Poolside Purity & Bikini Battles

Here we go again. It’s summer time, which means at any given time, in any number of churches nationwide, pastors, youth pastors and leaders are giving their kids (read: their female students) the “one-piece” talk.

A few years back at our church, some students actually petitioned our pastor to include Tankinis. It was a big win for preteens everywhere. I imagine they sat by the pool that summer in their tankinis and drank virgin daiquiris to celebrate.

We have all been there for that dreaded talk. It’s painful for everyone involved and it smacks of legalism. As one student recently said to me, “It just feels like another instance of the old people at church telling people to behave because you’re at church.” It’s absurd, I know. In case you are unfamiliar with the one-piece talk, it goes something like this:

Ok, ladies, it’s summertime, and we’re going to have a lot of events where water is involved (or we’re going to camp, or to an amusement park, or your event-du-jour). You know, guys are visually stimulated, and can’t help but think about sex a lot of the time. We wouldn’t want to make them stumble. So swimsuits should be one pieces only. No exceptions. If you show up in a two-piece, you’ll be asked to sit out.

It’s sad but true. What are you going to do? Those hopeless, slobbering, drooling neanderthal boys are just going to be hopeless, slobbering, drooling neanderthal boys.

Right?

Lately, that thought is giving me more and more trouble. I can’t get around the idea that somewhere in the jungle of one-piece swimsuits and hormones, we are missing the true message of the Gospel. Here are three MAJOR overhauls that we need to apply in the way we talk about purity with our teens.

1. STOP giving boys a pass.

I saw a man wearing a TShirt at the grocery store today that proudly boasted, “World’s Okayest Dad.” Hilarious. Men are bumbling idiots. Watch any show on TV and you will find manhood defined as boyhood, but with a wife instead of a mother. Who screws things up? Dad. Who is there for comic relief? Dad. Who can’t even perform “dad” kinds of tasks without ending up in the hospital? Dad. Mancaves. Nagging wives demanding attention (how dare they? Don’t they know there’s a game on?). Homer Simpson. Peter Griffin. Al Bundy. Fred Flinstone. The list goes on.

It’s time we take back our view of manhood. Boys chase one girl after the next. Men treat them with dignity and respect. This message has to be reversed and it starts in our homes.

Fathers: It’s not a “rite of passage” when you take your kid to Hooters. It’s not funny when you nudge them when pretty girls walk by, and give them “the wink.” It’s not funny when you encourage your kids to carry on the stereotype that the first and only thing a man is supposed to think about when he sees someone of the opposite sex is how physically appealing she is.

Every time we do that, we send the following message to our young, impressionable sons: “Look for the skinny girls. Look for the girls with big chests and tiny waists. Check out anyone that walks by with high cheekbones and a perfectly-manicured look. The ‘ugly’ ones aren’t attention-worthy. And don’t give ‘the nudge/wink’ for an overweight girl unless you’re making a joke.”

MAN. FREAKING. UP. The first step to changing the poolside-purity culture in our churches is to stop participating in treating women as if they are objects to be attained.

Instead, we need to teach our young men to honor women for what they are: God’s creatures, created in his image; a gift to man so that we wouldn’t be alone; companions; sisters in Christ; people with feelings, and thoughts, emotions and aspirations.

Putting all the pressure on the girls to “protect” the hopeless boys is a biblically backwards way to look at gender relationships, and is degrading to the boys. If you want to change our poolside-purity culture, change the message you give to the young men, and start it when they are young boys. 

2. Stop putting so much pressure on young girls.

Let me get this straight: On top of keeping up with fashion trends, and social stigmas around dressing right, and on top of parental concerns about modesty, and on top of body image issues and concerns like “that weird mole that I hate on my arm” or “my hair won’t lay flat” issues, you’re telling me that you want to add to a teenage girl’s morning routine, “Is there any possible way this could make any boy I will see today lust?”

Why do we keep telling them that protecting the boys’ struggles and temptations are their problems to bear?

Every guy finds different things attractive. Different guys will like the “dolled up” look, while some may be more attracted to the “relaxed” look, complete with sweatpants and ball caps. Even when girls aren’t “trying” to be “sexy,” men may still lust after them.

But the girls don’t cause that. That’s on the young men.

But here’s what really bugs me about this approach. If we are honest, it’s only a meaningful conversation when discussing “attractive” girls. I mean, we address everyone, but when chubby girls wear tight pants or short shorts, society’s reaction is rarely “that’s inappropriate” and more often “that’s gross, no one wants to see that!” It’s disgusting, I know, but I’m just pointing out where we are as a society.

Make no mistake, when we tell girls that it is their responsibility to keep boys’ lust in check, we are asking them to run through a checklist of their body asking, “Is my butt lust-worthy? What about my boobs? Do I need to cover those, or are they not lust-worthy enough? Maybe I’m just inherently ugly enough that it doesn’t matter what I wear…” And the monologue meanders on.

If you want to change our poolside-purity culture, stop telling girls that they need to judge for themselves if men would find them sexually desirable or not.

3. Teach girls a biblical view of modesty.

One of the things that is missing in our conversations about “poolside purity” is that we often overlook or brush over a biblical view of beauty. Our teaching shouldn’t stop at, “Barney the dinosaur Jesus loves you just the way you are,” but rather we should be teaching what Godly beauty really is. Turns out the Bible talks a lot about that.

God designed women to be beautiful in a specific way. Men who are real men (not sitcom men) will be attracted to this.

1 Peter 3:3-5—”Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves,”

1 Timothy 2:9-10—”Women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.”

These passages teach that women shouldn’t seek to be called beautiful because of their outward “adornments.” Proverbs talks a lot about how great it is to find a wife or woman of noble character. Never does it say, “A hot wife who can find?!” Just like we should be teaching boys to look at girls with dignity and respect, we should be teaching girls to be modest and gentle, and to view themselves with dignity and respect. That’s why I love this video:

Dressing immodestly objectifies the woman. It makes her an object to be ogled rather than a treasure to cherish. A young woman who is developing Godly character and a Godly view of beauty will have no desire to objectify herself, but to make people see her true beauty, the kind of Beauty God delights in seeing in her.

Ladies: the point of modesty is not to “protect those drooling, heathen, teen boys,” but to draw them in, to make them seek your true beauty that lies in the person God created you to be.

If you want to change our poolside-purity culture, spend more time teaching women what Godly femininity looks like. 

Those are three thoughts on the dreaded one-piece talk. Here’s a parting thought: the church should be the safest place in the world for a girl to wear a bikini.

I’m not advocating bikinis, and I think modesty is a far more godly way to go. To say it as clear as I possibly can, I don’t think girls should want to wear bikinis, but if they so desire the safest place to do so should be the church. So let me say it another way: the church should be the one place where women don’t need to fear being objectified and made into sexual objects.

In our over-sexualized, boobs-on-every-channel-and-in-every-SINGLE-movie, sexual-humor-everywhere, “That’s-What-She-Said,” Hugh-Heffner-is-the-image-of-a-real-man, “every-guy”-has-a-hidden-magazine-and-movie-stash, “I-just-go-there-because-I-like-the-wings” culture, the church should be the one place where we can give women respite from the constant inner monologue that tells them all about how their non-airbrushed bodies aren’t good enough.

It should be the one place where sex—every single aspect of it—is between a man and a woman inside the confines of a marriage.

It should be the one place in our ever-losing-its-mind world where we can separate sexuality and personhood.

So consider this an invitation to join me in changing the culture.


UPDATE: This post has gone WAY beyond where I thought it would go, so if you have read it, or shared it, or commented on it, THANK YOU! It’s been fun to see something I wrote circle the globe. I’d like to take a second and briefly cover some of the common comments I’ve seen. I do read every comment, even if I cannot reply to every one. Here are my responses to the most common of them:

First, there is a common line of thought that quotes Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 10, where Paul says not to put a “stumbling block” in front of your brother or “make him sin.” On the surface this is a very valid concern, and—and I can’t emphasize this enough—I am confident and grateful that such a position comes from peoples’ genuine concern for seeing God’s kingdom lived out in this world. But I don’t know that this is a proper parallel to the situation Paul is describing. I’ll post more about this soon. It seems Paul is condemning behavior that flirts with idolatry, and Christians who try to pressure other Christians to go against their conscience to participate. It would be like a girl saying she really wants to be modest and another Christian sister pressuring her to not be. This is a poorly-refined response right now, but I wholeheartedly believe Paul’s intent was not to say, “Don’t ever do anything that anyone could ever see and where that person could struggle in that area, thus forcing them to sin.”

Second, to those skeptics who feel this was classic Christian “double-speak,” I am aware that I both seem to encourage a more open view and also come down somewhat anti-bikini. Modesty is a tough issue, but I believe it is a virtue taught in the Bible, nonetheless. The difficult aspect of it (as with most areas of Christian living) is that it is a delicate balance somewhere on the spectrum between “no-holds-barred freedom in Christ” and “legalistic rule following.” My contention is that striking that balance must come out of a positive affirmation of living in God’s will (teaching girls the joys of modesty, teaching boys the joys of honoring women, hoping they choose well), not a negative condemnation of behavior, especially when that is shaming girls to just cover up because otherwise it will be their fault if boys sin. I attempt to strike that balance here. Perhaps my efforts satisfy you, and perhaps you fall further to one side of the spectrum or the other from myself.

Third, the concluding comments were strong, and intentionally so. I understand there are sinners in the church. I understand that pornography and lust and sexual sin are real struggles for men. I have struggled with these myself. And yet my intention was to cast a vision for a church that does a better job teaching men so that the men in the church are different from the men elsewhere in society. Of course it would be distracting if all the women in the church showed up in bikinis on Sunday. But hopefully because it breaks social norms for bikini wear, and not because the men would be ogling. Realistic and idealistic are at war. I chose an idealist’s vision.

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227 thoughts on “Poolside Purity & Bikini Battles

  1. Man, I love it when you say that the point is that girls shouldn’t want/desire to wear bikinis. It’s not about following the law, but about becoming the kind of person that desires the good (I’m not say here what the good is). But I don’t think the problem is objectification of female body or “just do it to protect those poor boys that need to man up”. Honestly, I believe there’s something missing in this discussion: nature. You don’t have to be a scientist to see that men are attracted by women’s bodies (to different degrees). Think about your own experience, you are married. What would your wife do if she has 30 seconds to turn you on… most likely she wouldn’t spend much time talking how beautiful you are. She’d show you her body. You talk about different boys liking different looks/styles. Totally true! But man, I believe there’s a big different between different styles and showing your skin. This is not to put the problem on girls… it’s just the way things are.
    Obviously, this should never be just a religious law. It’s about what kind of person you want to be. But, just to add something else, seeing how saturated the advertisement world is with female’s bodies should tells us something about the power it has to attract.
    The church should be the safest place for a woman (or anybody), but also the church should be the safest place to hear what we don’t want to hear.

    • Marcus,
      Thanks for your comments! Good reminder that the church should be a place for hearing tough truths in grace, and the support to live them out. And, I think you’re right that certain things just “work,” when we talk about attraction (otherwise, why would the pornography industry be so successful, or the advertising industry, for that matter). What one of our youth really challenged me to think through, however, is “how much skin” the church standard should be, and that seems to vary by generation, making a “standard” hard to pin down. Thanks for being a part of this discussion! Thoughts?

      • Thanks Nick for this article. I was starting to think that I was the only one that thought this way. The church has bought into the idea that “men can’t help themselves… that’s the way God made them”. Sorry, I disagree – that’s the way God made my dog, but not me. I lead a men’s bible Study and we don’t sit around and talk about how hard it is to be a man (I don’t allow it!). too many men’s groups today are talking about nothing more than their “struggle with lust” or their “struggle with porn”. An interesting thing is that while studying 1 Timothy lately in our group (rather than studying the latest paperback on how men are victums)… we came across the verses that encourage timothy to treat the older women as mothers and the younger women as sisters. None of my guys ever lusted after their moms or sisters… gee, imagine that, does the Bible have an answer? Further, I explain to men in our group that if you profess that you cannot help but look at women “that way” because God made you that way, then you are more Darwinian than Christian. Men that believe that say that God put that in them for the purppose of reproduction. When asked why do they only lust after the “pretty ones” they say that it is “natural” for a species to want to reproduce with the healthier members of the pack or community. Darwin anyone? God may very well have made dogs that way, but He did not make men that way.

      • I think even asking for a “line” so to speak is troublesome. The “just how far CAN I go” attitude/question in Christian young people today speaks to a larger problem. If we as the church collective would return to the Word and seriously search and it then take it seriously, both men and women would find the high call in Christ spelled out quite clearly. For men, if you look lustfully you are sinning… Men have a responsibility to desire purity and to make choices that aid that cause in themselves…I know a man who doesn’t go to the beach. He knows what he will see and chooses to make a sacrifice for the sake of purity. Too extreme you may say? Well, it is a good example, at least, of someone who has seriously considered these issues and then made the tough choices. The choices may be different for different men, but men need to be willing to evaluate and then act. (I really did love what you had to say about men raising the standard and how fathers should help their sons!) For women, our outside appearance should not draw sexual attention to ourselves or we are putting the “proverbial stumbling block” in front of both Christian and non-Christian men. You can be beautifully, fashionably, and relevantly dressed (even at the pool) without showing the world your boobs or your butt. The only reason to do so is to attract men in an undeniably sexual way by displaying your body or to blindly follow trends so you don’t “stick out”. Both are sorry reasons for a Christian girl or woman. It is time for the church to urge young people who claim Christianity to realize that their faith called them to a separation from the world for the glory of God and the good of those who choose this path. We are not looking for a line, how much of this or how much of that, but we as followers of Christ, young and old, are to look to the Cross as the guiding light of our lives so that we may be true witnesses to this hurting world. With this in mind and taken to heart, the whole issue of swimming attire for Christians should get cleared up pretty fast as it also fades in importance in equally quick measure as it is replaced by much more deeply important concerns.

      • This is a great point. Christians are called to pursue godliness, not living their lives trying to “avoid sin.” FLEE from sin, and go full out toward the God that created us and gives us purpose and personhood. The rest of the issues will begin to take care of themselves when we begin every day desperate for God’s wisdom.

    • I think that you may be forgetting something. If we are believers we are not enslaved by our nature anymore. Not saying women should be able to wear whatever they want, but saying despite what anyone wears, the individuals of the opposite sex have the choice to either let it “turn them on” or to try to see the person as God would want us to see them. And girls have to do that with guys too. It’d be really easy to walk around lusting after every shirtless guy at the beach or every guy who I see wearing Under Armor, and frankly, God made me to be attracted to the way those guys look, but I have to choose to not lust after them because that’s what God has called me to do. I have to fight against my natural bent to lust just like I have to fight against my natural bent to outbursts of anger and selfish living. But I do agree with you that hard principles should be taught in the church. I just don’t think we can have hard and fast rules about it since the Bible doesn’t give us hard and fast rules about what is or isn’t modest.

      • I think that “choosing” not to lust after another’s body is a great point. I am raising teenagers now though, and with all those hormones flooding in, I don’t think they are able to stop the lustful thoughts that follow immediately after seeing something that they find attractive in another. Grown men and women though, as you pointed out, do have that power and that choice.

      • Thank you for bringing up the fact that girls struggle with lust too! It’s so frustrating that church acts like its a problem for men and not women. It made me feel like I was abnormal because I had sexual desires. Like, as a girl I wasn’t supposed to struggle with that. There are definitely some problems with the way most churches are discussing purity as a whole.

      • Great points. I will say, as a 20-year old guy, that the choice is not really whether to “turn it on”… it’s a choice whether to remain in that situation or not [more or less]. FULL NOTE: This is entirely my responsibility; I don’t push it onto anyone else or see it as women’s responsibility to dress any differently on my behalf. I’m just clarifying from a guy’s perspective (and maybe this is true for girls as well): at a certain point of exposure/attention, it becomes pretty hard not to lust. At that point, it’s about just not looking at all. “Bouncing the eyes,” as I like to call it. I often stare at the sand or the water when I’m at the beach alone because I don’t trust myself people-watching. I’ve stared at the ceiling before when two of my girl friends were discussing the way their pants fit their butts, because quite honestly that was the only way to handle the situation without falling into personal sin. Is that their fault? No. But the decision is not quite “Oh, I’ve decided not to lust in this situation.” It’s more “I’m… gonna do my own thing for a few seconds while you guys do that, and I’ll join at a ‘safer’ moment for me.” Just clarifying.

      • I don’t really disagree with anything that was written in the article or the first few comments, however, I have to be honest and say that I can’t remember the last time a sermon in church addressed this topic of modesty. But I’m quite sure it’s been YEARS! I find it disconcerting when I see young women in church dressed provocatively or low-cut necklines, dresses too tight. I’m sorry but I’m a mother of 2 teen boys and I can’t help it…I know what they like to see and what is attractive to them. When a young man goes to church or youth swim/beach party, he should NOT be tempted more or equally by church young ladies than he is by the world around him. When I was a teen(in the late 70’s) churches were not afraid to say, “Dress modestly” and enforce it for camp, church platform or a pool youth activity. Today, there seems to be VERY LITTLE distinction between the way the world dresses and the way Christians dress.
        Yes, the burden can seem to fall on the young ladies, modesty generally is not a big problem with young men(except for the fad of wearing pants below boxer waistline) but if ladies want to be treated as a princess or daughter of the King, then they need to live up to that title and not bring shame and embarassment to the King of Kings and maybe the young(and older) men of our society will then stop treating them like sex objects/objects of desire/someone to lust after.

      • Ashell256, I resent what you posted a few days ago. You said you are raising teenagers and don’t think they are able to stop. . .what happened to Paul telling us that no temptation has seized us except. . . . . ?! I’m an 18 year old male, and if I am lusting after a girl, it’s not because I can’t help it; it’s because I’m choosing to be sinful. Give your kids some credit; they CAN control themselves, and if you as their parent don’t believe in their ability to live mentally pure lives, then you give them reason to give up the fight without even trying.

    • There’s no denying that it’s natural for men to be attracted to women’s bodies. There’s also no denying that women are attracted to men’s bodies (and women to women’s and men to men’s, but that’s another discussion). And since men are not the ONLY beings that find others attractive, I think it’s pretty clear the issue isn’t just in “nature.” It’s what men/boys/people are taught or allowed to do based on their natural reactions. And I agree with Nick that the focus has been on girls and modesty (which is ok), but it should also be on boys and how they are supposed to treat girls, even from a very young age.

      The discussion is so deep and multifaceted that we’ll never get to the bottom of it all, but this article does a great job in laying out some of the underlying issues that we’ve let go unchecked for a really long time, and I wouldn’t dismiss these points as well.

    • We had this exact conversation at the beach this year. Our house happened to be by a bunch of college guys who were drinking too much and hollering at all the girls walking by in bikinis. I overheard the boys talking about a girl they hadn’t hollered out and one boy said to the other, “You missed one and she kept looking back expecting you to holler”. Granted they were drunk but that was their thought on why girls wore bikinis. I have a son and the people we were with had daughters and have been battling the bikini issue. I think we can teach our sons to respect woman and what they say but I still think they notice the girl who looks good in a bikini. My question to the mom with the girls was had she asked her daughter why they wanted to wear the bikini. Was it to be noticed? We can approach this with more than just rules but work on the heart of the matter.

    • You took the words right out of my mouth, Marcus. While I am all about eliminating legalism, truth is truth. My husband and I have two teenage boys. We love them. They love God. They are responsible for their actions, yes. But as a church, let’s try to help them rather than hinder them, especially in a society where many young women have truly had no loving instruction on the subject. I hope we have the same attitude of “desiring to help not hinder” toward everyone who comes through the doors…or to the youth waterpark trip.

      • Thanks Lisa! As with most things, this comes down to a delicate balance. I think it is great if a girl wants to be modest to avoid being a stumbling block for her brothers in Christ. This post was meant to address a mindset where that is forced, and girls are shamed for not being of that mindset.

    • Sister, it seems you want to walk in the dark without a light. Your thinking may cause many young boys and girls to stumble who decide to follow. Straight up.. Bikinis is not modest beach wear at all. The Holy Spirit puts this in check. I don’t know why this is an issue. Don’t let the world and it’s ungodly, unholy money making designers decide what God’s standard is for Christian women or men. There is such a thing as appropriateness in what we put in, and on our bodies. Some fashions highlights to much of a woman’s anatomy, and if you fall prey to some of these fashions, you are not only looking for trouble, you will cause trouble also. It’s not all about style, but its about standard as well…. Love you, God bless.

      • I can appreciate your perspective, but I hoped to communicate that “appropriate” is a cultural construct, not something set in stone. Is a native tribeswoman who wears no top “immodest?” That would depend on her culture. My other major point is that a man’s sin is primarily his problem to bear, not a girl’s.

        In retrospect, I may not have given room for both a) teaching modesty as a virtue and b) teaching men to live holy and honorable lives. It’s probably more “both/and” than “either/or.” That said, I am going to continue teaching men to be honorable, godly men, because they can’t control what others (both within the youth group and without) wear on their bodies.

        Thanks for reading, and even more for engaging the conversation!

  2. The best part? This hasn’t a thing to do with religion, but it’s one way to get the message across, for self respect and respect of others.

  3. You probably didn’t intend this, but reading this article makes it sound as if teaching young girls to dress modestly and avoid being a stumbling and teaching young men to respect women and guard their eyes and hearts are mutually exclusive.

    Can we have a healthy dose of both, and all live the way God intended? =)

    • Jamie,
      I appreciate your comment and your participation in an ongoing discussion! I’ve considered this comment several times, but I think I actually do intend what you said it sounds like I intend. I WANT to see a healthy balance of biblical teaching to both men and women, but I think the tone needs to change. This is maybe a post for another day, but I think the “stumbling block” language that we use here and elsewhere in Christian circles (originating in 1Cor10, Rom14, etc) is misapplied often and here is one of those places, in my view. It seems in those passages, Paul is talking about (1) a specific type of behavior, and (2) pressuring others to participate in said behavior when their conscience won’t let them. Like I said, it’s a post for a different day, but I’d love to know what you think about that. Thanks for reading!

      Nick

      • Nick,
        Great article. When it comes to the whole “stumbling-block” idea I think you are mostly right in how it is misapplied in the modesty argument. However, one of the biggest things that seems to be missing in all of the articles I have read on modesty is the intent behind the clothes that a woman is wearing, and that is where the “stumbling-block” could more appropriately be applied. Women are not responsible for a man’s actions or thoughts, but there should be a level of responsibility when they are purposely dressing to get a man’s (boy’s) sexual attention. If I want a man to respect me and not view me as an object then I will probably not put on a push-up bra and a very low-cut blouse that exposes just about everything and a skin-tight mini skirt. From the woman’s perspective what other intent is there for putting my breasts on display, other than trying to turn someone on? Having done this in my younger years, that was my intent. I still dress to look nice, but I now do so in a way that keeps my sexuality between my husband and myself. There is no black and white on what clothes are or are not modest, especially as this changes with each generation. I’m sure the clothes that I think are modest were definitely not 100 years ago. But something that women should be considering when they are choosing their clothing is why they want to wear a particular piece of clothing. We can’t control how a man responds to us, that is their responsibility, but we can control the image we present and the intent behind it. This is what I will be teaching to my daughters.

        Margaret

      • I think there might be something wrong with the whole language of the “stumbling block,” especially in reference to teenage girls wearing swimsuits. If you watched the video, there are references made to two different studies made by Princeton University, wherein the researchers discovered that men view women who are wearing very little clothing as objects instead of people. By calling a woman in a bikini a “stumbling block,” you can inadvertently perpetuate this idea that a woman is an object and not a person. I think that it adds to the pressure of the females in the situation and does nothing to hold the men accountable. It’s essentially the boys telling the girls that because the boys are lusting after the girls, the girls need to do everything in their power to stop the boys from sinning so that the boys can have a nice time. I think instead it should rather be that the boys do everything in their power to stop themselves from sinning so that everyone can have a good time. Like the article says, church should be the place where women don’t need to fear being sexualized.
        (Nick, I know you said that was a post for a different day, but I would love to hear your opinion on this part of the discussion!)

      • Furthermore, inherent in the beauty of the Gospel is its power to “renew your mind” so that you see the world differently than what the study in the video showed. Christian men should have (I know this is a big “should”) a different reaction because we have a view of humanity that is truly true.

      • I understand what you mean about mis-applying some of that scripture.

        I think 1 Corinthians 10:24 is enough of a motivation, though, for me as a Christian woman to cover up parts of my body if I know that they are highly likely to cause men to lust. I can hardly say I’m looking out for their good if I knowingly place something in front of them that is a huge temptation. It seems that that verse (24) is Paul’s blanket statement (which would include the situation we’re discussing,) and then he offers an example by talking about the meat sacrificed to idols. The fact that he gives that example doesn’t mean that that’s the only way the verse can be applied. I think it’s very easy and right to apply it to situations where we can make it easier on our brothers and sisters to do as they should, but we choose not to.

        Besides all this, I think we’re missing the point when we make modesty strictly an issue of what is a temptation for the people around us. Contrary to popular belief, God actually did provide some pretty specific standards for modesty. Throughout the whole Bible (not just as an explicit part of the old law), we see the standard which God considers nakedness vs. what he considers modest. Under these standards, modern one piece swimsuits are also not appropriate. Uncovering the thigh was always viewed as nakedness to God. We’re just so used to the culture now, that many of us have forgotten that.

        I’d urge you to read this excellent article on that topic. It really helped clear some things up for me and showed me that God does have an objective standard.
        http://www.mindyourfaith.com/gods-implications-about-nakedness.html

        Thanks for your reply!

      • Jamie,
        I read the article you posted. I appreciate its emphasis on Christ’s Lordship and its desire to follow God’s standards for modesty. However, I feel it severely misaims on several points. I did a Bible study on this topic a while back, and it’s interesting that I came to a completely opposite conclusion! (I am pulling a few paragraphs from something I wrote elsewhere online.) I’m open to correction; however, I feel that the author overlooked many passages relevant to the discussion.

        My reply is fairly lengthy, because I believe this is a very important issue. Before reading my comments below, it may be helpful to read my other comment previously posted on this page: https://thatpreacherguy.com/2014/06/27/poolside-purity/comment-page-1/#comment-298

        In the conclusion, the author writes: “We must first agree that God has classified nakedness as shameful. If one disagrees with this premise, the whole discussion is vain.” Well, I would strongly disagree with this premise. In the Bible, the unclothed human body is never portrayed as inherently shameful. There are a number of passages that speak of shame associated with nakedness, but if you read the context carefully, it is always for one of three reasons: 1) nakedness associated with sexual sin (more on this below); 2) nakedness of deprivation (the “shame” of poverty); and 3) the shame of being forceably stripped (as when conquerors would invade the land and strip the captives of their clothing and belongings). Simple nudity is never condemned as immodest, shameful, or sinful. Quite the contrary.

        First of all, God created man in His image–both male and female–and they were naked and unashamed (Gen. 2:25). Were they immodest? Not at all; God declared this state of being as “very good” (Gen. 1:31), which was a higher state than He had previously declared about the rest of His creation (merely “good”–Gen. 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25). It’s true that Adam and Eve covered themselves after sinning. But what was God’s reaction? Did He say, “It was wrong that you sinned, but good job on covering up?” No, He said, “Who told you that you were naked?” (Gen. 3:11, implying that this thought did not originate from themselves, but from Satan). As the article points out, even after they were covered Adam said, “I was afraid because I am naked” (Gen. 3:10). Why did Adam say he was naked since he had already covered himself? It’s because he realized that “there is no creature that is not manifest before [God], but all things are naked and laid bare to the eyes of Him to whom we are to give our account” (Heb. 4:13). It’s true that God gave Adam and Eve clothing, but this was after He had cursed the ground to grow thorns and thistles, sentencing the man and his wife to a lifetime of difficult labor. The clothing was for protection, not modesty. They were husband and wife! Why would God want them not to see each other? If one insists that the clothing God gave Adam and Eve was for modesty, then a consistent interpretation would indicate that husbands and wives should not see each other naked. However, this is clearly refuted in other passages. God’s giving of clothing did not in any way condemn simple nudity, but it was a sign of His loving provision in a fallen world.

        Even if you do not accept this interpretation, at best, this would be a case of God’s perfect will vs. God’s permissive will. God often permits us certain things (such as clothing, a big TV, buying a lottery ticket), but that does not mean it is His perfect will. His perfect will could be seen in His creation–naked and unashamed. God permits us to wear clothing because we live in a fallen world. (And, of course, there are a few instances where God commanded priests to wear typologically significant articles of clothing for specific events, but there is no command to wear a certain amount of clothing when associated with everyday tasks.)

        There are actually two different Hebrew words for “naked” in Genesis. In Genesis 2:25 when it says, “the man and his wife were both naked and not ashamed,” the word for “naked” is “ayrome.” This word simply means “existing in one’s natural state without anything added.” Nowhere in the Bible is “ayrome” condemned. Job used this word when he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return.” Ecclesiastes 5:15 gives a similar phrase. There are several times when this word is used to speak of people in a deprived condition–that is, those who need clothing for protection, but do not have it–but it is never spoken of as sinful. There are also times when this condition is forced upon people, such as the captives in Isaiah 20, and it is certainly a shame to be forcibly stripped of everything one has. But the body itself is not shameful; the act of being stripped by your captors is the shameful thing. (Incidentally, God tells Isaiah to go naked and barefoot for three years in this chapter–hardly a condemnation of nudity in and of itself!)

        As far as the second word for “naked”… After eating from the tree of knowledge, it says that Adam and Eve realized that they were naked. The word for “naked” here is “awram.” This word means “exposed, vulnerable,” and it is always associated with sin. Once again, after Adam and Eve covered themselves with fig leaves, Adam told God that he was naked. Adam still felt naked even after being covered! This indicates that clothing does not prevent us from being “awram.” All who have sinned are exposed before God and deserve His judgment, and clothes do not change that fact. When we are spiritually clothed with Christ, we are no longer “awram,” regardless of our physical covering. And regardless of our physical covering we are still “awram” if we have not been spiritually covered with Christ.

        Once again, the Bible affirms the goodness of the human body. “I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well” (Psalm 139:14). This must be our starting point in assessing the human body (both ours and others’) and our reaction to it.

        Also in the Old Testament, when the Spirit of God came upon Saul, he stripped down to nothing and prophesied–“And the Spirit of God came upon him as well, and he went on and prophesied until he came to Naioth in Ramah. And he also stripped off his clothes and also prophesied before Samuel, and he lay naked all that day and all that night. Therefore they say, ‘Is Saul also among the prophets?'” (1 Samuel 19:23b-24). This was apparently a common practice among the prophets, such that people thought Saul was among the prophets because he was naked. As mentioned above, we know that God told Isaiah to prophesy naked and barefoot for three year (Isaiah 20:2-3), and Micah also prophesied naked (Micah 1:8). In both instances, this was a sign that Israel would be stripped to their shame by invading captors, but both of the prophets were being faithful to God–and there was certainly no shame in proclaiming His Word in their natural state. The shame was in Israel’s sins and their punishment, not in the human body.

        Either way, Saul stripped down after the Spirit of God coming upon him. And after he disrobed, the Spirit of God still gave him utterance to prophesy. God did not have any objections with his nudity in this instance.

        Also, the article’s definition of modesty/shame does not mention the incident of King David dancing before the ark in nothing but a linen ephod (2 Samuel 6). For an idea of what this looked like, see here: http://dianagleaton.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/David-Dancing-before-the-Lord.jpg David’s wife chastised him for “immodesty,” saying, “How glorious was the king of Israel today, uncovering himself today in the eyes of the maids of his servants, as one of the base fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!” David responded by refusing to be ashamed, and he said, “It was before the Lord, who chose me… to appoint me ruler over the people of the Lord, over Israel. Therefore I will play music before the Lord. And I will be even more lightly esteemed than this, and will be humble in my own sight. But as for the maidservants of whom you have spoken, by them I will be held in honor.” And the story concludes with the words: “Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.”

        I think this is the key to modesty. David says, “I will be more lightly esteemed than this, and will be humble in my own sight”–i.e. regardless of what others may think, I know my intentions are humble and proper. This is confirmed elsewhere in Scripture, that modesty is a state of mind and spirit, rather than a state of dress.

        The modern definition of the word “modesty” is a perversion of what the Bible teaches. As I pointed out in my previous comment, the only Biblical passage that says to dress modestly is found in 1 Timothy 2:9-10–“in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.” Paul’s definition of modesty is that of not adorning oneself with costly, showy clothing. However, in the first century, men and women often bathed in the rivers and worked nude. Peter was fishing nude in John 21 (some translations suggest that he had on undergarments, but the original Greek gives no such indication; this is more indicative of the translators’ understanding of modesty than the Bible’s); the Lord Jesus was mistaken for a gardener in John 20, presumably because He was nude after His resurrection before His ascension. Paul’s admonition to dress modestly is more about not trying to be “in fashion,” not trying to flaunt wealth, and not trying to be seductive with clothing. In fact, the most desirable clothing for a godly person is “good works.” In and of itself, the human body in its natural God-created state is not immodest. It is proper, good, and pure. Certainly people can do unwholesome things with their bodies, but the body in and of itself is completely modest.

        Furthermore, history clearly shows that baptisms in the early church were done in the nude. The first-century Jewish “mikveh” was a type of baptism done in the nude, and the Christian practice seems to have been very similar. In “A Dictionary of Christian Antiquities” authors Smith & Cheetam write: “A comparison of all the evidence leads to the conclusion that the catechumens entered the font in a state of absolute nakedness. See particularly St Cyril, Hieros. Myst. Catech. ii ad init; St Ambrose, Serm. xx (Opp. t.v. p. 153, Paris 1642)and Enarrat. in Ps lxi 32 (BB t.i.p. 966); St Chrysostom, ad Illum. Cat. i (Migne, tom. ii. p 268). Possibly a cincture of some kind [a small belt made of rope around the waist] may have been worn, as indicated in some medieval works of art.”

        One of the most detailed descriptions of the early baptisms can be found in the writings of Cyril of Jerusalem: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf207.ii.xxiv.html He told those who were baptized, “How wonderful! You were naked before the eyes of all without feeling any shame. This is because you truly carry within you the image of the first Adam, who was naked in paradise without feeling any shame.”

        Somehow the early Christians didn’t seem to consider that this might be impure, immodest, or even a temptation. In fact, the Christians were known throughout the Roman empire as being very holy and separate from the sexually immoral culture of the time. The truth is that the human body in and of itself was not seen as anything immodest or unwholesome. In fact, they had such a pure view toward it that it seems very strange to us–almost unbelievable.

        So what changed? How did the church’s perspective change from seeing the nude body as the purest state of dress to the impurest? I’ve done a bit of research on this, and it’s a long story. In a nutshell, when Constantine declared Christianity the state religion, a lot of Greek philosophy was brought into the church. One view, mostly following the teachings of Plato, was that the body is evil, but the spirit is good. Gradually, this view was accepted, and the church (and society in general) has never quite recovered. We need to reclaim the Biblical position that God created us as body, soul, and spirit. All three aspects are good, and only when we understand these three aspects can we truly understand what it means to be made in the image of God.

        I write this lengthy post because I obviously have a lot of passion about this topic. I grew up in a conservative Christian home feeling very ashamed of my body, and most of the teachings I heard about the body emphasized how much it could provoke lust. I grew up fearful that anyone would ever see my body and fearful that I might see someone else’s, and I judged those who didn’t maintain high “modesty” standards (which I now realize my definition of “modesty” was quite un-Biblical). I have talked with countless believers who grew up in similar environments, and again and again, I find feelings of shame and disgust about themselves and fear and perversion toward others. I have seen how damaging these attitudes can be. I finally decided to look up what the Bible actually says about nudity and modesty, and I was quite surprised to find how many of my assumptions were based upon man-made rules, rather than the Word of God. Psalm 139:14 became a true salvation to me–“I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well.” That last phrase hit me over the head–“my soul knows it very well.” If I was honest with myself, I DIDN’T know it very well. I didn’t believe that I was fearfully and wonderfully made. Much less did I know it VERY WELL. I started praying and proclaiming that verse until it permeated my thoughts and being. I eventually felt led by God to attend local figure drawing classes where there were nude models. Drawing the human body is a long-held tradition in the fine arts, and I began to see why. These aren’t Photoshopped “magazine” models, but real people. I highly recommend learning to draw the human figure for all Christians, especially teenagers and young adults, or anyone who struggles with body acceptance or lust. To see what people actually look like–young, old, fat, thin, black, white, and everything in between–creates a wonderful appreciation for the human body and your fellow man in general. When you actually see the human body, it teaches you something about being created in the image of God. I believes Satan thrives on having our exposure to the human body come only through immoral means (pornography, lusty ads, strip clubs, etc.)–or at the very least, if we keep our awareness of the body limited only to our spouse, it keeps us fairly ignorant. When you actually see lots of bodies and take the time to capture them in art in a pure, honoring, appreciating way, it transforms the way you see people.

        My wife is very supportive of my taking drawing classes, by the way, and I made sure that we communicated about everything along the way. She has done some herself, and we both agree that we have a much healthier view of the human body. Every session, I pray for the model and for the other artists in the room that they may be drawn to the Creator through His creation. I use the opportunity to speak to others about the goodness of the human body, and I have had some of the best conversations with people about God and His creation, and it is one of the best witnessing opportunities I’ve ever had. I believe God has answered my prayers that, as artists see God’s creation, amazing men and women created in His image, they have been drawn to Him and our culture’s lies about the body have been exposed for what they are.

        Theologians speak of the two kinds of revelation God has given us–natural and special. Natural revelation is what is revealed to all mankind through creation (e.g. as we look at the stars, it makes us realize the enormity of God’s creative power). Special revelation is what is revealed in His Word, the Bible. I believe we have cut ourselves off from one of the most powerful and important aspects of God’s natural revelation, the human body, when we allow the pornography/advertising industry to be the only ones teaching our culture what it looks like. Christians should be at the forefront of promoting figure drawing and God-honoring ways of seeing the human body. In my opinion, every church would do well to offer Thursday night figure drawing classes and Friday night skinny dipping fellowship times. Once again, my issue with bikinis (or any swimwear for that matter) is not that they show the legs, back, etc. It’s that the clothing serves no practical purpose as related to swimming, and it sends a very strong message about which parts of the body are “decent” or not. All clothing is a form of non-verbal communication. If you only cover the breasts and genitals, you are saying, “It’s okay to see other parts of the body, but there is something bad about seeing these parts.” Or if you cover all of the body except the face and hands (for reasons other than protection), you are saying, “There is something wrong and shameful about seeing the whole body.” In my view, this actually draws more attention to these parts of the body (or the whole body), and it fosters prurient curiosity, and it greatly dishonors the creation and the Creator.

        I’m not saying we should walk around nude all the time. For cultural and practical reasons, that’s just not possible. But with the times we do need to wear clothes and determine how we should dress, we need look to God. If He convicts you of certain boundaries you need to maintain, then by all means obey Him to the fullest. But we should understand that there are many instances of little-to-no dress in the Bible which are commanded and approved by God (or mentioned in a very matter-of-fact way with no judgement one way or another). We should be very careful about judging anyone else’s convictions or establishing our own convictions without considering the whole counsel of God’s Word. There are times when people are clearly using clothing (or lack of) in a way to provoke sexual lust, and that needs to be addressed within the church among believers. (I thought the article’s comments about posture were right on target with regard to this issue.) But that’s very different from someone who is honestly seeking to honor God with their body who may have differing convictions from your own.

        In the case of being a “stumbling block,” that’s a whole other issue, and much could be written about it. In short, it can go both ways. For instance, some men have a nun fetish, even though nuns are covered from head to toe, yet shorts and a t-shirt may not be that much of a temptation. Likewise, many women find business suits a strong turn on, even though the men are fully covered and very professional looking. And even if a woman is fully covered with a black shapeless dress, a man may find curly hair “sexier” than straight hair, or vice versa–so you could go so far as to straighten or curl your hair to avoid being a stumbling block. Or others (which is more typical) may find a one-piece, two-piece, or swim trunks a strong temptation. I have heard from missionaries that those in cultures who grow up in environments where people regularly swim without clothing actually find swimsuits more lust-inducing than simple nudity. So if one person is “stumbled” because a person is wearing too little clothing and another person is “stumbled” because the person is covering too much (sending a message about the parts that are covered), what should you do to avoid being a stumbling block? First of all, as this original “Poolside” article points out, we all have to take responsibility for our own purity. If you can’t handle seeing a bikini or one-piece swimsuit, then don’t go to the pool. But it should be pointed out that the person who is “stumbled” in 1 Corinthians and Romans is the one who is weak in faith. Being “stumbled” over things that are not evil is not a mature position, and every Christian should seek to grow out of such immaturity. As a stronger believer, we can accommodate weaker believers as much as possible, but we need to help them grow as well. If someone says, “I really struggle with what you’re wearing right now,” then you can change out of consideration. But we should also challenge them:

        “Did you know you were going to a place (such as a pool) where you would likely see people wearing a type of attire you struggle with? If so, maybe you need to refrain from these activities or learn how to change the way you think about them.”

        “Are you saying that your default mode is to lust after me when I wear this? (assuming it’s not intentionally provocative clothing) I don’t really appreciate you thinking about me that way. If this is really a problem for you, what can you do to change the way you’re thinking about me?”

        Ultimately, on the stumbling block issue, Paul makes it clear that the person who is “stumbled” has the responsibility to tell the “stumbler” (1 Cor. 10:27-29). Otherwise, the “stumbler” has no way of knowing what the stumbling block might be for the other person. Trying to imagine every possible way you could be a stumbling block to someone else is an impossible task, and it ends up creating a lot of unnecessary man-made rules. It also makes you operate from a base of fear instead of freedom, and this makes for a terrible witness. If you need to set aside your freedom for the sake of a fellow believer’s conscience, then by all means be willing to do so. However, that believer needs to speak up and make an effort to grow out of their weakness into Christ’s strength–that is, from immaturity to full maturity.

        Finally, I would ask everyone in considering these issues for yourself… Are you establishing your modesty boundaries because of a meek and quiet spirit, or are you using “modesty” as an excuse for failing to deal with your own body insecurities? If God told you to prophesy naked and barefoot for three years, as He told Isaiah, would you feel immodest and ashamed? Would you be able to go to a “naked people” tribe and match their dress if that meant they would listen to your message of the gospel? Would you be greatly aroused to see another person nude? Would you be greatly disgusted? If you are fearful of these things, then I would suggest that you haven’t really gotten to the point where you believe that you are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” “Your works are wonderful” is just words on a page to you; your soul doesn’t know it “very well.” You are still operating out of fear and shame. I say this not to condemn you, but to free you. I believe body shame (toward ourselves) and body lust/disgust (toward others) are epidemics in our culture and the church, and we all need healing from them. We need to go back to the pure Word of God and pray for wisdom and revelation concerning God’s attitude toward the human body. He has declared it good, and until we believe that our bodies are inherently a good work of creation–and until we believe the same about everyone else on earth–then we still need deliverance from the lies of the enemy. May God bring freedom to us all!

    • James,
      In all the instances you referenced in which these men were found “naked,” most commentators agree that this word “naked” means stripped of the outer garment which was common to the Jews, and wearing only their inner tunics (which would still cover from the shoulders to the knees.)

      • Hi Jamie,
        I have heard that, and I have researched it; it certainly bears on the discussion at hand. I don’t claim to be an expert, but this seems to be an interpolation by modern commentators who have difficulty harmonizing these passages with their views on modesty, rather than anything that is based upon archeological evidence or linguistic evidence in Scripture. (I find no commentators prior to the last half century or so who have argued this interpretation–from the early church to more modern times–and I have never seen anyone offer archeological evidence to explain why this interpretation is justified.)

        The word “naked” used in those passages is the same Hebrew word as in Job 1:21–“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there.” It’s also used in Ecclesiastes 5:15–“As he came from his mother’s womb, naked shall he return, to go as he came.” (Obviously, no one is born with undergarments, and “naked” in these passages means fully nude.)

        Furthermore, Isaiah 20 clearly indicates that the buttocks were uncovered–“Just as My servant Isaiah has walked naked and barefoot three years for a sign and a wonder against Egypt and Ethiopia, so shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians as prisoners and the Ethiopians as captives, young and old, naked and barefoot, with their buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt” (vv. 3-4). Once again, the shame is in being taken captive and having all your possessions stripped from the prisoners, not in the body itself. Also, it seems that God commanded Isaiah to prophesy naked (with his buttocks uncovered) for three years–and God would not contradict Himself in commanding someone to sin, if such a thing were actually sin or against His desire for modesty.

        Again, I don’t claim to be an archeology or Hebrew expert, though I did learn a fair amount in Bible college, so it’s possible that I am mistaken in my understanding. However, even if someone argues that other passages may refer to having undergarments, they still call into question the general understanding of modesty in the linked article, which suggested that most of the body must always be covered up in public.

        I don’t wish to split hairs on this issue. However, I just know the damage and shame these types of teachings tend to create. I know they are intended to prevent the “shame” of nudity, but they often bring about shame of the entire body. If at all possible, I want to save people from this agonizing experience. The way people view their bodies is very much connected with how they view themselves. It shouldn’t be flaunted, and it shouldn’t shamefully hidden. It should simply be respected and treated with dignity in the way it is dressed and the way it is undressed.

        Another thing usually ignored in these types of discussions is medical work and caretakers. If modesty refers to keeping certain parts of the body covered, we seem to think doctors, nurses, and those who work in assisted care facilities are apparently exempted from the call not to see the human body in its undressed state. Nude figure models for art and medical classes are a bit more controversial, but most Christians are usually willing to give that the benefit of the doubt too. But unfortunately, when it comes to the body in general, the mainstream American church tends to side with the pornographers in saying that the body is inherently an object that elicits lust. As I previously wrote, the only difference is that the pornography industry says, “Indulge!” and the church says, “Suppress!” But I would rather see the church reject the pornographer’s teaching about the body altogether and start affirming its goodness. Once again, I say the “American church,” not the worldwide church, because Christians in many other cultures believe what the Bible says about the human body, and they have no problem with communal bathing in a river, communal swimming without suits, etc. In many poor countries, people own one set of clothing period–and they do not wear it for swimming or bathing or even working during the day. The fact that we can even debate over the swimsuit issue is a sign of our wealth and luxury. In many parts of the world, if you want to wear something when you are in the water, you will be wet all day.

        Once again, I’m not advocating that we never wear clothing, but I do think we need to rethink how we respond to the human body in its natural state. So long as the context is non-erotic, Christians should be at the forefront of proclaiming the goodness of the human body as the pinnacle of God’s creation–and they should be very protective of its exploitation. From the drawing classes my wife and I have participated in, I know firsthand that the human body is something magnificent and worthy of respect–and the more it can be seen in a proper, dignified manner, the better. (Interestingly, cultures where nude communal swimming and bathing occur have some of the lowest sexual crime rates and some of the lowest pornography purchases. The United States purchases more pornography than any other country, and it has one of the highest sex crime rates. The sex crime rates in the militant Muslim countries–where women are forced to be covered from head to toe–are also appalling. I’m not saying one necessarily causes the other, but there certainly seems to be a correlation between a lack of “good nudity” and breeding a culture of gross perversion.)

        In all of this, nudity isn’t really the issue. It’s our attitude toward God’s creation in the human body, both in ourselves and in others. Most cultures throughout history have not had an issue with nudity among family members in the same household, but we have carried it too far. In some American Christian households, I know of four-year-olds who are scared to death if a family member accidentally walks in on them while changing. They are taught at a very early age that it’s a shame for someone to see their body, even a family member. I’ve spoken with Christian adults who grew up in a Christian home, and they tell how terrified they were for a doctor to see their bodies. The mainstream American church’s teachings on modesty is not healthy. It has created a culture where Christians at a very young age are developing an unnatural curiosity about the human body (because they never see it), equating the human body with sex, feeling a great sense of shame about their own bodies, fearing the sight of other bodies, and ultimately–when they can no longer stand it–seeking answers to their questions through worldly means such as pornography. I know this twisted culture has arisen out of mostly good intentions, but the whole situation saddens me. Whenever I can, I try to point people back toward the truth about the body in God’s Word, because His perspective is the only one that will free people.

        Once again, I just encourage everyone to ask themselves: Do I believe that I am fearfully and wonderfully made? (See Psalm 139:14.) Do I truly believe that my body is a good gift from God? Does my soul know this truth very well? Am I comfortable proclaiming this truth boldly? Do I dress in such a way that communicates the dignity of my body? Can I view others in purity? If I happen to see a human body, can I react to it with complete respect and appreciation? Do I view the human body in such a way that it points me back to its Creator? Whenever I see other bodies, am I free from reacting with lust or disgust? Do I have enough assurance of these truths that I feel capable of bringing others into God’s freedom?

        I pray that everyone reading this would come to the point where they can confidently answer “yes” to every one of these questions. I would encourage everyone to get on their knees before God and seek His grace and strength to be completely transformed in their thinking. And lastly, if you are frustrated with the current culture, if you are tired of the shame and secret lusts, I would encourage you to get radical in your actions. Find a local figure drawing class, start having doctors and nurses share their perspectives of seeing the human body on a regular basis (this is usually quite enlightening in Sunday school classes), don’t always close the door when you’re taking a shower at home. Promote a healthy perspective about your body within your household. Let your children know that it’s nothing to fear. Find ways to promote the message of the inherent dignity of the human body. We need to stop running away from the greatest part of God’s natural revelation. The church needs to get bold in proclaiming the truth.

  4. Jesus didn’t teach us to go to church. But he did go to Synagogue (where the men and women are segregated, due to ritual purity laws (among other things.)) We should start there. We are told to follow Jesus, do what he does. He followed the Torah. He respected women, yes; but he also didn’t surround himself with attractive women. Believe it or not, it is not necessary for men and women to constantly be around each other (thus increasing te temptation to see each other’s attractiveness.) The safest place to wear a bikini should be at home, not that weird institution of opinions. (And I’m pretty sure King David didn’t learn this lesson, nor did his wife from the other man, until after everything had alread gone bad for them.) In the Old Testament, the message is a bit different: men, don’t wear women’s clothes; women, don’t wear men’s clothes; the thigh is nakedness. God went through a lot of trouble to cloth Adam & Eve and I think we should heed his examples in the Torah. Teach the real Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven; narrow is the gate. Teaching that the gate is narrow is not legalism, it’s the truth. Asking women to respect the male weaknesses isn’t a heavy burden; but at the same token, men should be taught to be sensitive the issue as well and to let their unique attractions shine in a respectful way (because not every man wants the skinny girl, but not every man wants the thicker girl.) Men feel that pressure to conform also. Anyways, the place we should start at is what did Yeshua say? Good read. I just think you are very misled, I mean, we differ in our general beliefs. Thank you.

    • Thanks for this comment. It does sound like we disagree in some general beliefs, but I’m glad you enjoyed the read. Thanks for posting, and feel free to offer a dissent any time!

      • Based purely on the Biblical descriptions–both old and new testaments–women should wear a head covering at the very least, and probably veils. Burkhas for Everyone!

    • When churches limit their teenage girls and women to wearing one-pieces, they are not “asking women to respect the male weaknesses”, they are demanding. And it is a heavy burden. You may think, “its easy to dress modestly”, but this becomes very difficult, especially for teenage girls, when heading to the beach or swimming pool.
      It becomes especially difficult to dress modestly and wear fully covering swim suits when men are free to roam around in just a pair of shorts. If they can show so much skin while still being respectively covered up, why can’t women?
      It is a fairly heavy burden. But the burden does not need to be carried at all if men and boys help to make a safe environment for the women and girls of the church,

      • I do not disagree with you Victoria. I was simply saying that men should also respect women’s sensitivities while women respect their weaknesses (sensitivities.) There is a burden, and it must be carried. Shared or otherwise. Yeshua said we must pick up our crosses and follow him. There is no sense in denying a burden exists, then pushing it under the carpet as un-feminist. That is similar to saying that we shouldn’t carry concealed weapons, but ignoring the fact that defenseless women/men are raped everyday; while decrying that the world is a decent place. The world is an indecent place. Yahweh calls us to decency. The issue needs to be addressed head on, realistically. We do not live in a world where women (or men) can run around naked without someone getting hurt.

      • It’s not/shouldn’t be acceptable for men, either, but yes, I do see your point about the double standard. A person of godly character, though, does what’s right because it’s right, not because others may or may not. Men and women alike should have enough respect for themselves and for their counterparts that they would dress in a way that doesn’t cause them to stumble.

      • Victoria,

        I agree that the way girls are asked (or demanded) to wear one pieces is not always handled correctly and I think that we can do a TON better in talking with both boys and girls about the issues at hand. I also know that it’s very difficult to find “modest” swimsuits for ourselves as women and for our daughters. However; just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do it. I hate swimsuit shopping and often ask my husband what he thinks of my swimsuit after I buy it. If he thinks it’s too revealing then I take it back b/c I don’t want other men to see things they shouldn’t see. The same will go for my daughter as she gets older. If I need to I will buy board shorts and a swim shirt.

        I have worked with youth for years and have seen how some of the young boys react to the girls whose swimsuits were too revealing (by the way…one pieces can be extremely immodest). I’ve also seen how much the girls love the attention that it gets them. It’s definitely a heart issue that needs to be addressed but I think that requesting girls to do their part by wearing a modest swimsuit (even asking for a 1 piece) is not too much to ask. If explained well it can become a simple way where they can take action to something they want to work on in their own life (maybe foregoing their own desires to help someone else, maybe focusing on making themselves beautiful on the inside, etc). Ultimately, it is a much deeper issue with both boys and girls that MUST be addressed individually at the heart level.

      • Victoria, I am a little bit confused about what exactly is a “heavy burden” about wearing a one-piece or tankini. Is it that you might have to shop around a little more to find one? Or is it that you are jealous that men get to show their upper halves (I guess I’d disagree about the actual square footage of skin being shown by men and women, unless the men are wearing speedos!)? Is it just irritating to have to dress a little bit differently than the average “hottie” in magazines and advertisements? Or do you really want to get a tan on your stomach? I guess I would just consider these a very small price to pay for the privilege of being seen as a person. Did you watch the “history of the bikini” video? The study showed that women in bikinis lit up the “object” portion of men’s brains, every time…that is science. No matter how well-trained young men are to “bounce their eyes” or “glance away,” they will have the natural proclivity to see a mostly-naked female body as something to have sex with. No thanks!

      • Danielle, the “heavy burden” in my mind is to send girls the message that if those boys are sinning, it is their fault. At least in my view, that feels like a pretty heavy yoke. Thanks for engaging this conversation. People are obviously pretty passionate about it.

      • While it’s not hard to find *any* one piece these days, they’re generally quite frumpy and ugly when you limit yourself to the stores found in an average town, and quite possibly limited to plus-sized and older styles. Finding a modest one-piece suit that isn’t downright ugly and that is cut suitably for an average youngster is increasingly difficult, and adding budget to the challenge, nearly downright impossible.

        Besides which, a two-piece covers the areas people generally accept to be “private”. What’s so special about the belly button in particular that we’ve decided that is the battleground upon which this battle is to be fought?

      • It’s definitely not “easy” to dress modestly. The thing is though, we aren’t called to obey God only when it’s easy.

        We need to be teaching young girls that being a Christian is rarely easy. Christ gave his followers numerous warnings that following him would be difficult. If the most that we’re giving up is comfort on the beach, can we really say we’re being burdened?

        You hit the nail on the head when you touched on the inconsistencies between standards for men and women. God’s standards of modesty apply to all. I’d encourage you to read this article which helped me sort through a lot of this: http://www.mindyourfaith.com/gods-implications-about-nakedness.html

        I pray you’ll read and consider this. Thanks!

  5. Reblogged this on Make All Things New and commented:
    Just the other day I listened to my friends have the bikini debate. Truthfully sometimes I dread going tho the beach because I know it will be infested with bikini class beauties who will snag my husband’s attention and make me feel less than in my modest one piece. As a mom of two little girls who already wasn’t to fit in with their friends and wear what they call a”split “bathing suit (aka bikini) it’s so difficult to teach them modesty in an everly increasing immodest society. This is an unavoidable issue in today’s culture of size zero, scantily clad, come hither models. It’s in your face all the time. I recently watched my girls try to pose with pouty lips, narrowed eyes and hand on hips for a picture as if they were posing for a Victoria’s secret catalog mimicking a picture they saw on the magazine rack in passing at Walmart. This article challenged me and have me hope in raising my girls to see them as God created them: in His image to be used for His glory and defined as beautiful by His standards and not the world’s. Even as their mom I catch myself defining beauty add the world does trying to keep up with unattainable and shallow standards.

    • I sincerely wish you luck in your endeavor. My daughter is about to be 15 and we have fought about her clothing since she was about 9 or 10. She wants to be like everyone else and she truly feels wearing short shorts or a skimpy bikini makes her less noticeable because “everyone else is doing it”. It is such a chore every summer to come to an agreement on how short this year’s shorts can be and how skimpy this year’s bikini can be. It is really funny though because she TOTALLY freaks out if I go out in public with a little cleavage showing or in anything she deems inappropriate for my age. I must admit I have enjoyed doing these things on purpose to try to have her see things from my point of view every once in a while. It seems to be working quite well 😄

      Anyway, I hate to say you have a hard road ahead of you, but you do! Just stick to your guns and prepare for a long battle. AND give them a little dose of their own medicine once they hit that stage where the fact that they even have parents embarrasses them!

  6. Thank you, thank you! As a female who grew up in the church and then went to bible college, I’ve been subject to a lot of that pressure you mention. I believe it makes young girls even more ashamed of their bodies (and also adds to the problem of objectification as you mention here also.) I’ve had a lot of dialogue about this topic with fellow Christian WOMEN. It is so very refreshing to read it coming from a man.

  7. If you’ve never read Every Mans Battle, I highly recommend it! You said…
    “To say it as clear as I possibly can, I don’t think girls should want to wear bikinis, but if they so desire the safest place to do so should be the church. So let me say it another way: the church should be the one place where women don’t need to fear being objectified and made into sexual objects.”

    We are teaching our 2 sons (13 & 9), some things we’ve learned from that book i mentioned above, i.e. bouncing your eyes. Also keeping their minds pure. But just as much as girls have the right you stated above, as stated in Every Mans Battle -boys/men have the right to go to church/church functions and not see half naked girls/women. The fact is moms are not teaching or more importantly modeling modesty for their daughters. This is something God has put on my heart since my daughter was born. No, Im not putting it all on girls/women but they definitely should care about not being a stumbling block.

    • Yes! Erica you are exactly right! Church is the last place my daughter should wear a bikini, and my son should not be seeing girls in bikinis at a church event. Both genders have a responsibility, but we know that boys brains work differently than girls, so why would you intentionally give them that temptation? Especially during the ever-important adolescent years. From a former youth pastor’s wife – thank you for making this point.

    • Thank you for speaking up!! As the mother of many boys (and girls), I see the struggle my young men go through. Every where they go on a daily basis, they are visually assaulted. The church (and Christian activities) should be a safe haven for our men. They should be able to participate without having to continually avert their eyes. If parents would teach modesty in their children (boys and girls) from the beginning, it doesn’t become an issue as they become teens. The last thing the church needs is leaders stating that young women should be able to wear what they want!

      • I think that maybe some people have missed the heart of the article. Unless I am mistaken the author is not trying to say that women should be excused from modesty or being considerate of men, he is saying that the men need to be at least equally responsible and considerate of the women. His point is that as it is now, the church has some unfair expectations of women in comparison with the expectations of the men. Saying that women should feel the safest at church in a bikini is not the same as saying that that is acceptable attire at church, just that church needs to be considerate of the needs of women as well as men. I understood this article to mean, that if a woman feels like she has dignity and worth, she is not going to try to gain attention with immodesty.

    • The author is right, more females need to be taught what Christian Modesty is, but I agree Erica Juliano – girls & women definitely should care about not being a stumbling block and that should stay in the conversation! People need to be able to have peaceable conversations about modesty I agree, but as soon as bikinis are part of the equation people whip out their ‘We are free In Christ’ arguments. I agree – Free In Christ – but free to immodesty? No, rather we are free unto righteousness, free unto holiness before God by the Power of the Spirit in us, free to obey Christ & His commands (for they are not grievous), Free to say no to sin & even borderline things (like the better safe than sorry stuff), free to modesty in heart & attire, Free…well you get my point. And let’s be frank here for a minute – even secular people know and write about the bikini being immodest, though they tout it in a stunningly deceptively positive way as evident in a Washington Post (7/13/06) article I read comparing Christian modesty & secular ‘freedom’, such as “”The bikini is forever associated with a woman’s willingness to flaunt her body, to strut her confidence, to revel in her sex appeal. There is liberation — of far more than just the bellybutton — in a bikini”; The answer is not to hide the body but to cheer for its ability to swim laps or just sedately float — in a bit of form-fitting, aerodynamic nylon and Lycra. That’s not immodesty; that’s confidence”; “a woman in a bikini is commonplace. She spans all ages. And there is something especially compelling about an older woman wearing a two-piece swimsuit, not necessarily to display her curves but to underscore her strength”. This was their big ‘brag’ – sound like something Christian women should emulate? Most (and I would hope all) Christian women wouldn’t walk around the beach in their bra and underwear – and although many of those are now made out of lycra too…suddenly it becomes OK as long as the label says ‘Bikini swimwear’ instead of ‘bra/panty set’, though they be almost the same, with bikinis often being smaller & more colorful – though check out some stores – some of the underwear is pretty ‘bright’! I mean if they got rid of the pink fur around the leopard print it would be a bikini. *****Oh, I so wish the desires of ladies in the church were such that we were writing articles on how much they love God, how much they spend learning about Him, how much they glorify & praise Him, how much they know of His Holy Word, How much the obeyed Him, How mature in their faith they are, but no. Biblical immaturity has caused too many to still be stuck on the bikini wars.***** Quite honestly, if more ‘Christians’ knew more of His Word – that wouldn’t actually be an issue, because no Christian girl would ever wear one. Yes, I typed that intentionally. So perhaps more focus should be on being Christ like, since that is what the bible commands, instead of ones freedom to wear almost nothing in public.

      • Shauna, I really, really appreciate your thoughts on this. I was thinking, instead of the church being the one place where it’s “safe” to wear a bikini, it should be the one place where sweet, insecure teenage girls do not feel pressured to wear one! Seriously, in middle school, none of my friends wanted to ever wear one – we were sure we had lumpy tummies or fat thighs. So the “rule” of one-pieces was a beautiful and extremely welcome limit for us – it was our perfect excuse to dress modestly and not feel “weird” for not wanting to be mostly naked in public during our most insecure years.

    • Something else I thought about. I am aware of many churches which also speak to their young men about their need to control themselves and I am aware of even more parents who do so. I think one of the glaring things we see is that while Christian ladies still want to claim their ‘Christian freedom’ to wear bikinis, we don’t hear men claiming their ‘Christian right’ to NOT control themselves. Interesting to say the least.

      • God commands us not to lust. He does not tell us how much to cover up. Hence one is a freedom (what to wear) and the other is not (how to respond to it).

      • That “freedom” to live life at your own pleasure is a slippery slope. The argument I grew up hearing a was “I am a man with ‘needs'”. Perhaps there was some wisdom in marrying young! lol

      • Daniel, the older I get, the more I think that marrying young may get a bad rap in our culture! Especially if we raise our kiddos with a healthy view of marriage and commitment.
        Freedom can be a slippery slope, but I believe it is the gospel’s message that God wants us to have freedom, to steward it well, and to prove to the world that earthly desires slowly but surely lose their hold on us when we are living passionately and entirely for God’s Kingdom.

    • I agree, Erika. I have noticed from my years as a teen to now a youth minister’s wife, girls/women are not being taught modesty at home. It has to be addressed at church for some to hear it and it needs to be a place to exercise modesty…so, if that means ‘rules’ than so be it! I’m bothered by his comment that church should be a safe place to wear bikinis… Bikinis are as skimpy as strutting around in underwear…no way we can just over see that fact and say we are ok with this! Teen boys and girls are full of so much hormones at this age, only a small few are mature enough to handle these pressures of immodesty. Train them, yes! Protect them, YES!!

      • Teens tend to respond negatively to mere “rules”. We can agree that bikinis are not a good idea in the church, but unless we can convince THEM of that truth, a rule will only make it worse. I would rather see solid teaching and a few teens who truly “get it” than a bunch of them arguing with leaders about a dumb rule.

    • Erica, That’s an interesting argument. I was taught “bouncing eyes” growing up. Too well in fact. I still struggle today making eye contact with girls in general regardless of what they are wearing. It’s a trick that works, yes, but has consequences. Once you make it a reflex, you don’t still get the choice. Would you agree?

    • I am a 30-something year old husband and father and I have been in churches all my life. Not once have I **ever** seen a “half naked” girl/woman anywhere near a church. Very few times over the years (I bet I could count on one hand) have I seen a girl or woman who I thought was poorly dressed for church. Where I live we experience plenty of hot climate, and the last dozen years at least I’ve attended churches far more mainstream than your typical fundamentalist-style Baptist.

      I’m just saying, this really isn’t a problem. Perhaps there exists the occasional community where women dress for church like they’re going out clubbing, but I’m guessing those churches are few and far between. So that’s not really the point.

      Now maybe you’re talking about, say, youth functions where girls are wearing bikinis to a charity car wash or a trip to the beach or water park. Okay, I see your point but I don’t really see how the problem is solved with one-pieces. If you ladies out there think that a few additional inches of fabric around the midsection is somehow less of a stumbling block, you are seriously misguided. Which leads us back to the point that there is nothing women can do to eliminate the possibility that they will be a stumbling block for someone.

      People (men and women) will tend to wear whatever is fashionable. Yeah, some swimwear is more modest than others but none is really “modest” in the sense of “not likely to be a stumbling block to men.”

      I have a daughter, and my hope is to raise her so that she isn’t dressing primarily to attract that sort of attention from men. I accept that she will attract a certain bit of that sort of attention simply by the fact that she’s a woman. I don’t like it, but I’m not about to try to prevent it either because I know that’s a fool’s errand. If my wife and I can accomplish that much, I won’t really be all that concerned about what she wears to the pool.

      I also have a son, and my hope is to raise him to respect women. I don’t for a second imagine that I will successfully get him to **not** notice beautiful women. But I certainly will not raise him to shift any blame on women for any lack of self-control on his part.

  8. Wow!! I am a grown (27) year old woman, of two children. And this made me feel a whole heck of a lot better!!! I am so glad that some men out there are challenging men to step up and ignore this disgusting attitude that society has allowed men to adapt. What a great read. And thank you for the respect!! It is much appreciated.

  9. I’m so happy that someone else has brought this up. I also agree with the fact that churches (and society) should be teaching boys to realize that woman aren’t sexual objects here for thier pleasure. We’re real people and we deserve to be treated that way. Yes I don’t think that woman should wear bikinis but that doesn’t mean that when they do they should be seen as less then people. Recently I read about a court case were a woman was pressing charges for rape. Suprisingly (and to my horror) the man actually WON the court case. He claimed that “she was asking for it”. Yes the woman should have been dressed modestly but that gives NO excuse for rape. She could be naked and there is still no excuse for that. I bring this up a lot to my friends and family saying that woman should dress modestly but that also doesn’t mean we should have to resort to carrying weapons on our persons when we go out alone because we’re afraid of being raped. They accuse me of being “one of those feminists” and “if she had just dressed appropriately then it wouldn’t have happened” and that horrifies me. Yes I am a feminist and yes I am a Christian. I believe that all woman (like it said in the video) should dress modestly. Not so that men won’t see us as sexual objects (because let’s be honest if they weren’t taught correctly they will anyway) but so that we can show people that we’re dignified, classy, and can still look attractive with out wearing minimal amounts of clothing. Again I thank you for bringing this up and I hope that all churches will come to respect and value this idea 🙂

  10. I am a teacher at a secondary private school where the kids wear uniforms. When there are field trip days they don’t have to wear uniforms and that alone, we have to have “the talk”…not even from a Christian point of view but “older sister” point of view (not even about bathing suits). I totally get what you’re saying, but when I give the “older sister to little sister” talk to my girl students, I do talk about body types and you do have to look at the body God gave you when you’re choosing what to wear. For instance, if you have stick legs, you can probably pull off short shorts and it looks cute vs if you’re a lot curvier on the bottom (in a good way!) you might look like you’re going out to work the streets if you put on that same pair of shorts. So you want to pass up that pair of shorts that look fine on your friend, and find a pair of shorts that will flatter what you got going on. The goal is to look cute (work it girl!), not trashy (and attract a lot of attention for the wrong reasons). As annoying as it is, I see why blanket rules have to be made even for field trips and other group events…young girls do struggle with self esteem and the tendency to wear something that is completely inappropriate to impress the guys turns a fun day into a weird, awkward teenage show of who can wear the least. It’s a headache to sort through without blanket rules, I wear bikinis when I’m at the beach with friends but I totally understand why teenage events would need to have blanket rules to protect the girls whose judgement and self-esteem is just not fully developed at that stage. Like you said, every magazine ad is packed full of half naked girls so I think blanket rules in a healthy way allow everyone a break from that on a day you want to just be about fun and hanging out. I do think what’s appropriate (cute sexy) vs. inappropriate (might get mistaken for a stripper)…it does depend on your body type, height, etc… I think there is a loving way to having these conversations with girls. You gotta embrace your body type, you can’t just sweep it under the rug. That’s silly. And I teach boys ages 12-17 and they are full of hormones. They’re not quite men yet and it is hard for them, because their judgement isn’t fully developed either. I think it’s like you said, for both the girls and boys you have to start instilling right ideas, but I think blanket rules help during a time when that development hasn’t fully taken place yet and there are a high number of teenage boys with raging hormones and teenage girls with low self-esteem (who wouldn’t think twice about wearing something degrading to themselves). :>

  11. Thank you for your perspective on this. I agree wholeheartedly agree with you, especially when you said, “Why do we keep telling them that protecting the boys’ struggles and temptations are their problems to bear?” Brill. Yant.

  12. My wife sent me this article. There are many excellent and quote worthy points here. I too was brought up in a very conservative American Christian culture, which, sadly, tended to shame the females for having bodies and to shame the males for noticing! Frankly, this did more to breed an unhealthy curiosity about the opposite sex than it did to promote purity. For years, I wanted to honor God with my thoughts and attitudes and I tried everything you can imagine, but I ultimately found that I was working from the wrong starting point. I later realized the mainstream church’s teachings about purity and modesty are horribly unscriptural. I read book’s like “Every Man’s Battle,” joined accountability groups, and listened to sermons on purity all the time. Yet none of this actually helped to have purity in a truly freeing way.

    I finally realized that the pornography industry and the mainstream American church are teaching the same message. The pornography industry says, “Women are an object of sexual lust–indulge!” And the church says, “Women are an object of sexual lust–suppress!” Both are teaching the same lie about the female body–i.e. that a man can’t help but lust after a woman’s body if he sees it. In complete contrast, the Bible affirms that we are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27; 5:1-2), and we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psa. 139:14). After Adam and Eve were created–still in their natural (nude) state–God declared His creation “very good” (Gen. 1:31). Is the female body “very good” or a temptation to avoid at all costs? I’m going to go with God on this one.

    In the church we make the mistake of defining purity as “not lusting”–but this is a far cry from Biblical purity. If you want “pure” gold, it isn’t enough to simply take away the dross. You have to have some actual gold! The same is true with Christian purity. It’s not enough to simply take away the defiling elements. You also have to have a positive view of the human body. You need to see how it draws you to seeing the image of God; you have to see how it points to its Creator. And once you see this, then the temptation to defile it–physically or mentally–is greatly disarmed. If you truly experience purity, then impurity seems absolutely gross in comparison. I’ve come to believe that “Every Man’s Battle” (and similar resources) is a terrible book if you’re wanting to develop Biblical purity. I have yet to speak to a man who has followed this book’s advice (which I tried for several years) who actually had a pure mindset toward women. Instead, they saw women as dangerous temptations to avoid, and they are unintentionally reinforcing the pornography industry’s teaching that “women are an object of lust” every time they bounce the eyes. For more thoughts on this book, you can read my Amazon review here: http://www.amazon.com/review/R1P3YTE9X5PCIK/ref=cm_aya_cmt?ie=UTF8&ASIN=1578563682

    If you want to cultivate a Biblical mindset about purity, modesty, and the human body, the best resource I have found on these topics is My Chains Are Gone, which can be found here: http://web.archive.org/web/20140521101735/http://mychainsaregone.org/start-here/#sthash.khMq5JKs.dpbs (The site currently seems to be having some problems, so this is the archived version.)

    Honestly, if you work to cultivate a pure mindset about the human body, the degree of clothing makes no difference. My issue with bikinis is not that they reveal too much, but that they put strips of fabric in two places, saying, “Everything else is okay to see, but not breasts and not genitals.” Is this actually a modest mindset? The only passage in the Bible that speaks of modesty is in 1 Timothy 2–“I desire… that women adorn themselves in proper clothing with modesty and sobriety, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, what befits women professing godly reverence, by good works.” The Bible defines modesty on the negative side as “not with braided hair, gold, pearls, or costly clothing” and on the positive side as being adorned with “good works.” 1 Peter 3 addresses similarly addresses this issue with wives, and it says that adornment shouldn’t be of “the outward plaiting of hair and putting on of gold or clothing with garments,” but “the incorruptible adornment of a meek and quiet spirit, which is very costly in the sight of God.” Nothing here about how much skin to show (or taking responsibility for someone else’s purity–an impossible task, by the way), but a lot about the heart attitude behind it!

    Just as the Biblical understanding of purity is very different from what we commonly hear in the American church, the Biblical understanding of modesty is also quite different. Different cultures around the world wear different amounts of clothing, and some even wear none at all. Cultural norms affect, to a large degree, what we find arousing. The extreme Muslims say that the entire female body is too arousing, so it should be covered from head to foot. To a certain extent, the American church is teaching the same philosophy about the female body, even if it wouldn’t go quite so far as to cover all of it. But honestly, this is quite degrading to men and women, and it is an insult to our Creator. I agree with your statement that the church should be the safest place to wear a bikini, and I would add that it should also be the safest place to go skinny dipping. Because Christians should be cultivating a pure mindset toward the human body in all its stages of dress, and as you said, the church should be the one place where men and women don’t need to fear being objectified and made into sexual objects. Once again, this issue is not how much skin is or isn’t shown. It’s about the “meek and quiet spirit,” which is true modesty. And it’s about truly appreciating and believing that each person is “fearfully and wonderfully made,” which is true purity.

    • WOW. i love everything about this comment.

      “I finally realized that the pornography industry and the mainstream American church are teaching the same message. The pornography industry says, “Women are an object of sexual lust–indulge!” And the church says, “Women are an object of sexual lust–suppress!” Both are teaching the same lie about the female body–i.e. that a man can’t help but lust after a woman’s body if he sees it. In complete contrast, the Bible affirms that we are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27; 5:1-2), and we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psa. 139:14). After Adam and Eve were created–still in their natural (nude) state–God declared His creation “very good” (Gen. 1:31). Is the female body “very good” or a temptation to avoid at all costs? I’m going to go with God on this one.”

      how have we not seen that before? such a great point, and i completely agree. thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and the scripture behind them.

    • I’ve read a lot of words about this modesty issue, and this is the first thing I’ve read that really hits the nail on the head. Thank you for your Biblically-backed words.

    • James,
      I almost went straight to the bottom of the comments to enter what you stated much better than I could have.
      I have appreciated mychainsaregone.org and the paradigm shift they offer for a biblical view of the body and God’s purpose in clothing humanity after the fall. Your comments take the original blog to the next level of the current Chrisitan culture confusion around the humanity and being made in the image of God!

    • I agree with the other commentors. Thank you for this balanced and Biblical view! I have been annoyed with the “modesty” discussion for ages, having grown up in the church and attended some ultra-conservative youth events where girls could only wear skirts or culottes and tshirts over their swimsuits (not saying any of this is bad). But the real issue of purity and modesty was never addressed, only externals. Instead, it taught shame for the girls and suppression for the boys. One guy in his attempt to honor and please God would repent if he ever unintentionally brushed up against a woman, say in a store aisle! These teachings made him so (what I will call) overly aware that he couldn’t function as a calm and free human being in regards to women.

      I really appreciate what you wrote — “Because Christians should be cultivating a pure mindset toward the body in all it’s stages of dress…” and so on to the end of your comment. Thank you!

  13. Reblogged this on In My Shoes… and commented:
    Really thankful for this guy’s perspective on such a controversial topic within the church community. I think there certainly is a balance between his view and some of the comments on the blog.. Overall I do agree. Take a look 🙂

  14. Thank you for this. I also believe modesty and sexual purity begin at home and are to be taught to both sexes equally. We will not get a grip on modest behavior until we accept that men are selecting increasing immoral women as wives and even, in the church. Makes it hard for a sister who is modest. Even the preacher who praises his wife will speak of her physical beauty before her spirituality and modesty. We need to acknowledge and teach and demand more from each other in order to live as God intended. Thank you for this wonderful post and the video embedded within.

  15. The book title “Every Man’s Battle”, made me cringe, because the title alone already implied everything that upseted me about the Church. There is too much brainswashing of the boys that they are slobbery ,mangey, perverts by birth. I grew up in multiple cultures and they are different. Much of the Church’s preaching on this actually caused more harm in my relationship with men than the other way around.

    Seeing the comments though, I am already confirmed about my “Judging a Book by its cover”, in the most literal sense.

  16. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. As a girl in the youth group, I too have gotten those talks. personally, I do not prefer wearing a bikini in a church environment. However, I love the different points and aspect you brought. I have placed too much responsibility on myself making sure I don’t look “sexy” at church. thank you for the great read!

  17. That was very simplistic and basically just “wishful thinking.” Honestly I get girls want to look sexy. I’m 45 and still wrestle with this, and body image. its a lifelong battle. Part of the whole dying to self theme Jesus taught us.
    I truly believe its part of our sinful nature of focusing on the exterior, the temporal etc… Only God can change that, change a heart, make it Christ like and make a person want to be Christ like.
    But get them to not want to wear bikins? not want to look sexy like the women they are SURROUNDED BY in every store, magazine or school? thats a miracle right there. And some serious wishful thinking.
    I’m teaching my girls purity, modesty and healthy sexuality. That they are Gods special creation and need to be valued and cherished. One way we aren’t valuing ourselves is by needing others to notice us and want us by dressing provocatively. And we all know the difference between modest and provocative if we are honest.
    As far as our teens go, we have to set the example and yes, we still have to tell them no! U can’t wear that. We can dress attractively and femininely without looking like street walkers. We have to be the boundary that says we won’t try to look exactly like the rest of the world. We can be different without being legalistic. It is possible.
    We live in a porn driven, hyper sexualized society. Please don’t add to that cesspool by allowing your daughters to dress like the Kardashians just because you think they are beautiful and shouldn’t be deprived of ” self expression”. Or because the church should be “safe”, that right there is very, very naive. Sexual abuse happens everywhere and in the “safest” places. id love for church to be the safe zone, but it’s not. I could share many stories of sick individuals infiltrating the Body of Christ.
    The bottom line is this: We are to be all about Christ and others. And while you might stick your fingers in your ears at the yearly sermon of not making our brothers stumble, the Truth is staying pure, standing firm and remaining righteous is a moment by moment battle. For all of us. For some of us our battles are materialism, selfishness, greed, depression. But one of Satans fave weapons is sexual strongholds. And The truth is many men and boys (EVEN THE CHRISTIAN ONES) are masturbating to your children’s sexy pics. Think about that the next time you go clothes shopping with your daughters!

  18. The fact that ANY youth group would tell a girl to either wear a one piece swimsuit or sit out, is exactly what’s wrong with church today.
    Ignorant, sexist and plain wrong. What should it matter WHAT you wear? The fact that a teen would just show up at a church sponsored event, should be good enough!!!!!!

  19. This is a great article. I hated that “talk” too. The tankini thing is a really good compromise. It was always painful to hear at church how I was causing all the young guys to stumble and that they won’t be pure enough for their wives (and that I’m not pure enough for my husband). I always thought that the young guys should get themselves together a little more as opposed to me trying to think for them as well. I always asked myself what image I was giving off to people in general. Am I classy? Do I look trashy? Or my new favorite, would the Duchess of Cambridge wear this? lol.

  20. I do believe that modesty is important but it should be taught to both sexes. If the girls shouldn’t show their abs, then the boys shouldn’t either. We’d all like to believe that only guys think about sex but girls do too. It is also only fair. Why not say “everyone must wear shirts” and “let us all not be a stumbling block? “

    • This is the very message I share with my youth group as a youth minister. I have spoken with girls who have said they struggled with lusting after guys going topless at the pool/ beach, so I know guys need to be careful about modesty too. We all need to be careful about being stumbling blocks (making it harder on the opposite gender to avoid the sin of lust) as well as controlling our own lusts.

  21. I just talked today in Sunday school to 7th and 8th grade girls about this very thing. I told them that being modest is more than what they wear but how they act and think. Being modest isn’t about covering up ones body out of shame or fear of causing someone to sin but in showing you have respect for yourself and for bringing glory to God.
    Girls are taught (and not just in church but in schools too) that they are responsible for causing a boy to lust with her dress because a boy is nothing but a bundle of walking hormones. That is insulting to both boys and girls. We are not animals but created in His image. Both genders should be treated with respect because of that. While yes, there is some responsiblity on girls in how they dress, the ultimate responsibility for a boy’s thought life falls on him. When he stands before God one day, I don’t think that He is going to accept the excuse, “She was asking for it.”

  22. Many great points. But why shouldn’t she want to wear a bikini? If a boy wants to wear swim trunks and forgo the rash guard, no one gets bothered by this. If the rule-makers believe it’s because only boys are sexually attracted to the opposite sex visually, they’re wrong. Young women can just as easily lust after a bare chest or some abs. It’s really the double-standard that I have the biggest issue with. Lust is not a gender-specific sin so either everyone covers up or everyone wears what they’re comfortable in and we teach all of our kids to have enough respect for their peers and their purity to regard one another with dignity.

  23. Pingback: “Poolside Purity” and why the bikini issue needs to STOP. | Hot Tropics

  24. You write, “the church should be the one place where women don’t need to fear being objectified and made into sexual objects.” That would be true if the Church were full of perfect people. However, the Church is the league of the broken, full of rule breakers(like myself) who come to God to receive mercy & grace. So sadly, what you describe here is just not a reality on earth.

  25. Reblogged this on Trying to Be the Life of My Party and commented:
    This is such an amazing view on this topic of swim wear. Though it might not seem like such an issue, it definitely is. This video and article is beautifully written and we need more people who think like this.

  26. Enforcing modesty in swimsuits is only further enforcing the over-sexualization and objectification of the female body. In other, less-prudish countries, the midriff, lower back, legs, and even breasts are not sexualized, as they should not be. It is the fault of the conservative church that Americans are so perverted and sexualize any idea of the female form.

    • I’ve lived for 50 years (happily married for 26 years) and there are still a lot of things I don’t know, Benjamin. But one thing I do know. The conservative American church is NOT responsible for a man’s innate interest/desire toward a woman’s breasts. That was God’s idea. On the day I got married, I thought it was a beautiful idea…26 years later, I still do.

  27. So I don’t normally post comments on blogs. If a friend on Facebook shares a blog article, I may read it, maybe even share it myself, but rarely do I go that far. Your post struck such a nerve that I had to comment. THANK YOU!!!! I am so glad people are starting to teach about this subject CORRECTLY!! Men DO need to take more responsibility. Women should be TAUGHT biblically, not forced bc of legalistic religious laws!!! Every pastor in America needs to read this AND TEACH IT!! Thank you again for spreading a good message. I decided to subscribe to your blog after reading this!! I’ll be sharing it on Facebook too!! 🙂

  28. Another point I want to put out there is that girls lust after boys too.
    Why do we never put any pressure on young boys to cover up? To wear a T-shirt along with their swim trunks. We never shame boys for wearing speedos, or making provocative comments. The only difference between a bikini and a one-piece is that the stomach is covered. How is it fair that boys get to flaunt their stomachs without any guilt but our girls are scrutinized for having their belly buttons show.
    If so many want to truly use the argument that boys are naturally inclined to think of girls in a sexual manner, why can we not admit to ourselves that this is a battle both genders face.
    We need to change the way we approach this issue, because by saying that it’s more important for girls to dress modestly so that boys can remain pure we are saying that the value of a boys purity is greater than a girls.

  29. This makes some excellent points, but I do disagree a bit on the bikini issue. Rather than condemning them, it would be nice if an effort were made to promote more modest bikinis. One-piece swimsuits are the worst thing in the world when you have to take a bathroom break and tankinis provide zero support, which leaves the bikini option. However, finding one that actually covers your chest is a nightmare.

  30. Thank you so much for taking the blame off the shoulders of young girls. It’s not a young lady’s responsibility to change themselves to ‘protect’ a young man. Young men need to be accountable for themselves. Yes, they ARE able to control themselves and act like human beings if you teach them restraint.

    I am not a church going person…I have a friend who posts things of this nature on Facebook and sometimes I read and am delightfully surprised at what I see.

    I have never seen bikinis on young girls appropriate. And these days, with young girls looking more and more like adult women…it seems even more pressing to stop the ‘sex’ image and let them be young girls! There’s plenty of time you can be a sexy goddess as an adult. Why are you trying to do it at 14?

    I have a son. I have steered clear of the ‘boys will be boys and you might as well accept it because there’s nothing you can do about it’ mentality. I tell my son all the time to maintain control of himself. No, you don’t HAVE to burp loudly at the table. (Our current loss of self control…he’s 12) Now you won’t eat outside of our house for three months. When you learn self control…but I hear all the judgment and feel the eyes of all those mothers who have it in their heads that boys will be boys.

    I’m trying to teach my son to love people based on who they are..not how much makeup they can pay for. I’ve shown him instances, time and time again, of ‘pretty’ girls being cruel and handsome men being jerks. I tell him he’s going to see beauty everywhere he looks…as long as he opens his eyes to it. But someday… he will find perfection…for him at least…and it will be light years beyond sexy.

  31. Just to break a few myths: Women are just as visual as men. Women are just as lustful as men. Men are objectified just as much as women. Women are just as sinful as men. Women “stumble” just as often as men do. Men have just as much responsibility as women to save sex for marriage. There are just as many slobbering and drooling Neanderthal women as there are men. Godly masculinity is just as important as Godly femininity. Basically all I saw in this article was double standards.

    • Thanks, John! I think I agree with you on most of those myths that you clear up. Unfortunately here, I was seeking to address the way I’ve seen many churches handle the issue now, rather than every facet of sexual purity. Maybe another post about some of those misconceptions is needed in the future. Thanks for reading!

  32. I wrote about this on my blog as well- but got my 16 year old daughter’s thoughts on it—she’s a Christian struggling with being judged and insecurity … Check it out! Tiffanycrawford.org

  33. Interesting. I’d say you had it pretty well right up until the “girl’s shouldn’t want to wear bikinis” part. The assertion that a “one-piece” is more modest then a bikini (let’s be real, we’re talking a few square inches of fabric here if that) is a subjective, culturally conditioned opinion that no one has the right to impose on anyone else. As a women who has struggled with the body-shaming culture created by the church, I can tell you I feel more modest in a bikini that will actually provide support/coverage for my 32DDD chest than a one piece (which I can tell you from experience never fails to facilitate “wardrobe malfunction,” or at the very least a constant struggle against one). Modesty is an attitude, not a matter of buttons or inches of spandex.

  34. Hey Nick,
    Imagine that all the women in your church congregation showed up this weekend in bikinis? During worship. Is your church feeling safe for YOU right about now? Yeah, you want to “man up.” Honor those women who are revealing so much of themselves. You clearly value women as made in the image of God, but……It’s hard to just look into their eyes, isn’t it? Whether someone is heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or asexual (ok, I’m not talking about amoebas, but just couldn’t resist that!), we are made to be drawn to the beauty and allure of skin.
    The safest place for a woman to wear a bikini? Alone, in the presence of her savior, where she can receive his love and affirmation, remembering that she is adorned with His infinite worth.

  35. I think the church should be the safest place men and young boys could be. A reprieve from the “sexy” that the world is constantly trying to shove in their face. And women and girls should DEFINITELY be trying to not be a stumbling block. Not out of lawlessness, but out of the love for Jesus they hold in their heart. (I did love the line about girls shouldn’t WANT to wear a bikini.)
    I do not have children yet, but I would hate to think of raising my sons in a church that told them that they needed to suck it up and be men, not be tempted by the sisters in Christ parading in bikinis in a place that should be honoring to God. When it was, in fact, God who created them to be visually attracted to women. By no means am I saying this is a free pass for men. However we all need to be working together as the body of Christ. We shouldn’t be asking “how close to the line can I get without crossing it?”.
    Modesty is a heart issue on both ends. And both are held accountable. THAT is what we should be teaching our youth. I understand that for so long the responsibility has been placed on girls, but that doesn’t mean the pendulum needs to swing so far in the other direction.

    • Precisely, Karinda. I fear that many of the comments I’m reading above simply indicate that we’re going the other direction now. Let’s just seek to protect each other in love. And if that means telling a sister (or a brother, for that matter) what’s what…let’s be willing to do that in love.

  36. I really appreciated the parts of this article that critiqued the damaging purity narratives rampant within many parts of the Church. We men often place unjust responsibility on women for our sins, and are complicit in perpetuating a rape culture where abuse can flourish unchecked. However…it seems to me that you might have fallen into the dangerous (and, I think, unbiblical) habit of making blanket pronouncements of what Real Men™ and Real Women™ must act like. You talk about “Godly femininity,” “men who are real men,” and tell your readers to “MAN. FREAKING. UP.” Notably, there are no such orders to “woman up.” (and what would that even mean?)

    If there’s one thing reading the Bible has taught me about the amazing women and men whose stories fill its pages, it’s that God’s intention wasn’t ever to hand down some strict, magical checklist of attributes that each gender needs to tightly hold to. The women we read about in scripture are Spirit-filled, gifted and powerful Christians who lead churches, prophesy, and are the ones who consistently stay strong and brave while Christ’s male followers flinch and flee

    I liked some of the points you are making here. But I don’t believe you go far enough. Yes, I love Ephesians 5. But I believe our call as followers of Christ is to conform ourselves to His image alone – not to piecemeal, extra-biblical gender roles that are honestly more often pulled from 20th century nuclear family values than they are from the holy scriptures themselves.

    please let me know if you ever want to talk, or need prayer, support, etc – I apologize if my tone ever came off as dismissive or harsh

  37. As and the father of two men (18 & 24), as father of two ladies (19 & 22), as owner of a pool, I can say this is malarkey. As I thought the author is maybe 30 and writing from a “This is how I will do it.” Oh really? Men take the heat for just about every problem in the church. That may sound like a pout but if you think about it, you will realize it is true. This bikini issue I say is the Mom’s problem. Moms remember when they looked that good in a swimsuit. And let it slide. “Oh it’s cute.” If Dad says something they get ignored. Moms, if your daughter is too embarrassed to wear the swimsuit in the living room around her father and brothers, don’t wear it. Moms, what do you want me to say? Your daughter looks good in those yoga pants where EVERYTHING shows? And you want me to talk to MY son about respecting women!? Forgettaaboutit. My son’s are a gentleman’s gentleman. The compliments my wife and I get are incredible. Their attitude toward women had long been established in how I talk to their mother and other women. By the time they notice a lady is pretty, it’s borderline too late. Sidenote: in a church we attended they had a slogan “Come as you are.” Well in the summer ladies came with pink bra straps and tank tops every week. I mentioned it to the pastor and his wife. I suggested saying something in winter as to not embarrass anyone. Nothing was said. So here I am trying to worship my Lord (with my sons) and I have a Mom and her daughters all in tight tank tops and frilly undergarments in plain site. Moms, I love you! But you need to own this one.

    • You don’t have a choice what you see, but you do have a choice what you do with what you see.

      In church you see attractive women, but, pray tell, why are you noticing and obsessing over their pink bra straps? Are they your wife? Are they yours to derive pleasure from? No? Then why are YOU obsessing over them?

      Having been raised in a conservative and legalistic form of evangelicalism (Bill Gothard, IBLP, ATI, et al), I was surrounded by women dressed to the standard of northern European model of “modesty”: long skirts, high peter pan collars, hose, low- or no-heeled shoes, and I found these young ladies, who were doing everything by the book regarding what they’d been taught regarding modesty, to be be as much a source of attraction and illicit pleasure as any of the scantily dressed “worldly women” I encountered when out in the real world.

      In the certain cultures more common to the middle east, showing a wrist or an ankle is considered to be the height of visual sexuality, even if the rest of the body is entirely robed in a burka.

      The issue, then, comes down to this: what are YOU doing with what you see? For all it got wrong, the idea I heard from IBLP regarding taking thoughts captive is quite applicable and probably true: you can be and are responsible for yourself, for your eyes, for your thoughts. Job didn’t say he’d taken a vow never to look at a young woman, he said he’d taken a vow not to lust after those young women he saw.

      So, getting back to all those pink bra straps you see in church that you have so arrogantly demanded your pastor address: why are you obsessing over them? I’d guess it’s possibly because you have entirely failed to control yourself.

  38. When I was in high school I remember putting on whatever I thought flattered me the most. I attended a Campus Crusade for Christ conference in college and was hit over the head with God’s word. A young married couple sat the females down and talked to us about this issue. In my mind if the boys stumbled that was “their own fault.” However, through God’s word and their wisdom they shared how I was just as much responsible. As a daughter of the King I needed to model modesty and as their sister in Christ I needed to help my brothers along in their difficult journey, not by making it harder for them. I was not helping them by wearing v-neck tight shirts and low cut jeans in prayer group. That message changed my heart and changed my life. I am now a mother of 3 boys and you better bet I am training them not to idolize a woman’s body but I am also praying for the girls out there to get a grip. I am a Pastor’s wife and It frustrates me terribly that women are trying to teach their daughters not to have premarital sex and then the next day taking them shopping only to buy the skimpiest bikini out there. Really? Parents are sending mixed signals to sons and daughters. If you don’t want your daughter to be drooled over and lusted after then don’t put her out there in a bikini that barely covers the gifts God has reserved for marriage. I hear what you are saying and for the most part I agree. Boys are responsible but we can’t let the girls off the hook here it is only going to make it worse.

  39. Romans 14:15-19
    15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. 16 So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

    You have freedom to eat different foods or wear what you like, but if your freedom causes even a weaker brother in Christ to stumble, you need to give up your freedom. Just something to consider.

    • Nathan, thanks for reading, and thanks for referring things back to God’s Word. This passage has come up a lot lately, and I might work through it in an upcoming post. It is definitely challenging to voluntarily relinquish freedom for the sake of others. If applied responsibly, this could have powerful implications for this discussion. I will save further comment for a later time, but thanks again for allowing God’s Word to speak where so many have had similar thoughts.

  40. I don’t understand how you can say in one sentence “the church should be the safest place in the world for a girl to wear a bikini.” And then say “It should be the one place where sex—every single aspect of it—is between a man and a woman inside the confines of a marriage.” Walking around half naked in a bikini, or any form of a bathing suit that shows too much, should be reserved for the marriage relationship in the privacy of the bedroom. Although, you tried to explain that you don’t advocate for bikinis, I think you contradicted yourself, which was a bad way to end a great article, in my opinion.

  41. How is the statement “Dressing immodestly objectifies the woman. It makes her an object to be ogled rather than a treasure to cherish.” different from telling girls they are responsible for men’s sexual thoughts?

    I completely agree with your first two points and your final point (boys should be taught respect and personal responsibility from youth, girls should not be made responsible for boys thoughts and should be free of the pressure to conform to a social image, and church should be the safest place for anybody and everybody), but when you get into modesty, I think you lose a bit of clarity mostly because you conflate northern European garb with modesty, and make prescriptions regarding what a Godly woman will dress like, reinstating what you just demolished a few paragraphs earlier.

    • Thanks for this. I do see your point, and many have made similar comments. Modesty is culturally bound, for sure, and this issue needs a delicate balance, rather than a hard rule. That was my intent, but it may not have been clear. Thanks for critical yet gracious eyes!

  42. Growing up in the church, I was given the “one piece talk” quite a large hand full of times. I found it extremely frustrating because aside from it being hard to find a one piece swimsuits, I felt like I was the one being punished because my body was the “thing” being hidden. Didn’t God make my body in his image? That’s what I’ve always been told (Genesis 1:27).

    When my youth pastors would say “Don’t forget to cover up! We don’t want to be distracting the boys with two pieces!” it would make me so annoyed. Do they not realize that young girls are just as attracted to shirtless boys as boys are with girls that show their stomachs? If girls are being essentially forced to wear a one piece or not be able to participate, then the same standard should be help for guys as well.

  43. Thank you so much for writing this. There is something very wrong about how this issue has been taught to young men and women. I was afraid of men for a very long time, always afraid they were lusting after me. Ironically, the times I felt most uncomfortable were not at the pool, but in church. I would sit there wondering how many men at that moment were thinking about sex, since that was what men were “always” thinking about. After marriage, I also spend many years afraid that my husband was always lusting after other women.

    Thankfully I am not afraid like that anymore. I agreed with your points up until the part about Christian women should not WANT to wear a bikini and that is where I (hopefully) respectfully disagree. By saying that, it almost undercuts the points you were making throughout your article. I do think women should be mindful of their environment when choosing swimwear, but to say that they should never want to wear a bikini, just puts an expectation that need not be there and only fosters judgement in people’s minds. I want my four sons to grow up respecting women, no matter what they are wearing. All the comments about “dressing like a stripper” are a bit troubling. Strippers are worthy of love as well, and are just as worthy (or unworthy depending on how you look at it) of the Gospel. I believe you were making that point when you said that church should be the safest place to wear a bikini. It certainly would not be safe, however, if the church was teaching that a true Christian woman should not want to wear one.

  44. So, how different is your article from the “dreaded one piece talk”? Your conclusion and admonition really appear to boil down to one “do” and two “don’ts”, both of which are very well worn, familiar, and unoriginal due to having already come from plenty of pulpits..

    I’m sincerely not wanting to be too harsh but this article came up on my FB feed, and in the hopes of reading something original I gave it a go. It starts out fairly catchy and interesting but then lapses into a preachy 3 point piece that has probably been heard many times.

    A genuine question I have that I would welcome comments on is ..What is it about Christians and the pre-occupation with sex anyway? Nick, not only does the question you raise have to be asked “why do preachers have to give the dreaded one piece talk every summer?”, but also why do smarter and more savvy preachers have to respond to the dreaded one piece talk, with another “3 piece talk” responding to the dreaded one piece talk, and basically arriving at the very same conclusion?

    Nick, would I find agreement from any of your readers that it just might be possible that the overwhelming pre-occupation with sex and the repressive ideas about it in Christianity might just contribute to the weird way in which young Christians approach their sexuality? Is it possible that the crazy and driving “forbidden fruit” fascination with sex amongst Christian young people might be due in large part to the taboo that surrounds sex in Christian circles and from their pulpits?

    Here’s an idea… why not just simply move the Christian community en mass to Afghanistan and let the Taliban set the rules around sexuality and the theology of apparel? It’s basically the same idea that Christians fixate on only the Taliban is actually successful with dress codes because that kind of Islam actually has teeth. Well, physical teeth that is (if you consider be-headings and executions as well as the threat of them as teeth), which I do. But is the Christian fixation on sex (while not having any real physical teeth) not loaded with a powerful set of psychological teeth just as damaging only not by cloaking and smothering with the Burqa but by smothering and suffocating with a psychological and emotional burqa foisted on by preachers (whether they are savvy or not)?

    Who gives a care if young girls enjoy their body and do so by wearing a bikini? Who cares if young men find that visually appealing? Let it be. It’s normal. It’s natural. Society itself has its ways of appropriateness around the issues of objectification and society itself actually shames the thing that needs shaming -misogyny! BUT, Keep the pulpits and blogs the hell out of it in the same way we would keep the Mullahs out of it. If you did keep the blogs and pulpits out of it, you would find that your young people wouldn’t develop into suffering from a retardation of their sexuality and who cannot separate their bodies from the shame you have wrapped around them like a burqa.

    Is it that much of a mystery why porn is such an addictive unquenchable fire amongst young Christian men? More so than non Christian men? Likely a big reason is because the force of your repressive doctrines (which are not normal) is met by the force of the sexual desire (which is normal) and that collision can only explode in dysfunctional ways.

    Let young women express themselves in whatever way they wish by what they wear, and let young men do the same. And for the sake of normal let them both notice each other and enjoy it. It should be as simple as that. Really.

    • Darrin I completely understand your logic. The thing is, however, that “normal” is not what a Christian strives for and unfortunately it isn’t as simple as you pointed out when it comes to Christians. They strive to live as God intended. Now I respect your views if you do not subscribe to Christianity, but this is not an issue that pastors create, it’s Christian doctrine embedded in the bible. You do not have to agree with it, but it is the reason for our attitude towards sex. Everyone (Christians and non-Christians) have a sex drive. In our belief, it is not supposed to be easy to control it but we try because we strive to live as god intends (and admittedly we fail miserably and this makes us hypocritical but frankly, we don’t care). We don’t think this makes us superior in any way (I don’t claim that my Christianity makes me any better of a person than any non-Christian). This is simply our beliefs so although it may seem “dysfunctional” to some, it is one of the moral laws we strive to live by. I’m not trying to sway you or say that this is one of the most important issues the world faces today (because it isn’t), but it is an issue for Christians. You have the right to your opinion which I respect and makes complete since, I’m just letting you know that the reason why it doesn’t apply to us is because it defies our moral code spelled out by our religion.

      • Hi Shawn.. Thanks for the thoughtful response. I should be honest here as I was with Nick. I’m a former Christian and was an evangelical pastor for many years but I had de-converted a few years ago. I don’t know that I can say I am an atheist partly because I don’t think that term is understood and means different things to different people.

        I am in 100% agreement with you that it is not an issue that pastors create. Intense focus on sex and sexuality is in the Bible as we both know. Ancient men who wrote the Bible (as well as other sacred texts) are well known through research to have had an insatiable interest in controlling people emotionally and politically by placing enormous concern over where the human penis is placed. Sex and guilt are two of the most powerful forces known to our species, and very useful for controlling people.

        For the most part I have no real issue with pastors commenting on this (other than it seems so over emphasized disproportionately and tends to become an entire subculture in the evangelical ghettos).

        I will disagree with you on another matter though. Unlike many other atheists or humanists, I don’t see any hypocrisy in Christian people. I generally don’t see hypocrisy in most of anything Christians say and do. I’m a bit odd that way. Hypocrisy generally stems from an assumption that Christians preach a set of doctrines that are good and wholesome, but then fall short of those things in their own conduct, and a watching world then seizes on that contradiction.

        I couldn’t disagree with that any stronger than I do. I think people are basically good (with the exception of socio-paths and psychopaths). I would reverse the assumptions made about Christian hypocrisy, in other words, Christians are not people with a sinful nature who preach a good doctrine then fail to live up to it, I think its the people who are good but are then needlessly ruined by terrible doctrine. Christian doctrine, in my opinion, is the polluting factor that fails to live up to, honour, and recognize the amazing distance we have come in our sojourn as a species and gets it so wrong in describing human nature, and then pulls us back into trying to satisfy a horribly abnormal set of doctrines that bend and twist the human personality like a pretzel by forcing it to go against its’ nature and creating all sorts of conflicting pressures, dissonance, psychological abnormality, sexual dysfunction, and ultimately destruction of the human personality (the only thing you and I truly own in this life). When Christians try to live up to that set of horrible doctrines, it forces them into positions and situations so contradictory to human nature (which is generally good and which requires absolutely no shame) that something has got to give. And when it does give, that’s when the “apparent” hypocrisy appears and is jumped on by a suspicious world, and usually admitted to by a shamed Christian.

        That whole business drives me nuts. It’s so obvious to me what is going on! Remove the horrible doctrines and it will automatically cause the contortions and unnatural writhing to stop. Then Christians, who are are just normal members of our amazing species, will be liberated. The pressure will be gone, the shame will go, the slut-shaming will cease, the sex-shaming will stop, and the celebration of our natural nature can continue. That’s the reason, in my opinion, to say no to the pastors, priests, and Imams. If they go, the doctrines that they force onto the gentle beings they try to influence will go where they actually have value… on the book shelves as a commentary to human history. Anyway, that’s just me.

    • Darrin,
      You make a few strong points. I believe that if the way we typically handle body issues and sexuality in the church were true, then the Islamic stance of forcing women to wear burkas is actually more consistent than we are willing to be. Maybe that’s a “teeth” issue. But I think the way we handle it is flawed, and that was my point in this article. I defend the biblical teaching on human sexuality: that is, that it is a good thing, meant to be faithfully shared with only one person, and that looking at a person lustfully (call it “enjoying,” if you will) subverts the dignity with which God creates humans. I understand you will disagree. I understand you may think me archaic. The “contradiction” that you highlight is mostly because I am taking an issue where there is a delicate balance, and pointing out that the church rarely acknowledges the balance. Instead, it is all too often that the Churches take the path of least resistance, and it is detrimental to the Gospel and to the way girls view themselves (and boys, for that matter). Thanks for reading and your personal engagement with me. I hope you’ll stay engaged in the future.

      • Thanks Nick. You’re truly thoughtful and obviously a genuinely caring pastor with a great ability to appreciate nuance in words -something that pastors, who are wordsmiths, have to appreciate, and something that other wordsmiths get excited about.

        I get where you’re coming from -completely (I hope). I don’t see you as archaic at all, just a good man trying to lead and be faithful to your calling. If you read my response to Shawn above, you’ll get a sense as to what I’m trying to say. I don’t need to re-say anything here. But reading your responses and the way you approach issues, I am left with one question for you. Obviously you are a good and caring young man. Do you think it is possible that you’re good nature and love of people will have to logically bring you to the place where out of love for your people you will have to confront the nature of the doctrine and beliefs you hold?

  45. I have two points that need to be made here.

    First, the belief that girls are responsible for keeping boys “lust” in check is at best laughable and at worst disgusting and dangerous. It’s essentially saying that any resulting male action from her lack of “modesty” is her own fault. Does this include rape? No reasonable person would say it does, but logic is logic. She can’t be responsible for one result and not another.

    Second, could it be that maybe the reason these girls are so uncomfortable talking about this is because on at least some level they know it means you’ll be examining their bodies closely while passing judgement on their modesty?

    Put yourself in their shoes. They’re already totally surrounded by a world that they perceive to be judging everything about them. Now their pastor/preacher/minister (whatever the proper term is) is looking at their form fitting swim clothes? They probably cry themselves to sleep at night after these “talks”.

    Teenagers will be teenagers. Whether a girl is in a bikini or a burlap sack teenage boys will likely lust after her–and she after them.
    This is how nature works. You can believe otherwise, but it will still work that way.

    Why not just let them wear what they feel comfortable in? If the kids are the fine upstanding young humans you’ve taught them to be then a few inches of missing fabric won’t make any difference–but it will probably make a whole lot of girls feel better about themselves when they know it’s their choice.

  46. I don’t disagree with what you’re arguing, but I’m wondering if you’ve read the Princeton study that Jessica Rey refers to in the video. I haven’t either. The findings were never actually released. Jessica’s information comes from two media interviews from the leader of the study, Susan Fiske. The study was never even peer reviewed. Furthermore, what Jessica leaves out from what was said in the media interviews is that, in the study, the heads of the scantily clad women were removed to protect their identities. Thus the study compared modestly dressed girls with heads, to immodestly dressed girls with no heads. Not exactly the best of comparisons. So while again I’m not arguing against your points, I would recommend not using this video, presented by a commercial rival to the bikini, to support your argument.

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