One of the most heartbreaking things I can think of is when horrendous sin is uncovered in my church, or in my church movement--which I define broadly as baptistic and Bible- believing, a la GARB or the best of the Evangelical Free churches. Back in Colorado, I knew of a pastor's suicide, and a man I knew reasonably well from my own church was convicted of murder.
More recently, a report came out from GRACE about sexual assault at BJU, and one of the scarier things is that the victims were to a degree blamed. This has also been seen in other fundamental institutions--one sad case involves, directly or indirectly, at least three churches, a school, and at least three Bible colleges.
Not exactly part of a good Gospel presentation, to put it mildly. What is up with this?
Part of the issue is probably what we see elsewhere; "closing ranks" to protect an institution and choosing the easiest target--the victim--to make the problem go away. But the GRACE report, and other reports, allege more. Specifically, much counseling seems to blame the victim, even to the point of asking a victim whether she enjoyed forcible rape. Why is this?
One hint can be found in advice commonly given on the topic of modesty; Ladies, please don't lead men astray with your clothing choices. Notice something missing there? Yup, the man's responsibility. In its extremes, it can become burqa theology.
But it's justified by Proverbs 5-7, right? Well, no. Read closely; the woman is doing many things, not just dressing like a harlot, to get "customers." Moreover, the father's instruction presumes that the son is sinning if he "hires" her. No matter how hard she tries, the man is still a moral agent. And, quite frankly, I'm pretty sure all those immodestly dressed women I see out there are not trying to seduce me personally.
So it seems to me that we need to come up with a new way of recommending personal modesty that (a) reflects the reality of seduction and mixed messages, but (b) does not suggest that sexual assault is caused by the victim. I'm going to suggest, again, Leviticus 18's use of "uncover nakedness" as a picture of unlawful sexual relationships. Combined with Proverbs 5-7, we may infer this:
If we reveal the contours of our private areas--hips, bust, upper thigh--whether it be direct line of sight or by tightness of clothing--we may suggest that we are available for an unlawful sexual relationship.
Closer, but still needs some tweaking. Suggestions?
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