Eric Carpenter has opened a seasonally appropriate can of worms on the topic of modesty, more specifically the wearing of bikini swimwear by Christian women. His post, Bikinis? , started as a Facebook post and drew quite a few comments. His post is brief but certain to draw a lot of comments because as he says there are quite a few professing Christians who fervently defend the alleged “right” to wear revealing swimwear.
My stance on this issue is probably not much of a surprise. I find it incomprehensible that a woman who claims to be a follower of Christ would intentionally choose to go out in public wearing next to nothing to be ogled by strangers, exposing herself in a way that is appropriate only within the bounds of marriage. Even more boggling to the mind is that parents seem OK with their young daughters wearing bikinis out in public to be subjected to the leering of strangers. Context aside, a bikini is functionally not covering more than underwear but women seem to think nothing of wearing a bikini to the beach. Of course we also live in a culture where you can’t really watch TV for very long without being subjected to a Victoria’s Secret commercial with women in various states of undress and many women, even in semi-professional workplaces, seem oblivious in their clothing choices that makes Victoria’s Secret into public knowledge.
This question reminds me of the events of 2009 when beauty pageant contestant and church going Carrie Prejean was asked a loaded question about “gay marriage” during the Ms. USA pageant, an event featuring her and the other young women sauntering about in high heels and bikinis for the prurient pleasure of viewers. She gave a clumsy defense of traditional marriage in response to a loaded question from a judge with an agenda and subsequently came in second place, a snub attributed to her defenders as the result of standing up for traditional values (I blogged about this event here). She immediately became something of a celebrity in the evangelical culture.
For a short time, Ms. Prejean was exalted as a role-model and a champion of Biblical values and courage. Then the revelations came out of some topless photos of her done “professionally” as well as some video footage of an unsavory sort and a lawsuit over a loan for her breast implants and she sort of faded away, although not before penning a book, Still Standing. The irony is that when she clumsily stated her opposition to “gay marriage” she was in a pageant where she was wearing not a whole lot more than she was in her topless photos. Her bathing suit as I recall from the endless footage shown on TV about the issue was barely there and designed to accentuate her artificially enhanced chest. Not exactly the sort of traditional values that people traditionally understand but the hypocrisy on display was missed by most of the evangelical community. A woman on stage in front of millions wearing an outfit that leaves 90% of her body exposed is not exactly living out the spirit of 1 Tim 2:9. Yet many Christians seemed oblivious to raising her up as a champion in a tiny bikini but tossing her aside for wearing slightly less.
Modesty in attire is an issue that gets bandied about in the church a lot but with virtually no consensus. I don’t think many Christians would say that modesty is irrelevant given the Biblical evidence but what that means is pretty broad. Does it mean ankle length dresses and no pants? Does it mean almost anything goes under the banner of “Christian liberty”? Is it simply an individual issue that doesn’t get addressed in the church? We really need to have serious conversations about this because it definitely impacts how the world sees us. If the world sees us talking about sin and redemption but then walking around in a bikini our message gets lost in the rightful accusation of hypocrisy. Run over to Eric’s post and jump in the discussion, I hope it will provide light and not just heat.