Thursday, February 05, 2015

What About Speedos? Or, Are Liberty and Libertinism The Same?

The yoga pants kerfuffle continues to rage on social media. Somehow it seems that suggesting that sisters in Christ running around in pants that are little different from body paint might be inappropriate on a number of levels has gotten a lot of people pretty upset with cries of Puritanism and mind your own beeswax. In some ways I don't get it and in others I really do.

Even granting that I have never and will never engage in yoga, I am pretty sure that it is not necessary to wear yoga pants while actively engaged in yoga, much less while going to the grocery store (unless the intent is to fool people into thinking you are coming from or going to a workout based on wearing workout clothes and running shoes. Here's a hint, you ain't fooling anyone.).Likewise I am pretty sure that playing volleyball doesn't require wearing shorts so tiny and tight that your butt cheeks are hanging out of the bottom of them. If guys can play basketball at the highest level wearing shorts baggy to the point of being ludicrous, I am pretty sure that high school girls can play volleyball without turning it into a peep show to draw in spectators. Unless of course you also think that women's beach volleyball gets so much airtime during the Olympics because of the riveting level of play rather than the non-existent uniforms. Try suggesting that certain articles of clothing that are designed and marketed to show off your hind end are maybe not in good taste and especially inappropriate for women who are followers of Christ and you have a crap storm on your hands.

Imagine flipping this around. Would anyone get upset if a wife suggested to her husband that going out in public wearing a Speedo, flip flops with black dress socks and a cut off t-shirt emblazoned with "Hot Stuff" might be inappropriate? I doubt it. Men ought to be dressed appropriately and even modestly. If I ever decided to trot down the street wearing this, please for the sake of humanity stop me. I would have no issue with a man or woman in the church writing about this topic and exploring why a Speedo is not a God honoring choice for men to sport in public.

Why do people get so incensed on this topic? I am not really all that concerned specifically here with the particulars of one item or clothing versus another. I continue to believe that this topic, which seems kind of silly (my wife and daughters don't wear anything like this in public so why should I care?), speaks more broadly to how believers who live in America approach issues differently than our predecessors or even our contemporary brothers and sisters in other cultural context.

There is an egalitarian autonomy in America that has bled over into the church, an attitude that co-opts the American Revolution era Gadsden flag and raises it as the banner of the church. We often approach it as a matter of liberty but I think it really is reflective of libertinism. For our reference:


A lifestyle or pattern of behavior characterized by self-indulgence and lack of restraint, especially one involving sexual promiscuity and rejection of religious or other moral authority.

Obviously I am not someone who is big on ecclesiastical religious authoritarianism. That doesn't mean and has never meant that I advocate an "anything goes" Christianity. Quite the opposite. I think that it is easy to let someone dictate to you the rules in a top-down religious setting. It is much harder to monitor yourself and think through questions on your own with the aid of the Christian community to help guide you through your personal blind spots. It is especially difficult when you live in a culture where the idea of an unchanging external authority is abhorrent. So the question I bring up is this, does the church broadly speaking as a family and community, have a voice in how we relate to one another and the broader world? Further does the church have the standing to speak authoritatively on certain issues or is this a "everyone does what is right in his own eyes" situation? I think Proverbs 12:15 and Proverbs 21:2 are applicable here.

When it comes to pornography I think generally speaking no one questions that the church should speak out against it in broad terms. When it comes to yoga pants all of a sudden people freak out. Is it a gender issue? Is this a backlash against centuries of repression of women, whether that repression was real or imagined? Maybe but I think that along with the perceptions of repression we are dealing with the combination of American notions of independence and contemporary libertinism creating a toxic mix that demands that my own opinion, my own desires are the highest authority on any topic. It is often remarked that men need to govern their own behavior and not blame women for dressing in an enticing fashion. Fair enough but I would ask yet again what motivates women to wear clothing that is intended to entice and further to ask all of us if we reject the role of the church as a whole in speaking to issues from a perspective that often (and necessarily) runs contrary to the prevailing cultural norms.

1 comment:

Aussie John said...


I certainly with you on this one.