Indecent Attire

L. Wesley Jones
Louisville, Kentucky

This article is only for those who have complete confidence in the Scriptures, for we shall deal very little with those points of human reasoning that are often made on the subject of dress. This is not to say that these should not be studied, but that such is not our purpose in this article.

It is our intention to avoid some of the radical views characteristic of standards on this theme. (1) We do not subscribe to the view, for example, that there are certain lines on the body above which and below which clothing must not be worn; (2) nor can we assert that the principles which determine decency are always the same in every given situation. Equally serious are the opposite extremes. How foolish to say that since there are not lines as in (1) above,that it makes no difference how short an article of clothing is on either end; and how fallacious to reason that because the principles governing are not static, (2) above, that one has the unlimited right to wear on the street what he does in the bedroom.

The most impressive point we can make on this subject is that the Bible speaks on it: "In like manner, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefastness and sobriety, not with braided hair, and gold or pearls or costly raiment; but (which becometh women professing godliness) through good works." (I Tim. 2:9, 10). A second passage, I Peter 3:1-4, should be compared. The primary lesson taught by the two apostles is that Christian women must not rely on articles of dress for their adornment, but upon character and good works. However, it is abunudantly clear that Paul requires MODEST apparel. He does NOT say that if a Christian woman is properly attired in good works, the manner of her clothing doesn't matter! (This would be another extreme.)

It would interest our readers to know that MODEST comes from a word meaning "an arranging in order; adjustment of dress." A verb form means, "to arrange; dispose in regular order; to appease, quiet, pacify." (Both quotations from ANALYTICAL GREEK LEXICON, Harper and Brothers, p. 200). The appropriate English definition reads, "Evincing or arising from, lack of boldness, presumption, display, etc.; moderate as in amount . . ." (Webster.)

It is often argued that the customs change, and that which is "in order" in one generation isn't in another, and that a style may "lack boldness" in one decade that does not in an other. "So how are we going to know?" The author is not opposed to style and good taste. We don't believe that our women-folk must wear the styles of a hundred years ago (though the trends are now in that direction). But Christians do not follow the dictates of custom in anything as a matter of right and wrong. It has been freely predicted in national publications and newspapers for a number of years that beach-wear habit will eventually eliminate any apparel above the waist for women, just as it has for men. Should such a custom be followed by Christians as "modest?"

A defense is commonly made of such brief apparel as shorts on the grounds of comfort and health. This is entirely unjustified. Strong professional opinions are even to the contrary. Dr. George Crane, a relatively famous newspaper columnist, has written that considerable browning of the skin is nature's resistance to excessive exposure to sun-rays, and not a sign of good health.

But why say so much about WOMAN'S apparel? Here we appeal to your respect for the scriptures. It was Christ who spoke of looking "on a woman to lust after her." We don't conclude from this that men may wear what they want to, act like they want to, and have complete freedom from all restriction in their behaviour toward women; nor do we conclude that women do not lust after men. BUT IT IS A FACT THAT THE Scriptures place the emphasis upno the woman because of her appeal to him. Since this emphasis is apparent, this is where we must cry "danger" most often.

The basic attraction for the opposite sex is not indecent or abnormal in young or old. It should be treated with respect and dignity, and we deny that it can be if the appeal is wholly or mostly to the flesh. THIS is the appeal that is magnified by the exposure of the body in the typical swimming suit in public swimming pools, by shorts and halters, and by abbreviated play-clothes and evening dress. The young and careless, the old and lecherous and the lustful of any age are encouraged in lasciviousness by such dress. The desire for normal fulfillment of physical impulses in marriage and the home are being supplanted by an increasing amount of marriage-for-convenience, divorce, promiscuity, petting and even rape. Christians should think-Are we doing anything, wearing, anything or saying anything that will encourage rather than arrest this trend ? The practice of self-control and reasonablc good judgment in our behaviour will have more effect upon this gravitation toward sensual indulgence than any of us will suppose-"Ye are the salt of the earth . . ."-The Sentinel.

Truth Magazine II:10, pp. 13, 15
July 1958