Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Modern Modesty

The Bible has teachings on virtually every aspect of human life. Both the Old and New Testaments have many rules and commandments on how the faithful should live. Some of those rules deal with clothing. Biblical clothing rules range from the prohibition on cross dressing to commands for modest dress for women. It's the modest dress rules or, rather, their application that I want to discuss in this post.

I admire those Christians who take the Bible's teachings on modest dress seriously. So many of today's professed Christian women don't. Go to just about any church and you'll see women dressed in ways that are indistinguishable from non-Christian women. You won't see young ladies looking like Britney Spears in most churches but you will see young and old women alike sporting the latest, non-modest styles. This goes against the Bible's teaching that women are to dress modestly with shamefacedness and sobriety, and not dwell on being fashionistas, as we say today.

For Christian women who want to obey God current clothing styles offer few choices. Virtually everthing on the market for women today is designed to show off their sexuality. For truly modest wear Christians are forced to make their own clothes or buy from online Christian stores specializing in modest clothing. But there's a problem there, too. While looking at online modest dress stores I became painfully aware that most of them operate on the principle that modest is synonymous with old-fashioned, dowdy, and just plain ugly.

The devout Christian women and families who run most of these stores are well-intentioned, but they're fixated on 19th century pioneer wear for inspiration for the style of dresses and skirts they sale. I suspect that most pro-modesty Christian women don't really want to wear that stuff. Rather, I suspect they want to dress modestly without looking like they just walked off the set of Little House on the Prairie.

The Bible doesn't say that Laura Ingalls sets the standard for modest dress. If past clothing styles should be Christian women's inspiration for modest apparel shouldn't we look to the first century? Surely, the dress of New Testament Christians provides a more appropriate model of modesty than the dress of pioneer women who lived 1800 years later. But it's not necessary to look to the past at all to know what modesty consists of. It's possible to be both modern and modest.

An unlikely example of modern modesty for Chrisitian women is the late Princess Diana. In 1989 the princess visited the United Arab Emirates, a Muslim country. For her trip Diana had modest outfits specially made for her so she wouldn't offend Islamic sensibilities. Brightly colored tunics over loose pants and long sleeved, loose fitting, ankle length dresses paired with stylish accessories allowed Diana to wow the women of the Emirates without subverting their morals. The clothes are a perfect specimen of elegant and thoroughly modern modest dress. They can and should serve as an alternative inspiration for Christian women who want to be obey God without looking frumpy or excessively different from current fashion norms.

If looking like an extra for "Little House on the Prairie" suits you then by all means dress that way. Don't let me wrench you from your conviction. Just understand that that's not the only way to live out God's clothing requirements. There are valid alternative modes of dress that let women honor God while living in the here and now. It IS possible to be both modern and modest. We just need to open our minds a little to see that.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone! May 2008 bring many blessings to you!