I can’t show you the actual meme under discussion, due to some shady outfit calling itself copyright law. I can tell you that the meme was one of those Goofus and Gallant modesty photo diptychs that appear with alarming frequency, if your Facebook Friends are mostly Catholic and Protestant. On the left-hand side of the diptych was a candid shot of Miley Cyrus in mid-stride, looking healthy and affable, and wearing a flowered crop top and a pair of jean shorts. On the other was a stock photo of a model in a sheer knee-length pleated brown dress of the kind that only look nice if you weigh 99 pounds or less, plus a black leather jacket and a pair of black leather booties. The model was slouching and gazing demurely at the sidewalk.
The unattributed text superimposed on this diptych said “Culture Says: These shorts are in! Everybody’s wearing them and there’s nothing wrong with showing a little skin. Besides, it’s hot and I know I’m a Christian. God says: You are my masterpiece and I made you for your husband’s eyes only. Your clothes shouldn’t draw attention to you, but your attraction should come from the good you do in my name.”
My friends and I had the following dialogue, which I present to you in the form of a play in one act.
Friend A: So creepy. I wouldn’t want to meet the person who made this meme in a dark alley.
Friend B: God says, you’re rich and thin, so wear clothes that show how rich and thin you are, and I’ll give you as a prize to an equally rich man.
Me: God says, wear a sheer dress that costs a thousand bucks and only looks good on a model, but it’s in a drab color so you can pretend it’s modest. Apparently.
Friend C: Don’t forget to slouch so your bony chest is completely concave. Keep those Eden Melons away from virtuous Christian boys!
Friend D: Huh, actually the Bible says, “women should adorn themselves modestly and sensibly in seemly apparel, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly attire.”
Friend A: Cultural context man. Braids are legit.
Friend D: I often yell at people for wearing “costly attire.” Unfortunately, it’s why I’m banned from the mall and Banana Republic. Ah well.
Friend A: Modesty is much more about class/money/not humiliating other people who have less. Rather than about not being sexy. In that verse and in general.
Friend D: Well Aware.
Friend A: But if we actually discussed being modest about money, wealth, and possessions, then men would have to be modest too–OMG!!!
Friend E: I hate that “braided hair” nonsense because the word is just incorrect. It should be “broided” which means interwoven with ornaments. That makes SO much more sense. “Plegma” is the Greek word in the text. You can look it up in Strong’ Concordance.
Friend B: Yes, that does make more sense!
Me: I’m going to refer to over-fancy hair as “Plegma” for the rest of my life, though. Such a great word.
Friend A: It does make more sense and fits into the whole class consciousness aspect of modesty.
Me: I made my father burst out laughing when I was a small girl reading Anne of Green Gables aloud. “It wasn’t until she coughed up the pleg-um that she began to improve.”
“The pleg-um. P-h-l-e-g-m.”
So, if you clutter up your hair with adornments, it’s like cluttering up your throat with pleg-um. Plegma.
Friend B: Then there’s the people who are pleg-um-matic.
So, what is modesty? It seems to me that modesty is downplaying your own power, in the sexual as well as any other realm, in order to not exert yourself unfairly over others. Allowing yourself to decrease so that others might increase. A function of meekness and humility as well as chastity– but then again, those pesky virtues always work in groups, don’t they? Virtue is one, just as God is One. When you’re modest in conversation, you don’t brag or draw undue attention to your achievements. When you’re modest in action, you do what’s right sexually or otherwise without making a show out of it. When you’re modest in dress, you downplay things that might overpower others– you don’t deliberately dress so as to sexually tempt people, but you don’t dress so as to tempt them to envy or greed either. No matter how high your collar or how low your hem, you shouldn’t wear that dress to serve meals at the homeless shelter if it’s very expensive and fancy. That would be showing off, exalting yourself over people who have less, and therefore immodest, the same as phlegming up your hair with plegma in Ancient Rome.
And that means it’s pretty immodest to be posting photograph memes shaming women who wear skimpy clothing, isn’t it? The meme writer could have posted just the creepy uninspired text if she really believed it were true, but she had to get in a dig at Miley. In doing so, she exalted herself. Immodest. Lose the spiritual plegma.
For the sake of the gospel, we should all cough up our spiritual plegma.
(Image of modest plegma-free braids via pixabay)