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A Strange Unity: Modesty and Coverings

"Modest'  for the Bat Israel  (Woman of Israel) means to dress 'not frumpy'  but with  elegance to fulfill their Tznuit (modesty) and bring their husbands joy.  Here is a site with samples of their apparel and styles, including headcoverings.   This site on orthodox Jewish dress includes both men and women.

"Modest" for some Christian groups has also meant wearing caps, veils, and scarves as seen here.  Some are protestant groups based in the Reformation and others are Catholic.  The LDS church also has very specific dress guidelines for modesty.  For others, it is a recent adaptation as seen here in a business that opened in 2002. They cite adopting the action in obedience to 1 Corinthian 11:1-16.  For other groups, being modest has meant plain dress, no makeup, no jewelry, long skirts, and long hair. Some younger women are changing this to emphasis more style while retaining the modesty.

"Modest" for Islamic women includes the scarf (Khimar), the total body covering (Hijab), and the face veil for the most devout (Niqab). You can read some rather detailed explanations of the rationales for wearing each and how they relate to worship by the devout Islamic woman here.   This site also, interestingly, reveals the dress codes for men to be considered modest within Islam.

Note, I could find no major websites addressing what it meant to be modest if a Christian man.

What is  modesty? In practical terms it is keeping revealed by clothing various parts of the human form which are deemed "private", "titillating", or "unseemly".  Thus, the breasts, arms, legs, hips, face, and head/hair are variously in need of coverings. No underwear may be seen through sleeves, no cleavage, and nothing too tight or form fitting to bring attention to the attributes marking the gender.  The primary belief among modest Christians is that the good deeds and faith will be the makeup and ornamentations of beauty.

Many will agree modern society has become extreme in its dress and fashion. The human form is constantly on display to promote sales, to evoke sexual thoughts, and to provoke interest. Dance moves  have become often mere grotesque pelvic thrusts and bizarre gyrations mimicking animal  lust rather than graceful, joyful,  or meaningful movements to music. Sexual encounters, references, and acts are seen as part of the normal entertainment cycle in books, music, movies, and on television. Children are being sexualized at earlier and earlier ages.  Women have become liberated and  yet abuse of women continues.  Prostitution a growing business and sexual affairs commonplace.   People wear veils, headcoverings, and long hair.  They dress in long sleeved dresses and wear no makeup but has that impacted the world for good?  Is there any evidence that those exterior 'things' have in any way helped the world, spread the gospel, feed the hungry, aided the poor, or soothed the hurting?

Will being 'modest' alone impact this sorry state of affairs?  Will retreating to communities or rural areas living a modest life make changes? Will legalistic-ally demanding compliance to a set of rules as to length of hair, cutting of hair, type of head covering, sleeves or no sleeves, really mean anything in the long run?

If it is really between a woman and her should be between a woman and her God.  Her liberty should be to adopt the custom or not with NO outside interference or demands by religious groups.

For more, read my post on Where Did the Glory Go?, Could This Have Been in Paul's Mind? or my book THOSE PESKY VERSES OF PAUL, with a detailed look at 1 Corinthians 11.



"Before the action comes the thought."   

H.C. Leupold wrote commentary over the famous Genesis verses telling of the Fall of Humanity.   Of how the "serpent" utilized the first military tactic of 'divide and conquer' by approaching Eve alone in the Garden.  Leupold noted that had he approached the couple together they would have mutually supported and protected each other from the clever words which sought to tempt.

Interestingly, Leupold also infers something occurring which brought to mind the words of Jesus.  

For religious people of Jesus' day, as long you did not act on the thought you were blameless.  So, men might look at a woman with lust but as long as he did nothing to fulfill that lust he was safe.  Jesus, however, indicated that impurity in the thoughts was no different than the act..."he who has looked at woman with lust has already committed adultery with her."

Leupold writing in his Exposition of Genesis (Baker, 1945) stated the eating of the fruit was not the was the result of the sin.  The sin was not giving an immediate 'get thee behind me Satan!'    As Martin Luther wrote, it was a sin against the word of God - in this case the literal words of God spoken to not eat the fruit of that particular tree.  The willingness to listen to the anti-God whispers was the moment of sin.

Sometimes, we can be very self-satisfied that we did not act on the deed or desire that flitted through our minds or our hearts. We can applaud our sense of tolerance and open-mindedness about areas of ambiguousness.  

Instead, sometimes old adages such as where there is smoke there is fire should be recalled. Or, the words of Jesus about the thought  or desire preceeding the action.

Stop....before the first bite...


Noel Brooks: A Life Shining and Burning, 1914-2006



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