The Modesty Question

An article entitled “Freed by a Cover-Up” caught my eye recently while reading the Sunday paper. The author, Lauren Shields, is currently writing The Modesty Experiment, born out of her observations of women and their clothing (or lack of) while commuting to work in New York City. As an employee of a company on Fifth Ave, Lauren was required to have the “look.” Full make up, blown out hair, snug dresses and the ubiquitous stilettos completed her daily “costume,” as she calls it. Yet, frequently, on her train commute home to Brooklyn, Lauren would find herself envying the Hasidic women in their headscarves and long skirts who were traveling with her. They were obviously free from the tyranny of the beauty culture.

Two years later, Lauren met an American woman married to a Muslim who had worn the hijab (head covering) while living in the Middle East. She explained to Lauren that she and many of her friends had found dressing according to the modesty rules of the Islamic culture actually very freeing. Lauren began to research this trend and discovered that many western Muslim women choose to wear the veil, not due to body shame or force, but rather to identify with their faith and culture. Eventually she began the “Modesty Experiment” in which she mainly experimented on herself. She quit wearing makeup, gave away a third of her wardrobe and intentionally wore clothing that covered her hair, knees and shoulders. As you can imagine, this was rather traumatic, but she began to grasp the intensity of our culture’s standard of “beauty,” which women blindly adhere to, whether Christian or not. It is not clear if Lauren is a believer or if there is a Biblical basis for her research, but she has hit on a truth that is especially relevant to Christian women.

The Islamic emphasis on modesty is the basis for hijab. Many Muslim women who live in the West choose to wear the veil when it is not required. While it gives them a sense of ethnic pride and identity, it primarily demonstrates the virtue of modesty. In contrast, why do so many Christian women dress like the Kardashians and flaunt their bodies when the Bible specifically commands us differently? Plunging necklines and short, tight clothing is the dress du jour, even in worship services. Our bodies are to be as committed to Christ as our spirits, in a holistic sense. Our sexuality is a gift from God to be used within the marital bond, not to draw attention to ourselves. If these Muslim women voluntarily demonstrate true modesty, why do so many devout (supposedly) Christian women not? Let me be clear ─ I am NOT advocating Christian women wear the veil, but I AM advocating we push this conversation on modesty and encourage Christian women to honor Christ in this area of their lives. I will be following Lauren as she pursues her “Modesty Experiment” and seeking to find spiritual application and truth. What do you think? Join me?

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