Boys, Bikinis, and Modesty

Despite the weather, it really is well into summer here in the northern hemisphere. Those of us in warmer climes are peeling off layers, laying out in the sun, splashing in pools and lakes and oceans, and in general wearing decidedly less clothing than we did a few months ago.

Of course, no summer would be complete without Christians, mostly conservative evangelical Christians, getting their collective panties in a bind over how much skin is being covered, whether boys’ eyes are going to the wrong places, and just how much sin there is bound up in women’s bodies.

Because, if we’re honest, that’s really what this is all about: women’s bodies cause sin, and boys can’t control their minds.

Playing soccer on the beach
Playing soccer on the beach

Self-Control and Respect are the Solution

We are each independent moral beings, created by our Creator with moral agency, the ability to say “no”, and the freedom to do as we desire. We are each responsible to ourselves and before God for what we think and do. We take in from our senses and make choices about what to do with the information received. Seeing something sufficiently attractive to us does not turn us into animals unburdened by either sense or responsibility. While some creatures are purely stimulus-response, we are stimulus-choice-response, and we are responsible for that choice.

(There are certain situations where choice is taken from us, where our bodies are compelled to engage in something contrary to our will and spirit, in this it is what response we do have that is key to our identity. False imprisonment or rape are good examples of this: the victim suffers hurt and does not have choice in the physical situation, and bears no responsibility for the event whatsoever, legal or moral. What such victims are responsible for is how they deal with the aftermath, their own choices following the crime.)

With self-control we must have respect: for ourselves, and for others. Respect is a measure of the value we place on ourselves and others. When we recognize that we are, along with all other humans, female and male, created in God’s indelible image, for His purpose and glory, that we are imbued with His pronouncement of the goodness of our creation, with the touch of His hands and the breath of His life, eternal beings eternally valuable to Him, and that we share all these characteristics with each and every other man and woman, we have respect for them and for ourselves. Just as we ought to act consistently with our own morals, so we should not compel others to act against theirs.

We are created interdependent, but this is a relationship of give and take among equals, not taking from the lesser by the greater.

Self-control, responsibility, and respect are how we ought to teach each and every boy and girl from their youngest years to view each other.

The problem is, this isn’t what we have been teaching people, and we are reaping the consequences.

Isn’t it interesting how so many of the leaders and teachers of the most conservative forms of evangelical Christianity, those who teach more strongly on “modesty”, who keep their women in long shapeless dresses, and preach the subservience of women to men as a “principle” of godliness, are falling so quickly in sexual sin? Does this problem give you pause?

It certainly should.

This is not the place to deal with Gothard or Phillips. They have been upended elsewhere. However, their failures should be taken seriously as illumating their beliefs, and their teachings should be examined intently for evidence of the roots or outcomes of their sins.

These and others in the Patriarchy movement, and really, throughout modern evangelicalism, have misunderstood a few key words in scripture, and around these misapprehensions they have constructed systems of teaching and belief that are entirely  false and destructive. Among these misunderstood words are the ideas of lust and modesty.

Lust and Modesty Misunderstood

Lust, in a clinical sense, has little to do with sexual titillation and nothing to do with the responsibility of the person or object being lusted over. To lust and covet are one and the same. Both mean desiring something that is not ours to have. Lust connotes a more physical sort of desiring, and that is the extent of the difference.

Every time lust or covetousness is mentioned in scripture it is either a command not to do it, or a condemnation of the one doing it.

So, you say, we agree there.

But do we really?

If we modern evangelical Christians act upon our, at least verbal, belief that lust is something to be condemned in the one lusting, then why, when there’s a pool party, does the church make it a requirement that females wear 1 piece suits and shirts and possibly even shorts over them, or some derivation of that, to cover their bodies from the uncontrolled eyes and unbridled lust of the little boys (both young and grown) the church has raised?

We’re lying to ourselves. Our mouths are saying one thing, but our actions are shouting something else entirely: that we hold women responsible for the lustful and covetous thoughts of infantile men.

Job didn’t say he wouldn’t look at a young woman, a pretty woman, or any woman. In Job 31:1 he says that the covenant he’d made with his eyes was that he wouldn’t covet (lust after, attend to, fix his regard upon) a woman, even if she was young and attractive. This has a least two implications: he still saw them and recognized they were attractive, and the covenantal barrier was what he refused to do with them in his mind and with his actions.

The second idea we misunderstand is modesty. How is it that modest means “humble”, “unassuming”, or “moderate” when applied to men or other subjects, and yet when applied to women, means “dressed like northern Europeans from 200 years ago”? These cannot both be correct.

In 1 Timothy 2:9, Paul uses “modest” to teach women who were parading their wealth and status and class, or dressing like whores, depending on your interpretation. Either one works.

If you take the “don’t dress like a whore” interpretation, then you must ask, what is it about a bikini or a skater dress or a tank top or short shorts that is whorish? Our entire culture, and in fact, most cultures around the world dress like this, and the vast majority of their girls and women aren’t whoring. Whorish dress is partially a type of clothing, but is more an attitude. It is the person who looks at an average woman grateful for the body God gave her sunning on the beach and considers her a whore who is sinning, not the one sunning. Being judgmental, legalistic, ungracious, making additions to scripture, an unloving character: all these are sins. Sunning isn’t a sin.

If you take the “don’t flaunt your wealth in a show of superior class and status” interpretation, it’s even easier: Most of our neighbors have neither the time nor the resources to find clothing you might call modest, let along make clothing you might call modest. Yea, there are one-piece swim suits for women at Walmart. They’re made for old ladies, and they don’t fit the young or the thin. Do you condemn a girl who doesn’t have the money to buy one of the cute retro “modest” suits? Where is Christ in that condemnation? You, by buying or making and wearing  the expensive swim suit and claiming that is more appropriate and modest, are the one Paul is chiding. There’s nothing wrong with buying a suit you enjoy that suits your style and flatters your body: as with the whorish interpretation, it’s mostly a matter of attitude.

Benny Hinn is an immodest man
Benny Hinn is an immodest man

Beauty Isn’t Wrong

Beauty isn’t wrong, observing beauty isn’t wrong, thinking about beauty isn’t wrong. When observing and thinking become lusting and coveting it becomes wrong, and it is always wrong for the person who is doing the lusting and the coveting.

So what is wrong?

Coveting what is not ours is wrong.

A Heart Problem, Not a Style Problem

Another blogger wrote recently a 4-point essay titled “Poolside Purity & Bikini Battles“. Three of his points were spot on, the other was wrong, and in the end he ended up taking one of the very positions he argued against. But the three good ones bear repeating:

First, stop giving boys a pass. Boys are responsible for their own thoughts: they ought to be taught what this responsibility entails and how they can use self-control, responsibility, and respect to treat others, including women, as they deserve.

Second, stop putting the pressure on girls to cover what some uncontrolled men may lust over. Women are not responsible for the infantile lusting of men. Protecting boys’ struggles and temptations are not girls’ responsibility.

Fourth, the church should be the absolute safest place for any woman, wearing anything, at any time, in any situation. The church should be the one place where women don’t need to fear being objectified and made into sexual objects. If every single woman showed up a church on Sunday in a bikini, it would be distracting because that isn’t where bikinis are normally worn, not because men would be ogling them.

Sadly, in his third point, the author then goes right back and overturns his first and second points by repeating the old lie that modesty means dressing like a northern European from 200 years ago because boys of all ages can’t keep their dicks in their pants when a pretty girl comes around wearing anything less.

Did you hear about the lusting dads who, because they lacked self-control, had a young girl who had met all the requirements for appropriate dress kicked out of her prom? The dads were Christian, we can presume, and because they can’t keep their tongues from hanging out or their own pants zipped, they had to ruin the evening of a young girl enjoying her prom.

I grew up in a conservative homeschool organization that emphasized this mistaken view of modesty. At events,  I was surrounded by young women wearing long skirts and high collars covering every bit you might think (and I thought at the time) was too sexual, but was I free from lustful thoughts about these peers of mine? No way. I just developed a bit of a sexual preference for women in long shapeless skirts.

In the Middle East, in those repressive, backwards, and deadly cultures, where every woman wears a burqa, or a hijab if they’re really liberal, sexual crimes are rampant, occurring at rates far higher than most other places around the globe. In fact, some of the safest places for women around the world, where sexual crimes are lowest, are in southern Europe, where nudity is accepted on most beaches, and the average state of dress is even less than in the US.

These facts don’t prove the point, but they do illustrate it is something besides a legalistic and counter-cultural and frankly inaccurate definition of modesty that will guide us towards God’s best plan.

Modest is the opposite of ostentatious, not skimpy.

A sexually healthy and God-glorifying person is self-controlled  and has respect for all around them. The modest person is the one who does not go out of their way to flaunt their class, status, or wealth.

Justina Still Lacks Justice

16 months ago a dispute over a medical diagnosis led the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) to remove teenager Justina Pelletier from her home and her parent’s custody.

Most likely you’ve heard bits and pieces of the story, including the happiest one that happened just a few days ago when a judge ordered the DCF to return Justina to her parents, and the resulting reunion.

justina-and-girlsThe problem is, this happy ending should be anything but the ending. In fact, in their recent statements questioning the very reasons they took her in the first place, and by their returning Justina, the Massachusetts DCF, the Boston Children’s Hospital, and the various government and medical functionaries involved have all admitted that they are, in effect, guilty of kidnapping.

I cannot fathom the damage, the hurt, the pain this family has gone through as, for many months, they couldn’t even meet their daughter.

What I can fathom is the depth of legal crap the involved parties ought to be in and law firms should be falling over themselves offering their services pro bono to the Pelletiers to go after the people involved for the horrendous crime they perpetrated upon this innocent girl and her parents.

Law makers, also, should be racing to the nearest camera to create a patients and parent’s rights law stating in no uncertain terms just how far medical professionals may go in recommending treatment options, where the DCF’s priorities ought to lie, and just how nasty the law will be to those who decide they are capable of making better decisions than loving parents for their children.

Justina will receive justice when careers are corpses and bureaucrats are behind bars.

Or am I putting things too harshly?

Fox Completes Investigation Of Hen House Mystery

The IBLP Board has released a statement signaling the end of the investigation into the myriad claims brought against Bill Gothard in the last few years:

In response to allegations against Bill Gothard, the Board sought the facts through a confidential and thorough review process conducted by outside legal counsel. Many people were interviewed, including former Board members, current and past staff members, current and past administrators, parents, and family members.

At this point, based upon those willing to be interviewed, no criminal activity has been discovered. If it had been, it would have been reported to the proper authorities immediately, as it will be in the future if any such activity is revealed.

However, the review showed that Mr. Gothard has acted in an inappropriate manner, and the Board realizes the seriousness of his lack of discretion and failure to follow Christ’s example of being blameless and above reproach. As a Christian leader, he is to avoid the appearance of evil (I Thessalonians 5:22), and he must have a good reputation, even with those outside the Church (I Timothy 3:7).

You can read the whole thing here.

Frankly, this is as good as I’d hoped.

First, the Board are all true believers. This is made abundantly clear both at the very beginning of the statement, which starts:

We are grateful for your prayers and patience as we have all walked through these difficult months. As Board members, each of us has been positively impacted by the relationships, teachings, and opportunities available through the Institute in Basic Life Principles. It is because of our appreciation for this ministry that we agreed to serve on the Board of Directors.

This same true believer mentality shows up again later in the statement:

The Board does not believe that Mr. Gothard’s shortcomings discredit the truths of God’s Word that were taught through him. All of us are reminded of our need to look to Jesus and to His Word “for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (II Timothy 3:16).

Second, the “outside legal counsel” was not really outside, but was a lawyer frequently seen defending leaders and organizations in the Christian Patriarchy movement, as well as a regular speaker at the ATI annual conferences, David Gibbs Jr.  The fact that his findings went this far is, frankly, surprising, and indicates, to me at least, that the real and verified facts are probably much closer to the claims made and published on sites such as Recovering Grace than not.

David Gibbs Jr with current IBLP HQ Staff
David Gibbs Jr with current IBLP HQ Staff

Third, this was an investigation into the acts of Bill Gothard, not his teachings. Though we are right to assume a connection between the two, and the recent spate of sexual and moral failures by leaders in conservative evangelicalism becoming public speaks to some common thread connecting them, their teachings, and their failings. Being true believers, the Board will be loath to recognize this connection though. I don’t doubt their sincere desire to follow God and do the best for His kingdom. The mote in their own eyes, though, is the conflation, from long association with a manipulative master, of his kingdom with God’s. The statements quoted earlier confirm that they have, in their own minds, refused to see the connection between the teachings and the acts.

The most worrying things about this statement, to me, are the carefully worded phrase ” At this time the Board unanimously agrees that Mr. Gothard is not permitted to serve in any counseling, leadership, or Board role within the IBLP ministry”, and what precisely is meant by the less carefully worded “We also know that the Word of God teaches that believers should have a good conscience toward God and men (Acts 24:16). We want to encourage reconciliation within families and are very supportive of efforts toward reconciliation with Mr. Gothard or with IBLP.”

In the first concerning statement, the key phrase is “At this time”. Coupled with the Board’s continued support of Mr. Gothard’s teaching and their belief that “God still desires to use Bill Gothard for His work in the Kingdom of God”, it seems to me they envision a time when Bill is once again allowed to counsel and provide leadership within the ministry.

This hinges upon the Christian idea of restoration. In the Bible, restoration of a sinful brother or sister always refers to their restoration within the local Church, their resumption of fellowship. Based on the words of the Board, it would not surprise me to see them attempt to restore him to a position of counsel and leadership, both of which he has forfeit through his sinful acts and lack of contrition over the long decades of corruption and deception.

Bill GothardIn the second concerning statement, the onus, it seems to me, is upon those who have been offended by Mr. Gothard to do the reconciling. The wording certainly seems to indicate that, though it could simply be an uncareful use of phrase. Based on other teachings of IBLP and Gothard, though, I think the meaning is not imprecise, and that, in order to restore their place within IBLP and ATI, families whose children have “aught against” Bill should be the ones coming to him, when, in fact, as the offense was committed by Bill and he is just one equal brother at the feet of Christ, he should be, in abject grief and uncompromising repentance, going to each and every person he has offended, manipulated, and damaged, seeking to do anything to acquire their forgiveness.

The wrongs are substantial, the process to correct will be torturous.

My thoughts: The best thing that can happen to Bill Gothard, the Board of IBLP, the families still involved, the alumni, and the Church catholic, is for IBLP and ATI to fold completely and utterly, to wash away with the sands of time and into the past, to be remembered as a player in a brief part of Christian history as a cautionary tale of teachings and teachers to be avoided.

This will prevent Mr. Gothard from regaining control or position in any organization to further his manipulations and abuse, and it will minimize the ill effects of the teachings as they will exist only in smaller and smaller corners of true believers.

As I am not one who has been wronged in a criminal sense, I do not feel able to speak clearly on whether or not Mr. Gothard should face legal action for what he’s done, I can only encourage those who feel they have been offended to that extent to stand up and challenge him, but to do so carefully and circumspection. To challenge without proof and basis could end up worsening the situation, rather than bettering it. If the offense does indeed rise to that level and can be verified sufficiently to withstand legal challenged, though, the you have the responsibility to do so. As the organization and the surrounding church failed to police its own and allowed their own to be abused and damaged by the words and actions of Mr. Gothard, it falls to those outside the church to render judgment, and a convicted Gothard will be even less able to regain control of any organization, and he’ll be brought face to face, even more utterly than now, with the enormity of his own sin.

R.L. Stollar has published a take-down of the IBLP Board’s statement on Homeschooler’s Anonymous. Their take? The statement is a disgrace.


A friend with more current connections to IBLP HQ says the board was more explicit in their statement to HQ staff that Bill would not ever be allowed to return to positions of responsibility in the organization.

However, even the Chicago Sun-Times found the wording questionable: Ex-head of religious group acted inappropriately, not criminally: investigation

The board said based on a review conducted by outside legal counsel, it unanimously agreed that “at this time” Gothard “is not permitted to serve in any counseling, leadership or board role within the IBLP ministry.”

That leaves open the question of whether the 79-year-old Gothard may be allowed to return one day as he did after resigning following another sexual scandal years earlier.

I’d suggest that the Board feels right now that they don’t believe he’ll ever be allowed to return, and they’re probably crossing their fingers hoping he’ll give up and go away, but they recognize that he still could make a persuasive argument and be brought back, and so have left the printed statement vague in this respect.


Further down in the Sun-Times article, a short interview with Mr. Gothard is published that raises even more questions:

Gothard said in a Sun-Times interview: “I respect and honor the board, and my number one goal right now . . . is to go back to the ones that I have offended and ask their forgiveness.”

Asked if he engaged in sexual harassment, Gothard said, “Sexual harassment is to a large extent intent, and my intent was never to harass them.” As for whether he has any interest in returning to the institute in a ministerial or leadership capacity, he said, “That’s not my goal or desire right now. I just have a desire to work with and encourage the young people that I have served in the past and I want to continue that on a personal basis.”

The intent displayed in that last sentence ought to be entirely and completely out of the question, given the situation and his now proven history.

Arabs Are Free In Israel And Other Links

Telling it like it is:

Free ArabsHT Sense of Events

President Obama has outlined a new plan to ease the strain of student loan debt, and it does benefit some people. Like most of his plans, those it benefits aren’t necessarily those who you and I might agree most need it.

“The people who will see the biggest reductions are people earning higher incomes,” Delisle said. “That is the effect of this change. You put that together with the loan forgiveness, and this is tailor-made for graduate students.”

From The Washington Examiner: The Surprising Winners of Obama’s Student-Loan Program

My question: Were these students lied to about the costs of repaying their debt? Were they bamboozled or were they idiots? No one compelled them to take that debt upon themselves. As free adults they entered into legally binding arrangements where all the terms were known by all parties before signatures were laid to the page.

What are we teaching these people about reality by allowing them to freely enter into transactions and then protecting them from the natural and expected outcomes of those transactions?

Want to help people? Be a capitalist.

Capitalism is the greatest engine for the production of wealth the ingenuity of man has ever invented. Are you interested in helping the poor? Embrace capitalism. Do you want to help clean up the environment? Embrace capitalism. Are you interested in obliterating the scourge of malnutrition or some ghastly African disease or illiteracy or [fill in your personal do-good desideratum here]: yep, embrace capitalism. The global poverty rate, Kevin reminds us, has been cut in half  in the last 20 years. Think about that. Then think about the sorrowful history of our species up to about 1830.  How much progress against widespread — really, near total — poverty had there been from the beginning of time until then — until, that is, capitalism started to take off? Not much.

When someone comes to you decrying the rapacious greed of evil capitalists, crying “foul!” at the business man, ask them what good the Good Samaritan would have done if he didn’t have the medicine (from capitalist medical research), the donkey (a possession of his own that he used as a resource), and money to pay the inn keeper?

Also, if they are Christian, ask them if God would be happier that they themselves helped the needy, or if they forced someone else to help the needy?

From Roger Kimball: Catholics & Capitalism

Wrapping things up: Hillary Clinton, probably in some attempt to raise her likability numbers before her likely run for President, is trying to tell us she and Bill (does anybody believe he’s any more faithful to her now than he was then?) were broke.

I have news for your Mrs. Clinton: Your definition of “broke” and my definition of “broke” are two very, very different things.

Real Living Wage And Other Stuff

Wanna know what raises wages? A healthy and competitive job and labor market.

Wanna know what’s wrong with efforts, like Seattle’s, to impose a so-called “living wage”? It’s a meddlesome attempt to gain the benefit of higher wages without the necessary hard work of building a healthy job market, and we all know what economic meddling does, and it ain’t pretty.

From The Daily Signal: Why One Walmart In North Dakota Is Paying $17.40 An Hour

If you’re going to participate in one of the increasingly popular crowd-funding programs out there, avoid Indiegogo. Accusations surrounding a project which claimed to be able to reliably measure blood sugar levels through the skin (no blood required) have shown at least one fact: Indiegogo values money more than honesty and transparency, and they will not investigate something that’s paying them.

From The Sordid History And Ongoing Drama Of the Healbe GoBe

Do Not Track is the internet equivalent of the Do Not Call registry. Your browser holds up a flag to any and all sites saying that you prefer not to be tracked across sites. Kinda like the Do Not Call list, not everybody obeys your request. Yahoo has just decided your preferences put too big a crimp on their advertising revenue, and so have decided to stop following users Do Not Track preferences. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a browser plugin that explicitly blocks tracking cookies and ads from sites that refuse to honor Do Not Track, including Yahoo now.

From The Verge: Starting Today Yahoo Will Not Honor Do Not Track Settings warns not to limit Cantor’s loss to his stance on Immigration. Faced with growing divergence with the Tea Party which has provided most of the energy for the party in recent years:

In other words, Cantor represents big government conservativism in its most fulsome manifestation. And it’s this package of B.S., not anything related to immigration, that has driven voter identification with the GOP down to 25 percent according to Gallup. Until Republicans understand that they cannot mix libertarianish rhetoric about reducing the size, scope, and spending of government with a massive buildup of spending and regulation and a buttinsky, intolerant attitude toward social issues, they will keep losing elections.

Democrats had better listen up too:

News flash: Voters dislike Republicans (and Democrats, too) not despite their policies and the way they wield power but because of their policies and the way they wield power.

From Hey Republicans: If You Reduce Cantor’s Loss to Immigration Reform, You Will Keep Losing

To wrap things up, because the World Cup is now officially on: