Eugene Cho

say no to crack

This is an awkward post about breasts, buttcracks, beauty, lust, and the Christian response.  Let me share two posts that I read last week that provoked some thought.  The first post, “My Thoughts on Boobies,” is from Anne Jackson at FlowerDust exhorting Christian women to dress modestly and the second, “Is This All Men Think About?” is from Pete Wilson at Without Wax [a pastor in Nashville].

At Quest, there’s been a few Sundays where I’ve had to ask one of our female pastors to ask a female congregant or two to lower their shirts because it ain’t pretty to see crack anytime or anywhere but especially as you’re trying to worship Jesus.  But…that’s just me.  Say no to crack.

QUESTIONS: What do you think about what was written by these two Christian bloggers?  As a Christian woman, what is her responsibility in dressing modestly?  What is a Christian dude’s responsibility?  During these conversations, why does the attention seem to fall more heavily on how the woman and how she dresses?  What does modestly look like for a guy?  Why did the Fall have to happen?  We could all be naked now and no one would care but that would seriously suck for Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic, and every other clothing retailers.

MY SIMPLE TAKE:  We’re all responsible for our own selves but we can’t dismiss that [Christian] men and women are called to mutuality, partnership, community, and fellowship.  Simply, we don’t live on an island to ourselves.   

Here’s the post, “My Thoughts on Boobies.”

did you know?

–there is a female feature we call breasts. they can also be referred to as “boobies,” or “the twins,” or “the rack,” or “jugs,” so on, so forth.

–most men find this particular feature interesting. tempting. and amazing.

–upon catching a glimpse of said feature (regardless of how much is actually exposed), it is likely for a man’s mind to go to places it shouldn’t.

–with above knowledge, women, you now are educated and have no excuse.

–PLEASE USE WISDOM WHEN YOU DRESS YOURSELF.

aside: call me a prude. call me whatever. i don’t really care. and as much as this may seem like “casting judgment” (said in a very, scary, echo-y loud voice) on members of the female gender, please get a freaking clue.

i was doing some bloggy-clicking-around during my lunch and it amazes me how many “nice christian girls” (some who are even in church leadership – gasp!) show quite a bit of skin. in the office, at church parties, whatever (oh, and then post them ALL OVER THE INTERNET!)

please forgive me if it seems i have something stuck, as they say, where the sun don’t shine.

I DO.

it’s called modesty.

and if you are supposed to be living examples of godly women…you should too!

And here’s Pete’s post entitled, “Is This All Men Think About?”:

I guess it would be an understatement to say men tend to think about sex more than women. But, I also think it’s an overstatement to say it’s all men think about.

My friend, Anne Jackson wrote a post on her blog last week entitled “My Thoughts On Boobies” which got quite a bit of discussion going around the blogosphere. I must admit that I have been thinking about it a lot since last week (the post, not boobies).

Anne’s challenge was an important one. She was simply saying women should be mindful of what they wear knowing that men are so visually stimulated. My question is this: What responsibility do the men own in all of this? Surely guys we can’t play the “We just can’t help it.” card or the “That’s the way God designed us.” card. Or my favorite lame excuse, “You can look at the menu, you just can’t order.”

So here are my thoughts to get us started. I believe it is true…

1) A man will always notice an attractive woman.

2) After noticing, a man has a choice. He can either choose to continue to “notice” the attractive woman which will lead to fantasy or he can choose to avert his mind and his eyes to something else (often referred to as bouncing).

Filed under: church, health, religion

53 Responses

  1. Danny says:

    I don’t have much to add except to say I couldn’t stop laughing after I figured out what your title was alluding to. I first thought you were going to give a rant about drugs. :)

  2. David says:

    Here is my brutally honest take…

    If I fantasize about a woman it doesn’t matter what they are wearing because it won’t exist in my mind, so skin doesn’t have to be exposed. Lust doesn’t care what a woman is wearing. But, that doesn’t mean a little flesh doesn’t aid in putting me on the train to adultery-ville, (silly sermon on the mount). In that case I am still the sinner and the women is still the victim as I have reduced her to here sexual component(s).

    As far as what women should do about this… It is true that the more flesh you show the more likely you are to help my mind go where it shouldn’t, especially if that flesh is above the knees and below the arm pits, so keep that in mind when you dress. To my Christian sisters I would also say if you see a man, especially a brother whose eyes are wandering into the danger zone gently confront him and let him know he us making you uncomfortable. This mild embarrassment helps a man out of a tough spot.

    At the end of the day the onus is on the men to look at women through the eyes of Christ. That also doesn’t mean Christ was asexual either, he was a man with all the equipment and hormones that go with it, but he looked beyond skin into the complex individuality of the women he loved, and loved to kiss probably.

  3. Jennifer says:

    It is wayyyyy to easy to turn “women should dress modestly” into “if women dont dress modestly, it will cause men to sin”.

    Men are responsbible for their own eyes, and their own issues.

    I remember as a teenager that all the girls in youth group were told to swim with a dark colored t-shirt covering their already modest swimsuits so the boys would have an easier time. I think there are any number of small things like this that teach the really strange message that women should be the gatekeepers of sexuality. It seems like this can allow men to be lazy and get away with whatever they can, instead of grow up and take responsibility for their own issue.

    This doenst mean women shouldnt be taught modesty, they should…but it should be so that they are respecting themselves and honoring the Lord, not because they are responsible for their brothers sin.

  4. tony says:

    jennifer – and that’s how porn was born

    did you know that women porn stars get paid up to 10 times waht a man porn star star does per shoot?

    just sayin’

  5. clickdev says:

    Women are, by nature, evil evil sinners. Look at the facts, in the past they have not only flagrantly eaten apples against their master’s will, but also have been known to participate in such unholy acts as using sugar to sweeten jams and even participating in the eating of those jams with other men and women, sometimes not even of their own congregation. Just the other day I saw not one but two women who ordered coffee without checking their Weight Watchers intake cards for the day. Now, this would be fine if they were child-bearing women as, due to the nature of them being married and in the process of spreading the good Word by bearing God fruit, they should be plump and solid of tissue in order to properly raise the child in said womb, however these women were not pregnant, nor did they mention any desire to one day be married to a good Christian man.

    Not that the man is without shame or his own wretched disgust, but since a man can be a Preacher or even a much higher, with regards to the sanctity of the Great Church, Priest, he does not need to worry about such commonalities. However, if a man so doth look at a woman who is not his wife or mother and feel affection for her beyond the desire to be polite and hold a door open or pick up her purse if someone steals it and then the man runs after the mugger and gets it back, then he should remember that while he may blog about who is accountable for his lust and that type of thing, one day he will have to serve the ultimate penalty for his indiscretion – the eternal blue and white flame of all Hell.

    Is that true?

  6. Sarah says:

    Jennifer, I agree. On paper – or on a blog – it makes sense what you wrote. But in real life, how can we separate these two things. We should be respnosible for our own selves but in reality, we also know that we have an effect on one another. So, shouldn’t we have some sort of responsibility and maturity?

    I wish it wasn’t the case but it is and for us not to be “real” in sharing that would be irresponsible.

  7. elderj says:

    Well… there isn’t much in the Bible about men dressing modestly, though I suppose the passages applicable to women could be applied to men also. I think it is a man’s responsibility to restrain himself from lustful thoughts, not because it makes the woman a “victim” but because it is sin. A sin against the woman to be sure, but also and more seriously a sin against God. However women ought also to dress modestly because not doing so is also a sin. Against their brothers certainly, but also against God.

    The unfortunate side effect of too much “skin” being shown is really not lust though, but a thorough desensitization to the human body in a way that doe not honor it, the sexual act or the Lord. And the fact is if one were to look at the most extreme examples of this, say a rap video, the men are very much covered while the women walk about as on display. The extremities of this fashion are seen in albeit modified form all over the place. It is a shocking thing that I can easily see within two inches of a woman’s vaginal area just based on shorts she’s wearing. Spending time overseas also provides a shocking counterpoint when one returns from the mission field.

  8. Jennifer says:

    Sarah,

    I hear you..I just dont think it does any adult male any good for another person to take on a responsibility that should be his. It keeps him immature.

    I’m not saying women should dress without modesty…But, I am saying their motive shouldnt be because they have to coddle grown men who should take responsibility for themselves.

  9. eugenecho says:

    MY SIMPLE TAKE: We’re all responsible for our own selves but we can’t dismiss that [Christian] men and women are called to mutuality, partnership, community, and fellowship. Simply, we don’t live on an island to ourselves.

  10. Freddie says:

    Well, speak for yourself!

    I like crack…which I guess is the problem.

  11. Heather says:

    Got here via WordPress but I want you to write something on “My Thoughts on Weenies.”

    It’s sad that we have to have these opinions. I agree for the case for modesty as Christians and really, for the larger culture, but it’s still sad.

  12. Erika Haub says:

    I also read these same blog posts last week and thought about writing on the topic myself. Then some other stuff came up and I did not, but I will share a few thoughts here:

    I don’t have the, um, generous assets that are most commonly the cause of concern when talking about issues of women’s dress and modesty. And I have always dressed more modestly than peers in terms of skirt lengths, tightness of clothing, etc., so much so that my own mother would encourage me to wear things I couldn’t bring myself to buy! That said, I have dealt with the lust of men on so many fronts: from guys stopping their cars to being grabbed and fondled to getting hit on in every conceivable place. Honestly? I think the issue of lust is so much greater than how much skin a woman chooses to show, and if my experience is anything, my wardrobe choices feel irrelevant.

    That said, when I see the amount of skin women show (and I live in L.A. so you can imagine…), what comes more to mind for me is that that there are reasons for why we dress the way we do: the need for male approval/attention being one; enslavement to media images of sensuality and beauty being another. Half-naked women strutting around in the above-mentioned music videos point to the same sickness that causes other women I know to starve and barf to achieve some ideal. More than getting angry at the girl in the booby shirt or the one flashing crack, I just feel sad for how hard it is to be a woman in the midst of so many weird messages that start so young.

    Again, the deeper brokenness is often overlooked and so I appreciate someone bringing issues of objectification and desensitization to the discussion.

  13. ubuntucat says:

    And women don’t lust over men who are sharply dressed? Maybe men shouldn’t be allowed to wear stylish suits to church, as they may incite lust in women.

    Personally, I find a woman in glasses or ski attire sexy. Perhaps those should also be banned from church (haven’t seen too many skiers in church, unfortunately, but the glasses abound).

    This whole line of reasoning is absolutely ridiculous.

    People (men or women) who struggle with lust struggle with it regardless of what people wear, and if visual stimulation fuels their lust, they will seek out and find visual stimulation. And if fellow churchgoers aren’t providing that stimulation, you can bet the media, the internet, advertising, etc. are in spades.

    Modest dress has everything to do with professionalism and appropriateness and very little to do with lust. Men who struggle with lust will lust after a fully clothed woman just as they would after a partially clothed or naked one (in fact, sometimes full nakedness is not as sexy as full clothedness).

    When I start to see twice as many blog posts on the internet about men owning up to controlling their lust as I see posts about women dressing modestly to prevent lust, I’ll concede that the latter may be worth posting. As it stands now, it seems to be putting too much blame on the woman.

  14. anne jackson says:

    i like your simple take on it. i consider it an honor to be given a choice of how i can help my fellow man. i am going to be posting on the boobie’s effects on women next.

    thank you for the link and for all you do.

  15. Erika Haub says:

    Anne,

    I totally get what you are saying and in many ways agree, but then I think about stuff like the fact that I have long hair. Lots (not all!) of guys will talk about how long hair is sexy. So, should I cut it? I guess that is where it starts to get a little weird to consider “helping” or trying to prevent lust (which as I said before, not sure how successful anyone is going to be in that area when dealing specifically with dress!). As mentioned above, if glasses and ski-wear turn a guy on, how far do we take this idea?

  16. beattieblog says:

    yeah, I gott be honest here – it woudl be nice if women decided to dress more modestly, but I don’t think that’s going to solve men’s lust issues to any degree. I think the power dynamic that exists already between men and women make any call for women to dress modestly to help a brother out dicey. It feels like another opportunity to foist responsibility for ourselves and our immaturity off onto women. Having said that, I have a daughter turning one this week and I will be her personal clothing stylist until she moves out = monks robes. :) i.e. I will definitely be lobbying for modest dress because I think it does make a statement women might not want to be making when they dress less modestly. If women feel the need to dress with a little more cleavage or tight clothing to get attention from men, that’s more a statement about us men and our whacked way of valuing women.
    The only other thing I want to throw out there relates to the place of this issue in the church. I think as long as we advertise when we’re having services and large gatherings, our meetings are public and that means the public may come. In Seattle, that’s less likely to happen than in the rest of the country, but it still happens. In my experience, that means once in a while you’re going to get a woman (or a man) come in dressed in an unmodest way – not because they’re trying to be offensive or provocative but because it might be the first time they’ve stepped foot in a church and what they normally wear to large public gatherings doesn’t pass the high or low test for church-wear. I think the church needs to get over it in this kind of situation because our higher value of welcoming the world means we get to sacrifice certain standards we’ve set – explicitly or implicitly – and recognize the higher value of being a welcoming community. Jesus did this a lot, I think.

  17. beattieblog says:

    BTW, Eugene, the little icons in folks’ comments are a hilarious change from the ‘quilt squares’.

  18. elderj says:

    beattie I would agree with you except that modesty is a command of the Lord Yes, some people most notably men will have an issue with lust regardless, but that has nothing to do at all it. The second thing is that church, though open to the public, is not really a public gathering per se, and we ought not to be in the business of sacrificing certain standards in order to be welcoming. Indeed my experience is that visitors to the church tend to dress more conservatively than regulars who work very hard to exercise their “christian liberty”

  19. Leroy Glinchy says:

    Here are some ways that may help bring one’s mind away from fantasy and back to a more balanced state of mind:

    1. Visualization of aging. A beautiful woman will age. Imagine her assets sagging with age. The skin is wrinkled. The hair falling out and all the other processes of aging.

    2. Imagine what the woman looks like beneath her skin. She has blood vessels, liver, and so on. Additionally, she is full of filthy things. Her colon always has some feces in it. Beneath her lovely face are sinuses that always have mucus in it. And so on.

    Advanced practice on this is to go to a morgue and to watch a body as it rots. With these thoughts in mind, it is difficult to have fantasies. Mission Acccomplished.

  20. Jennifer says:

    Loroy,

    I think you’re heart is probably in the right place, but what you wrote makes me very sad.

    Is destorying a woman’s beauty (even if only using your imagination) the best way to honor her? Can women be beautiful, and not be lusted after? I’m not a guy, but it seems to me that at some point it would be okay to acknowledge beauty without needing to destory it, or own it (lust after it). Wouldnt a healthier approach for a man be to admit attraction, while at the same time, keeping himself away from lust?

    I think there is a world of difference between being around men who can treat me like a woman, and even acknowledge my beauty, without using me…and men who are much more comfortable if I act like “one of the guys” so that they dont even have to deal with the issue (which means, they dont have to deal with me). I know that I have found a lot of healing in my life being around male friends who can treat as if I am a woman, and yet, are safe to be around and I dont think they’re struggling with lust.

  21. Ben says:

    LOL Leroy LOL

    kinda twisted, but funny… esp the feces thing.

    I look around and I don’t think i’ve ever seen any Q gals dressed inappropriately. maybe i’m just not looking around enough.

  22. eugenecho says:

    @ryan: as a father of two girls with one nearly double digits, i was thinking more like the ‘iron man’ suit.

    @jennifer: i really like that. we should speak about beauty rather than vilifying or objectifying women. but having said that, i think we don’t do enough to highlight the virtue and biblical encouragement of modesty – not in terms of how we dress but a larger holistic picture of how we live our lives [which then includes how we dress].

  23. beattieblog says:

    Elderj – thanks for response. Modesty is a command of the Lord – who’s going to decide what’s modest? You? Me? Women? Pastors? Elders? I think this is something that’s very subjective and culturally bound by location. Grow up in Hawaii and you’re probably going to be way more desensitized to women because of the beach scene and culture. Can you imagine taking 100 14 y.o. boys from Minneapolis and setting them in Honolulu on March 1? Unfortunately the Bible didn’t provide a dress code but it did address the issue of the heart and our motivations.
    I think we probably have a different understanding of the nature of the church service. My experience has been that most visitors to churches do dress more modestly – actually, formally – than many regulars. In the Seattle churches I’ve been a part of. people love being able to wear casual clothes to church and might be sitting next to someone who’s wearing a shirt and tie. However, the church that I pastored in was a very ‘come as you are’ place that tried to reach out to marginalized and homeless folk – including street teens. It was inevitable that some visitors were going to fail the ‘modest test’ – are we going to get hung up on that from the get-go? Or are we going to embrace folks and welcome them? I guess it’s a little like swearing for me – it’s on the list of things to talk about at some point. It’s just not that close to the top. Hope that makes sense.
    My intention was to point out what is kind of a side issue to Eugene’s original post that came to mind because of my experience in church, i.e. how we treat folks who are not “churched” when they come visit – I would argue that how they’re dressed is something we shouldn’t get hung up on because it creates a judgmental vibe that I think goes against the acceptance and sacrifice of ‘insider values’ that Jesus got frustrated with over and over again in the NT. I think Jesus often sacrificed common standards and norms for the sake of getting close to folks.

  24. beattieblog says:

    Oooh, having just seen Iron Man on Friday, that’s even better. I was going to say something about an iron chastity belt but I thought it might be going over the top. :) Maybe The Gap will start carrying them – for both boys and girls.

  25. elderj says:

    beattie.. I think we are largely in agreement… I appreciate your clarification of your intention. I agree with that sentiment.

    As to your point about modesty, again no argument here. It is very culturally subjective piece though that of course doesn’t change our need to obey scripture or become entirely relativistic in that regard. I think it is interesting though to note the extraordinarily rapid change in definitions of modesty within the course of only 40 – 50 years in the west on a scale literally unimaginable. perhaps you would be interested in my further developed thoughts in this if I could be so presumptuous as to invite you to peruse my blog:http://elderj.wordpress.com/2007/05/30/the-circumscription-of-holiness/

  26. aaron says:

    @ Leroy: I think to try to be physically de-beautify, by whatever means, is the wrong approach. To try to fool yourself seems futile.

    Personally I think it is important to come to terms with the fact that women are beautiful. God created them to be beautiful. It is not a sin to recognize a women is beautiful. Ultimately you have to decide where you are going to go from there… the natural thing may be to move toward lust. But, ultimately you can make a choice and conscious effort to not allow your eyes or thoughts to indulge in lustful thoughts/images. Easier said than done, but it is possible.

    As far as women and modesty, I do believe they obviously have some level of responsibility to be modest. I am not saying women should all wear turtle necks and make themselves un-attractive. But to be scantily clad would not be appropriate either. God created women to be beautiful. I think they should not try to hide that, but at the same time respond out of love/respect for their brothers. I think that some women misunderstand how much men are affected by sight. That one little image or sight can be enough of a spark to light a fuse…

    So I have to agree with what PE said about being responsible for ourselves, but acknowledging community/partnership etc.

  27. Carl says:

    As I read the post, associated blogs and comments, what impacted me most is what I perceive as our cultural brokenness regarding sexuality, and how much “the church” , whatever that is, seems to have its own peculiar version.

    Jackson writes, “…it is likely for a man’s mind to go places it shouldn’t”, in reference to a man glimpsing a woman’s breast. Really? That statement alone speaks to how mired in shame “the church” is and has been for centuries…even today. A man seeing the beauty of the female form (ostensibly designed by someone Good?), and automatically his mind will go to “bad places”. Possibly, but is it possible that the church’s repression of sexuality in addition to its inability to foster open discourse on it are greater detriments than whether a woman’s breasts are visible or not. If not, I suppose many, many men in the African bush spend lots of time in “bad places” mentally.

    Simply the fact that these posts resort to schoolyard anatomic terminology and humor speak not such much of the individuals, I think, but they certainly scream about the imbeddedness of the Christian subculture in current popular culture. I agree with the above comments regarding the ambiguous nature of modesty, and how it seems the church must continually struggle to avoid slipping in to moralism.

    What I would dream about would be a community that embraces the beauty and mystery of sexuality while holding in tension the awareness of our cultural and individual depravity. Where we might admit that the church is really screwed up when it comes to sex? How can we learn from the text, one another, and other cultures ways to appreciate and enjoy sexuality, admitting our shame and complicity with evil in choosing to hide rather than speak?

    I long to hear an open discussion started from the pulpit that might stimulate the church to start to deal with the issue in a more redemptive manner.

  28. Jennifer says:

    E

    I am with you. I want to encourage modesty, but for reasons that have to do with the woman herslef. I think a woman should be modest as part of her own self-respect and worship of the Lord – and not just as a response/reaction to men.

  29. Jennifer says:

    E

    I am with you. I want to encourage modesty, but for reasons that have to do with the woman herslef. I think a woman should be modest as part of her own self-respect and worship of the Lord – and not just as a response/reaction to men.

  30. The Bible says that we are at war with the world the flesh and the devil. It’s interesting that a lot of the sin we fall into comes from the natural God-made drives of the flesh that have been taken either to extremes or applied in ways God did not intend. Men are “designed” (if you will) to notice and appreciate beautiful women. If we did not do this, we would not be attracted to women, we would not marry, or procreate. The problem is when we go from “noticing” to lusting.

    To use an analogy, over the past year, I lost 24 pounds, not a huge amount, but a lot of work still. I cut out junk food. I stopped raiding the snack machines at work and cut out fast food. But, to this day, if someone brings in a plate of cookies that his wife bakes and lays them on the table for anyone who wants them–well, then I honestly have trouble saying no. So, yes, men are going to look and there’s little or nothing a woman can do to discourage it. But, a lot of women also like to draw attention to themselves too.

    On a final note, when I was in college, there was a young lady who wore notoriously short skirts, and apparently she would always sit at the very front of this one class. One day, after the class, the prof pulled the young lady aside and asked that she would please start coming to class more appopriately dressed. Was he wrong?

  31. ubuntucat says:

    Not all men are attracted to women, heternormativity notwithstanding. And the professor may have been noting the inappropriateness of the dress to a professional setting (the classroom) that has nothing to do with inciting lust.

  32. Christine says:

    These comments are amazing. Thank you especially to Erika, you gave me a lot to think about.

    Lately as I’ve gone about my day at a busy cafe I’ve been noticing how women dress… and pondering the idea that every women has insecurities about their body. Every one.

    Just like we women might be surprised to spend a day in a man’s brain with all this cleavage on display, you men might be surprised at all the messages in OUR brains every time we see a “more beautiful” woman. We’re ugly, misshapen, lopsided, fat, pale, and our hair is too frizzy. Our shoes are unfeminine, are boobs are sagging, and our damn Italian ancestry gave us too many moles (oops, that one’s mine).

    It’s out of these messages that we decide to push up our boobs, put on eye makeup, and accentuate our “best” features… to distract ourselves and others from the unwanted hair, the stretch marks, and the chip in our front tooth (oops, mine again).

    Every time I hear a brother or sister in Christ “exhort” women to dress modestly, I feel a rage so intense I want to throw a microwave off my balcony onto something really really expensive. Telling someone to dress modestly is about as effective as telling someone to stop cussing. The symptoms may stop, but the underlying sin and brokenness go unnoticed.

    Please, use all that exhorting energy to tell us we’re beautiful. That the body we’re displaying everywhere *is* worthy of praise, because God made it. And most importantly, that you understand how easy it is to make poor decisions about clothes, and you forgive us for it.

  33. eugenecho says:

    @christine: wow. that was poignant, powerful, and beautiful. thx for sharing your thoughts…

  34. Heather says:

    @Christine and @Jennifer,

    I understand and agree!

    But here’s another question to think about. What do we do – with men or women – that choose to abuse their influence? Does this make sense? If a Christian woman is flaunting her body is a way that is clearly sinful, what would you tell her?

    You would say you’re beautiful and continue to praise God?

  35. Jennifer says:

    Heather

    Great question.

    I know that the quick answer would be to just ask her to adjust some piece of clothing…but that doesnt really address her heart. I understand that in some circumstances someone might have to ask her to adjust something, but that should be used very sparingly.

    My preference would be that this woman would have someone in her life giving her some kind of spiritual direction, and that she could be addressing the heart issues with that person. The issues here could be so personal, and so intimate, that I think it has to be someone who has relationship with her – a general “please be sure you’re clothed correctly” isnt going to touch her heart.

  36. emjay says:

    There’s a surprising amount of black-and-white, either/or thinking going on in these comments… Don’t get me wrong; I believe in truth and knowledge and the law of noncontradiction and all that stuff. But what’s up with all this stuff about blaming the woman *or* the man for lust? And are people serious when they say that clothing has *nothing at all* to do with lust?

    I’m a happily married Christian man who seeks to be faithful to his Lord and his wife. Some days I do better than others. Now, maybe I’m the exception here, but I doubt it. For me, the way women dress makes an ENORMOUS impact on the extent to which I struggle with lust. I teach college students for a living, and on my campus (like most, I’m sure), nice weather brings with it dozens upon dozens upon dozens of 18-22 year-old women sunbathing in skimpy outfits. I tell you with all sincerity that I do a lot more lusting on campus from May-September than I do during the holidays. I can also tell you that I find it incredibly distracting when female students dress provocatively, and I confess that I find my thoughts moving in inappropriate directions more often than I’d care to admit. The clothes my students are wearing (or in some cases, sort of wearing) makes a dramatic difference here.

    Now, I don’t blame those women for my sin. My spiritual growth is my responsibility. It’s not their fault I’m depraved.

    Nevertheless, isn’t the principle (for Christian women) here the same as Paul’s principle about eating food sacrificed to idols? I would have thought that part of being members of Christ’s body means we sacrifice for the sake of others and do our part to help them out.

    I enjoy adult beverages quite a bit, myself. But I have friends who are recovering alcoholics, and I take it that my responsibility as a Christian is to refrain from drinking when they’re around because I know it might cause them to stumble. In my humble opinion, women have the same responsibility to us menfolk– not because they owe it to us or because they’re weak or because they’re objects or because it’s all their fault, but because we Christians are supposed to help each other out.

  37. Jennifer says:

    Emjay,

    Yes, I will be very black-and-white here…If you lust after a woman, that is your sin. I dont care if she shows up in your classroom totally naked and throws herslef at you. Your lust is your issue. Now, obviously, she has her own sin to deal with in that situation, but your lust is not her falut, its yours.

    Having said that, I do feel bad for men, and your situation sounds difficult.

    I think we have to use Jesus’ as interpretative lens here. He says that if your eyes cause you to sin, you should pluck them out. Note that he does not say if your eyes cause you to sin, you should ask the women around you to change so you dont sin as much. He places the responsibility on the man with the sin. I’m not telling you to pluck out your eye, but I could understnad if a man in your situation felt he needed to overcome his issue – or find a new place to work. Maybe that’s radical, but I think Jesus’ solution was radical too.

  38. elderj says:

    Jennifer your response to emjay was thoroughly unsympathetic as he quite readily acknowledged his sin. What I have yet to see or hear acknowledged by a great many women is their sin. Your analogy of the women coming to his classroom naked is akin to someone forcibly requiring an alcoholic to work in a bar. I work on a college campus, and practicing stewardship of the eyes can become quite a challenge when spring and summer roll around, but I do it, and I generally say nothing to the women because I know full well the response will be that I need to control myself.

  39. Jennifer says:

    Elderj,

    I was not trying to be unsympathetic (forgive me if I was Emjay). I was simply recognizing that the female side of the equation has been WELL covered for the last 2000 years. Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine, (etc etc etc etc etc!) have often taken the stand that says women are at fault for sexual sin…”woman is the gate of the devil”; “women are a temple over a sewer”; “women are the cause of original sin”

    I am not saying the woman would not have her own sin issues to deal with. Clearly she would.

  40. Sally K says:

    What I have always told my daughter (now 15 yo)is that people will treat her according to how she presents herself. If she presents her sweet face and her interesting thoughts as salient features, people will recognize her as kind and thoughtful,. If she “dumbs-down”, people will think she’s unintelligent. If she presents her body to be looked at, she will be treated as a sexual object. This gives her both a sense of control and responsibility with regard to how people respond to her, so she’s not a victim, but the one making the choice.

  41. leochen says:

    This must be another sign that Summer is near in Seattle. I love Summer time in Seattle. No more 4 layers of clothing and itchy hat for my poor bald head. Seattle is such a casual city, I can wear shorts, t-shirt and slippers just about anywhere I go, even to church and not have to worry about what people might think….

    That being the preface, I suppose one can assume that I wouldn’t feel right to wish women at church would dress any certain way for anyone but themselves. But I do. Not because they should or have to, but I just wish they would to help me and my buddies out.

    I know I shouldn’t lust. And I try my best not to. I heard I can look once, but second serving is not allowed. I can pray, I can sing “Purify my Heart” over and over again and make sure I really really repent before the communion so I don’t get struck dead while partaking. That would be pretty embarrassing. Forget what Pastor Eugene is preaching about… I need to get my heart right!

    I can try to focus on PE’s Power Preaching Pants or his repetitive hand motions. I can focus on Matt’s thrusting hips while playing the guitar. That will for sure turn me off for at least a few minutes. I would try to think about anything but the nice cleavage in the middle section, second row, third seat from the right, the nice tight ass in the booty forming short-shorts way in the back, behind me, next to that guy whom I hope his not her boyfriend. Wait… sorry. Now I’ve lost my train of thoughts….

  42. matt says:

    so, is there a different standard for the church building? are ‘nice christian women’ supposed to dress modestly all the time? that ‘cute’ dress doesn’t belong in the closet because it might cause a guy to sin? and let’s not even talk about bikinis….

    if a gal is dressing like that cuz they got issues and are just trying to draw attention, ok, they got issues to deal with, but, it seems like forcing a standard of modesty (or i guess the pastor’s standard of modesty) seems like just a weird standard.
    not saying that nekkidness is ok, but, yeah… just seems odd to tell all girls must wear skirts to their ankles and turtlenecks. afterall, how else are we going to get more un-churched men in the doors? ….

  43. Matt EHH says:

    I hear the concern. I really do. A lot of boys are so limited in maturity and integrity that the culture almost begs for the world to revolve around them to help them keep from being practicing lust bags. Girls have issues too.

    but the conversation almost has a ring to it that girls’ bodies = bad. (self)enforcement needed. I just wish we could REALLY encourage women in their God given women-ness. physically and all. God made booty and boobie as well as the pea and carrot and although sensitivity to our distorted perceptions sex and gender is vital for a christian lifestyle, we don’t want to lose the truth that women are awesome and should be celebrated and not penalized.

  44. Jack Danger says:

    This seems rather appropriate:
    http://asbojesus.wordpress.com/2008/05/20/468/

    I can’t possibly follow after my wife’s insightful comment but it’s worth pointing out that if anyone wants to see the end result of making women responsible for mens’ lust you can look no further than conservative Islam. I happen to know first-hand that in the extremely conservative mountains of northern Pakistan (where the Taliban started) women’s bodies are completely hidden and the sexual assault rate is still through the roof. Roughly 1 in 30 people have at least one blind eye because their mother had an outbreak of chlamydia while giving birth. The STD is spread via rape and all the victims have their bodies covered at all times.

    So some may think we need to make one person responsible for the thoughts or desires of another. I think that’s a bad idea.

  45. aaron says:

    @ 2 matts and jack: i dont think anyone is trying to blame women or make them responsible for our actions/thoughts etc. i dont think anyone is trying to develop a code of enforcement that will be checked at the door. i dont think anyone is trying to say do not be feminine or beautiful or attractive. i dont think anyone is saying if they cover up that men wont lust.

    rather, i think what many are saying is this:
    Women, please recognize we struggle. Be respectful of that and please help us out here.

  46. gregwheeler says:

    Agree with aaron and emjay. There is no black-and-white dress code. There is no approved food and drink list. But Paul did instruct all believers to be careful not to abuse their freedom in Christ. Yes, I am free in Christ, so I hate it when somebody in authority tells me not to do this or that. I am also responsible to those whose faith is weaker not to provide temptation for them to sin. This applies to many areas of life, not just dress. This discussion is not about whether the feminine is evil, but about not causing each other to stumble.
    Cheers.

  47. Jeff Roach says:

    I’ve remained a lurker in this thread long enough…
    For the record, I’m a guy and as most of my ilk I’ve struggle with lust but this conversation reminds me of when I was a Youth Pastor and we had the “sex talks”, the question always came down to for the kids…”How far is too far?” well it is a moving target, for some holding hands was too far and others it was kissing. Now we all know that anything that involved parts covered by a swim suit is a no-no…
    So let’s talk about modesty, what is modest? How much is too much cleavage? Is it the lower back? How much of the mid-drift can show? What about Open toe shoes (they’re called peek-a-boo toes you know) or bare legs? How tight is too tight? Again what we have is a moving target that rules and guidelines will never cover, why? Because it is a heart issue, we as guys are going to lust with or with-out modestly dressed women, come-on guys think about men lusting/fantasying about Nuns or for that matter Catholic School Girls both are dressed traditionally modest. So short of a Burkka I don’t think we can expect women to cover up enough to avoid our lust issues.
    Now just like the “sex talk” example, there is a line that should not be crossed, modest dress principles have those too, but I think these should be taught not to keep us from lusting (i.e. – “come on girls just help us out…”) but out of self-respect for themselves and for their relationship with God…
    Ok my rant is over….

  48. Bethany says:

    Ah, our brothers and their stumbling… This seems to be a very thoughtful, and necessary, discussion. I admire the honesty that I’ve seen in almost every response, whether it be from a male or female perspective, and I wholeheartedly agree with the idea of community, and mutual responsibility.

    That said, I find it interesting how often the church harps on this particular issue, whereas other areas in which brothers and sisters tend to stumble are often overlooked. Visual stimulus leading to lust is most often a masculine sin (although, I know quite a few women who struggle with this too, lest you men think you’re off the hook playing basketball in your “shirts”) and it is only to be expected that men, who still hold the voice and the power even in our modern Church, express their concern and see to it that their issues are addressed.

    However, over the past few years I’ve been repeatedly disgusted by what seems to me to be the utter indifference to those male/female interactions that often cause WOMEN to stumble. We are not a gender infallible, and yes, we too are tempted to sin. I am referring to any number of emotional fantasies to which women fall victim, intimacy issues, and particularly sexual insecurity and body image issues. Why are teenage girls restricted from wearing shorts at summer camp, but at the same camp, teenage boys are allowed and even encouraged to share “deep,” and “spiritual” conversations, at all hours of the night, leading young girls into a false sense of emotional intimacy? Why aren’t these boys instructed as to the best ways to keep their sisters from stumbling?

    Also, why aren’t men held to a higher standard of treating all women, both those who are our cultural trade mark of beauty and those who are considered “plain,” with the same respect and love? It is a sad fact that women struggle with issues of sexual identity and insecurity. It is also a sad fact that the “prettier” you are, the more attention you get, and ALL women know this every minute of every day. There was a point in my life when I lost 20 lbs, and with every pound dropped I received a corresponding amount of positive recognition, both in the world AND in my church community. If my Christan brothers honestly and humbly seek my aid in controlling their lust, why do they affirm me so, when I meet their standard of sexual attractiveness?

    I guess the long and the short of my comment is an echo of @Christine: if the Church spent half as much time loving women and being sensitive to their needs, as they do telling us to wear longer skirts, we might actually get somewhere.

  49. ryanbd says:

    I gotta give props to the women posting here. The thought I had reading Christine, Jennifer and Sally K’s posts was: I’m going to remember these things when my daughter is older.

  50. aaron says:

    @ Bethany, There probably is a failure of male leadership to recognize female struggles. I think you have a lot of good points!

  51. Melissa says:

    Dear Sally: I wish things were that simple. As an attractive 26-year-old who has spent the past 14 years learning to deal with the male reaction to my body, I can tell you that things are rarely that simple. If a girl is pretty, (many) guys will treat her as a sexual object. If she is prettier, (most) guys will interpret every conversation as flirting, and every laugh as a come-on. It will not matter what she wears, or what she does, or what she talks about.

    I wish I had a dollar for every time someone has tried to ‘help’ me by telling me to take charge of how people perceive me. After many years of confusion and guilt, I have come to realize and accept that, most of the time, I have very little control over how a man (boy) will relate to me. I have learned that this is not my fault, and I fight to hold on to that truth almost every day. I have to fight to hold it, because at every turn is someone telling me that no, it is my fault, I am causing my brother to stumble *just by being myself* and that I should change.

    I will not change. I will not take responsibility for someone else’s actions. I have fought myself, my culture, and even my friends for the past 14 years to be able to release that responsibility and discover myself. I have enough of my own brokenness to deal with, and I will not compound it by trying to take responsibility for a lie as well.

    The most valuable and affirming relationships I have with guys have been men who were willing to take responsibility for themselves, accept that I am attractive, and then go beyond that to accept that I am me. When I am around those guys I don’t want to show skin – I don’t need to show skin – because I am in a place of safety. Those relationships are so rare, and so precious to me. I think they are the only way I was able to find my way to any safe understanding of my own sexuality.

    Yes, your daughter should respect her body, and she should present herself as she would like to be treated. But please, make sure she knows it’s not her fault when the reality of our broken world interferes.

    To Bethany:
    Preach it, sister. Amen!

  52. eugenecho says:

    Whoa. The “P” sistas tag-teamin’ on this one.

  53. Jan owen says:

    Wow! What great comments. I loved Bethany’s comment. I think this is part of what Eugene might have meant by the “mutuality” – it does go both ways. And we must understand that for both genders we are fighting against the cultural norm. Women have been “taught” that the goal is male attention and using sexuality to get it is the only way most girls know. If we receive male attention we are “worth something”. As someone who didn’t date much and is now 42 years old, I can’t say I’ve felt “checked out” much but I can relate to the battle women face to judge their own worth based on how sexy men think they are – and it’s a horrible way to view yourself. It’s wrong!

    So I think this goes both ways without a doubt. I think we should dress to honor GOD but men must change their thinking as well.

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It's a privilege to travel but there's something special about returning and your heart says, "Home sweet home." #seattle What a joy to celebrate Dr. John Perkins' legacy this week. Like many others, he has been a deep inspiration to me. 
When I finished the first draft of my upcoming book, OVERRATED, he was one of the first folks I showed it too. 
He wrote back with the following endorsement: "We are called to give ourselves to our generation, and Pastor Eugene's work here in OVERRATED is exactly that. This deeply personal narrative takes readers on a lived journey of wrestling through the realities of being a justice fighter today. I've given my fifty plus years to this fight, and his story is my story. I believe it may be yours as well. I encourage all believers to read OVERRATED. It lays a course for how we must proceed as humble but faithful justice leaders in an unjust world." Needless to say, I'm humbled by his endorsement and words of encouragement. It was painful to complete (and I'm still working on final edits)...but I CAN'T wait to share the book in September when it releases. Wow. Blessed are the artists that help others reimagine the Gospel. #HeIsRisen #questchurch Amazing Resurrection celebration service. Especially love celebrating Communion every Sunday. Today, hosted a super Feast with bread from many different countries. #HeIsRisen Don't rush too soon to the empty tomb. Reflect on the cross. Thank you, Jesus, for your life & love. Thank you, Jesus, for you have redeemed this day of injustice and violence to be "good." You are truly the Light of the world. #GoodFriday Layover. San Francisco. Having grown up here, my heart still flutters. No other city like it.

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