Much like winter in Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire, summer is coming. And with the rising temperatures, we will soon see the annual rise in modesty-related sermons and social media messages. On one side we will see Christians preaching the importance of covering up modestly in order to not tempt males. On the other we will see a growing voice from those both inside and outside the church who feel this style of teaching objectifies women, blaming them when they become victims of deviant sexual attitudes or behaviors.
And like waiting for that one puff of cool breeze that never comes, I always hope for a more nuanced discussion, but to no avail. The latter criticism misses out on what it means to be a Christian. Joining the church universal means thinking about Christ, His message as displayed by you, and those around you before you think of yourself.
But I am much more troubled by the former criticism, often brought by evangelical Christians (I’m one of those), ministers (also one of those), and parents (not yet, but who knows). Why? Because it destroys humans, made in God’s image. Leaving the prevention of lust, harassment, and rape to women is insane, unfair, and I’m glad it’s being called out. There isn’t a “modest” shirt sleeve in the world that’s strong enough to hold up that burden or dense enough to block darkness in the hearts of men. But this approach doesn’t just hurt females.
When I hear a mixed gender group of believers being lectured on the importance of female modesty alone, I hear young boys, before they’re old enough to know themselves, being told they can’t be redeemed.
I hear my brothers being told the only thing that can save them is female effort and a few extra inches of cloth.
I hear any future sons being told Christ’s effort and the cross can’t redeem them from anything, including the worst darkness in their hearts.
I hear future husbands being told not to bother fighting or trying to grow, because they’re just animals.
I hear “boys will be boys” being taken from a punchline to an excuse and even to a preferred structure of society.
And I hear Christ’s calls to turn and go the other way being answered with a curt, “Don’t bother the boys with all that, a coverup tshirt will solve it!”
To all females, I am so sorry. I am sorry we males have built a world that necessitates an “I made it home safe” app.
To all males, Christ offers us freedom to be better than animals. To my brothers in Christ in particular, Christ demands we be better than animals. “Boys will be boys” falls apart in the nail-scarred hands of a Jesus who was both male and perfect. Let’s rise up and be what God made us to be and what our sisters deserve us to be.
To those Christians, leaders by vocation or relationship, who use the all-welcoming yet all-challenging Christ to teach a single-gendered sexual ethic, and for those who turn aside when boys stare or harass but pass out the coverup tshirts for girls at the youth pool party: You are objectifying female image bearers of God. You are dehumanizing male image bearers of God. You are ironically all but guaranteeing the continued existence of a culture that leaves women always a moment away from objectification and fear, the very thing you say you want to prevent. You are telling Christ your Taliban-inspired sexual ethic is stronger than the cross of Christ. Stop it. Christ is on the move, and you’re trying to get in His way.