Created To Be His Help Meet, pp. 201—202
We’re in Debi’s chapter on being “chaste,” and not surprisingly, we’re discussing modesty. I actually found this passage really interesting myself, because there are several times when Debi departs from the conventional evangelical script—though not in good ways.
A chaste woman is a modest woman. God speaks of a woman maintaining her chastity and purity by the clothes she wears. “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works” (I Timothy 2:9—10).
Debi assumes that, in these verses, “modest” means no tank tops, no skirts above the knees, etc. But if you read the verses she quotes here, you’ll see that this makes no sense, and is something Debi is reading into the passage. The examples of apparel that is not “modest” presented there are “broided hair, or gold, or pearls,” not low-cut or sheer clothing. What is meant by “modest” is actually not dressing in such a way as to flaunt your wealth and one-up other people. The author of I Timothy was concerned about women in the church who were flaunting elaborate hairstyles that took hours to create in order to one-up each other. The passage has nothing to do with dressing sexy and everything to do with flaunting wealth.
God says that a woman’s apparel should profess godliness. Her clothes, hair, and adornments—not just her mouth—make a loud profession to all who see her that she is modest and godly, or that she is immodest and ungodly. Our Heavenly Father has dress standards!
Actually, no, that’s not what this passage says. Reading comprehension is your friend. I promise. The passage says that good works become women professing godliness, not that a woman’s apparel professes godliness. And that is an important distinction! Debi is turning the way women dress into a way to express godliness, when this passage is most explicitly advising against that, and arguing that women should show their godliness with their works and not get hung up on clothing! In other words, Debi is reading it backwards!
Would you employ the standard argument and dismiss God as “legalistic” when he tells us that there is a proper way to dress and there is an improper way?
I’ll buy this argument when the Bible includes illustrations of said dress code, and explains plainly what is and is not to be worn. But it doesn’t, and that’s why, when people make rules—if your skirt doesn’t touch the ground when you kneel, it’s too short!—those rules are really actually “legalism” rather than something straight from the mouth of God. Is there anything in the Bible telling women not to wear sheer clothing that shows the figure, or not to wear outfits that show the midriff? I didn’t think so.
And it’s not like God didn’t say anything about this because wearing revealing or sheer clothing is a modern invention and wasn’t an issue at the time. Let’s look at some pictures, shall we?
Clothing what this, and what is castigated is not dressing in revealing or sheer clothing but rather dressing in such a way as to flaunt your wealth and one-up other women. That says something, and it’s not what Debi seems to think it says. It’s rather the opposite, really.
Clothes speak to all who see us. Clothes make a constant profession. That is, they declare out loud—drowning out our words—our one true heart condition and our attitude toward ourselves and toward those who see us.
Whatever happened to it’s what’s on the inside that really matters? And, drowning out our words—really? It is our clothing choices that matter most? Because, again, I’m pretty sure this is what that Bible passage is actually speaking against, this idea that people should be judged and categorized by their clothing rather than by their words or actions.
When I want to entice my husband, a slight change in my clothes, hair, or demeanor is all that it takes to arouse him.
So wait. What are the implications of this? That changing your clothes, hair, or demeanor around men other than your husband is immodest, because it will arouse them? Better not get a haircut or change your makeup, ladies. Oh wait. Debi is probably against both anyway.
Men are very different from women. Jesus warned men, not women, when he said “Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matt. 5:28).
Funny story, that. Last night I had a dream that contained quite a bit of sex, actually, with a man I know but who definitely isn’t my husband. In my dream I was single, so what can I say! All this is to say that women look and “lust” too, and from where I’m sitting women don’t look all that much different from men on this score.
Then God tells a man what to do about it if he cannot keep from looking and lusting. “And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from the: for it is profitable for thee that one of they members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell” (Matt. 5:29). This is very serious business!
Do you remember when Debi wrote about a letter she got from a man who took this passage literally and was considering castrating himself because his wife wasn’t interested in sex and he was starting to “lust” after other women? Yeah, I remember that too. I also remember Debi’s response—that his wife’s body belong to him and that God had granted him full access to his wife’s body. Which read like a veiled endorsement of marital rape.
It is impossible for a woman to understand a man’s visual drive. She can only believe what an honest and candid man tells her, but few men are willing to admit to their weakness.
A woman’s body, moving within visual range of a man, unless it is modestly covered in a way that says to the man that you have no interest in him taking pleasure in your appearance, can be as stimulating to him as disrobing completely.
Ah! Here we see what Debi means by “modest”! Modest means wearing clothes that say, visually, that you do not want men viewing you as sexually attractive. But of course, it doesn’t work like that. Today, I was wearing loose pants, an unshapely coat zipped up in front, and a scarf, and yet I still had a random man on the street comment appreciatively on my appearance. Just how far am I supposed to go in my efforts to avoid male attention? See, the solution is not to cover up and cover up until men will no longer be sexually attracted to you, but rather to teach a healthy view of sexuality where feeling sexual desire is not stigmatized and consent is made central.
Further, it’s totally false that dressing in a way that is uninterested in male attention is somehow synonymous with modesty. There are plenty of women who dress, whether all the time or on occasion, for themselves and themselves alone, and yet dress in an attractive and sexy manner. Believe it or not, women don’t usually go to the closet and say “what can I ware that will make men stare at me today.” Sometimes, sure, but it’s not generally an every day thing. Further, as I’ve said before, “sexy” often correlates more with “confident” than with clothing choice. In fact, I would argue that women are generally more sexy when they’re confident and casual and don’t look like they’re going out of their way to impress.
So . . . yeah.
He may be a better man than the woman who is dressing immodestly and may have the fortitude to deny his eyes the stimulation you offer, but it makes you a source of temptation to sin, rather than someone to whom he can relate.
In other words, unless you wear a sack, men will view you as a sex object rather than as a person. Thing is, when I’m dressed sexy and I know it, the men in my circles amazingly don’t usually have a problem treating me like a person. It’s evangelical and fundamentalist men who make me uncomfortable in those moments, because I can feel them exuding judgement. In other words, if you teach men to treat women as people regardless of their clothes, it actually works, but when you tell men that women who are dressed in a way you perceive as “sexy” should be dehumanized, they’ll dehumanize them. The problem here isn’t with women. It’s with the men who are taught by people like Debi to dehumanize attractive women.
I once held a managerial position with several individuals under my supervision, and one of those individuals was extremely sexually attractive. I saw him every day of the week, and frequently worked one-on-one with him as part of my job. I couldn’t not notice how attractive he was. I don’t know what it was exactly, but even his clothing was always incredibly hot. And do you know what I didn’t have a problem doing? Effectively carrying out my responsibilities as his supervisor and interacting with him as a person. It turns out you can find someone extremely hot and be very attracted to them and yet keep a handle on yourself. Yes, really. Also, yes, women can be visual too. Really.
If you find pleasure in being a source of temptation to men, you are definitely an ungodly woman and are in desperate need of repentance.
Oh jeez. It’s only natural to like being attractive—to like feeling attractive. It’s not about trying to be a source of temptation, it’s about wanting to feel good about your body, comfortable in your skin. I swear, this entire passage is an ode to a negative and destructive body image.
Jesus said that a lusting woman commits adultery WITH a woman, not against her, meaning that the woman is included in the lusting adultery.
In other words, if a man looks at you and is sexually attracted to you, God will credit that to you as having had adultery with that man—even if you had no idea that man was even looking at you, even if you were wearing your most unattractive and frumpy outfit, even if you were asleep or spied on against your will. This is absolutely terrifying—or it would have been if I were still an evangelical. I am so glad no one made this argument to me ten years ago, because I’m pretty sure I would have believed it.
Women have told me that they are “not convicted” about the way they dress, as if God has to chase them down and torment them about it before they will obey his Word. Many are offended when their “style of dressing” is called into question. They say they are not going to be legalistic about it, even when God has clearly stated his will. The Holy Spirit convicts according to the will of God. If you are not convicted by the Holy Spirit for your immodest dress, then you are not being led by God. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Romans 8:14). If you are God’s child in more than just name, you will be led by the Spirit of God. If God is not leading you consistent with his Word, then you must face the fearful truth that you do not have the Spirit indwelling you. “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Romans 8:9).
So . . . if you don’t interpret the Bible’s supposed legalistic dress code exactly as Debi does, you are not saved, and do not know God. That’s powerful mind control spiritual abuse mojo.
God gave us ladies bodies that men desire as much as they desire life itself. It is a precious gift that keeps us “pretty” and desirable to that husband, that man of our youth who loves us, long after our youth is gone and our skin looks like alligator boots. We have a power that could cause many men to sell their souls and blindly run down the path to hell. Or, we can use that power to soothe, heal, minister, and act out the intimacy that exists between Christ and his bride.
Using that power to soothe, heal, and minister is speaking of having sex with one’s husband. Debi has before spoken of sex as “ministering” to her husband. I prefer to see sex as something couples do mutually, together, for mutual pleasure, but then, maybe that’s just me.
As my husband said in his book, Holy Sex, “The devil didn’t invent erotic pleasure, God did.” But God also placed boundaries upon the exercise of sexuality. All of life is living within boundaries. The world sometimes provides boundaries to prevent us from acting the fool or from suffering in our pursuit of pleasure, but it never provides boundaries that are as strict or as reasonable as God’s. This aged woman is telling you ladies that is is the will of God for you to always be modest in public. It is your profession of godliness.
You know, even at the end of this passage, I kind of wish that Debi had laid out her “legalistic” dress code point by point, because I’m still not entirely sure what it is. She says modesty is dressing in a way that makes it clear that you are not interested in men’s sexual interest, but what does that mean, exactly? She seems to operate on a “I’ll know it when I see it” policy that, I would imagine, gives her a lot of leeway in condemning the “worldly” women around her.
Anyway, this whole section has not been surprising, but it has been an interesting read nonetheless. Next week we move on to Debi’s position on pants, and then a bit about fat women that is really not very nice, and then “Bad Bob,” which has got to be the most ridiculous part of this entire book.