You’ve probably seen them. There are two of them—two complementing billboards on I-26. Big as life.

One of them shows a beautiful girl in a tight tank top and a pose that looks very much like an invitation and these words: It’s an outfit, not an invitation.

The second one says The little black dress does not mean ‘yes’ and it shows a pair of long, sleek legs parading out from beneath a very little black dress that practically screams “yes!”

I don’t understand these billboards. Why not put one up that says, Gravity ends Friday! or Eat cake to Lose Weight!

I’ll tell you why not.

The why not is because it would be a foolish waste of money. Putting a lie on a billboard does not make it the truth. There are certain natural laws that a billboard just can’t change. Not two. Not two thousand. Not two million.

I wrote these billboards off as some government grant that was procured by a marketing firm…or maybe by some teenage trust baby playing a practical joke. But billboards are expensive—especially on I-26—so I confess, every time I drove by I found myself asking that question. Who thinks this nonsense up? Planned Parenthood?

But I’ll admit, I’ve had some surprises in the modesty department lately. One was an article by a girl purporting to be a Christian who claimed that the Bible does not teach modesty. For someone who didn’t really know the Bible and just wanted to believe her, it would have been downright convincing.

The other big surprise was after reading an article heavily circulated on Facebook yesterday. It was a fairly good article on modesty, no real surprises there, what surprised me were the comments at the bottom. From my quick scan, it appeared that 2-1 the comments were attacking the author and attempting to “debunk” the case for modesty. It was a cesspool of stupidity really, and if I wasn’t so shocked, I probably wouldn’t have kept skimming. There was a little of everything—husbands, fathers, wives, daughters, old, young, Christian, LDS—all kinds.

The negative attacks boiled down to three arguments: 1) clothes are irrelevant to modesty; 2) women are only responsible for themselves—not some man’s wrong thoughts or deeds; and 3) you should judge someone by their character and not by their physical appearance.

Now, I’m no logic professor, but I think I could make a pretty good case that the first argument is equivocation; the second is a straw man; and the third is non sequitur (which is a sophisticated what of saying, just plain dumb).

The first idea—that clothes are irrelevant to modesty and the notion that “modesty is on the inside” is really not an argument, it’s a distraction. Looking to the authoritative source known as Wikipedia, “Modesty is a mode of dress and deportment intended to avoid encouraging sexual attraction in others; actual standards vary widely.”

That is what we’re talking about. If you want to talk about something else, save it for another day. 

Of course, clothes that cover are not the only ingredient of modesty, but they are kind of like the chocolate chips in the chocolate chip cookie.  Without them, it’s not modesty.

The second passionately made argument was a straw man because the author never said that anyone was responsible for anyone else’s wrong thoughts or actions. But what if she had? If you want to know what the Bible says—it has strong words for someone who causes someone else to stumble. Something about a millstone, a rope, and the ocean. The fact is, we aren’t judged for what other people think or do. We are judged for what we think or do.

Just let that sink in.

Even if you don’t care what the Bible says, you have to agree with me. If you give your eight-year-old a stick of dynamite and they blow up an elementary school, you should be held responsible. Even if you told them not to light it.  Okay, so that’s an extreme example—I’ll give you that—but why do we have crimes like “Contributing to the delinquency of a minor,” “accessory after the fact,” or “accomplice”? You can be only a fraction of the problem and still have done wrong.

The point is that if what you do makes it more likely that someone else will do wrong, think long and hard about whether it is right.

And as to the third argument—that a person should be judged for themselves and not for their clothes—it’s really not worth the ink. But some people actually believe that, so I’m going to address it anyway.

I guess the argument would go something like this:

Women should be treated with respect;
Certain clothes tend to cause men to respect women less;
Therefore—clothes are irrelevant.

See what I mean about non sequitur?

Because the fact is, that modesty is a virtue, virtues are what make up your character—or lack thereof. When you get dressed, you are telling the world about yourself—I’m cheap, I’m expensive. I’m neat, I’m a slob. I’m trendy, I’m classy. I want to be comfortable. I want to be noticed. I don’t give a rip. I shop at Goodwill. I shop at American Eagle. I want a job. I have a job. I’m a Carolina fan. I like black.  I’m insecure.

That’s not to say you can’t use clothes to hide the truth about yourself, but why would you try? Because you know the clothes are making a statement. You are hoping that the statement the clothes are making drowns out something else about you.

Frankly, no one’s character is judged independently of their physical appearance. However, for some of us, our clothing will say, “my character is important” and for others, “my character is not important.” But either way, our clothes, like our actions, speak louder than our words.

You can’t fight that. You will get the kind of attention you dress to attract; even Clint and Stacy preach that.

This would be the place for me to make the case for modesty. But actually, I’m not going to try. I don’t think I have a platform on this topic; I don’t hold myself out as any kind of role model.

I will just say this to Christians: don’t buy the lies the world is selling.  And don’t present yourself with the false dilemma that says that if I want to be modest, I’d have to dress like a “prude.”  Be honest to yourself about why you are wearing what you wear. If you seek godliness, don’t make excuses. Don’t interpret Scripture to conveniently suit your desires. Don’t let society dictate your standards.

Own it.  You give the invitations your clothes give. You say “yes” when your little black dress says “yes.”

Deep down, we all know that.

2 thoughts on “Wading in to the Modesty Debate

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