all be helping each other. Shrugging one's spiritual shoulders and saying we're each responsible for our own sin is not a Biblically-defensible attitude. It's selfishness, arrogance, pride, and probably even anger at having something pointed out to you that you know, deep down, is something you're not handling properly. It's certainly not out of love for your fellow believers that you defend behavior of yours that causes others to stumble.
One young woman brought up the sin of gluttony, and tried to hypothesize that following the logic of my article, she should stop eating in front of people who struggle with overeating. Actually, if we know that a fellow believer in Christ struggles with overeating, shouldn't we, in fact, take care to accommodate that person if and when we eat together? If you love that fellow saint, you'll allow the Holy Spirit to compel you towards actions which place the needs of others above your own.
Still, unlike sex, food is something we all need to survive, and it's rarely the mere sight of food that causes one to overeat. Lust for immoral sex is neither provoked by nor manifested in the same ways gluttons lust for foods that are bad for them. Think about it: sexually impure thoughts are always sin, but can one lust after carrots? If we entice gluttons to intentionally eat food we know is not good for their physical well being, then yes, we sin. But just eating in front of a glutton isn't the same as women wearing skimpy outfits. Unless, of course, the glutton also has some sexual fetish with food, but at this point, we're really wandering into the realm of bizarre behavior.
Speaking of bizarre, Christ teaches us that if our eye offends us - in other words, if we're tempted to sin by something we see - we're to "pluck it out." Ouch. That's what we men are trying to avoid here, ladies. So if you really don't care if your menfolk end up wandering about blind, then you'll help us out. It's the same with eating: the Apostle Paul says that if his eating meat causes a brother in Christ to sin, he would "never eat meat again." Maybe that's a bit of hyperbole on his part, but the point is clear: we're not to do things that help to cause other brothers and sisters to stumble in their faith.
So for all you dear ones who had a fit after reading my article on prudence, piety, and propriety regarding clothing, don't get mad at me because what I wrote is true.
Please take everything you don't like about it and compare it to God's holy Word. Don't rely on opinions or pop theology or pop culture to decipher the truth. Actually, I'm glad a lot of people have lashed out and expressed their displeasure at what I wrote, even if maybe they didn't read it completely or accurately. At least maybe if they simmer over this article long enough, they may begin to think about its contents.
And if this really is the biggest load of you-know-what that you've heard in a long time, you need to start attending a Bible-believing church.