Three Things This Week
1. Taylor Swift’s Reputation
What it is: MIA for several months, Swift suddenly wiped her social media accounts clean last week, leaving fans to wonder just what she’s up to.
Why it’s all about her image: Now we know. This week, Swift’s 102 million Instagram followers found out the pop diva is releasing a new album, Reputation, embracing her darker side with the vengeful “Look What You Made Me Do” single proclaiming “The old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now, why? Because she’s dead!” Swift is killing her old, sweet image and replacing it with one seemingly bent on revenge. Which is almost literally the opposite of dying with Christ to rise again in newness of life. Unlike other artists who creatively—even prophetically—use music as a public forum for social commentary, Swift continues to write lyrics about herself, her image, and her feuds. Ask your daughter if she’s noticed this narcissistic tendency and how it might be shaping her to think only about herself and her world.
2. Kinsey Sex Survey
What it is: Results from the Clue and Kinsey “International Sex Survey” revealed just how specifically people incorporate and rely on technology to shape their sexual experiences and habits.
Why it’s not surprising: Here are just a few of their findings: 34% of Americans admit using a mobile app to find sexual partners, 43% of 18- to 20-year-olds sext using Snapchat, and “queer” or bisexual individuals are far more likely to engage in non-monogamous relationships. Students are always early adopters when it comes to technology. Help them realize the habits they create now regarding sex and technology will follow them into adulthood, especially if technology is used as a shortcut or replacement for human intimacy. This is especially concerning given that 10% of visitors to porn sites are under age 10. Here are 8 ways to help protect your young children from a culture continuing to promote a consensual relationship between technology and sexuality.
3. Back to School with the Babylonians
What it is: An Australian scientist unlocked the secret of a 3,700 year old Babylonian tablet, rewriting the history of mathematics.
Why it’s humbling: The tablet is the “oldest and most accurate trigonometric table” in the world, pre-dating Pythagoras and his trigonomic theorem by 1,000 years. Amazing! But given our modern technology, it’s understandable that students think we are the smartest generation, that they live at the height of human history. Remind them of the mystery and wonder of the past. Help them understand the more we know, the more we should realize we really don’t know. As Christians, we also know that history doesn’t simply repeat itself, “instead it is for each of us a series of crucial, precious, and unrepeatable moments that are seeking to lead us somewhere.” As President Truman aptly said, “There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know.”
Let’s Talk about Modesty
In our overly sexualized culture, it’s no surprise that Christian parents, leaders, and schools want to teach teens to be “in the world and not of it” by dressing modestly. After all, we adults have the wisdom, experience, and perspective to realize how detrimental the world’s idea of sex and sexuality can be. But it’s often hard to know how to communicate this perspective to our students.
Growing up in the ‘90s and early 2000s, I remember modesty movements touting slogans like “modest is hottest.” This desire to make modesty and virginity attractive was not only contradictory (i.e. hide your sexiness so boys will find you sexually attractive!), it also unwittingly planted many harmful ideas in my soul. The most insidious of these was that, as a female, I was responsible for the thoughts and actions of guys: If I dressed immodestly, I was causing lust; if I dressed modestly, I was preventing lust. In short, I was an object. And this was reinforced by the fact that dress codes only ever addressed girls’ clothing and modesty talks were for girls only. I learned guys don’t need to be modest and girls are merely recipients of sexual desire, but have none of their own.
In addition, this attitude toward modesty completely misses the point of the Scripture on which it’s based. Paul is referring to humility in how we dress more than how much skin we reveal. In fact, “nearly all of the Bible’s instructions regarding modest clothing refer not to sexuality, but rather materialism (Is 3:16-23, 1 Tim 2:9-12, 1 Pet 3:3).” How have we missed this point?
Perhaps the worst consequence of this good-willed, yet ill-conceived movement is how it’s continued to affect our marriages. I and many of my friends have struggled to believe it’s good and God-honoring to enjoy sex with our husbands. Instead, we’ve been crippled by shame and guilt. Why? We were formed to believe our bodies were weapons to control or sex-objects to hide. Being female meant I was a sexual object to either pursue or a sexual object to protect for my husband. Both are harmful.
Yet, how we dress does matter—not because I need to cover up any evidence that I’m a woman but because I, in my full female form, am an image-bearer and a co-laborer with God, helping Him bring restoration and redemption to the world. If I can help others by choosing to dress (or not dress) a certain way, then I will be cognizant of that every time I get dressed, asking the Lord to convict me if something is too revealing or if I’m spending too much time, money, and energy on how I look.
So, if “modest is hottest” isn’t the answer, how do we broach the subject? Start with conversations, rather than sermons and modesty talks. Gen Z is much more apt to believe something if they’ve been brought into the discussion and allowed to ask questions, express dissent, and wrestle with ideas. We need to give them space to ponder questions like: What is modesty? How has modesty changed over the years or in specific cultures? Are there parts of a body that are inherently sexual that should be hidden from everyone except one’s spouse? If so, what are they? And should we not also be talking about how we can dress perfectly “modestly” but still not bring joy to God because we’re doing it for the wrong reasons? Should modesty have anything to do with how much we spend on clothing? Is it immodest to buy unethically produced clothing?
In hindsight, I know that the modesty movements only dealt with my outward behavior, but did nothing to address the why or my heart. Why did I want so desperately for guys to notice me? Why did I think that would be fulfilling? Why did I want to be revered and loved for my looks? If someone had seen beyond my actions to my heart, they would have instantly seen that I was searching for acceptance and affirmation in all the wrong places, yet outwardly I could have passed the modesty test.
So, unlike Rachel Held Evans, who concludes that we women shouldn’t dress for men but rather for ourselves, I believe that we should dress for the Lord and His glory. And I believe that we can help teens desire this, too, if we change the conversation about modesty from one of legalism and shame to one of open discussion that includes all aspects of modest living.
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