Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Unintended Consequences of the Modesty Movement

So how do a man and a woman get together? This is an old question that has no definitive answer. The Bible puts it this way, "Proverbs 30:18-19 "There are three things that are too amazing for me, four that I do not understand. The way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a snake on a rock, the way of a ship on the high seas, and the way of a man with a young woman."

Now since Solomon is held as the author of Proverbs, and he had 1000 wives according to the Old Testament, this is an interesting statement coming from him. He was a man of 1000 conquests, yet even he did not have an understanding of the romantic workings of men and women. Now I believe this to be because he understood that his conquests were likely only possible because he was king, and he likely never had the experience of having to pursue a woman as a normal man. He also does not give advice to his son, other than some words about enjoying the wife of your youth, but this is likely because he deals largely with the importance of fidelity; he has little advice toward the process.

Yet, this is not a complicated process. I think our perception of the normal process, the instinctive one we all experience in one way or another, goes something like this.

Men: man sees attractive woman. Man thinks, I want her. Man woos her in some way, and if she agrees, they consummate.

Women: woman meets man she likes. Woman presents herself to is man in a way she thinks he will like. Man woos her. Woman loves it. They consummate.

I contend that this is the way the genders perceive their ideal "perfect" coupling. Women are generally hostile to the male approach unless they "liked him first" in some way, and men don't like to think they are pursuing a woman for any other reason than that they found her attractive. Yet we have put obstacles in this path since the beginning of civilization.

First, godly and godless civilizations alike adopted marriage as a social institution. We can debate and disagree on the reason why, but it is clear that there was a sense that this romantic notion and its sexual attributes needed to be controlled and confined.

Again, we will skip by the whys and the hows, and just accept that this is so.

The other obstacles are social and vary by culture, but again, the idea is that sexual attraction alone is not a wise basis for a sexual relationship.

This itself is an interesting notion. An evolutionary understanding might suggest that this is a fallacy, and that sexual relationships should not be governed by anything other than desire. As a Christian, the only explanation I have for this is that the fall of man in Genesis 3 "damaged" the sex drive, taking something that was supposed to foster attraction and loyalty between two life partners into something completely open that could in fact destroy such a relationship. While believe this makes sense, I have no evidence to support this, and so it is just speculation.

But if we accept this idea, then all the obstacles we have placed in the way of our own sexuality is an attempt to recapture something of that original, monogamous state. This could explain the problems and contradictions involved; we are forced to work within a system that fundamentally doesn't work.

We get a hint of this in the teachings of Jesus when he says,"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery. But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." This was a great departure from the understanding of the time. The Jews believed that adultery was a crime, and that coveting your neighbor's wife was forbidden, but single women, in that day taking the form of a prostitute, were largely considered fair game. Jesus was not claiming to add to the law, but to point out the hypocrisy of the Jews. He was in effect saying, "you think you can skirt the law by doing x, y and z, but I say if you even think these thoughts are just as guilty as the adulterer." He follows this with a rather difficult statement, "If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell."

This passage is the basis for the "modesty movement" in the American Evangelical Church. While 1 Peter 3 is really the passage that addresses female modesty, the discussion more often turns toward the Matthew passage and the issue of lust for men than the actual issue of female modesty. Christian women, particularly young women, are concerned with "not causing a brother to stumble." This has had a (somewhat unintended) consequence of encouraging young Christian women to look unattractive, as the assumption becomes out of necessity "if I look good to a man I am causing him to stumble." This may be true in a way. However I do not think the language is correct. For what one man stumbles at another may not, so is it fair to place the blame on the woman? I do not think so, unless she is intentionally attempting to entice that man sexually. On the other hand, is that not the essence of wooing? You see this idea can strip a woman of her main tool in the quest to find herself a man. This is where the flaw in the system comes into play. In the effort to avoid sin, we can throw the baby out with the bath water.

Is this what Jesus calls us to do when he says "if your hand causes you to stumble cut it off?" I would be tempted to think so, except that in the history of Christianity no one to my knowledge has actually done this. I admit this may be a slight logical leap, but I am going to take it. I do not believe that Jesus was instructing us to cut out our lustful eyes or sinful hands, but to come to the understanding that salvation through compliance to a moral law is not possible. That every male in that audience, upon hearing that statement, gulped, and saw themselves as an adulterer. To what end? To demonstrate our need, as a species, for salvation through the grace of God, and through no act of our own. A salvation that can redeem our nature, including our sexuality.

What does this say to the modesty movement? It says that its heart is in the right place, but not to be diverted into thinking it can conquer male lust by simply covering up skin. What it can do is make good, Christian women unattractive to Christian men, which means those men stay unmarried longer, which means delaying the only state in which those men can deal with their sexuality in a holy and God honoring way, and in that way, putting a different kind of stumbling block in their path. We have tried to come up with a lot of trite definitions about what lust is and is not so we can claim to be skirting around it in our lives. Rules like "looking once is natural but looking twice is sin," or "noticing is ok but thinking about it later is not." These are man made distinctions. Is there a distinction between noticing a woman's beauty and lusting after her? Yes. Is it externally quantifiable? No. No amount of clothing can protect us from this sin. Because this sin is not some external force trying to fight its way in, it is already inside of us. It is us. The only thing that can save us is that grace that Jesus bought for us at great price.

To women, as a man, I say this, don't fear your sexuality, understand it. Understand what it can drive you to do, understand it's purpose. Lots of preachers out there are calling for the church to address this topic more openly. I think we will see this in our lifetime, and Christian youth of tomorrow will be better equipped to handle this than we were. Until then, be discerning, and do not act in fear.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

On Libya

This is a post of mine recently published on Liberty's Call, a blog of Generation Joshua.

Despite my support for the military action in Libya, I am saddened by how Obama has acted. Instead of taking leadership, making the case to the American people, and doing what needs to be done because it is right, Obama waited to hear what the UN said and then joined the bandwagon. Even if it is the right bandwagon that is not the way a President should act.

Leadership is seeing the right thing and doing it. A great example of leadership is Winston Churchill. Churchill was the leading voice in the free world calling for action against Hitler. He saw what was right and did everything in his power to do it. He didn’t wait for the British people to agree; he didn’t wait for the international community to tell him what to do; he did what he could because it was right.

A principled leader will take a stand and people will follow. Unfortunately, Obama did something unprecedented by surrendering America’s position of leadership among free people. We stood back and waited for the UN to tell us what to do. That is not what I want to see in a president. I want a leader.

Jeremiah Lorrig

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Libya and small wars

With the current hostilities in Libya, the topic of Presidential authority is back in the news. This side of "hope and change," the result is . . . not that different. Except that this time around we have fewer allies than last time. So what is the President's authority to use the military absent a Congressional declaration of war? That question is still very much undecided - from Congress' perspective that is. For the president, unilateral military deployment is a tradition as old as . . . John Adams (our second president and Washington's Vice President). The second president to behave such was Thomas Jefferson (third president). Even George Washington, while not deploying troops without Congressional declaration of war, preempted Congress by declaring neutrality in the French-British conflict, leading to a fascinating debate between Hamilton and Madison about Presidential authority. This, naturally, makes it difficult to argue that the founders behaved as if the president is merely the agent of Congress in military matters. Indeed, only five wars in US history have been "declared:" The War of 1812, The Mexican American War, The Spanish American War, World War I, and World War II. And in several of those instances, troops were already engaged at the time of the declaration. Undeclared wars include Vietnam, Korea, the Gulf War, Afghanistan, and Iraq, just to mention a few. Not even the Civil War was declared (although that was because the South was never recognized as an entity to declare war against). So while Congress has the Constitutional authority to declare war, the President is still the Commander-in-Chief, and absent defunding of his effort by Congress, can command the troops. In doing so, he is governed not so much by Constitutional constraints as by prudence.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Neo-Cons and Libertarians

There seems to be a massive PR battle going on regarding the topic of foreign policy.

Max Boot, author of a fantastic book on America's small wars, tweeted an article the other day titled: Are We All Neocons Now?. But this last week an Anti-Imperialist author came to one of the meetings I attended in Washington DC pitching his book (sorry, I do not remember his name of the name of his book) attacking the idea of interventionism and promoting isolationism. Someone in the meeting asked for a short (3 sentences) definition of "Neo-Con;" the writer could not do it.

There seems to be no republican or even tea party consensus. Even among the Freshmen in congress we have the Rand Paul brand who wants to end all foreign aid. And on the other hand, we also have new congressmen rejecting even the idea of cutting any military funding.

When all the chips fall, despite no clear definition, I find myself more in the Neo-Con camp. Where I believe the Spiderman line: With Great Power Comes Great Responsibly.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The New Road to Serfdom

They say that history repeats itself and time and again it proves to be true. The fact is that the saying "those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it" is right.

I just finished reading Daniel Hannan's book, the New Road to Serfdom where Hannan argues that America should look at Europe as an example of what not to do, and should rather return to the principles of freedom. He points out that the European Union (he is the member of the E.U.'s parliament, whose YouTube video went viral), is truly post freedom and treats itself as better than elections and other petty problems like separation of powers and local control.

To follow the European model would be to substitute elected and publicly accountable officials for unelected "experts." These bureaucrats have written laws, established themselves as judges, and even executives. These men and women are not knights and barons in castles, but the result is the same: democracy has been replaced with oligarchy.

When I was in Europe last December I was shocked as I saw the way that power was shifting away from the member nations and that the idea of democracy (representative and direct) have been cast aside.

Did you know that every time a European population has had a chance to vote on joining the E.U. they have voted it down? That doesn't matter to the unelected leaders, they continue to exert their will. Did you know that the European parliament is elected by the people? But they have no power. All the power rests in the unelected elates. It amazes me.

Hannan's core message is that America should not follow them. America should stand by the principles that made her great and never let go of democracy, federalism, or our commitment to individual responsibility.

Read it, you'll laugh, you'll moan, and you'll walk away having learned something.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Not dead yet

The French lawyer is only a learned man; but the English or American man of law resembles in a way the priests of Egypt; like them, he is the lone interpreter of an occult science.

~Alexis De Tocqueville, Democracy in America

As a law student, I cannot let Jeremiah bash lawyers without responding in some way.

Attending law school has more than once reminded me of the above Alexis De Tocqueville quote. While the household priest is no more, and the household doctor is not far behind, the household lawyer is (or appears to be) more important than ever. And like the priests of old, who opened up sacrificial animals and examined their entrails to determine if the omens were favorable, lawyers today must cut up and examine each part of life and either give or withhold their blessing.

So yes, there really isn't much difference between "Our lawyers made us do it" and "God told me to."

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

First Kill all the Lawyers

I just logged into a website and a bubble popped up and said that I had to agree to their terms of agreement. But the thing that was funny was that they said, "Our lawyers made us do it."

Now this was a professional site. It reminded me of flying with Virgin America's pre-flight instructions. "For the point zero, zero, one percent of you who have never used a seat belt..." It always makes me smile.

What does this say about our country? I think we might need to rethink life.
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