Pretty Christian Women

4:00 AM

The world says, You're beautiful just the way you are, and we know it's lying -- unless you were born with Suave-infused curls, a stick-thin bod and a layer of Mary Kay make-up. Who would have thought that the world's foremost hater -- the conservative, complementarian Christian -- lies the same lie?

A new thought crept into the conservative, complementarian Christian. Back in the old days, Paul admired a godly woman for her faithfulness, child-rearing, hospitality, foot washing, caring for the afflicted and devotion to good works. Other world-impacting women worked alongside their husbands, trailed the footsteps of the Apostles and Christ, ran ministries, sought good doctrine, cared for others, and adorned themselves with the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. Christ, the church and the outworking of the Gospel -- those were the marks of godly women.

Not anymore.

According to the conservative, complementarian Christian, not only does a woman have to be godly, but she also has to beautiful -- always. Every day, in addition to putting on Christ, she must put on her make-up and her classy (but modest) outfit. To do otherwise might give a bad name to Jesus or worse -- her husband. Proper make-up and a quiet spirit go hand-in-hand. You cannot have one without the other. Wearing pajamas until 10 a.m. or attending to a screaming baby in lieu of a shower shows your selfish spirit, your inattentiveness to your husband, your sloppiness, your ungodliness

Oh, of course (they say), you're beautiful -- but put on the make-up and cute jewelry, anyway. Of course it's not important, not like the Gospel, but no Gospel-loving woman would wear sweats instead of a pink skirt. Of course your husband shouldn't expect you to look tip-top 24/7 -- but he does, so do it.

Few things anger me more than pressuring the already insecure, beauty-hungry, trying-so-hard-and-never-going-anywhere woman. Women instinctively know that being overweight is bad for their health and universally disapproved of; why compound that by suggesting it's ungodly? Women already hear it from the insensitive world that zits and wrinkles mar their beauty; why tell pastors to preach from the pulpit that a failure to manage that dishonors their husbands? Why turn beauty into a godliness/ungodliness thing? Why rip  Proverbs 31:22 out of context and prooftext an entire philosophy of beauty based on Western culture -- and then say it's Biblical? 

I am tired of pretty Christian women who know how to dress cute for hubby and pick out the perfect fragrance and spend women's conferences discussing the nuances of how to be modest and classy at the same time. What happened to washing the feet of the saints?

I am tired of philosophies that say It's the inside that counts...but people see the outside. I am saddened that men (and women) advocate this philosophy, and I am saddened that women succumb to it. (Strangely, anything men say about what they admire in Christian women becomes Biblical law -- because to ignore it is either to "dishonor" them or put one's marriage prospects in a sorry state.) I oppose this new trend for several reasons -- several serious reasons.

1. It trivializes godliness. Trite phrases like Cleanliness is next to godliness or Dress nice to honor God find no place in a true Gospel life. Unwashed ears and sweatpants do not a sinner make. To read the numerous articles, one might think otherwise: It's Biblical to be beautiful. It's womanly to smell like lavender. It's godly to wear cute clothes. And let me tell you, brothers and sisters, it's ungodly to be frumpy.

This obsession of dress and appearance irks me -- especially for women. Christian women are godly because of Christ. Christian women are to adorn themselves with good works and with a meek and quiet spirit. The Bible says nothing about dressing cutely for one's husband. The Bible says nothing about it being disrespectful to wear sweats and a t-shirt. The Bible says nothing of a Christian woman avoiding frumpiness and dressing nicely. It doesn't. Why?

Because it's really not important. Please, friends, orphans are starving and souls are dying and sin is rampant -- and we're patting ourselves on the backs for buying cute clothes and applying a fake layer of beauty each morning.

2. It confuses cultural expectations with Biblical expectations. Setting a Biblical beauty bar becomes tricky when the Bible mentions the topic approximately zero times. It's easier if you're a married woman or patriarchal: you merely ask hubby or daddy, and his word goes. For the rest of us, we walk the line of trying to be stylish without worldly, modest without frumpy. It's frustrating and unrewarding. We get vague hints like "stylish," "cute," "attractive" -- but one woman's stylish is another woman's frump. I just watched a 1980's Disney movie, and the hip styles nearly shot my brain. To me, that's frumpy -- no offense to anyone who likes shoulder pads.

That's why this philosophy is made of sand: it is relative. Is it wrong to wear frumpy sweats and a t-shirt at 10 p.m.? Well, no, nobody's looking. Then why is it wrong to wear it at 10 a.m.? Because...it's lazy to stay in one's pajamas. Why? Who established that rule? Jesus? The African poor don't concern themselves with whether their articles of clothing are more appropriate for night or day per Western culture. It's a pair of pants. It's a shirt. They're clothes, not conduits of godliness. 

Would it be rude to wear pajamas to Walmart? In our culture, yes -- because in our culture there are certain expectations and dress codes, and we have the luxury to wear something different for sleeping and waking. This "dressing nice" thing is about culture and neatness, not godliness, and is just as and no more important than learning to brush your teeth or hit a baseball.

Is it inherently wrong to wear pajamas to Walmart? No. Are you allowed to judge someone's godliness quota by whether or not they wear pajamas to Walmart? Absolutely no.

3. It airbrushes self-absorption. No woman needs to learn beauty. Each woman has a style of her own, her own way of being beautiful and enjoying beauty. Some enjoy beauty by dressing up; some would rather capture beauty with a snapshot or a word picture. In any case, it's moot to insinuate that there's an epidemic of Christian women who enjoy being fat, ugly slobs. Even if a woman can't doll up that day, there are desperate attempts to brush one's teeth and hair and fish a clean t-shirt from the drawer. Really, not many women are in danger of "letting themselves go" -- something of serious concern, apparently, remedied only by seriously cute peep-toe heels.

This philosophy of dressing nicely for others -- I mean, God -- covers up the pimples of self-absorption and peer pressure. One can justify skipping devotions for thirty minutes of hair curling because, well, "I want to look presentable at church." One can justify becoming more enamored with fashion because, well, "I don't want to be frumpy." One can justify niggles of discontentment when another more put-together woman walks by because, well, "I hope hubby thinks I'm as pretty as she is."

How many of us cheerfully powder our faces and think, "Lord, this contrived layer of beauty is all for Your glory!"? How many of us pick out a cute dress because it will make a good impression for Christ? No, we do it because it makes us feel good and gives ourselves the good impression. It's not wrong to dress up for fun and cuteness's sake: I think that's perfectly natural. I am merely suggesting that the ridiculous amount of shoes in your closet might be because you Christianized your natural instinct to look good in front of everybody else.

You are now a martyr for looking drop-dead gorgeous today. Congratulations.

On the flipside, I am sure every woman once in her life has spent some amount of time crying because people think she's ugly (at least, she's sure they do). No matter what the husband or boyfriend or mother or sister or stranger says, she still cries. That is not dressing to please hubby and others. That is peer pressure, that is self-absorption, and that is far more serious than frumpiness.

4. It creates an expectation out of a gift. There is a standard argument against the argument I'm making: We get that, the pretty Christian women say. We're just saying that men appreciate when women dress nicely, so in order to honor them, we should. We know that men should appreciate the beauty of a woman's heart, but let's be real -- they're visual and they like a beautiful woman. Why not give it to them? 

Let's try a different angle: girls like gifts, do we not? We appreciate thoughtful men who translate their thoughtfulness into diamonds and perfumes and teddy bears (preferably teddy bears). When our brother or daddy or -- and here I'm assuming -- boyfriend or husband brings us a gift wrapped up in a big pink bow, we love it. We appreciate his gesture. We appreciate the gift. It brings us joy.

It is right for us to get happy over a teddy bear sent with love. It is right for him to express his love that way. Therefore, men should buy us teddy bears every single day because it makes us happy.

I wish, but that is not how gifts work. That is not how love works. 

Love and honor can be expressed in so many different ways. It is unfair to zero in on one cultural way and fuel an epidemic of self-conscious women. If a woman wants to dress up to show respect for an occasion (and more to the point, to look cute), than why not? If she chooses sweatpants and a t-shirt for the day because she wants to bake cookies for the neighborhood kids or write a hundred thank you notes in comfort, than why judge? If she wants to express her godliness and femininity in a different way than make-up and pink, why not?

Personally, I like dressing up -- when I have the time and energy. I don't think I'd go for the sweatpants and t-shirt look; I wash dishes in a fifties swing dress (barefoot and no pearls). But I don't do it with any spiritual intentions of changing the world; I do it because it's fun, I feel good, and I want to.

So truce on the cuteness wars. Break out the sweatpants or turn out the peep-toes -- but whatever you do, don't argue with the girl who does otherwise.

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22 impressions

  1. Very insightful post, I really enjoyed reading it. And, I agree, strongly!

    Also, notice how men are really not pressured the same way? I've never seen a Christian leader or teacher propose that men should be in the gym tightening up, or learn how to use hair product, or learn to put together a matching, properly fitted suit for their wives (or for God!), yet the things you mentioned are constantly bombarding women, both from Christian and secular sources.

    Granted, men do have their own pressures, but it is infinitely different when you're pressured as the one with control. Let's face it - in most cases, women's beauty standards are usually created and enforced by men (although it seems women themselves have absorbed and enforced these ridiculous standards as well), while men's standards are usually created and enforced by - guess who? - their fellow men! I could be wrong on this one, but that is how it has appeared to me.

    Anyways, thank you for the great post!

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  2. No, I think you're spot on. The main reason I see women peddling this idea is because to their husbands and fathers, this is a HUGE DEAL. Therefore, it must be Biblical. And the standard argument -- for married women -- is that her body belongs to her husband, he's her head, so therefore she must dress for him.

    Which is true, but a man's body also belongs to his wife and he must honor her, so...why not pressure the men to not be slobs?

    People try to insist that "it works both ways," but the amount of time spent critiquing women's bodies and style (and the effects it allegedly has on the male population) betrays such equality. I think it's on one hand a misguided attempt to deliver honor where honor is due, and on the other it's the same old trap of pressuring women to perform.

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  3. I think that how one chooses to dress and present oneself (in terms of hair, make-up, adornments) does send a message on what's going on in the heart, though only God alone can truly know the heart . Of course, all manner of dress must be relative to the situation, and there does need to be a balanced perspective on this. One the one hand, an appearance that is overly fancy, costly, or sexy, says "look at me, love me, value me, what you think of me is more important than what I think of you". An unlaundered or slouchy (sorry, sweatshirt, t-shirt, and sweatpants look) says, "I'm excersing, I'm napping, I'm want to be comfortable, I don't really care, I want to look like the average all-American boy or girl without regard to gender". A modest dress or skirt says "I'm glad God made me female". Dressly appropriately for church or a meeting or just to visit another person shows respect for another. Getting up and getting dressed with a simple but attractive outfit, face washed, hair combed, shoes on could convey "I'm thankful for this day, for the way God made me, I'm ready to work or study, I care for my appearance for health's sake and for the concern of others but it pales in the face of being prepared to serve the Lord."

    Zeroing in on certain websites or books or conversations could give the impression that some Christian women are OVERLY concerned about appearance (finding just the right cute, modest look), and perhaps it is so. But looking at it from an older woman's perspective over a wider range of years, I see that the fashion trends the world has presented in recent times (genderless, sloppy, or immodest) has sparked Christian circles to "rebel" from that look into a decidedly feminine, modest, and God-honoring look, and I think that's a good thing.

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  4. YEAHHHHH. Unvarnished truth in four hard-hitting bullet-points, a declaration of freedom in 1,798 words.
    Right on, Bailey.

    I think there may have been an attempt by ultra-conservative groups to reassure followers that looking modest doesn't preclude going everywhere dressed to the nines. Nothing wrong with that--but when dressing nicely is elevated almost to the level of Gospel (so that our 'testimony to the world isn't compromised'), there is a problem.

    I am baffled as to how it became a custom to dress up for church. The early saints didn't--even specifically admonishing women to not dress ostentatiously! The current focus on modesty seems to have forgotten that the original prescriptions for female dress gave a lot of latitude--and were more concerned with ornate decoration than the amount of skin exposed.

    And the logical result of mandating 'dressing nice for hubby'? Complementarian authorities (mark Driscoll, in this case) claiming that a husband's infidelity was enabled by a wife's 'letting herself go'.

    Thank you for daring to post this.

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  5. love this. considering I would have nothing else to say besides giving a hearty "amen!" and repeating everyone else's thoughts, I won't type out some long ol' paragraph. ;]

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  6. Bethany, you nailed the point that's been bugging me. The Bible says NOTHING about dressing nicely for our testimony (or if it did, John the Baptist didn't the memo) -- but it does explicitly say that a woman should NOT adorn herself with fanciness. And as for dressing for hubby? The women of the faith adorned themselves with modesty, self-control and submission -- no mention of peep-toe heels or cute skirts. The inside did matter more than the outside.

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  8. You are so right! I agree with you! There is one thing, though, that is important. This could be taken to the extreme and used as reasoning to become unhealthy. Our external is not important- so long as we stay healthy. Not to please others, or to please ourselves, but to be good stewards of our bodies. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and it might require a little maintenance. Honestly, the extremes are on ever side. It's a fine little line, but it is definitely there.

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  9. Mixed feelings on this one. I agree that we need to put the emphasis on the things that God emphasizes. But I would caution against swinging to the other side. Biblical principles of orderliness, self-discipline, and so on, should manifest in the culture of our homes- that includes our dress and conduct.

    "Would it be rude to wear pajamas to Walmart? In our culture, yes -- because in our culture there are certain expectations and dress codes, and we have the luxury to wear something different for sleeping and waking."

    Are you saying we should or shouldn't wear our pajamas to Wal-Mart?

    Or how about to a five-star restaurant?

    My point is that clothes matter. I believe that women should look nice for their husbands. I believe that husbands should look nice for their wives, too- if I take my future spouse out to an anniversary dinner wearing my clothes that I just worked out in, she should be concerned about much more than the fact that my aroma will disincentivize intimate conversation. It shows that I don't value her enough to clean myself up.

    "Wearing pajamas until 10 a.m. or attending to a screaming baby in lieu of a shower shows your selfish spirit, your inattentiveness to your husband, your sloppiness, your ungodliness."

    Now now. I don't know anyone who would argue for this. Maybe I just don't get out enough. :-D

    I'd much rather have a wife who values the baby over the bathtub. But that doesn't mean that I wouldn't like a wife who takes care of herself, looks nice, etc. Her priorities should be right- Bible, Baby, Bathtime, for instance (never would guess that I'm a preacher's kid, would ya?)- but that doesn't mean that hygiene and style shouldn't rank on the priorities list.

    Somewhere down the line, at least.

    The testimony argument is also valid- what testimony are we giving to the world when we consistently look like a mess?

    But I think my biggest quibble is that the culture of our homes should emanate from the character of God, and God is orderly, and God is beautiful.

    Doesn't mean that if you don't have Barbie's physique you're a sinner. Does mean that you should be self-disciplined and a good steward of your body.

    Doesn't mean that you should get plastic surgery. Does mean that you should probably brush your hair on occasion (especially if your hair is your glory, as Scripture says).

    I could continue.

    "Complementarian authorities (mark Driscoll, in this case) claiming that a husband's infidelity was enabled by a wife's 'letting herself go'."

    It's foolish to blame the wife for the husband's sin. That said, ladies, I ask you as a guy in the name of your (if God so wills it) future husbands to please not despise the way that God made us. We are visually attracted (as you are, in different ways), and any girl going on a date knows (and dresses) like that. Why does that get forgotten after marriage? And why is it such a bad thing?

    Closing thought- I would highly recommend this series to y'all.

    http://loveandrespect.com/

    Hope some of that made sense. It was rather hastily put together. :-D

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  10. Thank you for writing this post! What an encouragement this was to my spirit.

    I personally dislike dressing up, my "style" is what I call modern modest - a skirt and tee shirt. Right now I'm wearing jeans and a "frumpy" tee because I'm about to get dirty refurbing our camper. :)

    God bless and thanks again!

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  11. I would have to agree with MamaBergmann and Gabriel Hudelson. I was going to write out a long response, but they basically said what I was going to say, and said it better :)
    I like most of your posts, Bailey, but while I don't think we girls need to be consumed with fashion, we do need to dress neatly (who says that nice, neat clothing has to be uncomfortable?) and that, yes, our clothing is a reflection on our Christianity. If it really was only the inside that counts, then we could dress as immodestly as we wished, or (heaven forbid!) wear nothing at all... And no one could judge us for our choice of clothing (or lack thereof).

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  12. I'm going to address the concerns about the "outer reflects the inner" in the next couple days.

    By the way, I'm not talking about letting ourselves go or dressing immodestly. Those are Scriptural commands: We are to dress modestly and we are to be good stewards of our bodies, so it's reasonable to be healthy, clean and modest.

    But you can be healthy, clean and modest in sweatpants, too. Do I advocate wearing them to Walmart? Not necessarily -- for cultural reasons, not spiritual. I wouldn't, but if you did, it wouldn't bother me.

    Basically, I want to free women from cultural expectations parading as Christianity. I want to get back to what the Bible ACTUALLY says about externals (which is surprisingly little). Nothing more.

    Gabriel, I'm not advocating that women stop brushing their teeth and hair. That's gross, whether or not you're a Christian. ;) I'm saying that it's not a Biblical ideal for a woman to be cute -- whether she's married or not. That isn't found in Scripture. Even Sarah, one the most beautiful women on earth, was said to make herself beautiful by her submission to her husband.

    And the problem isn't that men are visual. Of course a husband can enjoy when his wife looks great. But when the gift becomes an expectation, that's when things start getting rough. It's when girls get treated as eye candy, trophy wives -- that's when the line has been crossed. Rarely do men discuss the nuances of dressing up to look nice for their wives. The pressure is all on the girls to deliver. It's seen as integral to their Christian womanhood to be beautifully put together. That is such a cheap way to look at women -- not saying that's what you do, just the attitudes I've seen.

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  13. Bailey-- 'I want to free women from cultural expectations parading as Christianity.' Thank you! This is the most concise explanation I've seen for why we fight conservative complementarianism.

    Gabriel, I am going to chime in again since you responded to something I said. Of course it is foolish (and I would say, wrong) to blame one partner for the other's sin. Most conservative complementarians don't go this far: even Mark Driscoll said that while a wife isn't to blame for her husband's sin, she isn't making things easy for him. I believe even that places guilt on the wife, and plants doubt in the hearts of people looking at an infidelity. Women in CC groups know how often they are told that if there is something wrong in their marriage, they can fix it just by being more submissive and making themselves more attractive to their husband (Debi Pearl, anyone?).

    I doubt that any woman reading this post is going to be discouraged from trying to make herself beautiful for her husband. I have seen comments from girls on this blog who are courageous enough to admit that they fear their husband won't find them attractive. I think it is an almost universal female fear. Do you really think any girl would *want* to not look pretty for her husband? I'm not sure you understand just how deep is the female need to feel beautiful.

    From the perspective of an unmarried girl, who is dating, the only reason I can see for women not continually taking pains to dress up after marriage is exhaustion and lack of time. After a day of work, school or home care, it can feel like just another duty to apply makeup and do one's hair for one's husband. To Christianize a request or demand for beauty is, I think, the problem. I don't believe Bailey is saying that there are no valid reasons for a woman to look nice for her husband--I instead see her trying to free that action from a Christianized 'mandate'.

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  14. "That is such a cheap way to look at women -- not saying that's what you do, just the attitudes I've seen."

    My apologies if my post seemed reactionary. I wasn't really able to put my finger on what bugged me, but my sister read the article too, and I think she pinpointed it. I've never seen these attitudes that you're talking about. I know that girls have vanity problems, and that our culture has a huge infatuation with the external, but the exhortations that I hear for girls to, for example, dress up for their husbands as a practical way of showing respect (Eph. 5:33) are given in very appropriate times.

    For a husband to reduce his wife to a trophy (though she should be his crown, which involves much more than just beauty) is a terrible thing, but I can't remember the last time I saw that advocated as part of true Christianity.

    I would also say that there's a huge difference between expecting my (at this point imaginary) wife to look nice and reducing her to eye candy. I expect her to look nice! I expect myself to look nice too.

    So I guess I see this post as a reaction to a problem that isn't really there, and I need you to show me who is saying that Christian women need to be Barbie-dolls or they're not really Christian.

    I also think that there's a huge gap between "beautifully put together" and "30 minutes makeup, 2 hours exercise, 200 calories weekly, prom dress daily."

    Had a little fun with that one. ;-)

    So maybe we should define that, too. If my (fictional for now) wife spends an hour every day doing makeup and hair stuff, I'll be concerned.

    I want her being productive for The Kingdom!

    But if she takes a few moments to spruce herself up before we go to the movies, or if she makes herself beautiful every morning before coming out to run the house, I see that as a manifestation of respect for me and honor for God, and as a great example for our daughters and sons.

    In other words, a very good thing, and something that I would expect! I see it as more than a gift- I see it as a matter of character. And I expect the same (LORD willing!) of myself and my sons.

    Does this make sense? Are we switching terms in here somewhere?

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  15. Yes, you make perfect sense, Gabriel -- you always do, and that's why I like discussing things with you. Bethany (above) summed up what the real problem is -- thanks for chiming in, Bethany, and helping clarify *my* view, too.

    I would never accuse you of viewing your future wife or any woman as a trophy or eye candy or whatever. I apologize if I implied that -- you certainly do not fall into that category.

    But...your attitude is the one I'm talking about. (And I've seen it expressed more poorly and oppressively.) There are certain cultural expectations of how a woman ought to look -- the culture defines what a put-together woman is. A few decades ago, no Christian woman would touch makeup, the diabolical stuff. Now we're being told that we're not honoring wives or good testimonies if we don't put on a touch of makeup each morning.

    What gives? Why the hullabaloo over the insignificant?

    Bethany's right -- these pressures crush women. Every girl wants to look beautiful in the eyes of her man; every girl wants to be beautiful. So why can't she be beautiful and honoring on her own terms? Why must her spirituality be judged because of her fashion sense, her cultural sensitivity? Why must anybody be judged that way?

    It's not looking put together that I'm arguing against; it's not wearing sweats to the movies that I'm arguing for. It has nothing to do with the externals at all. There are good reasons to dress up and follow the culture's rules on "looking nice." But I'm going for a different attitude: it's not a spiritual duty; it's just a cultural sensitivity and a personal preference. I wouldn't mind at all if my future husband enjoys when I get all dressed up for a night at the movies. I would enjoy him looking all spiffy too. But I want to marry a guy who thinks I'm beautiful and honoring even when I can't (or don't want to) dress to the nines on a Monday.

    This is something very hard to convey (especially since I'm attempting it...but digression). This article and the upcoming one is my attempt to put a finger on it.

    (Oh, by the way...I am conservative and complementarian, which is why its extrabiblical warts tick me off so much. ;))

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  16. Bethany, thanks for responding!

    "I don't believe Bailey is saying that there are no valid reasons for a woman to look nice for her husband--I instead see her trying to free that action from a Christianized 'mandate'."

    OK, well I can certainly appreciate that. I took the article differently, but we both agree thus far.

    Bailey:

    "I apologize if I implied that..."

    You didn't. :-)

    "So why can't she be beautiful and honoring on her own terms? ... But I'm going for a different attitude: it's not a spiritual duty; it's just a cultural sensitivity and a personal preference."

    Somewhere in here I detect flavors of relativism somehow. Just throwing that out there.

    But basically, I'm arguing for this attitude: The way I dress is a form of art. Art is culture. Culture is religion externalized. So the way I dress in a very real way a corollary to the music I listen to or the paintings I hang on my wall. Do I have to always dress nice? No! Are there times when I'm too busy or just want to relax where clothing (and makeup, for a girl) is a back-burner issue? Yes! It's not a mandate, as you said, a binding thing, a black-and-white, a "thou-shalt-always-look-nice."

    But it is a matter of Spiritual duty- just as is every other artistic choice that we make as believers.

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  17. Thank you so much for this article, Bailey! It was a very well thought out, kind and loving take on this subject. And I agree wholeheartedly!

    Gabriel- From my own standpoint on this subject I would say the average home schooled girl has this innate fear of not being 'conservative' enough. I want to be a blessing, not a hindrance to others be that by the way I dress, the words I speak or the attitudes I have. Ultimately, my authority is Christ my Savior. But, I also want to honor others and not contribute in any way to harm of any sort. I feel a lot of pressure to 'just do a bit more' to be more God honoring, attractive etc. Generally this sentiment is not written in bold type- it's merely a subtle undercurrent. With your being a young man, Gabriel, I don't know for sure but this might not be an issue for you at all. We girls are more conscious of others opinions (and not necessarily for the better!) Our worth is found in Jesus Christ, we know, but how wonderful it would be if every girl could follow along with Bailey's line at the end "So truce on the cuteness wars. Break out the sweatpants or turn out the peep-toes -- but whatever you do, don't argue with the girl who does otherwise." Because I believe that is a truly kind, Christ-exalting way of loving others.

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  18. Hey Savannah! I'm going to throw something out there (after putting my running shoes on, just in case ;-) for you girls to all think about. I'd love to hear your responses.

    Maybe the issue here isn't the teachings. Maybe it's the girls themselves who need to combat that problem in their own hearts and minds.

    I say this gently, because- well, I'm a guy. But I don't believe that Biblical truth requires experience, and this is something that I've been thinking about in the context of our discussion here.

    There are hard teachings that we all wrestle with, and there are plenty of areas where we'd rather point the responsibility elsewhere. Is that perhaps what's happening here? Is the real issue not the teachings, but rather the pressure that I believe all three of you have mentioned, a pressure which could very well be self-inflicted and a matter of man-fearing?

    This has been an accusation-free honest question. :-D

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  19. That is a valid point -- we could be overly sensitive and focused way too much on pleasing man. We could be wrestling with hard teaching.

    But what "Biblical teaching," Gabriel? I'm confused about what "Biblical teaching" you're referring to. The Biblical teaching on looking beautiful? The Biblical teaching on wearing nice clothes to the movies? It's not in there.

    So why should women feel guilty because they don't conform to cultural standards? These are extra burdens -- not Biblical standards.

    You detected relativism, but to be relative there has to be an objective standard. The Bible does not give an objective standard of dressing nicely and looking good, and neither are inherent examples of respect, so a girl ought to be free to express her beauty and respect in a way she feels led to. That's not relativism -- that's personal preference.

    You mentioned that dressing is art and art is culture and culture is religion externalized. Two thoughts: (1) it is not a Biblical requirement to participate in art. A majority of people do; some don't. Similarly, not everybody gets the same pleasure in meeting the cultural standards of looking put-together. (2) Art is extremely subjective. Can one's dress -- like one's art -- be influenced by one's Christianity? Sure, of course it can, if you want it to. But can clothes or art inherently portray the Gospel? Can an outfit be inherently "Christian"? No. Taken outside its cultural context, clothes and art mean next to nothing.

    As an interesting example, I read an article about two Christian professors who do not wear shoes (unless places prohibit bare feet). They have done the research and concluded that their feet would function better were they to ditch shoes. Going without shoes to the movies, to one's job, to the store -- you would deem that disrespectful and besmirching their Christian testimony. I think it's irrelevent. What culture deems appropriate or inappropriate (in these external matters, I mean, not eternal truth) ebbs and flows. It's not spiritual. It's cultural. And Christians have the freedom to conform or deviate from culture in matters of conscience and preference as they see fit.

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  20. Hello ya'll. This time I read the comments and I'm a bit more prepared. :)

    From my own experience I do suspect that Gabriel has a very good point.

    I have struggled with feeling the pressure many of you ladies have expressed. Pressured to look beautiful (via my Baptist/modern church training). After much study I put off some of those ideals and picked some different ones (think Anabaptist). I then was pressured to be conservative (is my headcovering far enough up, is red an immodest color, what should I go swimming in? . . .)

    Needless to say, I really struggled. With what?

    1. The fear of man
    2. A judgemental spirit

    I wanted the approval of a certain church and those who seemed more godly (i.e. conservative) than me. So I was afraid; afraid to wear anything bright colored or too far above my ankles.

    And yet I judged (inwardly) anyone who wasn't matching up with what I thought was "godly." It's an ugly cycle, I tell you.

    I praise God for giving me a mom who patiently helped me walk through this and for introducing friends who pointed my errors out.

    *Anyways, my point is this: I was pressured because I was not finding my validation, my worth, in God. Instead, I sought it in the approval from those I (unconsciously) idolized or from my culture.*


    The problem/pressure begins and ends with me.

    Who am I trying to please?

    *Sorry for waxing long-winded! :)

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  21. OK, finally got a round tuit.

    Yes. Cultures shift and change. God's word doesn't- and it's the applications of Biblical principles that I'm concerned with here.

    Example: wives, respect your husbands. That's a principle. To apply it, most guys feel respected when their wife shows them that she cares enough to spruce up a bit for them.

    Another example: the principle of modesty. And I don't mean skin-covering. I could show up in any variety of clothing which totally covers my skin and totally distracts people and draws attention to myself.

    These are the kinds of principles that I'm looking at.

    Two counter-thoughts.

    1. Everyone participates in art. By default. You wake up and decide to not brush your teeth or hair, you have made an artistic decision. You don't put any pictures up in your house, you have made an artistic decision. You listen to music, you have made an artistic decision. Etc.

    2. We live in a cultural context. :-)

    That's worth re-stating. We live in a cultural context. I need to go to bed, so I don't have time to think up other analogical examples for you right now.

    3. The subjectivity of art must be balanced with the objectivity of art. Mud on a wall isn't as beautiful as a Beethoven symphony. I don't care what culture you come from.

    I would say that if those professors are convinced, so be it. It isn't my place to condemn them! Do I think that it's wise? Not particularly. Is it really going to make that big of a difference in your health to be worth all the distractions that bare feet will cause?

    Sorry I didn't have the time to write a short post. :-)

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  22. BTW, RE: the barefeet professors

    I saw an article about them in an AiG magazine and honestly thought it was neat, but I also, in pondering, discovered that I think your analogy is flawed... thusly.

    They made a principled decision to do something counter-cultural, and were prepared to be evangelists of a sort for their cause.

    Kinda like me, open-carrying my handgun.

    It's different. It can be weird to others, in their case, or scary in mine.

    But they're willing to go through that to bring the message of barefootness to the world.

    So I don't think that's a proper parallel to just not feeling like changing out of the PJs. :-D

    (Just thought I'd throw that out there.)

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Hit me with your best thought! I'm very interested in your unique perspective. If you'd like to discuss things in private, feel free to email me! :)