AMERICAN CHURCH UNDRESSED
“In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety…” --1Timothy 2:9
As we head towards the end of the dog days of summer which have been filled with back yard barbecues, sporting events and sojourns to the beach, I thought it important to discuss one of Christianity’s “sacred cows”. People might not think “Christian Modesty” is a sacred cow but any time someone suggests that the Lord might have something to say about the clothes we wear, that person runs the risk of being called a legalist, or prude and can be accused of infringing on another’s Christian “liberty”. Modesty is not something that is very often mentioned in church anymore. This has become evident when the girl sitting in the next pew is imitating the attire or lack thereof of Britney Spears, and girls at Christian concerts wear skin tight T-shirts emblazoned with the words “I like Christian Boys.” Essentially, many are trying to be their child’s friend instead of their parent, and we are afraid of offending the flock.
Consequently, as pop culture, the media, and the fashion world is encouraging Americans everywhere to expose their navel, the Church has willingly following suit by taking off our robes of righteousness, when we should be putting them on.
Recently I discovered an insightful, challenging and thoughtful book called “Christian Modesty, and The Public Undressing of America,” by Jeff Pollard. Pollard traces the roots of our modern trend toward nakedness, and examines its impact on America today. Pollard gives a poignant definition of modesty in describing it as such: “Modesty is not first an issue of clothing. It is primarily an issue of the heart. And if the heart is right with God, it will govern itself in purity coupled with humility and will express itself modestly…Christian modesty is the inner self-government, rooted in a proper understanding of one’s self before God, which outwardly displays itself in humility and purity from a genuine love for Jesus Christ, rather than in self-glorification or self-advertisement. Christian modesty then will not publicly expose itself in sinful nakedness.”
Nakedness was originally good in the Garden of Eden until sin entered the world through the rebellion of Adam and Eve. This rebellion brought shame into the world and thus began mankind’s own attempt to cover ourselves in “aprons” of our own works. The Lord in his abundant provision gave us suitable clothing, “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons…Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them” (Genesis 3:7, 21) As the Church has stripped the Bible of the normative, literal and grammatical interpretation of Genesis, we have also taken scriptures such as 1 Timothy 2:9 on modesty and set them aside as being antiquated, not applicable to today’s progressive, pluralistic, postmodern society. Now the distinction between the pagan and the Christian is smaller and smaller, along with our outfits.
Richard Baxter sums up the impact that this public nakedness and immodest dress can have on men when it tends “to the ensnaring of the minds of the beholders in shameless, lustful, wanton passions, though you say, you intend it not, it is your sin and vanity that is the cause, it is nevertheless your sin to be the unnecessary occasion: for you must consider that you live among diseased souls! And you must not lay a stumbling block in their way, nor blow up the fire of their lust, nor make your ornaments their snares; but you must walk among sinful persons, as you would do with a candle among straw or gunpowder; or else you may see the flame which you would not foresee, when it is too late to quench it.” (A Christian Directory in Baxter’s Practical Works Vol. 1, p.392)
As a man I can attest to the fact that men are visually oriented and can accurately be compared to being gunpowder amongst a candle. This however, does not free men from the admonition and responsibility to have pure thoughts and to control our eyes. “I made a covenant with my eyes; why then should I look upon a maid?” (Job 31:1) “If anyone even looks at a woman to lust after her, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28) It may be important to consider the way men dress as well.
Consider this humbling, historical fact directed to men. In the 1930’s, “the upper torso became the new focus of concern, and male swimmers who bared chests in public not only forfeited respectability but faced the penalty of arrest as well…Apparel Arts in 1932 reported that ‘many of the bathers of this year…swam shirtless, wearing only a pair of Trunks.’” (Pollard, 58) I am not advocating that men be barred from going shirtless, but this example does show how far we have strayed in our virtue and modesty as a nation.
In discussing this topic, there is certainly a risk of being either too legalistic or too licentious. We all should examine the scriptures diligently to see if there is an area of our life that we have not surrendered to the lordship of Jesus Christ. As we are being continually inundated with pornographic corruption coming from radios, televisions, newspapers, magazines, and movies the church is in a unique position. We must not only curse the darkness but should light a candle.
This will take courage. Today, the American male has been feminized. We have failed to be the spiritual leaders, protectors and providers, and instead have become spiritual eunuchs whose hearts have been stolen from our wives and children by deadly doses of toxic pornographic poison. We have failed in our responsibility to shepherd our family members, or flock and have not protected the hearts and innocence of our loved ones. Do we want to glorify God through obedience? Or will we continue to claim Jesus as Savior but not as Lord? It is my earnest hope that both men and women can begin to see how we affect those around us and that we can be spurred on together to good deeds for the Glory of God.
“For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” 1Corinthians 6:20
Forum Ministries: To obtain the book “Christian Modesty and the
Public Undressing of America,” by Jeff Pollard.
© 2005 Nicholas Jackson
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Nick Jackson is a physical therapist from Ohio who assists pro-life and pro-family ministries in the Central Ohio area. He is executive director of Reform America, a Christian Activist organization based in Columbus. For more information on Reform America go to www.reformamerica.com
Nakedness was originally good in the Garden of Eden until sin entered the world through the rebellion of Adam and Eve. This rebellion brought shame into the world and thus began mankind’s own attempt to cover ourselves in “aprons” of our own works.