Christian women have obligation to dress modestly, Mary Mohler says
Posted on Oct 9, 2002 | by Michael Foust
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--Mary Mohler believes there are certain clothes Christian women should never wear. Ever.
Whether it be miniskirts, hip-hugger jeans or skin-tight shirts, Mohler -- wife of seminary president R. Albert Mohler Jr. -- believes they should be avoided. Her reason? Christian women have a biblical obligation to dress modestly and reflect holiness.
And she doesn't believe that immodest clothing is necessary to be fashionable. Mohler spoke about the biblical view of modesty to a group of women at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in a Sept. 24 event sponsored by the Pendergraph Women's Ministry at the Louisville, Ky., seminary, that included a brief fashion show showcasing inexpensive, modest fashionable clothes.
The world's attitude toward fashion, Mohler said, should not be the church's.
"The [world's] attitude is if you've got it, flaunt it," she said. "Leave as little to the imagination as possible. Regenerate Christian women, I don't believe, leave home with this attitude. We seek to live godly, holy lives."
Nevertheless, immodest dress is a problem in local churches on Sunday mornings, Mohler said. Women may not have a worldly attitude about modesty, but because of naivete, carelessness, busy lifestyles or cultural pressures, some women unknowingly dress immodestly, she said.
She told how she once visited a church that had a dress code.
"I applaud them that they have the boldness to have a dress code," she said. "It's for members only. But if a strong conservative church like that has a dress code, what does that tell you? It tells you that there are problems even in that setting where people are coming dressed inappropriately to worship."
To make her point Mohler gave several fictitious examples of Christian women dressing immodestly. For example, "Clueless Clarice" simply pulls something out of the closet before going out, not taking the time to examine herself in the mirror. "Disorganized Delores" has three children and says she doesn't have the time to consider what she wears.
"Stylish Stephie" only wears what's fashionable. "Frugal Frances" only wears what's cheap. "Dieting Diane" has one size of everything and often wears clothes that are too small -- simply to reward herself for shedding a few pounds.
"I call these cases accidental immodesty," Mohler said. "It's not deliberate, but the result is the same and what it looks like to the world is, 'These Christian women dress just like we do.'"
Citing Job 31:1 -- where Job makes a covenant with his eyes not to look at a virgin -- Mohler said Christian women should help their male counterparts maintain pure thoughts.
"We must remember what battles men face to stay pure as they are stimulated visually by women," she said. "... They should never have it flaunted in their faces, and to have it done at church is an abomination."
The biblical command to dress modestly, Mohler said, is first found in Genesis 3, where God makes "garments of skin" for Adam and Eve. She pointed out that God found their first attempt at clothing -- fig leaves sewn together -- unacceptable.
"Their remedy was not good enough," she said. "They were not clothed. They were [simply] covered."
Both the apostles Paul and Peter address modesty issues in the New Testament, Mohler said.
She read 1 Timothy 2:9-10: "Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness."
She also read 1 Peter 3:3-4: "Your adornment must not be merely external -- braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God."
Immodesty, Mohler noted, has always been a problem.
"It's a timeless problem," she said. "In biblical times there were problems with how women dressed."
She asserted that, taken together, the passages in 1 Timothy and 1 Peter do not prohibit the wearing of jewelry or the braiding of hair.
"It says their adornments should not merely be external," she said. "So those who force that interpretation have to also say that it says you can't put on dresses either."
Both passages, Mohler said, should be studied by Christian women.
"Perhaps we need to commit these two definitions [of modesty] to memory and maybe cut them out and ... take them to the dressing room with us to realize [that], 'Yes, there are biblical directives, there are biblical standards, and here's where they are,'" she said.
She gave other examples, including Romans 12:2 ("... do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed ...") and 1 Timothy 4:12 ("... show yourself an example of those who believe ...").
Mohler suggested that women sort through their closet and "throw away some things that really do not pass the test. Does God care how we dress? You bet he does. He cares about every aspect of our life, and we are called to holiness."
Mohler admitted that there are seeker-sensitive issues involved in the issue. In the past, she said, people may have looked down on someone not dressed in traditional Sunday morning attire. But what "started as a well-intentioned move to counter that" has gone awry.
"[N]ow the flood gates are open and anything goes. It's going to be very hard for us to recover and to take steps to go back [in the other direction]."
Mohler gave a list of items that her daughter will never be allowed to wear: halter tops, tube tops, skin-tight shirts, low-cut shirts, midriff-exposing shirts, miniskirts, short shorts and anything from Abercrombie and Fitch.
"Do I sound like an authoritarian parent?" she asked. "I hope so. Because I am a parent, and as parents we are given a lot of different jobs, and it's challenging. We are to love our children and shepherd them and nurture them. But we're also to teach them ... because they're still children. They need direction."
Many teenage girls, Mohler said, are allowed to dress immodestly because their parents are trying "to be their daughter's friend instead of being her parent." They try to rationalize how they dress by saying, "She's a good kid. She doesn't smoke or drink. She's going to use her own money for this."
"We all want our kids to love us," Mohler said. "I want my kids to think I am the greatest mom in the world. But at what cost? We've got to teach them from the early days that they have to stand for something or they're going to fall for everything."
Mohler said when she lectures on modesty, she often receives words of encouragement.
"Whenever I speak on this," she said, "mothers of sons will come and they will say, 'Please continue to proclaim this message wherever you can. What else can we do? We don't have daughters ... but we have sons that are looking at how [other parents'] daughters dress.
"... Men really struggle with this, and it is our job as mothers of daughters to make sure that we don't make the job any harder for them."
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: STEPHANIE'S STYLE and BIBLICAL MODESTY.