Modesty, Lust and Attraction

One of the fun things about writing this blog over the last few years is the questions, thoughts and ideas that readers bring via comments and emails.  Today I wanted to write a post in response to an email question I received a while back.

A young lady wrote in and asked:

I want to know why modesty in dress is considered so important for men’s purity of thought.

I dress modestly. I have no problem with that. Doesn’t bother me. . .

But, I don’t really believe that normal, average women are physically appealing to men when the women who men want to look at are strippers, porn stars, prostitutes and lingerie models. The women who men pay to see are surgically enhanced with silicone parts and fake hair, nails, tans, noses, breasts and eyelashes. That’s not what most average women look like. We don’t meet that physical gold standard of beauty or physical attractiveness.

So why do we have to worry about men lusting after us when we’re not the ones they want anyway? They’re looking at the iPhones, not me or other women who are around.

This email actually raises several different questions and thoughts.  We are talking here about modesty of dress, men lusting, how attraction works among other things.  Let me address a couple of points here that might be helpful.

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The Three Eunuchs

One of the things we have to do is our Christian culture and language is rescue the idea of Celibacy.  I’ve tried to write quite a bit about this in the past but I realize that we need to talk about it even more.  The good news is that more people are talking about it.  The bad news is that a lot of us don’t realize what we are talking about including most of our “leaders”.  We are going to need a more full theological and biblical understanding if we are going to lead in this conversation.

Most people tend to start in 1 Corinthians 7 where Paul talks about marriage, celibacy and the gifts.  But I believe a better place to start is Matthew 19 where Jesus discusses the three eunuchs.

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The Church Is Fighting Yesterdays Battle

Right now there is a lot of reporting out there about the American Evangelical culture and it’s impending doom.  While I think that reports of it’s death have been greatly exaggerated, it should lead to a lot of reflection in all sorts of contexts.

As I watch it unfold and watch the church interact with the culture in several ways and in many different contexts I see a couple of things that we have to get past.  These things play out in all sorts of different ways, but of particular interest here in the space, is in relation to singleness.

Here are two major problems (not that there aren’t more – as well as many good things) that I see over and over again in different cultural exchanges.

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A Single Christmas Blessing

So it’s the Christmas season.  I love this time of year.  But as I’ve written about before it can for sure be a weird time for the single Christian.

First, this is the time of year that the Church seems to double down on it’s Family idol. After all, this is the time where all the Easter and Christmas “Christian” families come to church.  It’s time to invite your neighbor, who we will wrongly assume is living in married bliss, to church.  It’s time to make sure that the whole nuclear family is involved and celebrated.

It’s also time to face all of the relatives that want to know why we are still single.  The best part is half of them probably are struggling in their marriage.  But I digress.  It’s still tough.

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Don’t Be A Singlist

I knew it would happen.  In an era of hash tags and isms it was only a matter of time before our growing unmarried population found a way to play the same card.

It’s finally here single folks.  You’re very own ism.  Singlism.  This is the new word for the way that singles are discriminated against in our society.  I guess the people doing it will be called Singlist?  Man the church for sure is #singlist.  No doubt about that.

Bella DePaulo is a single lady in her sixties and a harvard trained social scientist has “coined” the term.  (Man I wish I had gotten to it first).  She defines it as “the stereotyping, stigmatizing and discrimination of people who are not married”.

Oh but it gets better.  Married people of course have “marital privilege — the unearned advantages that benefit those who are married”

DePaulo actually points out many things that we’ve talked about here.  Married people make more money than single people.  Not only that, but due to tax laws, family leave acts, along with other systemic Singlism issues in the corporate world such as insurance rates and even travel packages, singles end up paying more for things.  All of that is true.

Man, I was a victim for so long, and I didn’t even realize it.

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The Nuclear Family Or Kingdom Family

A few people in the church starting to wake up to the fact that the cultural context has changed.  Not only that but some are even beginning to see that they are part of the problem because of the ways they’ve handled that.  I myself have admitted many times here that I’ve taught many things wrong through the years – and I was teaching it as a single person.

Now the majority of the church has yet to even roll over, let alone wake up.  But it is encouraging to see some movement.  Over a couple of blog posts I want to sort of encourage (read challenge, push, bother, implore) them to not just offer band aids or think that a few simple thoughts are going to solve this.  If you are a pastor/elder/leader type person, you need to know that it’s going to be slower and more all encompassing than you think.

My fear for this discussion is that churches who are starting to see the problem of having family as an idol or not doing well with singles will only look to give simple answers that won’t actually unmask the deeper assumptions and mistakes that we have made and/or are making with this topic.  Changing what we say won’t be enough. We have to go back and rethink the whole thing to have a chance.

As an example of this I want to respond to parts of an article written by Scott Sauls for Relevant.  Let me be clear – I’m not coming at Scott.  I don’t know him personally but know folks who do and I’ve heard only great things about him.  I also want to give him a lot of credit for writing about this.  He is obviously way ahead of the curve which is apparent in much of what he writes.

I’m simply using his post as a launching pad to challenge some of the things that I believe the leaders in his, and similar circles, seem to assume.

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A “Big” Christian Singles Problem We’re Ignoring

In the late 1960’s 60% of those 19-29 were married.  That number now is only 20%. That’s a whole different ballgame.  Half of America is unmarried.

There are a whole lot of reasons for this.  We’ve talked about it many times here in one way or another.  Lack of ability to interact with the opposite sex, fulfilling sexual desire outside of marriage, creating false spiritual platitudes, and over spiritualizing the whole thing, just to name a few.

But there is one thing that I haven’t talked about here.  And this is going to probably make some people uncomfortable and possibly even mad.  But to not talk about it at all, seems to me to be a cop out and if you read here at all, you know I’m not usually willing to do that.  So here goes.

I think one of the unnamed reasons we have less marriage comes from one of the sins and addictions that we don’t like to talk about in the Church.  That is our bad relationship with food and the sin of gluttony.

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