Posted on Nov 24, 2004 | by Theresa Shadrix
ANNISTON, Ala. (BP)--On the heels of ABC's decision not to renew its annual television contract with the Miss America pageant, the issue of modesty has emerged as a center-stage issue with Christians.
This year, contestants were featured in revealing swimsuits in the on-stage competition, and were placed in hot tubs during their pre-recorded introductions.
The reduction in modesty did not yield the pageant the extra exposure it had hoped to achieve. Instead, Miss America received its lowest television ratings in its 50-year history.
Only 10 girls opted for the more modest optional swimsuit, while Miss America, Deidre Downs, donned the two-piece string bikini for the judges and the audience. Downs viewed the swimsuit competition as a reflection of physical fitness and told Baptist Press she tried not to think about what she was wearing before the airing of the competition.
"I just thought about what I would wear to the beach," Downs said.
The issue of modesty is not a new controversy in pageant swimsuits, but as fashion trends like short skirts, tank tops and belly shirts make their way from the local mall to worship services, church members are looking for guidance.
Modesty is one of the topics -- along with dating, eating disorders, depression and self esteem -- addressed in Beyond the Eye conferences.
The conference founder, Leslie Gary, cautions parents to be aware of contents in their daughters' wardrobe and to not only discuss why some things are not appropriate to wear but explore the roots of immodest clothing.
"I feel there are many issues that young girls face today, but I believe these issues stem from their desire to feel needed, be wanted and accepted and to fit in," she said. "Whether these girls end up becoming sexually active, wearing revealing clothing, or suffering from anorexia -- just to name a few things -- they have a longing in their hearts for true acceptance."
The birth of the Beyond the Eye ministry came from Gary's own struggle with self-worth and identity.
"I personally have struggled with low self-esteem and inferiority my entire life," she said, "but God has allowed me to be taught His Word through various ways and has graciously allowed me to have some amazing role models in my life."
Many girls dress inappropriately because they have never been taught that their beauty is far beyond what people see on the outside, Gary said.
"It is a heart issue," she said. "I truly believe that confusion about modesty and clothing that is appropriate will begin to subside once God's Word is planted daily into the hearts of these girls. We desire to judge no one. Our desire is to give girls the key that opens the truth about who they are through God's Word."
Mary Mohler, director of the Seminary Wives Institute at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, sees an opportunity for Christian parents to teach daughters, and other misguided women, that modesty matters.
"A daughter must be taught from an early age that her body is precious and should never be flaunted," Mohler said. "Fathers need to lovingly convey this message to their daughters, as they can give first-hand testimony of how men think and respond."
Younger girls face obstacles when older girls dress inappropriately in church, Mohler said, adding that holiness is not dependent on a woman's attractiveness.
"It is not something that should have to be drilled into women as if restrictive rules were being placed on their personal choices of dress and appearance as some way to punish them," Mohler said. "Regenerate Christian women should deeply desire to reflect Christ in every aspect of their lives -- including how they dress."
Modest dressing, Mohler said, is a reflection of God's work of grace in a woman's heart. Women must dress appropriately not only in church but also in everyday life, she added.
"What started in our churches as a well-intentioned move toward making seekers feel welcome has spiraled into a situation where Sunday dress is virtually disappearing," Mohler said.
The dangerous side to immodesty is women unknowingly causing their Christian brothers to stumble, she said.
"Many young women are more caught up in fashion and trends," Mohler said. "They have to be taught that many fashionable clothing trends that may seem 'fun' to wear are also revealing in ways that plain and simply cause men to lust."
Mohler and Gary both recognize that modesty is not a stylish term but they insist girls and women can be fashionable, while also reflecting Christ.
"I believe the Proverbs 31 women was a tastefully dressed woman in her 'fine linen and purple.' She was not drab, unkempt and unattractive," Mohler said.
"However, women must make wise choices when it comes to fashion such that we enjoy the variety of appropriate styles, luscious colors and a multitude of fabrics available to us. Men have few options in this area. We have so many choices. Eliminating ones that are immodest is certainly not too much to ask.