Stark hair and makeup frame her pretty face. Metal protrudes from her ears and nose, lips, tongue. Regularly added tattoos cover her skin. And yet her beauty is still there, vibrant and loud, like her laugh which rasps -- marbles when you roll them down a bumpy Lego ramp. She's active on social media, regularly posting selfies titled "meh" or "so bored!" or "bewbs!!!" when the photo predominantly features her cleavage (which is, like, all the time). And she's recently taken up a new cause, passionately campaigning against slut shaming. Her posts of late include women covered by nothing more than small signs that say, "I have morals!"
Another girl I've known since she first attended church camp, posted a picture of her posing, arms up, back to the camera, with the caption, "She is clothed with strength and dignity" (Proverbs 31:25). She certainly wasn't clothed with anything else. The comments ranged from philosophical statements about humans pre-Fall to one guy who suggested she "turn around."
Before I go any further, I need to say this: These girls are on to something.
They correctly recognize a twist in our message. As Warren Baldwin shared, we who have been in the church a while want people to live up to "the challenges of the Christian life" and so fail to offer compassion, community and hope. They don't see the love of Christ in the modesty movement and so are pushing back against something they don't really comprehend.
Worse, we have suggested that the reason girls should cover themselves is for the sake of the guys around them; "Don't cause your brother to stumble!" This teaches boys that they are not responsible for their actions -- "she caused me to stumble" -- and it teaches girls that it's their fault if someone leers at them ... or worse. The "she's asking for it" mentality is a horrifying direct product of this kind of thinking.
It needs to stop.
As one rape victim once told me through tears, "No one is asking for that!"
I like how Jonelle put it in her post Modesty as Respect: When you respect yourself and your setting, you will not be immodest.
The value behind modesty, the reason why we put clothes on and don't make inappropriate comments, is respect (love, concern) for others and ourselves before God who loves us.
Kids regularly ask, "Why?" As parents, we can quickly become overrun by the reduction to ever more basic elements. "Why?" Because choking your brother is not nice. "Why?" Because it hurts him. "Why?" Because our bodies have mechanisms in place to help protect us against situations which could be detrimental to us, such as in the case of a restriction of oxygen. "Why?" Because God made us in such a way that we can respond to threatening situations. "Why?" For our own good.
It's much easier to simply reply, "Because I said so."
The problem is that "because I said so" is an unhelpful answer. Expedient, sure. But there is often a much deeper value influencing our response.
When we talk about that value, we change the tone of the conversation. In the example of modesty, if we say, "Boys, put on a button up shirt, we're heading to church," and they ask why, the answer is easy. "Dressing up for church, even a little, shows respect for God." This can launch even deeper conversations. "We want to look nice for church because dressing up reminds us that the Sabbath is a holy day, set apart by God for our benefit." Taking the time to work through this with your kids, and to do the difficult work of teaching such discipline, counts for a lot in the long run. Check out Carol's post Counting on discipline to produce amazing young people!
The kids I am blessed to know today don't have a foundation built upon values. They have "morals" but no moorings. The value of communicating values to your children is that they can see why you make the choices you do. And I pray that, as my wife and I get to hang out with "our kids," we will be able to share our values with them in a way that helps them move forward in strength and dignity.
Filmmaker, Writer, Pseudo-Dad
P.S. One more thought because I really liked Natalie's post Parents, ask yourself, "Will It Matter in College?" As we look at our values, we may find that some things that don't thrill us (like piercings or blue hair) aren't worth the fight. In fact, it could be that our value is not God-honoring ... like, "What would the people at church think!?" There is much value in thinking about your values.