“Being Circumspect in Dress”
First Published: October 16, 2001
The spiritual welfare of our families is always on the minds of our staff and elders, and I pass along these two items for your edification in that area. The first piece has to do with an entrenched cultural myth (a myth that needs to be exploded for all of our good). The second treats a touchy issue that has hit home hard right in our own backyard. Read on.
First, regarding, self-esteem, many of you have heard of Ken Canfield of the National Center for Fathering. He recently sent out a newsletter in which he asked : “Can an enlarged self-esteem have negative effects on a child's behavior?” Then he commented: “That’s what Laura L. Smith and Charles H. Elliott assert in their recent book, Hollow Kids: Recapturing the Soul of a Generation Lost to the Self-Esteem Myth. They believe that ‘by bending over backwards to make kids feel good about themselves, educators, the media, and well-meaning parents have created a generation of hollow kids who lack the fundamental understanding of who they are and what they can accomplish.’ To support their claims, they point to these characteristics in ‘hollow kids’: (1) narcissistic behavior–which contributes to aggression, violence and delinquency; (2) a distorted self image–which leads to body piercing, tattoos, and anorexia; and (3) an insatiable quest to feel good–rooted in materialism, substance abuse and promiscuous sex. It’s time to challenge youth to take responsibility by ‘joining a cause, volunteering for service, and working hard during tough times.’”
Second, regarding modesty, I have been approached recently by a number of godly women in our congregation who have, independently of one another, expressed their concerns to me about the lack of modesty in the clothing of many of the girls and young women in our own church. Now, I realize that fools rush in where angels fear to tread, but allow me to venture a few comments.
Current styles of dress are not exactly helping our young people in the direction of modesty. The headmaster of our Day School spoke to our Session Monday night and spoke in passing of the “Britney-ization” of our girls (referring to the famous pop icon, singer/dancer, and pin-up girl – Britney Spears). Of course, this is nothing new. Fashion has always posed certain challenges for Christians. However, we seem to be in a phase of particular, acute and widespread compromise.
I saw a column by Terry Johnson (Senior Minister of the Independent Presbyterian Church in Savannah, Georgia) a few weeks ago addressing this issue in his own congregation. He said: “I remember long ago reading Eric Segal’s description of the heroine in Love Story (through the thought of her ‘preppie’ suitor) that there had never seen so much as an additional button left unbuttoned on her blouse. This was Segal’s way of describing her modesty. She exposed nothing! Somehow I can’t imagine a novel today having such a line. Our culture is so far gone in the direction of immodesty that Jennifer (no puritan herself) seems quaint, almost Jane Austenish. The spandex revolution has taken its toll. In addition to shorts and skirts that are way too short (what’s wrong with the top of the knee?), and necklines that plunge way too low, we must now contend with tops and bottoms that are ridiculously too tight.”
Elisabeth Elliott has raised a timely point abut modesty in her newsletter. She quotes a letter from a listener: “Where are the men? Why are they so passive on this issue? I’m speaking particularly of husbands and fathers who allow their wives and daughters to appear publicly in an inappropriate and immodest fashion. This issue is close to my heart because we have been blessed with three sons and three daughters. My heart’s desire is to teach them the responsibility that goes with purity and abstinence, to appear and behave in such a way that God is honored. But what do we say to our children when many of the Christian girls they meet and with whom they interact do not practice modesty? Though they profess the name of Christ, their appearance certainly causes godly young men to strive valiantly with their thoughts. I thank God for a godly husband, who guards and gives guidance to our daughters and to me. May our children have the strength to respond in a godly way in spite of the tremendous pressures to compromise. I realize this is not a popular issue to talk about, but it is a concern that is close to my heart and I believe close to the heart of our Heavenly Father.” (From Gateway to Joy, May 24, 2001).
Brothers and sisters, let us strive to glorify God even in the way we dress.