Last week I released a short video on social media, which was viewed about 40,000 times. I titled it, “What would Jesus do with booty shorts?” I shared my heart on “clothing policing” girls and women in the Church and in Christian schools. I told my own story concerning the subject, in less than three minutes.
I told the “Christian internet” that when I was 18 years old, I packed my bags and headed to Bible school down south. I was an “on-fire Christian,” who was excited to dedicate my entire life to ministry. In high school, I dressed like a normal teenage girl. Now, “normal” then is a bit different from “normal” now, but you get the point.
The dress code at my Bible school was much stricter than my Christian (minister) parent’s expectations were. I tried to obey the dress code, but it seemed like every other day, my clothing was being policed. One RA came up behind me and said, “You look adorable today, but those pants are a bit too tight, and you need to go home and change.”
This was a mixed message and I felt embarrassed; I thought my pants were fine and within dress code. I would have gotten over it, if I had not been constantly told to go home to change for an entire year! I was not trying to break the rules, but many of the rules were subjective to what residence assistants believed were “modest,” and I could not keep up with the confusing boundaries.
Looking back, I realize how much it harmed my heart to have many peers and “mentors” looking me up and down, examining my body, counting how many curves were showing, counting inches of my skin, and subliminally teaching me that Jesus was more concerned about my clothing than my heart.
That year, I lost a bit of that “fire” I had for Jesus. I was made to feel guilt and shame. I was forced to keep up with other people’s religious convictions and this stole my passion and freedom.
I was simply a teenage girl – a human being trying to discover how to balance my love for Jesus with my love for fashion and my femininity.
After I released that video, I received too many hateful comments to read. Sadly, most of these comments were coming from Christians. They called me all sorts of names, attacked me personally, and then quoted Bible verses to justify their vitriol.
I later posted this:
“I was a youth pastor to BEACH teens who lived in bikinis and short shorts. Did I police their clothing? No, I taught them about Jesus and loved them as they were.
If a young woman would have shown up in something extremely revealing, I would have taken her aside and lovingly addressed it, with extreme sensitivity and without shaming; but I am a female.
Grown men church leaders should never be policing girls’ and women’s clothing or bodies. It’s creepy and none of their business.
This is another reason we need more female pastors and church leaders.”
Many Christian men and women lost their marbles yet again, and began to hurl insults at me, and it became clear that these insults were fiery balls from the pit of hell.
We have a spiritual enemy who has used religion to silence, objectify, limit, and control God’s daughters for far too long. Darkness has an agenda to keep patriarchy going strong in the Christian Church, and has blinded many children of God.
When we disagree on what’s biblical, as Christians, we should challenge one another in love and in Christian charity.
The Written Word of God says that the world will know that we are Christians by our love for one another (John 13:35); but something deeply spiritual happens when women and men begin to buck against patriarchy, that has been bathed in sacred-sounding language, such as “Biblical Manhood,” “Biblical Womanhood,” “Modesty,” and “Biblical Gender Roles.”
Some easily forget or ignore it, but it’s right there in Genesis: Patriarchy (men ruling/taking authority over women) is the result of the fall of humankind (Genesis 3:16), and Jesus came to earth to redeem us from the consequences of the fall. Jesus took on every human “curse” and became the perfect sacrifice to set us free from all that is tied up in human sin and sickness.
But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” (Galatians 3:13).
There are many Christians who are still living under the law, which is what makes them police girls’ and women’s clothing, women becoming pastors, and pretty much everything girls and women do and don’t do. These Christians are not free in Christ; they are stuck and tainted by the sin of patriarchy (and all legalism). They themselves are not redeemed by love, so it is easy for them to speak hate and quote Bible verses in the same sentence.
Policing girls’ and women’s clothing contributes to “rape culture” in the Church and in society. Within “rape culture,” people slowly shift the responsibility from the rapist to the victim. “Rape culture” asks questions like, “Well, what was the victim wearing?” or “Was the victim drunk?” These questions are not relevant. As I wrote on Facebook,
There is nothing a woman can do or not do to “ask to be raped.” I don’t care if she is drunk and running up and down the street butt naked; she is still not asking to be raped. No human “deserves” to be raped!!! #StandWithVictims #NoMatterWhat
The facts, here in the USA, are that one in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives; 80% of victims know their rapist (Source). For this reason, I will continue to speak out against overly strict modesty rules in our churches and Christian schools. Modesty is subjective, and is between each woman and God. Jesus does not give girls and women any hard fast dress code and neither does the New Testament.
Any modesty suggestions that are mentioned in the New Testament are cultural and have more to do with “not showing off wealth” than “not showing off skin” (Ex:// 1 Peter 3:3, 1 Timothy 2:9). The Spirit of God will direct each Christian woman in what she will wear and what she will not wear and Spirit-filled women will come along side our girls with grace-filled, shameless guidance.
“Clothing police” and strict dress codes are not necessary and cause much more damage than good.
For these people, who are still bound by self-righteousness and law, we must speak out. For victims, we must speak out. For the sake of Christianity’s reputation in the world, we must speak out. The message of Christ is freedom: So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed (John 8:36).
Christian feminism is about releasing girls and women from inequality, captivity, and injustice, found right in our churches. We stand firmly against oppression of any woman or man on the biblical basis of gender, racial, and social equality (Galatians 3:28).
Christians and unbelievers alike will try to silence us by attacking, but we will not be silenced. Their words will sometimes sting the heart and drain our energy, but they will not kill us. Even if they do “kill” our voice for a season, we will rise again. The more they hate on us, the louder our voices will become, because we know by their fearful and hateful reactions, that we are most certainly pushing back the powers of darkness.