Legalism is a skunk; it likes to hide in the dark undetected, while the stars in the sky teach us to live. It prowls for trash, which it can use for its purposes. Its fur stresses only black and white. And yes, legalism stinks. Foul and powerfully repugnant.
When a person makes a seemingly innocent argument in the name of fashion, one could be easily persuaded. What I’m going to hear is merely an opinion on life, nothing more serious than that. But if you think about what is being said, you can see that more is lurking beneath the surface. Legalistic ideas often come in the guise of good intentions, claiming to help us live more spiritually safe lives; but once accepted, they can slowly hamper one’s sense of peace and relaxation. Instead of there being a few ways to die, there are suddenly thousands.
One may argue that subconscious grace helps us live with many rules. Possible, but what is at stake isn’t just present happiness but eternal happiness too. And in the conservative Christian world, this is always the case, though in a negative and not positive sense.
What would happen if we rejected a certain rule or maxim? Well, there are consequences, they would say. Yet what consequences in particular?
Jessica Rey has a video entitled “The Evolution of the Swimsuit.” The link below, I trust, can direct you to it:
Jessica devotes around ten minutes explaining how the women’s bikini came into being and what that means for the Christian woman. At the dawn of the twentieth century, women wore bathing suits covering most of their bodies except for the legs and arms. Some took it even further; they would be carried into the water in a kind of floating outhouse and drop in the ocean so that people would have so little time to view them.
To this Jessica remarks, rather solemnly, “How far we’ve come since then….”
The idea was called modesty. And it meant this: the less skin that handsome man sees out here, the less tempted he’ll be to masturbate in private when he remembers me. I’m concerned with how much of a threat I am to another’s purity.
Too harsh a definition? If you only take Rey’s speech by the surface, yes.
So later on, as the century progressed into the 1960’s, we get what some scholars refer to as the second wave of feminism, when women began to take more pride in their individuality, in particular, their bodies. They didn’t want to be so modest anymore. The bikini was their way of expressing their sexuality without shame and regret.
What is Rey’s ultimate point then? Well, when she mentions that “He made us in His image” you’ll know what the “real” issue is: when Christian ladies wear bikinis, they tempt men to lust after them, as well as being disrespectful to themselves, not truly appreciating the beautiful bodies God created. They are not honoring Him, after all is said and done. For women, it is sinful to wear a bikini. Is there another way to conclude it?
That is my interpretation of the video’s message. It is not a mere fashion statement, for if it were, that’d be fine. But no. It is another case of conservatism on the rampage. And it is pointless.
There are three things I need to say about this seemingly godly presentation. The first two may not be as important, but still can be interesting points in themselves.
First, did you notice the picture of the old fashioned clothes worn by three different women? The one that looked like a 1950’s movie poster? Who is to say that something like that wouldn’t get a man to think about sex as a bikini would? If he stared at their legs, could he not get turned on still, though there is no belly button? I’d be willing to be bet on it. Sounds ridiculous to mention, maybe, but I think there’s merit to it. But Rey’s presentation made the dresses look conservative compared to the “radical” bikinis! So apparently, those short dresses were a holier version of the bathing suit, though the enticement to sex is still there! Is Rey’s argument logical? I doubt it.
Second, one gets the impression that this video seeks to attack feminism. Afterall, it was the evil group of women in the 1960’s who caused girls to become a greater threat to a man’s purity, walking temptations on the beach. But Rey mentions a psychological study done on men when asked to view different bathing suits. On the more “pure” pictures, they were more empathetic towards the women, viewing them as “she.” But when they viewed the bikini bombshells, they thought in terms of “I.” Rey’s argument is that men are less relational to women who make a show of their bodies than to those who are careful with what they wear. Besides, it’s easy to have a conversation with a woman if you can avoid staring at her? Right?
But hilariously… this idea compliments feminism! One of feminism’s most popular tenets is what we refer to as sexual objectification. It means that men view women primarily as sex objects designed for their pleasure and nothing else. Women have no emotional or spiritual value, according to this view. If Rey’s presentation was meant to shame feminism, it actually shakes hands with it. No surprise, really. The Church culture and the feminist world both hate sex in their own ways, for they fear its intensity to narrow one’s focus on the physical, as if sexual urges have the power to turn you into a brute beast. In the Church, both women and men struggle to be sexual, while with feminists, only men need to check themselves.
And thirdly, there is the, ah, “spiritual” significance to Rey’s discussion. If it’s unholy and tempting for women to wear bikinis on the beach or by the public pool, then we have a problem, for they are creating a stumbling block for men. Men apparently need help controlling themselves, so we need to consider encouraging women to have more dignity about what they do with their bodies. There’s a question that comes to my mind:
What if Christian women refused to follow Rey’s advice?
You see, if life really does go on, if it is possible for me, as a man, to talk to a hot girl swimming at the lake, if there are other things we can talk about besides sex, then Rey’s argument wilts in the sun. But so dark was her evidence about men’s brains, it’s almost as if guys have to rape the first woman they see showing a lot of skin. It’s an argument rooted in fear and dread. These conservatives are so frightened of the worst that they think they’re doing the world a favor by standing up against reasonable, healthy liberty. And thankfully, most people will reject Rey’s advice as legalistic, because that’s what it is. Just another debatable rule secretly put out as Gospel. And think about it this way too; what if, in refusing to be moderate in her dress, the Christian women is condemned by her peers in one way or another, to a greater or lesser degree? If not, then why even make something as dress an issue to begin with? If there are little consequences, why bother at all? Is it because her soul might be on the line if she refuses to listen to Rey’s “advice?”
Really, that could be the only serious take you could put on the whole argument.
Women, feel free to wear bikinis at the beach. Men, don’t feel ashamed on noticing. If we can trust ourselves to be controlled and reasonable, then we need not fear the Church or the Feminist roar. Trust is the death of fear.