Monday, April 27, 2009

The Naked Slippery Slope

It doesn’t take much time on the official Miss USA website to see how much the competition is shaped by prurient interests. Unlike the rival Miss America competition, Miss USA doesn’t feature a talent category, where contestants play the piano, sing, or orate. No, the Donald Trump–owned Miss USA pageant only features evening gown, interview, and the ever-popular swimsuit category, in which contestants are judged on how “well-proportioned” their bodies are (i.e., bust and waist size) and how well they can strut in high heels on national television. Maybe some Christian women feel like the ministry opportunities that could come from winning far outweigh the troubling sexual implications of the swimsuit category. Maybe I’m naïve — maybe some Christians don’t see anything particularly troubling about a swimsuit competition. But I’m hard pressed to reconcile a swimsuit competition with Scripture’s wisdom about real self-worth and female beauty (Prov. 31:10–31, 1 Sam. 16:7, 1 Pet. 3:3, to name a few).
- Katelyn Beaty, "The Other Miss California Controversy," Christianity Today blog, 4/23/09

Carrie Prejean, Miss California contestant for the Miss USA pageant jumped into the American news scene last week over her remarks opposing homosexual marriage. The Christian Right jumped onto the bandwagon lauding her for "standing up for biblical convictions in the face of public scrutiny."[1]

Discernment Research Group's own Pastor Larry DeBruyn weighed in with a controversial opinion of his own, courageously posted by Ingrid Schlueter at her Slice of Laodicea blog.[2] Pastor DeBruyn wrote, in part:

Admittedly, I at first joined the admiration society of the Miss USA contestant for boldly standing up for her beliefs in a hostile and prejudiced environment, until I realized my disconnect, until I began to think biblically about the whole matter, and recall the scriptural passages condemning nakedness. Instinctively, Adam and Eve covered themselves after sinning (Genesis 3:7). Correspondingly, they became conscious of their sin and their nakedness (By the way God covered Adam and Eve too, Genesis 3:21.). I think of Noah’s two sons who saw his nakedness (Genesis 9:18 ff.). I think of the High Priest who was commanded not to ascend the altar lest “his nakedness” be exposed (Exodus 20:26). In other words, in reverence to God the High Priest’s leg was not even to be exposed. I think of the Leviticus passages that command, “thou shalt not expose the nakedness thereof . . .” (Leviticus 18). And women are to dress modestly that their prayers be not hindered (1 Timothy 2:8-9).

The parade of naked or semi-clothed bodies in our culture indicates our society’s desensitization to, if not outright denial, of sin (Remember, when Adam and Eve first discovered they were sinners, they instinctively covered themselves.). Years ago in the middle of the previous century, I had a friend who was a missionary amongst the Stone Age people of the territory then known as New Guinea. On one of his furloughs in the states, he remarked to me one day that all the while—for reason of the Gospel’s penetration into their hearts—the natives were putting clothes on, we in so-called “Christian America” seemed to be taking them off!

I recognize that I am not the last word on the subject. I grew up on the sandy summer beaches of Lake Michigan, and was on the high school swim team. During my teen age and young adult years in the 60s, I witnessed the girls’ swimsuits become skimpier and skimpier. I recognize God uses sinners. But I am aware that we sinners can also attempt to use God. I have no pretension of being a self-righteous prude. I have had, as with most all other men, a problem with lust, something Jesus pointedly warned about. So what really disturbs me as a pastor is observing how easily we Christians accommodate our values to the culture’s, to the system called the world, and seemingly without any tinge of conscience. As Christians, we are to use but not abuse the world, and God will be the judge of whether we were users or abusers, won’t He?

I can only go by the Word, the Holy Scriptures. It seems to me that one aspect of worldliness involves “the lusts of the flesh” (1 John 2:16). Furthermore, the Bible says, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regards to its lusts” (Romans 13:14). After their conversion, Paul reminds the Ephesians that, “Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest” (Ephesians 2:3). And the Apostle Peter pleaded, “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11).

The prevalence of nudity and semi-nudity in our culture may help explain—there is no excuse for terrorism—why fundamentalist Muslims, whose women dress in burkhas (i.e., loose garments with veiled holes for the eyes), detest the west (See "Women in Burkas: A Lesson for Christians" [3]).

This whole beauty pageant controversy provides a sad commentary on both the state of the culture and to some extent, the values prevalent amongst Christians today. We have been, and are being, desensitized to nudity. Miss California may be the newest heroine amongst a desperate conservative sub-culture that sees our society sinking into a moral abyss, but this whole business ought to remind Christians of how the prevalence of human nakedness indicates our having been removed from God’s righteousness.

Are your prayers being hindered?

In an article just posted on his website titled "Styles and Spirituality," [4] Pastor DeBruyn further expounds on this topic of promiscuous fashion. He wrote, in part:

...What is the fashion among today's youth this spring? Well, here are a couple of phrases used by one reporter to characterize what young people are "wearing or not wearing" to proms these days: "skin-is-in-craze" and "flash means lots of flesh."[5] As they make their grand entrance to the dance, one high school administrator laments that dressed in "tube tops, long matching skirts and nothing in between," young girls dress more like they're in a rock video than going to the grand social event of their high school career. As one student from one of our city's parochial schools put it, "It's not always going to be what our parents want us to wear. There's going to be some bad stuff."

All this controversy over "skin-is-in and flash-means-flesh" raises the issue of how Christian women and young girls are to dress. Two biblical passages speak to the issue. Paul wrote, "Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments" (1 Timothy 2:9). Peter wrote, "And let not your adornment be merely external braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God" (1 Peter 3:3-4).

...Both apostles ruled that Christian women should not attire themselves like the immoral, sensuous and "available" women who dressed to seduce the Roman politicians.

Pastor DeBruyn likens this to modern "Christian women mimicking the dress of 'promiscuous' pop singers and actresses whose fashion statements betray an immoral lifestyle." He warns that women's prayers could be hindered:

The word "likewise" in Paul's statement about a woman's dress is striking. In some way, what a woman wears (1 Timothy 2:9) relates to how men ought to pray (verse 8). A woman's attire assumes a role like unto that of men's prayers. As men are to offer their prayers to God without anger or argument, so women are to offer their prayers in modest attire! Can a Christian woman ever think that exposing her nakedness enamors God? To the contrary, nakedness repulses God (See Exodus 20:26). The Law instructed Israel, "thou shalt not expose the nakedness thereof . . ." (Leviticus 18). To God, "skin is never in." Whether masculine or feminine, shameless exposure of the flesh repulses God, and if His people are at all involved in such exposure, their prayers are hindered.

The Truth:

The reader is invited to pull out their Strong's Concordance and locate the biblical references to the words naked and nakedness. Nakedness or near-nakedness is never a positive thing in Scripture. The fact is that the modern church is conforming its view of modesty to the culture, accommodating itself to the latest Hollywood and fashion industry standard of increasing promiscuity, i.e., bare skin nakedness. This is called the process of desensitization, and it is part of assimilating into the culture and seering the conscience. (See Romans 12:1-2.)

The biblical standard is "modesty" and it is spelled out in many verses. It is also defined historically. In the 20th Century, concurrent with the rise of the feminist movement (including Margaret Sanger's ideologies), women drastically altered their feminine dress of the past four millenia. Try googling the term "modest dresses" just to see the stark contrast.

It may not just be our prayers that are hindered by immoral and immodest lifestyles. Desensitization to nakedness may also compromise our ability to stand and be watchful, ready and alert for the Lord's soon return. Luke 12:35-40 states:

Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.

Revelation 16:15 states:

"Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame."

1. Katelyn Beaty, "The Other Miss California Controversy," Christianity Today blog, 4/23/09
5. Staci Hupp, "Crackdown On Skin-Is-In Craze," The Indianapolis Star, May 9, 2005, B3, 5.