Category Archives: sexuality

Modest is Hottest?


Sharon Hodde Miller wrote this article a few months ago and I’ve decided to reprint it here, as it is quite excellent. 

I remember the first time I heard the words chirped by an eager female college student as we discussed the topic of modesty. Her enthusiasm was mixed with perk and reprimand, producing a tone that landed somewhere between Emily Post and a cheerleader.

To be honest, my initial reaction to “modest is hottest” was amusement. I thought the rhyme was clever and lighthearted, a harmless way to promote the virtue described in 1 Timothy 2:9 and 1 Peter 3:3-4. No harm no foul.

Since then, I’ve heard this mantra of the pure proclaimed many times by young women, Christian artists (including, most famously, CCM singer Rebecca St James, and Christian leaders. In conversations the phrase always elicits chuckles, but my response has changed over time. I still wholly affirm modesty as a biblical practice for men and women, but now I hesitate to embrace the “modest is hottest” banner. Those three words carry a lot of baggage.

The Christian rhetoric of modesty, rather than offering believers an alternative to the sexual objectification of women, often continues the objectification, just in a different form.

As the Christian stance typically goes, women are to cover their bodies as a mark of spiritual integrity. Too much skin is seen as a distraction that garners inappropriate attention, causes our brothers to stumble, and overshadows our character. Consequently, the female body is perceived as both a temptation and a distraction to the Christian community. The female body is beautiful, but in a dangerous way.

This particular approach to modesty is effective because it is rooted in shame, and shame is a powerful motivator. That’s the first red flag. Additionally concerning about this approach is that it perpetuates the objectification of women in a pietistic form. It treats women’s bodies not as glorious reflections of the image of God, but as sources of temptation that must be hidden. It is the other side of the same objectifying coin: one side exploits the female body, while the other side seems to be ashamed of it. Both sides reduce the female body to a sexual object.

Of course, this language isn’t new. Consider how profoundly the female identity has been negatively linked to her body throughout church history. For several decades now, feminist theologians have critiqued the mind-body dualism by which Christians have equated men with the mind and women with the carnal body. Citing Eve as the original “gateway for the Devil,” thinkers such as Tertullian have peppered Christian tradition with hostility toward the wiles of femininity. Origen likened women to animals in their sexual lust. According to author Jane Billinghurst, “Early Christian men who had to greet women during church services by shaking their hands were advised to first wrap their hands in robes so as to shield their flesh against their seductive touch.”

In response to this aspect of the Christian tradition, Rosemary Radford Ruether and other feminist theologians have over the past 50 years rightly challenged the mind-body dualism by which women were thought to be “modeled after the rejected part of the psyche,” and are “shallow, fickle-minded, irrational, carnal-minded, lacking all the true properties of knowing and willing and doing.”

All this negative talk about the female body may have created a vacuum for the “modest is hottest” approach to fill. Perhaps the phrase’s originator hoped to provide a more positive spin on modesty. I sympathize with that. However, “modest is hottest” also perpetuates (and complicates) this objectification of women by equating purity with sexual desire. The word “hot” is fraught with sexual undertones. It continues a tradition in which women are primarily objects of desire, but it does so in an acceptable Christian way.

Making modesty sexy is not the solution we need. Instead, the church needs to overhaul its theology of the female body. Women continue to be associated with their bodies in ways that men are not. And, as a result of this unique association, women’s identities are also uniquely tied to their bodies in a manner that men’s identities are not.

How do we discuss modesty in a manner that celebrates the female body without objectifying women, and still exhorts women to purity? The first solution is to dispense with body-shaming language. Shame is great at behavior modification, even when the shaming is not overt. But shame-based language is not the rhetoric of Jesus. It is the rhetoric of his Enemy.

Second, we must affirm the value of the female body. The value or meaning of a woman’s body is not the reason for modesty. Women’s bodies are not inherently distracting or tempting. On the contrary, women’s bodies glorify God. Dare I say that a woman’s breasts, hips, bottom, and lips all proclaim the glory of the Lord! Each womanly part honors Him. He created the female body, and it is good.

Finally, language about modesty should focus not on hiding the female body but on understanding the body’s created role. Immodesty is not the improper exposure of the body per se, but the improper orientation of the body. Men and women are urged to pursue a modesty by which our glory is minimized and God’s is maximized. The body, the spirit and the mind all have a created role that is inherently God-centered. When we make ourselves central instead of God, we display the height of immodesty.

That is not to say that godly women will not attract godly men with their modesty. They might. But that is not the purpose of modesty. If “modest is hottest” encapsulates the message we communicate to young women about modesty, then we have missed the mark. “Modest is hottest” is foundationally human-centered, whereas biblical modesty is first and foremost centered on God.

The Lies of Lila Rose and Live Action

*This abortion intrument’s purpose was to hold the baby’s head with the spiked ends. Once the head was held, a long thin probe was
pushed deep into the skull. The instrument held the baby’s head, so once it was cut off, it would not float around in the uterus.

I abhor abortion. I consider it a grave evil and a terrifying loss. It is the outright murder of babies by their mothers with the help of men and women whose consciences are seared.  Because it is so monstrous I welcome any and all efforts to stop it, especially through the efforts of Lila Rose and the Live Action group. They have become infamous through the use of undercover operations where they go to planned parenthood clinics and pretend to be victims of statutory rape, pimps with underage prostitutes, and so forth. After they give a clever and convincing story, they catch clinic workers offering illegal advice and services. They record these interactions on video and post them on YouTube, the result which has been a fair amount of public outcry and a blow to these abortion clinics and organization.

I love this about them. I love the effort- that they’re doing something and that their efforts have seen tangible results and impact. Some states have opted to introduce or pass legislation to defund planned parenthood, in part based on these videos. That is a wonderful, phenomenal relief.

There’s only one thing though.

Lila Rose and her organization are lying to these people. As pleased and grateful as I am to see such a murderous industry exposed, it does not change the fact that they are using lies, deceit and falsehoods in the pursuit of exposing these people. They are pretending to be people they are not. They are telling the nurses and aid stories about themselves that are made up. They are communicating falsehoods about their backgrounds and the situations they’re in.  That is wrong.

It is sinning in order to expose another sin. Are they helping reduce the number of abortions? Probably. I sincerely hope and pray they are. But just like we don’t murder abortion doctors, and we don’t blow up abortion clinics, likewise we don’t lie in order to further our goals.

So a few questions; 1. Can Lila Rose and Live Action, from a Biblical perspective, justify their actions in light of their lying and deceit? Is there a Biblical case that can be made here? 2. Should they stop these undercover attacks for the very fact that they are lying in the process? 3. What should our attitude be towards Live Action be?

Church kids need to stop being so gay

There is a microcosm of our popular culture today that is spread and spewed on a daily basis by many members of the Body of Christ, and this is the fact that “gay jokes” are socially and spiritually accepted within the Church. That is  tragic, disturbing, and damaging. Most Christians know that you shouldn’t tell dirty or sexual jokes and if you confronted a man telling a coarse joke, more often than not he’ll become embarrassed, self-conscious, and acknowledge that he probably shouldn’t be saying them. There is no such stigma for “gay jokes.”

Congregation members, especially teens and young men, have made this a part of their daily repertoire of insults and wit, specifically using the term “gay” as a disparaging epitaph. Innuendos and insinuations of effeminacy and queerness come naturally and quick. They do this based on perceived character defects, personal mannerisms,  speech patterns, clothing style, affectations, interests and oftentimes for no reason whatsoever. It doesn’t really matter what the impetus is, if there is an opportunity to burn another soul [usually in jest]  it’s rare that someone would think twice before saying  “that’s pretty gay” in order to frame them as a homosexual and demean and marginalize them. That’s part of it. The other part is when people  thoughtlessly define “gay”  and make it a synonym for stupid, lame, week and boring.  They might say “that restaurant was pretty gay” or that band is so gay”. Its very, very common, and Church kids love saying it.

Church kids are being bombarded by one of the worst dimensions of  Christian culture which says it’s either alright to make fun of homosexuals, or as is far more prominent and is usually the case, that they don’t care when you make fun of homosexuals. It doesn’t register. They are lethargic and apathetic, and they need to be woken. It is  inexcusable. It is an immature, uncaring and unloving practice. Our culture does it all the time, and instead of making this a dividing line where we draw a distinction between the hateful rhetoric of our culture and the loving, welcoming, nurturing character of the Church’s soul towards homosexuals, our young men have joined the party and have become indistinguishable in this regard.  The pastors and leaders need to take them to task and correct them when they say things like that. They need to be told that what they are doing is a sin and that it has no place in that community of faith. The pastors need to rebuke, shame and discipline them. Call them out on it and take them aside and help them develop it as an issue of personal sanctification.

It is a shame in every sense of the word, and it needs to be seriously dealt with.  It’s not funny and it demeans the name of Christ when they are being allowed to profligate it with impunity through careless and crass words.  Their joking may not all be overt, but they implicitly bleed superiority and condescension when they  take a facet of a person spirit  that they’ve wept  and trembled over and use it as a dismissive disparagement- when they reduce such an important, raw part of gay person’s identity to a punchline to score points.

A while ago I was in discussions with some people about what I would say if I were apologizing on behalf of the Church for how they’ve treated the homosexual community. I think what I wrote then has some relevance to the topic at hand and I figured would share part of it to close out the post;

“I would not apologize for the theology, but rather how we have presented it. I would apologize that we haven’t been more accepting of homosexuals in the congregation and have not aggressively been evangelizing them. I would apologize that we have related to them as lepers, instead of as image bearers needing Christ- and that we are less “leprous” than they. I would apologize that we have not denounced the young men in our congregations who have made a habit of telling “gay-jokes” and other shameful humor. I would apologize that we have been ambivalent and have not paid attention to the men and women in our congregation who have been struggling with same sex attraction. I would apologize for not ministering to them enough, and for not supporting them enough in their desire to be free from this. I would apologize for the tactlessness that certain ministers have exhibited in public forums and for the lack of loving tone with outsiders and unbelievers. Last of all, I would apologize that we have not been clear, intellectual, concise and consistent in our theology of marriage. We have let people who have no theology of marriage hijack the conversation and speak for us. We have let ignorant people with loveless rhetoric and billboards saying “Adam and eve, not Adam and Steve” represent us, instead of thoughtful, wise and well spoken men and women of God who are  able to intelligently lay out a loving, clear presentation of why and what we believe marriage and sexuality to be and how that relates to the homosexual and heterosexual.”

*note. the title of this blog point is deliberately provocative and ironically tongue-in-cheek. When contrasted with the content and thesis, I believe it serves its purpose well.

The Gospel-less Litany of Pat Robertson Concerning Alzheimers and Divorce

There is an article in Christianity today about Pat Robertson who, being true to form, gave some nasty and foolish advice. Condemnation has come sure and swift. John Piper tweeted “Pat Robertson’s view of how Christ loves the church and gives himself for her. Leave her for another”. Albert Mohler  likewise chimed in  “This is what happens when you abandon Scripture and do theology and morality by your gizzard. Let’s call it what it is.” During his show “The 700 Club” Pat Robertson advised a viewer to avoid putting a “guilt trip” on those who want to divorce a spouse with Alzheimer’s. We read;

During the show’s advice segment, a viewer asked Robertson how she should address a friend who was dating another woman “because his wife as he knows her is gone.” Robertson said he would not fault anyone for doing this. He then went further by saying it would be understandable to divorce a spouse with the disease.

“That is a terribly hard thing,” Robertson said. “I hate Alzheimer’s. It is one of the most awful things because here is a loved one—this is the woman or man that you have loved for 20, 30, 40 years. And suddenly that person is gone. They’re gone. They are gone. So, what he says basically is correct. But I know it sounds cruel, but if he’s going to do something he should divorce her and start all over again. But to make sure she has custodial care and somebody looking after her.”

Co-host Terry Meeuwsen asked Pat, “But isn’t that the vow that we take when we marry someone? That it’s For better or for worse. For richer or poorer?”

Robertson said that the viewer’s friend could obey this vow of “death till you part” because the disease was a “kind of death.” Robertson said he would understand if someone started another relationship out of a need for companionship.

There is much to be disappointed about regarding the whole affair. The first is the question of the co-host. Why wasn’t the question, instead of asking about “for richer or for poorer” vows, say something like “But isn’t that what the bible teaches? That divorce is only permissible in cases of sexual infidelity and willful abandonment?” [there are those who take an even more conservative view of divorce and remarriage] I’m not sure what Robertson’s response would have been, but having abandoned biblical fidelity long ago and being a man who at this point just likes to make things up about God and Christian doctrine, I doubt it would have been anything remotely sound. There are no excuses for this- this is just another statement in a long litany from a man whose purpose it seems is to bring reproach upon the name of Christ and his Church.

The Book of Ephesians tells us “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” It further goes on to say “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loves the Church…” I would suggest that if  Christ does not abandon or leave his Church when she is being disobedient, sinful, and faithless, then to love our wives as Christ loves the Church would dictate that we too should not leave our wives  when they are being likewise. That is worst-case scenario. In this case though the wife has done nothing wrong. Her mind is being ravaged from within- her neutrons and synapses withering and dying against her will, even as she seeks to be loving, sanctified and faithful.

What a great and monstrous evil it would be for a man to do this thing- or  a woman to do likewise to her husband. What a foul stench of sin. This worldly, sub-biblical and selfish mindset ought to bring shame upon the soul of  a man, even as he seeks to justify it under the guise of loneliness and need for companionship. It is Christ-less. It is cruel. It is  irresponsible advice. Most importantly, it is Gospel-less. As Russel Moore says, “A woman or a man with Alzheimer’s can’t do anything for you. There’s no romance, no sex, no partnership, not even companionship. That’s just the point. Because marriage is a Christ/church emblem, a man loves his wife as his own flesh. He cannot sever her off from him simply because she isn’t “useful” anymore.” Instead he is to walk in love as Christ loved him-giving his very life.

Right now there is a woman taking a sponge and washing the backside of her husband of 63 years, the stench of feces assaulting her senses as she roils in nausea.  Later she will wipe the drool from his chin, even as he flinches because he does not know her, and he is scared. Later still she will talk to him for hours on end and pray for a spark of recognition that will never come-  as vacant eyes stare back at her. She will do this for years because she knows that Christ has done as much for her and for her beloved husband. When she was poor, helpless and lost- when she was dead in trespasses and sins, Christ came and saved her. He took care of her. He fed her. He clothed her. He nurtured her and treated her gently. He bound her wounds. He washed her in the water of the word. He spoke words of love and said “live”.  Christ gave his life for the dead men and women he loved- how could she not do likewise?

That is the Gospel applied to Alzheimers and Divorce.

What Pat Robertson believes looks nothing like that.

Phil Johnson vs. Mark Driscoll

Phil Johnson over at teampyro has written a measured and excellent response to Mark Driscoll’s pornographic divinations. There is a growing backlash against Mark for his attacks on cessasionist theology and I appreciate the timely word from Phil to offer a counterpoint to what I would consider a really weird and aberrant teaching.

The Experience FM; Gray Matter on Sexual Purity

The Experiene [MGA Ministry] is having/ or has just done a Gray Matter discussion on Sexual Purity. I’ve been wanting to go to one of these shindigs forever, but I haven’t had the day off in months. I don’t know much about them, but I hope to be able to get out there this Friday, if they are still on for the sumer] According to their website, part of the purpose of this series is to discuss human sexuality in a helpful way so that you can get God’s perspective on it.  The event in particular which caught my attention surrounded the questions “How far is too far” sexually? and “Where do you draw the line?” I thought it would be worthwhile to respond to it.

As far as “How far is too far?” this seems to be the question that many teens are asking as they fumble and flit around the edges of sexual purity, wondering what sorts of things are acceptable and what sort of things aren’t. There are different answers, of course. Some people in return ask the rhetorical question “Instead of asking how far you can get to the edge of the cliff, why not just stay as far away from it as possible?”  Or they might say “You shouldn’t do anything that you would be ashamed of doing if Jesus was in the room” or “If you have to ask if you’ve gone too far, you probably have.” Good advice all. For most Christians, the answer to the question of “how far is too far” is..well….not very far at all.

My take? If you’re asking the question, you can’t go far enough. Chances are you’re some kids engaging in a lustful, disjointed and disconnected make-out session with your boyfriend or girlfirend, fumbling around with physical theology and sacred sexuality.  When all is said and done you’re left feeling guilty and ashamed and you think you’ve gone too far?  Listen- you’ve taken one shuffle-step  in a journey of a thousand miles, the end result of which is that warm,  familiar, satisfying, one flesh sexual union between a man and a wife in a marriage covenant. And you think you might have gone too far? You’re not even in the running, because you don’t know what “far” truly means.

“Far” is an old married couple who after a lifetime of sex are dealing with the scourges of physical impotency. “Far” is a husband and wife consoling each other after another negative pregnancy test, bearing each other’s burdens in tears. “Far” is a young married couple who are delighting in each others bodies. “Far” is the encapsulation, iteration, and culmination of a biblical view of sexuality, incorporating the body, soul and spirit. The heart of “far”  is theological- ultimately being covenental Christ-exalting worship and a picture of union between Christ and his Church. Marriage and sexuality were designed by God for mankind so that through it mankind might glorify God.

And so here you stand, two kids  toying with a spiritual mystery, and you think you’ve gone too far?






And not only have you not gone too far, but at this rate- using these means, you will never get there.

Ask Me Anything. Answers II


1. Why did Jesus say buy swords at the last supper and when they said we have two he said “that’s enough?”

Luke 22:35-38. “And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.”

Lets look at this in context. The last supper has ended and the scene is going down mere hours before the betrayal in the garden. It would appear that prior to this, throughout the whole of Jesus’ ministry, the disciples had not armed themselves with swords. We see no records in the book of Acts or anywhere else in the epistles or church history of the apostles wielding swords. In fact, some 12 verses later, we see Jesus rebuking Peter for swinging the same swords that he told them to buy. I think this would suggest that despite Jesus told them to purchase them, he didn’t intend them to use them in the way they imagined they ought to be used.

Immediately after telling his disciples to buy swords, Jesus says, “For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment” . The reason Jesus wanted his disciples to possess swords was not to use them, but to fulfill prophecy. The pretext for this is prophetic, and purchasing swords was a way for Him to appear to be a law breaker to the Jewish authorities. The prophecy Jesus quoting in this case is Isaiah 53:12. This was an example of Christ, even at the end, fulfilling prophecies that were about him.

This is why, in the next verse, when the disciples say they have two swords, Jesus says “That is enough.” Obviously, if Jesus ever intended the disciples to actually use swords in self defense, two wouldn’t be nearly enough. They would have had at least 12- one each. But it was enough to fulfill the prophecy and justify the Jewish authorities accusing him of being a rebel or a criminal- and enough vindication in the minds of the Jews and the Romans for him to be numbered with the transgressors.

2. Why are yuo so homophobic? bpeople can go to church and love Jesus and read the bible and still be gay. God looks at the heart. The bible also says dont eat shellfish in the same sentance as what youre saying, so does that stil apply today? You’re not going to hell for being gay or eating shrimp so don’t be the judge of everybody. F*** off and geta life

In terms of this multi-part question, there are a few answers. To keep it short,

1. I am not homophobic even in the least. I think that more often than not, labelling someone with the title homophobic because they believe that homosexuality is a sin is a less-than-clever and convenient way to quench discussion. It is a slur, an epitaph, and its whole purpose is to misdirect people towards a different issue and category, when that is not the case. My experiences with gay people and the gay community have been overwhelmingly positive, through friendships, coworkers, acquaintances, employees and so forth. I find many of their personalities and worldviews to be attractive and addictive. For this reason, I can’t think of any reason why a person’s sexual orientation would affect how I would love and care for them as a person or as a friend.

2. I believe that people can go to church and love Jesus and love the bible and still be gay- or at least, still recognize in themselves that they are powerfully and magnetically attracted to the same sex. Are people born gay? Maybe. It’s possible. But that reality is essentially irrelevant in relation to whether or not homosexuality is a sin.  Having ones sexual orientation inclined towards the same sex is a weighty, weighty burden. In light of this, I would suggest that the biblical command for anyone who is struggling with same sex attraction has two prerogatives. The first is to take this to Christ in prayer, asking that God would redeem their sexuality so that Christ might help them become “reoriented,”so that they would be counted in the “and such were some of you” category in 1 Corinthians 6. If the Lord in his sovereign mercy does not make this a reality, then I believe a life of celibacy would be the final call, all the while praying for the first. It is a painful cross to bear. It is lonely and frustrating and at times bleak. But in the whole process God will be slowly refining you in the slow burn of sanctification, and his pleasures and promises are better.

So that would be a distinction. I know several good men who would say of themselves “I have never been attracted to women. I have always been powerfully attracted to other men” and yet whom are loving Jesus and being active in the Church. I think this is a good thing. If my pastor was “gay” and daily warred against that, and remained chaste in his celibacy, I would consider that a good thing. I would love him and sit under his teaching and would support him in every way possible. But that is different than someone who is openly gay and is unrepentantly homosexual. I don’t believe someone that someone who is unrepentantly homosexual can be a Christian, or that they love the biblical Jesus, or that they can read their bible with any sense of emotional, intellectual, or theological honesty.

3. I’ll leave the shellfish question for later, as I have a post I am planning regarding it. I will close though with the thought that I don’t consider myself the judge of everybody. The idea that homosexuality is a sin is not some clever idea that I concocted out of the recess of my mind. Rather, it is a clear, biblical reality, and no amount of liberal revisionism of the biblical text can change that. Its not my idea, but rather is God’s idea. For that reason I don’t stand in judgment of anyone, in the way that you think. I don’t set myself as some self-proclaimed kingmaker who stands over everybody. I judge what the bible tells me to judge, and I try as careful as I can not to extend past that.

What do you think of women pastors? I noticed that you won’t attend a bible study from a church that is, as you put it, pastrix-led. Can you explain that?

Sure. I am a complementarian.  What that essentially means is that that I believe that men and women have different but complementary roles and responsibilities in marriage, family, and in the church. Because I believe the biblical texts when it comes to women’s role in the church are not relegated to cultural remnants- vestigial theological practices, but rather still binding and normative for believers, I don’t believe the role of pastor or elder is appropriate for a woman to assume in church. I think there are many roles and responsibilities for them in the church; ones that are important and central in the body of believers, but that  some governing and teaching roles within the church are restricted to men. Stated plainly, women should not hold church leadership roles that involve teaching or authority over men.

For that reason, I consider female pastors to be a strange animal, and don’t believe that what they are doing is legit. I don’t have a problem visiting a church where one of the pastors is a woman-say an associate pastor or youth pastor. That is to say, I could attend for the day and worship there and enjoy fellowship with other believers. But I wouldn’t make that Church my home church, and I wouldn’t become a member there. I’m not suggesting that a Church with a woman in some pastoral role is necessarily bad or dishonest, or that the people who attend there are culpable by association. I think there are some female pastors that teach their congregations quite well, and probably better than a lot of their male counterparts. There are good churches in this city that have women on the leadership staff. That is not the issue.  Competency is not the issue, but rather it is one of submission, and whether or not people are willing to submit to the scriptures and what they say regarding this practice.

The reason I would not attend a bible study from a church that is pastrix-led is because I don’t know that I could trust them and their view of scripture to teach me the bible in the fullest, deepest way. I think the distortions, eisegesis and the biblical mindgames that you would have to engage in to validate women holding those offices are immense. It suggests a lack of discernment and biblical fidelity, at least in this one area, to the extent that I find it intolerable. It says to me that the means, methods and modes that they interpret scripture are deficient in some way, and so if they can explain away this aspect of scripture, and get this thing so wrong, what other things are they getting wrong? What other things are being seen through these lens and filters? So that’s pretty much the short version of this answer. If you are interested, perhaps one day I can write a post to elaborate.


fort mcmurray church girls; setting the world afire one mini-skirt at a time

I had the chance to go to Church this past weekend [name witheld to protect the innocent] and I must say that I had  good time. [recognizing of course that Church does not exist so that I can have a good time]. I though the music was worshipful, the message fairly edifying, the people very friendly, and the atmosphere thoroughly joyful. There was only one thing that really bothered me about the whole affair- the fact that many of the teen girls and young adults I saw were dressed in what I would delicately consider “immodest” attire. Plainly said, there was a looooot of skin.

I arrived there and sat back and realized that summer must be in full force, because many people were dressed like they were ready for a day at the beach. At some point, right after the call for the tithes and offerings, I half expected the ushers to bring out beach umbrellas and sunscreen so that these women might enjoy the message while being properly shielded from the sun. Some of these ladies, undoubtedly youth group girls by the way they all sat next to each other and raised their hands during worship, were quite young- probably in their early-to-mid-teens. Other pocketfuls were older, probably in their late teens to early twenties, and unfortunately were dressed no better.

They were wearing bright tank-tops, short skirts, bra straps strewn across shoulders, shorts, and ripped denim short-shorts which were raised up to an impossibly high angle. One girl had on what appeared to be a tube top. When we stood up to greet our neighbors, multiple women had their cleavage was on full display for all to see.  I watched some older men who were easily old enough to be their fathers, glance down at these girls and then quickly away, embarrassedly trying to make eye contact only, as they shook their hands and welcomed them to church that day. The Church boys, less tactful, simply stared and opened their arms;  awaiting with anticipation their greeting  which consisted of side-hugs.

This was not a small church, and while I concede that they may have all been concentrated in one small area  [I seemed to be behind the "youth section"] I think my random sampling was probably not atypical of how many of the women were dressing. And not just in this church, but probably in several churches in the Fort McMurray area.

A random sampling from various local Church websites will show that they would have everyone come to church dressed in what makes them comfortable. That seems to be the general rule; though I’m not sure how helpful it is when expectations are lowered. I also think I would not be overstepping when I say that this level of “comfortableness” is probably not what they had in mind. I understand that you’re always going to have guests who may come in wearing clothes that are sketchy. I think this is unavoidable and I don’t think it’s wise or particularly loving to confront them as they come in or as they leave and tell them that what they’re wearing is immodest, and that they need to wear something else next time. I don’t think that’s right. At the same time that is very different than girls who have been attending for years coming to Church wearing what I would consider objectively immodest apparel.

Part of me wants to say that these young girls should know better, but I’m not sure that’s the case. Many of these women don’t know better, because their parents, pastor, elders, pastors wife, youth pastors wife, or deacons have never told them that being scantily clad for Church isn’t legit. They go to school like this, to work like this, they go shopping like this and hang out like this, and so why should church be any different?  I think in light of scripture that a disservice is being done, and in fact it would not be out of bounds for these women to be gently taken aside and explained that in light of the biblical commands in scripture that women [and men]  should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control. I’m not sure how well they would react to it. I imagine some would be thankful and some would get upset, but I think this would be a gentle aspect of church discipline, for the sake of the strengthening of the church body as a whole.

What do you all think? Have you been in a Church like this? Am I being too critical in my analysis of what might constitute immodesty? What are the girls and young women wearing in your church? Is it unreasonable to approach them and tell them to dress up a little bit? How has this summer-time situation played out in your Church?

“I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.” 1 Timothy 2:8-10.

Loving God vs Being in Love with God

I recently heard a song that blurred the line between Jesus and a theoretical boyfriend in one of the most blatant ways possible. It was only on the second listen when I realized “Hey, that song has the word “Lord” in it. She’s singing about God! What on earth…….?”  I’ll be putting that song up here in a few days as part of the paperthin hymn feature, but needless to say that got me thinking about a topic that I don’t think I’ve talked about much here. It’s not so much the whole “Jesus is my boyfriend” mentality, but rather this idea that we are IN LOVE with Jesus.

There are many exhortations in the Bible that speaks of our love for God. That God loves us. That in response to the love of God we are to love him back and in the process of sanctification our affections for him are to grow and deepen. [1 John 4:19-20]  Should we sing songs that talk about the love of God? Yes. Should be understand God as pursuing and wooing us so that he might save us? Yes. It is entirely appropriate and biblical to speak of how much we love God, and that we know, feel and experience his love. That is good, and those are things that we should be walking in and exploring and giving ourselves over to. But there is a chasm of difference between loving Jesus, and being in love with Jesus. The latter is not a biblical category, and nowhere in the bible does it say that we are to be In Love with God or even that such a concept is biblically accurate, much less edifying. That sort of thing is never spoken about. It doesn’t exist.

And yet so much of the language that is used in our modern day Christian Evangelicalism is EROS in nature. It is fueled by romantic  love and has subtly infected our culture, music and our theology so that such expressions and ideas are considered commonplace. Its why the western church has by and large accepted lyrics in our corporate worship like “I want to feel you against me Jesus…breathe on me…..hold me in your arms….whisper in my ear….. because I’m so in love with you” This contribution of quasi-erotic lyrics and attitudes towards Jesus has resulted, among other things, in men leaving the church in droves. They find this idea of Jesus as a bearded boyfriend to be intolerable to the point that in their absence the Church has become a place which is essentially run by women whose targeted audience is either other women or boys in skinny jeans.

The point of this post wasn’t to get into a talk  about the feminization of the church, but rather that we need to be more precise with our language. We don’t use such imprecise language in our every day life.  In your own life, you wouldn’t say “I’m in love with my mother. I’m in love with myself. I’m in love with my job. I’m in love with my friends. I’m in love with my professors. I’m in love with my father in law. I’m in love with my neighbor” . No. You say “I love my mother. I love myself. I love my job. I love my friends. I love my professors. I love my father in law. I love my neighbor.”

And yet people don’t think twice about saying “I’m in love with Jesus. I’m in love God.” or singing songs in worship  like “I can’t stop falling in love with you. I’ll never stop falling in love with you.”

Why do you think this is, and what is the result of it?

Identity in Christ- A Response to Lady Gaga’s Born This Way

Born this Way is a song  written by Lady Gaga [Real name Stefani Germanotta] and released less than two months ago. As it were,  it is the fastest-selling single in Itunes history, selling one million copies in five days. I have downloaded a copy of the song, but I have absolutely no interest in seeing the music video for it. I hear that it has been highly acclaimed and artistic, but I can’t imagine it being anything different than the sort of garish, hyper-sexualized softcore pornographic spectacle that we have seen before,  and so I would not recommend that anyone view it. That having been said, I would like to apply the biblical lens to this song and give some thoughts first on the person, then on the message of the song.

I should say right out of the gate that I am not a fan or hers, nor do I follow her life and music in any sort of meaningful way. My primary interaction with her is through covers and parodies of her music, as well as when she makes the news and is mentioned in some sort of ancillary way, and I admit that I am more or less ignorant on the matter. It seems that she is often pictured tottering down the street in some outlandish get-up and fright wig, and although she presents herself as the messianic voice of all the misfits, freaks, and non-conformists, there is little evidence that she ever was one. Her upbringing was upper-middle class and eventually affluent. She attended the same upscale Manhattan private school as Paris Hilton. For this reason there’s a wild disconnect between Gaga’s melodramatic self-portrayal as a lonely, rebellious, marginalized artist and the powerful corporate apparatus that bankrolled her makeover and has steamrollered her songs into heavy rotation on radio stations everywhere. She is the shepherd who calls all her sheep to her, the pied piper with bombastic ready-to-mix club beats. Her style and personality is avant-garde, but I wonder for whom she is dressing for.

I think that’s what strikes me about her more than anything whenever I catch a glimpse of her on my You Tube sidebar, or performing at some music awards, that  despite showing acres of pallid skin in the fetish-bondage garb of urban prostitution, Gaga isn’t sexy at all, despite the efforts and millions of dollars that go into painting her as such. As Camille Pagila puts it “She’s like a gangly marionette or plasticised android. How could a figure so calculated and artificial, so clinical and strangely antiseptic, so stripped of genuine eroticism have become the icon of her generation? Can it be that Gaga represents the exhausted end of the sexual revolution? In Gaga’s manic miming of persona after persona, over-conceptualized and claustrophobic, we may have reached the limit of an era…”

For that reason I wonder how many of the young women in the Church see that and are caught up in it? How many of them think it’s cool and courageous? Surely the message of hyper-personalized and radical inclusive individuality must have some sort of effect on them. Because absent a biblical wordview [that is generally absent] I’m not sure how they would be any less susceptible than the unchurched and non-religious youth of our communities to be drawn into what she’s singing about.


It doesn’t matter if you love him, or capital H-I-M
Just put your paws up
‘Cause you were born this way, baby

My mama told me when I was young
We’re all born superstars
She rolled my hair, put my lipstick on
In the glass of her boudoir
“There’s nothin’ wrong with lovin’ who you are”
She said, “‘Cause He made you perfect, babe”
“So hold your head up, girl and you’ll go far,
Listen to me when I say”

I’m beautiful in my way,
‘Cause God makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way
Don’t hide yourself in regret,
Just love yourself and you’re set
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way

Ooo, there ain’t no other way
Baby, I was born this way
Baby, I was born this way
(Born this way)
Ooo, there ain’t other way
Baby, I was born this way
Right track, baby
I was born this way

Don’t be a drag, just be a queen
Don’t be a drag, just be a queen
Don’t be a drag, just be a queen
Don’t be!

Give yourself prudence and love your friends
Subway kid, rejoice the truth
In the religion of the insecure
I must be myself, respect my youth
A different lover is not a sin
Believe capital H-I-M (hey, hey, hey)
I love my life, I love this record and
Mi amore vole fe yah

Don’t be a drag, just be a queen
Whether you’re broke or evergreen
You’re black, white, beige, chola descent
You’re lebanese, you’re orient
Whether life’s disabilities
Left you outcast, bullied or teased
Rejoice and love yourself today
‘Cause baby, you were born this way

No matter gay, straight or bi
lesbian, transgendered life
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born to survive
No matter black, white or beige
chola or orient made
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born to be brave

This song, in every way possible, seems to be an anthem to individuality and to the prowess of mankind. It is the pop refrain of a generation, much like Nirvana’s Smells like Teen Spirit was for the 90′s. Several themes run through the song. Some are admirable and should be echoed. Love and acceptance of oneself and others, that we ought to strive to be comfortable in our own skin, a disparagement of racism, a recognition that God made mankind a certain way and that in his sovereignty he did not make any mistakes, and that there is hope and comfort for the socially marginalized. Those are good things, and I think people looking for validation will find it.

And yet we see different aspects of the song which are troubling and which seek to burn to the ground the foundation of the biblical worldview I spoke of earlier. These would be an overemphasis  and a glorification of  self-love, self-hype, self-aggrandizement, and self-esteem. The eschewing of biblical sexual ethics whereby the expression of free love and the promotion of homosexuality, lesbianism, and the encouragement of sexual experimentation is lauded and encouraged. We see God/ Capital H-I-M make an appearance, but any notion of holiness and majesty is reduced to a deistic being who creates mankind and then endorses  and blesses every action and feeling they have. As it were, the whole song screams the message “I was born this way, and so whatever I chose to do and think and be is good in and of itself, and no one can tell me otherwise.”

At its core the message of Lady Gage and of “Born this way” is unrestrained unaccountability that is fueled and powered by subjective experiences, all of which according to her should be accepted as legitimate and good. It is a seductive message, and one that I think rings intuitively as true for most people who hear it because that is the experience in their own lives.  She comes into our homes through the airwaves, belting out the clarion call that is a simple continuation of the greater themes of our culture- that you are not fallen. You are not fractured. You are not a sinner. You are not broken. You’re perfect just the way you are, and instead of needing redemption from something outside yourself, you just need to look inward and love and accept yourself more,. Then you’ll be okay.

Our response to this then should be simple. The antidote to a script that says we ought to find our identity in ourselves by virtue of ourselves, is that we should find our identity in Christ. That’s the contradistinction that should effervescent in our bones, spirit, blood, skin and brains.  That’s the message that we need to communicate that will tear down the walls of self-lust and the pride of life; that our questions are given answers in Christ. Our insecurities are made secure in Christ. Our uncertainties are made certain in Christ. Our burdens are made light in Christ. Our hurts are made whole in Christ. Our attitudes are bent towards God in Christ. Our incompleteness has been made complete in Christ. Our tears are dried away in Christ. Our sexuality is redeemed and restored in Christ. Our pain is understood and made pure in Christ.

What Lady Gaga offers is nothing but a cold, hard, calloused imitation. It’s a dry husk. It’s a corpse. Its a prison of self-reliance disguised as freedom but betrayed by its own fragility. For this reason it won’t last long, and we need to be there with the truth of the gospel when this worldview collapses in on itself.


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