Rape has been all over the news and social media this week. And rightly so – because it’s an issue that is often thrown under the proverbial bus in both popular and Christian culture.
You have probably heard and read all the arguments already. You’ve seen the posts going around Facebook about how rapists are the ones at fault for their acts. Of course they are.
But then I see comments that also emphasize how our culture is immodest, and women flaunt their stuff and tease men and then expect them to behave.
I hear people talk about how modesty should be brought back, and that women can be a stumbling block in the way they dress and act.
I don’t mean to point the finger at people who say these things. I understand where the arguments are coming from. I’ve heard them all at least a thousand times in churches and discussions over the years.
So today I want to ask some questions about these philosophies and how they relate to rape, our culture, and our personal actions.
I want to call baloney on a few of these widely held ideas about modesty and lust. And I want to talk about rape – sexual and spiritual rape.
Modesty and Stumbling Blocks
Just Google “immodesty is a stumbling block” and you will get a plethora of Christian articles that tell how women who wear certain styles of clothes and act in certain ways can cause other men in Christ to sin.
The idea of someone being a stumbling block comes from Romans 14 in which Paul is explaining that not everyone in their new fellowship is used to the same holidays and food laws -in fact some didn’t find certain pagan festivals to be problematic. And some refrained from eating meat while others freely ate.
The only applicable principle I can find that relates to modesty is this:
Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.
Ok so the idea is that we don’t want to cause a fellow believer to go against what he feels is sin. That is the basic idea, and Paul states it as such:
The faith that you have [that eating meat or celebrating pagan holidays is "clean"], keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.
If I feel it is ok to drink wine or alcohol, but you don’t – then drinking it purposefully in front of you and trying to persuade you to drink also would be creating a stumbling block. You are not convinced in your own mind and by the Spirit that alcohol is ok.
But here’s the thing. We all know that lust, adultery, and rape are wrong.
How can I create a stumbling block in your walk with the Lord? You already have a problem with lust. In fact, if you are someone that goes around pointing out who is dressed immodest or not it would seem that you are passing judgement on other believers rather than focusing on your own struggle.
Let me just say one thing clear here. A woman maybe be the trigger for your lustful actions, but she is never the CAUSE.
Does that mean that Christian women can dress however they want? Well – yes and no.
- I do not dress modestly for the sake of lustful men. I do it because I realize my worth in Christ. And modesty in the Bible is addressed in this way – it is never about preventing the evil actions of another.
- Lust means different things in different cultures. I have the freedom and individuality in Christ to come to a place of comfort about my sexuality and how I present it. A man could lust after exposed feet, or long hair, or seeing a woman putting on chapstick. I cannot control the lust of others.
- Bottom line – I don’t live to please you. Sorry. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men. (Col 3:23)
Physical and Spiritual Rape
I find it very fitting that this week just happens to be Spiritual Abuse Awareness week.
What connects that to the topic of modesty and rape? Well – rape is about power. Rape is a form of sexual abuse in which one person, either by force or otherwise without informed consent, performs sex acts on another human being.
There are other forms of abuse such as child abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse of course, and also spiritual abuse.
Many times the forms of abuse overlap each other. But the main factor in most abuse is that the abuser takes away the free will and choice of the abused in some way.
So in a way, rape and spiritual abuse are similar.
Victims of both forms of abuse are often confused and mislead to believe that they somehow could have prevented what happened. Society looks at them as if they mysteriously wanted what they got – or at least put themselves in a situation to expect the results.
Some blame the culture in which it happens.
As far as rape “culture” goes, people have been bought and sold as sex slaves, married off at young ages, and raped for as long as recorded history.
And as for Christians who claim modesty is at an all-time low – we have nothing on the Romans or Greeks.
Rape and abuse happened in the 1950′s BC and 1950′s AD people. It just wasn’t reported and plastered all over the internet. It was taboo and it was considered partially the victim’s fault.
But let’s get back to the idea that rape, and spiritual abuse, is about power and not modesty.
If our immodest, rapey culture is due to women and girls being sexualized then I have some questions:
What about men who are raped? What about immodest men?
I know at least two men who were raped. One was taken advantage of by a woman, and the other by another man.
None of the articles you Google will probably mention men being immodest. There are times when I felt that a man was “dressing to get attention” or acting very flirty and forward – even at Christian gatherings. Why do men get a trump card on immodesty?
What about children who are raped? Did they ask for it?
I was raped as a child – by several different offenders at different times. I was raped by both men and women. Did I somehow become a stumbling block as a child and create lust in those people? You may think that is an absurd question – but men lust after children all the time.
A lot of modesty policies and sermons that I’ve heard are based on the ideas stated above – that women can prevent lust by dressing modestly, that men can’t keep a straight mind when there happens to be a little cleavage in the room, and that we can somehow prevent sin by how we dress and act. Women live in fear of causing stumbling blocks, and men live in fear of seeing something that will cause them to stumble.
You know that meme that says “Saying you’re a Christian because you go to church is like saying you’re a mechanic because you stand in a garage”?
Well – trying to prevent rape and lust by dressing modestly is like trying to prevent gluttony by duct-taping your fridge closed.
I think it is borderline spiritual abuse (and full-on leadership abuse in some cases) to create this fear in men and women over modesty and lust. Instead of pointing them to Christ, our worth in Him, and our victory over sin, it focuses on behavior and pleasing man-defined terms.
People who believe that we can somehow stop lust are the same people who will agree that banning guns won’t stop evil people from obtaining them and murdering.
It’s the same argument. We can’t stop lust and rape by tightening up our shirts and wearing a hijab. Just look at the number of women who get raped in Muslim cultures.
The only person to blame for rape is the rapist.