Thursday, January 26, 2012

Reflections on 1 Corinthians 8-9

As many know, I grew up in the Protestant church or, rather, I grew up in one of the many branches of the Protestant church. Those with experiences similar to mine know about how the relationship with Christ that one has is supposed to be supremely personal.
Do not confess to a priest because they are simply your sins and of no consequence to anyone else. Going to church is not explicitly necessary because you can worship in your own individual way. Do not pray to saints because they are explicitly dead and have no bearing on the living community in Christ. Peter was not the Pope and was considered no higher than any of the other apostles, they were equals etc. ad infinitum. These are but a few of predominant thoughts in the many branches of the Protestant version(s) of the Faith.
That said, I want to focus on this aspect of individualism and the rite of Reconciliation as I meditate on Pauls words to the Corinthians in chapter 8 and then broach the subject that all Papists--like myself--love: the Papacy as it seems to come up in chapter 9 (this part will be shorter because I just want to show something I found striking in that chapter).
So, a lot of Protestantism is explicitly individualistic to the point of forgetting that the Church is also considered the body of Christ, that the community they participate in also is to act as Christ's arms, eyes, and feet on Earth. This has to be done on an individual basis as well as a communal basis. If the Church is like a body it follows that each part of the body functions on it's own (though directed by the brain and nervous system) and contributes to the health of the whole. It only makes sense.
Now, it has been put forward, by myself and others, that confessing to a priest is also a reminder that we are in community and that no sin is a completely private matter however secretive one is about it. When we sin, we bring damage to ourselves and--whether or not we keep it secret--that damage to ourselves can and often does lead to sin that damages the Church as a whole. We are individual strands that make up a strategy, but pulling one strand affects other strands. One strand cannot burn with lust and not expect it to not affect the whole. The Church is not a mere tapestry, so the results won't be as disastrous as the situation I used for metaphor (not to mention the Gates of Hell won't prevail against it), but that does not mean we should not worry that our actions--secret or not--effect others and could bring others to ruin thereby damaging Christ's church.
A good and terrible example of the effects of even secret sins could be found in a priest who perhaps struggles with pornography. He confesses about it often, but cannot seem to break free. Pornography has addictive qualities and also changes your perception about things like sex. So, it makes sense that eventually it would do the same to the very human priest and can push him to do something to his parishioners relating to his inflamed lust. His secret sin became something very public very quickly. If the person was a married parishioner, the porn would separate him from his wife--however secret it remains--and likely result in similar instances with other members of his family. Sin is sin and will affect others as well as ourselves. Thus, we are commanded to help our brothers and sisters out, to pray for them, and otherwise. It makes no sense to worry about such things if the Walk is a strictly individual walk as it is sometimes is made out to be (no one can tell me how to live my faith, blah, blah, blah).
So, confessing to a priest actually reminds us that we are in communion. You can be forgiven by God by confessing and praying on your own, but I grew to find that extremely isolating. Granted, you still have the option to go to a pastor or minister and ask for assistance, but there is something about actively hearing that you are forgiven, no matter what you have done. The priesthood is in place to provide that function as other functions. Plus, you get free advice and understanding.
Now, I bring this up in light of recently reading chapter 8 in 1 Corinthians. Here Paul explicitly states that how you behave, even if your knowledge is sound, there is a possibility that you could lead another person not as far along in their walk astray. You do need to worry about your own salvation, but also about that of those you commune with. So, let us not forget that we are not alone with God, but part of a beautiful Church that goes hand in hand with our personal walk.
Finally, I just found it interesting that Paul mentions the apostles and then mentions Cephas (Peter) on an individual basis. That seems to emphasize that Peter had a special place in the Church and Paul was recognizing that fact. Catholics believe Peter was the first Pope, which mean he oversaw everything and had certain powers given to him etc. Mentioning Peter on his own does not need to be done. It shows a certain level of respect that was probably do to Peter's position in the Church.
Also, keep in mind that the Pope has cardinals around him. He does not do everything on his own, though he is the one with the deciding vote. Peter had that as well. The other apostles, including Paul, actually had active discussions and debates with him when deciding the direction of the Church. Ultimately it fell on Peter to decide, but Paul's ministry to the Gentiles has to be given the say-so by Peter to be really done. It makes sense.
That's all for now!


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Passionate Response

The following is a response to the following blog:

As a person who went in the opposite direction that you did, I must respectfully disagree with your assessment of Catholicism. Have you actively read the catechism? I am still going through it myself and found an aide to get me through all of it, but I fail to see how the rite of Reconciliation is set up to give the priests powers. You've surely heard the scripture that says basically "whatever you bind on heaven shall be bound on earth, who's sins you forgive are forgiven." Christ did not say this to a large group of your average believers but to his Apostles, to the twelve. That would signify that they were given a specific job to do within the Church with Peter as its figurehead. Since Peter was not going to live on this plain of existence forever he had to choose a successor. If you think that Christ was referring to other believers and not a specifically set apart caste then please explain why it is not a Protestant practice to have laypeople forgive each others sins (because they thankfully held onto the Church's Jewish roots in this).
Now, this doesn't preclude priests who would abuse their conferred gift, but you must realize that the priests do not forgive sins on their own. It is something given to them, and not something they created themselves nor earned. In any case, the purpose of it is not to have the priests lord over others, though they do serve leadership functions within the parish and general Church. Priests have to confess to one another, and our dearly departed Pope John Paul II was said to confess often. Only a priest who has become filled with pride uses his position in the Church to harm others or give himself power.
Sidenote: Missing mass intentionally is the mortal sin because it involves a direct rejection of Christ who is present at the mass. If you are sick, on the road, car breaks down etc. then you are excused. Those things can be unavoidable. Consciously making a choice not to attend is different than circumstances forcing you not to attend.
Back on subject. You can ask God directly for forgiveness and not go directly to a priest, particularly for venial sins. In fact, venial sins cannot even keep you from the Eucharist. Again circumstances can play a role here, and God is--of course--not bound by the sacraments, just those who believe. We cannot consign anyone to hell because we do not know the whole story as God does and God is merciful so there will be instances where someone we think won't make it does.
The idea that your boredom indicated that God would not punish you for not going does not follow. The excite of worship has little to do with actual worship. Keep in mind that I grew up in Baptist and Penacostal African-American churches. There was plenty of energy there and a lot of good things occurring, but I found later that a lot of meat was missing from the bone. It was like Christianity lite. Additionally, I found that I tended to try and put my own judgement of myself (which was always very harsh) above God's when I would confess just on my own. The whole process of Reconciliation really makes you examine things even if you are only imperfectly contrite. I have never had a bad experience in Reconciliation and have to note that the priests were never haughty or harsh with me. They actually quite well embodied Christ's love for me and gave me appropriate penance.
Now, not everyone is scrupulous as me--though Luther certainly was (he would have a couple bad thoughts during a confession and immediately feel compelled to confess again though it was likely something venial and would be washed away)--but I have to say that it makes no sense for someone to think that it is just about priestly power. After all, you rarely--if ever--hear about priests retaining someone's sins. There's more on this, but I want to move on.
Speaking of Luther and the Bible, Luther actually wanted to get rid of the book of James because it talks about works (thus Catholics believe in works plus faith). Like most people who branch into heresy, he placed too much emphasis on one or two things and lost the big picture. Sola Scriptura shows up no where in the Bible. It isn't in the Hebrew Scriptures nor the New Testament which the Church compiled. Keep in mind that there would be no Bible without the Church. They had several councils discussing the matter, and they didn't completely close the cannon until the Protestant Reformation. There are plenty of beliefs that do not appear directly in Scriptures. The Holy Trinity, for instance; but, we still believe in it.
As for Mary, I struggled with this initially but got a much better handle on it as time went on. It does not appear that she has a big part in the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament, but that is probably more due to the style the synoptics were written in and the fact that the focus was on Christ and the Church that was growing more than anything else. That said, in John--my favorite Gospel--it is Mary who gets Christ to do the miracle at the Wedding at Cana. That seems a bit odd despite the fact that she was whom he got his human flesh from. It can be argued that he was simply doing his duty to his mother as a good Jew would, and there is some merit in that, but he was also clearly an adult at the time. But, the real curiosity is how he responded to his mother--the God Bearer. He respond with, "Woman, my time has not yet come..." Who refers to their mother as woman? It seems unusual to me. Mainly I wanted to point out that Christ seemed to take Mary's requests seriously. In any case, she had to be revered early on simply as being Christ's mother. It only makes sense. Once one has encountered God, one cannot remain the same and seems to garner some dignity with that. So, if she had none before, she had known God in a way no one would ever or had ever known him before. She knew him as father of her Child through the power of the Holy Spirit.
This is getting long, so I may just blog this myself, but I want to end with this: your point about the Eucharist. First, let's not forget that Romans persecuted Christians partly for the Eucharist, thinking that they were cannibals. Since the first era of Christianity was marked by slaughter, it follows that people died for the belief that Christ was in the Eucharist. That said, our friend Luther never doubted this (though later he uses the term consubtantiation instead of transubstantiation). He believed Christ was fully present in the Eucharist and made a point to another Protestant Revolutionary by carving "This is my body, This is my blood" in Latin on a table they were sitting at and just pointing to it every time the man tried to say the Eucharist was a mere symbol. That said, i is silly to think that taking the Eucharist--even frequently-is going to INSTANTLY change you. Do not forget that God gave us will and we have perfect freedom to resist the Grace conferred on us. If we are serious about the Faith, eventually things will change but I have long found the ideas of "Once Saved, Always Saved" and everything changes immediately upon accepting Christ. Everyone has their own sins to handle and it only makes sense that it could take this lifetime and the next to be truly worthy of heaven (sidenote: there are scriptures in the old testament and even current Jewish belief there are prayers for the dead--the Jewish part may have stopped after WWII but I am not sure that it did. Catholics have not tossed such beliefs aside) Finally, keep in mind that Christ came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. Clearly Christ went to teh synagogue and engaged in the normal Jewish rights at his time. Considering the temple was there, it follows that there were still sacrifices at the time. That was how God chose to deal with his people and that is why Christ had to give his blood as the blameless lame. That said, it makes sense that there are striking similarities between the Jewish Faith and the Catholic/Orthodox faiths. The priesthood was not abolished, how they did things was changed. Instead of sacrifices they were given certain powers that are part of their office. I hope this finds you well.

Zaire Kariff

Sunday, January 22, 2012

On the Priesthood

I am going to do my best to make this short because I have had a trying day.

I was thinking about the priesthood, today. Not joining it, mind you, but about the objection to confessing one's sins to a priest for absolution. I'm catholic now and have found the experience to be incredibly freeing. It is nice to hear a voice and see a face (if you do the face-to-face kind) when I express my contrition (perfectly or imperfectly) and seek forgiveness. The priest is acting in the stead of Christ and it rankles a lot of feathers for non-Catholics.

I have heard several reasons, many good ones, for why confessing to a priest is not the terrible thing people think it is. Some of those include the idea that the apostles were the one's given these gifts (a la Christ breathing on them and conferring said gifts) so not everyone in the Church was given those abilities. This makes sense.

I have done fairly extensive (in my own opinion) reading on this subject and I do not think I have come across the argument I am about to set forth. Please keep in mind that I am a former dyed in the wool protestant, so I am familiar with the whole "man between me and God" argument. I have recently come to see that that idea fails in another arena, i.e. the arena I am about to bring us into.

I could be wrong, but I have not yet heard the idea of Jesus being Jewish and simply modifying certain Jewish traditions and beliefs being a reason for confession as catholics do it. Here's my meaning: Christ specifically states that he did not come to abolish the law but fulfill it. Now, many protestants have taken this in a way that no other Christians before the Protestant Reformation took it. They believe this means that everything is just between you and God because the veil was torn and we could now enter the Holy of Holies.

There is much truth in this sentiment. We have access to salvation never before thought possible. The veil was torn in a real sense, but is it in the sense Protestants seem to take it? That there would be no more priests and everything about how God related to people previously was thrown away?

Here's my thing, Jesus was a Jew and a good one. I mean that he was Orthodox and he, in fact, made a point of stating that he was not destroying the entire edifice that was Judaism at the time, but fulfilling it or--one could say--enhancing its understanding. It is revelation, you see? Christ comes and does not completely change the rules (though some stuff did pass away), but changed our understanding.

Now, I could be wrong--as I have not had time to do direct research just yet--but it seems that Jews still had sacrifices done by priests for the people's sins at the time of Christ. They still had the temple (it was destroyed again later) and they had sacrifices best as I can tell. The purpose of these sacrifices was mostly for the atonement of sins. No one but a Levite could fulfill this function if memory serves. This means that they had people set aside specifically for dealing with the corporate sin of the Jewish people.

After Christ's resurrection and his transference of power to his apostles, the practice changed somewhat. It seems to have become more personal, meaning it became more as Catholics did it then and now. They came to people who were given that power and confessed their sins to them. This is done for a number of reasons, one of the most important being that their is no private sin as sin effects everyone. That is why it is important to have faithful people who confess and treat things seriously, they could become a cancer otherwise--even if no one specifically knows what they are doing. It could start as something small but, if not checked, it could grow and others can be pulled down into it. For example, the kid starts looking at porn and then involved himself in cybersex with other people and thereby bringing them into his secret skin.

So, we are still told to confess to one another and it appears that the priestly function for absolution was changed somewhat though not abolished. Remember, the Faith is a revealed one and God was very slow in dealing with his people. Religion (contrary to popular belief) is not simply a set of rules and rituals to follow just because. It is how we relate to higher beings or to our God. Rituals and practices like confession to a priest fall under this category. Your personal relationship with God is in no way hindered by this practice and--as point of fact--those who practice confession regularly can attest to how it actually helps them do better when they are serious about changing.

The job of the priest is to act as Christ would and chastise, comfort, and--in the end--give us the absolution we so desire. It makes sense also when we remember that our spirits and bodies are completely intertwined (one of the reasons death is so unnatural seeming). But, that is for another post.

In conclusion, there are no private sins however secret we keep them. Everything we do affects the whole. Also, the priest is not there to lord power over you. He is simply a servant doing what was commanded of him. He gets these powers through no merit of his own and the good priests know and understand that. If this is the way that God chose for us to absolve our sins, as it appears to be, then there should be little trouble with it because it is how God chose to relate to us.

In other posts on this I will explore thoughts on what confession may do for the presiding priest and fight soul-body dualism.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Ugh i'm long winded and sometimes pompous


I just wanted to get this out. I saw on a friend of mine's twitter something along the lines of:

'All of you pro-lifers going on about the right to life, what about paying for those unwanted children?'

The implications are simple, children cost money and is it not a waste to use money for children that were unwanted. I am currently checking with her and hoping that I don't have to fear the worse, but I feel pretty dim about her prospects because she is very socially liberal.

I have no problem with liberals per say, but I do have a problem with people not realizing what they are really saying. Liberals can want very good things, but they are not right about everything. Yes, we need to help the poor etc. but, the right to life should be apparent to all and children should not be seen only as burdens.

Our society has gotten so steeped in a 'me-first' attitude that we can hardly take joy in beings as simple as children. I realize that not everyone likes children, and that is alright. After all, not everyone is meant to be a parent. However, can you not see something wrong with viewing a person (however young or small) as a burden? There is something especially vicious about that when the person has actually done nothing to earn the title of burden.

In the case of a child, that child has no bearing on whether or not it would be conceived. That was based on someone else's choices, not their own. A child has no bearing on not understanding, being mobile, or anything else we take for granted as adults because they have to grow. They are born into a state of helplessness. I feel like, if anything, the truly helpless that have no means of supporting themselves are those who need the most support.

It is simply insanity to treat a child as a burden and it results in various vices. In my own case, my father treated my as a burden quite often. He also tried to convince me that he did this because he was not sure if I was his kid at the time (a truly absurd notion, not to mention an incredibly weak excuse). I was shunted aside, abused, etc. I do not say this for pity--it is what it is. However, I know what being a burden can feel like and I have spent my life shaking those shackles off of my person.

Someone might not that maybe it would have been better that I not have lived at all, if I was simply put on this Earth to suffer for 20 something odd years. I have to disagree with this because life is good, no matter the circumstances. I have known despair intimately, and I have also known beauty. I have a poet's heart and, I realize it is completely cliche, but I am thankful for the wrongs and rights in my life and would not trade it for anything. I just need to harness it and I need to submit myself to the Lord Our God.

I have digressed, as I so often do; so, let us get back on subject. Life is good. The most uncivilized 'brutal' man can and often does believe this. Why should we believe that life is good despite our suffering? Where would that thought come from? In any case, most are agreed life is good and most would be inclined to agree when their life is easy.

However, ease is not the same thing as goodness. Ease in life is certainly less stressful, but it takes stress and heat to form us into something worthwhile. Courage is found at the center of every virtue. Fidelity to your wife is the courage to forgo a passing physical pleasure for the sweet unity of matrimony, for the great good of being a man who keeps his promises. True generosity is the courage to give perhaps a bit more than you think you can, and reject the idea that all of these physical gadgets we can buy are what's most important in life. Ease can be said to be good in certain situations, but to believe life is good only when it is easy is cowardly.

The point: life is good and we all have the right to live. This is why murder is so heinous, it is one man or woman deciding the fate of another on a whim. There is plenty of nuance therein, but whatever the cause, the loss of any life is heartbreaking for someone. Even some of the most terrible people known to mankind have had families and friends who mourned them. We mourn, not because our brains are programmed to respond in that fashion. That trivializes the whole idea. It trivializes anything that makes us human, our art, our loves, our ambitions, and our failings. The brain is certainly powerful, but its intricacies are not going to explain that which is naturally ephemeral. Why does art tend to repeat itself and yet be so fresh? We artists borrow from those who came before us, but are hammered into our own over time when we do not worry about being original. There are themes and motifs, and an infinite way of expressing them.

Our world is in a state where we have lost that value of life. We pretend like we rejoice in life when we are actually just going through the motions and distracting ourselves along our way to the grave. We have lost a sense of the transcendent with a vague materialism that manifests itself in insatiable desires to buy anything and everything, and to think that there is nothing else but the physical world. We have lost spirit, our particularly human spirit.

This is particularly evident in the fact that we can convince ourselves that a conceived child is not a life. We convince ourselves that a woman, due to her fortunate gift of having developed more than the child, can dictate whether or not that child should live. Let's be honest, whether or not the child is still in the cellular stage, it is the start of the development of a human person. If allowed to go from the moment of conception on, a human child is going to pop out. We are not going to end up with a baby dolphin, flower, or chimp, we are going to end up with a new human life. All life is valuable, but human life is especially valuable. We must not forget those things that actually separate us from the animals that we have developed our bodies from. As has been said a long time ago, humans are the upright ape that went mad. We are peculiar.

That said, genetically speaking the child is distinct from the moment the sperm hits the egg. Yes, a woman owns her body (as much as any of us own something we were born with) but that child is not her body and it never was. Her body stops at her own genetic pattern. She could destroy her own cells and DNA if she so chose, but the child (and we must not forget that that is what the little being is) is not the woman's body. At worst, the child is a parasite on its mother's body. That can be argued, but it again degrades the humanity of the child and distorts the inherent bond between mother and child.

Women were not confined to the home simply because all males think they are silly creatures. Men surely think women are silly creatures, but not every man has been one to shackle his wife to the house and kitchen. Woman had a specific function in life and, like anyone, wears multiple hats. She always has. It is perfectly fine that women work outside of the house now, but not at the expense of denying common sense. In general, women feel a certain closeness with that little creature that is developing within her womb. The sane woman realizes the tremendous gift, however painful its reception into the world, that she has been given. Through her selfless giving of her self and her selfless reception of her lover, new life is brought into the world.

It pains me to think of how much beauty we are missing in the world. I am a schoolteacher and marvel everyday at the antics of my students. They are adolescents, juveniles all trying to figure out their way through the world and--true to human form--stumble and bungle through it. Everything they need to know about life is not inherent, but their bright eyes and ability to be present should be enviable for those adults who have forgotten what it was like to wonder.

All of our greatest achievements began in wonder, and they lose their potency when separated from it. Art, music, dance, and the sciences are the result of wonder or, at least, the sciences use to be. The original goal in science, as far as I can tell, was not simply to get a bunch of facts about the universe, but to understand and rejoice in this strange world we find ourselves in.

In short, there may be burdens associated with having children, but we lose valuable aspects of our humanity if we continue to degrade them and continue to reject and lose our own wonderment at the world. The parent who addresses their child's haunting question about why others may mistreat them is one such reminder. The child says, "Why, daddy? Why are they mean to me?" The father can only say, "It's human nature, my dear child" and marvel at how conflicted our lives true are. Why are we the way we are? Such questions must never be lost, and a world devoid of children will surely extinguish this flame. I'll have to come back and rework this. I'm done ranting now.

Monday, January 9, 2012


Also, I have become free of the spectre known as pornography and my actions are finally lining up with my spiritual and philosophical beliefs. Huzzah!


Of Modesty and Sacredness

I recently got into a debate about the modesty "doctrine," as it was so put, found in Christianity (and other religions) is actually harmful to women. The disagreement was sparked by the reading of this article:

Upon reading it (skimming at the time), I came to the conclusion that the young woman--as I assume she was--was extraordinarily wrongheaded. Hers was the first story I ever head of the Christian form of modesty having a negative effect on women in society.

Now, I would never dispute that some people's use and interpretation of it have lead people down these wrong paths, but that does not mean the "doctrine" itself is wrong or even necessarily right. This woman came across such heretical, if you will, visions of the modesty "doctrine" and it impacted her greatly.

I found out that she use to be a part of this particular sect within the Protestant ecclesial communities founded by a man named William Branham. He was a controversial figure and made various predictions as if her were some sort of prophet (though that isn't even the full function of a prophet). This particular group of people had a very low view of women that stemmed from the ancient idea that Eve was the cause of original sin.

This has popped up in the Church from time to time, but it is in error. I am speaking as a layman, but reading the Genesis account of the advent of sin makes it fairly clear that man--moreso than woman--is the cause of evil entering the world. It does not take a scholar to note that nothing happened regarding the forbidden fruit until Adam himself partook. It the serpent tricking Eve had did not yield any consequences until Adam, for whom she was equally made as the only proper companion, partook of the fruit. It was then that their eyes were open, and it was then modesty was born.

On another note, before we get back to the point, Adam tried to shift the blame onto Eve. He basically claimed that she made him eat of the fruit. Anyone who has ever played the "blame game" before knows that it leads know where. What might have happened if Adam had explained that he did wrong and pleaded for forgiveness? The world shall never know.

Now, this low view of women resulted in many oppressive beliefs and doctrines that were directly pointed towards women. It went right down to having to have a "ladylike" walk etc. It was quite oppressive.

Before we move into just what she says this doctrine did to her, I would like to address this first: Modesty from the Church's standpoint really tends to respect the cultures view of modesty (though they probably are inclined to enact changes in some of the African tribes and other peoples of that type who allow women to be bare-breasted. The Church, right or wrong, might be inclined to have these people cover up more so as to help them in their walk.

That said, these are the charges the author of the article laydown:
-"Modesty taught me that what I looked like was what mattered most"
-"Modesty taught me that I was always on display"
-"Modesty was not just about dress. It was also about moving like a lady."
-"Modesty was literally keeping me weak"
-"Modesty contributed to my eating disorder"
-"Modesty taught me that I was a decoration"
-"Modesty made me objectify myself"
-"When you argue that what's modest and what isn't is a valid concern for women, you tell them that their appearance matters most. You objectify them."
-"You cannot consider women a full human being unless you recognize that their lives do not revolve around the male sex drive."

I will now deal with these in order. However, I would first like to note that one point she made was that saying modesty is just a debate to be won and that men's lives are not changed by it--women's lives are.

I can see where she is coming from, actually. After all, what do men have to do with women's choice of dress. In response, let us first state the obvious: Women and men have made this choice jointly, rightly or wrongly. The way a man or woman dress are considered immediate turn-ons or turn-offs. For example, some men really enjoy scantily clad women with tattoos. Others enjoy women who primarily wear dresses and skirts or stay mostly covered (i.e. dress rather modestly).

Women do the exact same thing with men. Most ladies are not very turned on by a slob who dresses in sweats all the time. Some like a man who cleans up well. Some like a man shaved or "manscaped." Good smelling and well-dressed men can be quite the eye turners in the right environment.

So, it would seem, that men and women both have a stake in modesty. It does not merely effect women. Certain ways of dressing can insight lust more than focus on the person (for both sexes), thus men are effected by the dress of woman as must as women are effected by the dress of men. A tight shirted man that shows of his manly muscles can attract a great number of women, but not always for the right reasons. A woman with a skirt where you can nearly see her thong will attract a great number of men, but usually not for the right reasons. I personally believe that women tend to be more virtuous in this arena, but I would be remiss not to show that it is a two way street as they say. Appearance does matter, but it is not and never should be everything.

Now, onto the first point which claims that modesty made her think that her appearance is what mattered most. Perhaps the rather oppressive form of modesty in the heretical ecclesial communities she belonged to did indeed make her feel this way. But--let us be honest here--she was getting similar oppressive views of appearance in the secular world as in her ecclesial community. When she left worship, she likely saw various magazines that depicted skinny women with designer clothes and a certain glamourous look about their faces. Could this not also contribute to her issues with appearance? It at least (even if she only skimmed or glanced at such publications) had to reinforce what she was getting from her ecclesial community.

She goes to a supposed place of God and is essentially given the same message the World is peddling. It makes sense that she would be conflicted. She was oppressed on all sides with the same restrictive message. Had she left that "church" earlier and ran into the open arms of the World she would have had the same sorts of issues. Is not our post-modern society one of the most frivolous, decadent, and shallow societies there ever was? America and the World in general seem to be more concerned with what they own, who looks up to them, and how they looks than anything of any real substance. Yes, this is a sweeping generalization and there are people who take things more seriously, but you cannot say that the popular culture is not oriented in such a manner. Just have a skim through a tabloid magazine.

Now, to further her point she points at that she became vigilant about being unsexy and was more obsessed with her looks than the very people modesty is against. This may or may not be true, and I would be more inclined to say that she was equally obsessed though in a different way. Lest we forget, appearance is everything in this world and the "church" she belonged to.

The problem with this is the fact that she became obsessively vigilant about being unsexy, and completely misses the point of modesty which is only one part of the equation that is Chastity. Everyone in the Church is to participate in this and have to do it in different ways simply because every person is, as point of fact, different. Obsession made have naturally progressed from her upbringing for various reasons. Perhaps her parents would keep harping on her about her looks or ministers would make snide comments about her choice of dress, etc. However, her neuroses has little to do with actual modesty. (note: her neuroses was developed over time and experience. I do not, in fact, believe she is or was seriously neurotic in a mental health sense)

The truth is, dressing in a way that covers one's body in what might be considered a more appropriate manner is not entirely focused on sex and not attracting men to women in a lustful manner. Keep in mind that our sex drives are natural and good, and that the attraction is going to happen regardless of dress. You can be a very beautiful women whether or not you keep most of yourself covered. Think of some of the most oppressive sexual cultures in recent history like, say, the Victorian culture. They were rather puritanical on one end, but the fact remains that babies were made. Additionally, Victorians have an infamous history with pornography. The desires will be there, no matter what they are wearing. The existence of the fantasy world of pornography is one indicator of such things. As are the facts that it is likely that men still raped women, even if they were in a full dress covered from head to toe. This disordered action pays no heed to how the woman is dressed. The rapist cares not whether or not his victim is dressed sexily or not. The rapist wants to use her body and by force if necessary.

So, if not for the reason of dampening lust in men (and women), what is modesty supposed to do. Here I will deal with a strictly Christian point of view--since all cultures have forms of modesty regardless of their beliefs and the fact that the author was broadly characterizing Christians as the reason for her past ills. What does Christian teaching say about the body?
Is the body evil? All signs point to know. Such beliefs popped up in Gnosticism, other heretical views, and other world religions. The Church tells us that our bodies and our sexual desires are good, especially when they are subordinated to a will that has given itself to God almighty. The Church also tells us that our bodies become temples of the Holy Spirit upon becoming a christian. Furthermore, the Church tells us that our desires can get disordered, it is a long way back to reordering them, and that we are all persons equally loved by God.

Men and women are created equally, not in ability, but in what they each reflect. Even an atheist reflects, in some sense, the Godhead. We all can think and choose. We can forgive and not forgive. We also can create, though on a much smaller scale than an entire cosmos. Art is the proof of the creature that went mad. Whenever God conferred his image on us, that is when we became mankind. How it strictly happened is immaterial, it remains that we are all reflections of our creators whether we acknowledge it or not.

The Church simply tells us to acknowledge this fact and take care of our bodies as we would a holy place. Being a temple is not light task. So, yes, some people can take it too far but they are not so far from the truth. Modesty is showing proper respect for one's body and a guard against objectification. I will go into this more later, as it is another separate point that was made. Can this go wrong? A resounding yes is the answer. We are, after all, only human. The fact that people sin or do wrong is not evidence of the failure or lack of Truth in the Church, but rather evidence of just how write she is about humanity. As someone wise once said, 'self-control is the test and example of self-government.'

Quickly, I'll highlight how the Church appears to guide us in this matter. The vice of lust is an example of objectification at its strongest. Lust does not really care for the person they seek, but rather its own selfish desires. Lust is what causes a man to just bed women for the fun of it, using them as toys for some insane form of masturbation. Lust makes sure it is about himself or herself, and not anyone else. It's Narcissism in a sense.

The Church desires for her children to guard themselves against such things. One stricture is that we save our first bit of sex until we are in the bonds of Holy Matrimony. There are good reasons for this, but that's neither here nor there at the moment. So, we are to save our bodies for a proper time.

Next, the Church tells us that we should avoid lusting after other people and find ways to fight against that temptation (Lust, of course, being sexual in nature). To fight against such things, would require an understanding of attraction. As scientifically uninformed as ancient people were at this time, one finds it interesting that they understood that the body played a huge part in sexual desire. Other things did as well, but the presentation of the body seemed like it could be important. How might that be?

Well, in the first place, the oldest profession in the world prostitution provides many answers. Prostitutes then and today dress in a manner that attracts their clientele. They sell their bodies and their choice in dress is their form of advertising. How did prostitutes dress? Well, they hardly put anything on. Skin would be visible in various places that were considered sexy by that culture and thus clients would come calling.

Knowing this would lead to a couple conclusions: 1. dressing in a manner that exposed flesh seemed to lead to certain undesirable, in the eyes of the Church, consequences. 2. Men seem more drawn to this sort of body advertisement than women.

The Church does not condone of fornication nor adultery, and prostitution provides an avenue for both to occur, for a profit. This is clearly a bad situation for a believer. So, the Church asked women moreso than men to dress in a manner that causes men to respect their bodies in a proper manner and leads to a holy marriage. Singling out women more than men is a bit sexist, but see the logic in it. People knew then as we know now that men tend to do most of the sexual crimes and seem more drawn to visual stimulants than women. Why else would people target most pornography towards men? There is porn for women and some do enjoy pornography, but they are in the minority. Most women I've known have found it either disgusting or highly amusing and shake their head in wonder about how men find it enjoyable. Look at most advertisements and you will see the same trend. Our post-modern world is drenched in visual sexual stimulations and men are more susceptible to this than women, though women fall as well.

Now, how are men supposed behave when it comes to modesty? I personally wear long clothes and have taken a minor oath to myself to rarely, if ever, show skin. I will continue this even if my music career takes off. I don't want to be a stumbling block either. However, here is where culture will come into play again. A lot of cultures have adopted western European dress and attitudes. In general, most men's clothing is not made for the sake of arousal like say lingere. Tank tops can have a sexual effort, but are not usually that acceptable in public unless it is hot and one's job requires less clothing for comfort. Still, it would probably do these men well to just go with a regular t-shirt.

The clothes that are geared more towards attracting women are tight fitting shirts and the like. Sometimes this is an accident and sometimes it is not. In either case, it may be a troublespot. But then, men and women are different. Arousal is different for both. Perhaps men do not need to be as watchful as women. One can see how that might rankle and result in the obsession the author of the article described, but having more emphasis for women does not make it the most important thing. Any one who exalts modest dress that high is missing the entire point. Some cultures do not find breasts that appealing, so they do not mind a little cleavage. Some find them very appealing and men will stare at cleavage. Doing such a thing as that is clearly an objectification. So, the solution is clearly to show less of that. Give less of your body up to those who would misuse it. Men are called to this too, though we clearly need to have a council to decide what this means for us.

In any case, your body is a temple and something that should be respected. Taking measures to ensure that are not necessarily going to result in the struggles that the young lady who wrote her article, though they can if too much emphasis is placed on it and misunderstanding abound.

Now, her next point was that modesty taught her that she was always on display. To this I say, who is not under display? People see each other every day, unless you are a hermit, you have spent your day on display; though, I imagine that animals could ogle a hermit as delicious food. In any case, women are not alone in this. As previously stated, looks play a role in attraction and who people decide to pursue in a romantic way. It also plays a role negative things like judgements and unkindness because someone is not wearing whatever the daft fashion of the day is.

However, the fact that humans are on display does not simply pertain to their style of dress, it deals directly with how they behave as well. Their taste in clothing is simply another sort of behavior they choose to engage in. A man who consistently does good things in public will be considered a good man, whether or not he is secretly a miser that has not been caught yet. The same thing applies to a woman. Everyone is on display and that results in a few different things like playacting or serious striving to do the right thing. There it is again, a negative result in playacting. It is a negative result for the actor, but may be a good for some other person.

Do not get it twisted, as they say, negative results do not necessarily imply a lack of veracity in something or whether or not something is good. A great many things are good and can be used in improper fashions. A prime example would be, cars are a good thing because they transport people at high speeds and shorten their journeys. However, drunk drivers exist, as do car wrecks. Also, the cars we have now apparently effect our environment negatively. Does that mean cars are not a good thing? Even with the environmental argument, the issue is not whether or not cars are a good thing as much as finding the kind of cars that will not result in the Earth being destroyed (doomsday scenarios are always fun!) or will protect the passengers and driver better.

So, yes, we are all on display and that can be a damaging notion if pushed in the wrong way. In the young female author's case, she was not given any place to be less modest in her dress. Apparently, she was not allowed to be in certain types of garments ever because they were considered immodest. She describes a particular episode where a ruckus was caused by her accidentally "flashing" her grandfather. Instead of a hilarious family story, it became more than a rigamarole for the author. She was apparently horrified of the prospect of an accidental moment making her immodest, though it clearly did not--any person with a bee in their shirt is entitled to flail around like a ninny if they so choose. Here, it also seems apparent that this was going on in her head. Her description of the incident simply says that a family member made a comment about how she accidentally "flashed" her grandfather and this resulted in her mental tailspin. There is no noting of whether or not the comment was made in jest or if it was done in a scolding manner. The context and delivery of the statement here would shed light on her point. If the comment was jest, the young lady clearly over reacted. If the comment was scolding, then she is justified in saying that their form of modesty was insane. I would march in the streets with her against this tyrannical not to mention heretical ecclesial community!

Now, the lady etiquette and behavior aspect is not something I have seen directly in any of the Protestant communities I grew up in. This is partly because I am a male and partly because modesty was simply not discussed in those churches. Perhaps it was just understood. In any case, I am under the impression that women naturally walk a bit differently than males due to their skeletal structure and various other factors. Therefore, it makes some sense that there would be people who would want to emphasize femininity. However, the author states that the requirements kept her from proper exercise and made her weak.

She cites two examples: 1. the strictures on how a woman was to move prevented her from exercising. She claimed that one could run, but was not allowed to "jiggle"i.e. the woman's breast must be crushed to keep from men watching. 2. her apparent fear of having her legs open in any manner in front of men at the gym. She went as far as to change her exercise times to minimize the possibility of a man crossing her while she did an exercise that required opening and closing her legs.

Now, considering the severity of how she seems to have been brought up, those fears are very real to her and seemed valid. But, were they really? Most people at the gym do not go for the sake of checking out women, although some individuals do. As she states, she is not the keeper of men's souls and I agree with that sentiment, especially because these men were strangers (though she should still care for their souls). I would not go so far as to say she should not have some thought as to her attire. Men should as well, but that does not always happen. I will say intent plays a role here, but also that there are clearly ways to have dressed modestly without breaking her modesty.

Clearly, the difference between the dressing of say a prostitute and a regular woman is that the prostitute dresses simply to arouse men sexually. A normal woman may or may not ever do that. We certainly see cases where a woman will dress a certain way in order to garner male attention at a club or bar. Still, most women dress based on what they think looks good and not explicitly to arouse sexual attention. Their intent is good, but that does not mean that all bets are off when it comes to clothes. Care should be taken, but not at the risk of one's sanity. As I have stated, clothes that show more skin are more likely to attract lustful stares instead of interest in the person. Think about what you are wearing, but do not worry over much as there is only so much you can do.

Here is one way to eliminate immodesty in the gym: wear sweats. Sweats are usually loose fitting and highly unattractive. They also get you sweating, hence the name "sweats." She could run around with sweats on with impunity. Now, there is an issue of weather and such, but that can be worked with as well. Just put on a shirt over your sportsbra. It cannot stop all of the "jiggle" but that is only part of its function. I imagine it is also used for the sake of sopping up sweat. I have also heard tell that some women prefer sports bras minimizing jiggling for reasons other than the occasional, overly aroused boy. Girls I have know have told me that sometimes breasts can hurt, especially larger ones. I even know a friend or two who got reduction surgery because it was causing them medical problems. The sports bra is tighter than a normal bra and, I am told, would support larger breasts a bit better.

In any case, there were ways around the dilemma that presented itself and living in terror for even the slightest tent in a boy's shorts is no way to go about it. She seems to have not developed, at that time, a healthy way or asserting her modesty while exercising. Sweats may be ugly, but they are useful. In the event that one does not have sweats and only tights, shorts over the tights (because, let us face it, tights are not pants) would cover her nether-regions in an acceptable fashion. The same thing goes with wearing a shirt over a sports bra, which is not a shirt itself. She still could have exercised under modest dress. It is not like people expect you to not take care of yourself and to wear dresses even in the gym. It is not practical in the least.

So, the way modesty was taught to this young woman clearly had adverse effects on her person. She developed poor methods, views of herself, and misunderstood modesty as a result. the author apparently developed an eating disorder for the sake modesty in a misguided attempt to make herself look boyish and unsexy. The author clearly has a strong misunderstanding of what modesty is and its importance in the grand scheme of things. It consumed her so much that she starved herself. This is not the intent of the belief and should never be the result.

I wonder what she was told, because being "85 pounds" does not necessarily mean one is unsexy. She acts as if petite women never attract suitors. This clearly is not a fact, and I myself have dated petite ladies. They are just as lovely as ladies who are thicker. She seems to have thought that not having a large assets, so to speak, was going to stop men from being attracted to her. Some of them would indeed stop being attracted, but since it seems that people large and skinny get married, date, and have children without that much trouble.

Here the author admits, partially, that the issue here was in her own mind. She attributes this to the modesty "doctrine." As it was presented to her, there may be some truth in it. But, surely believing that one reflects God, has a beautiful body that is a temple of the Lord, is not a negative way of viewing one's self. If she was told this, would she view things in the same manner? I find the idea that she would rather dubious. She was given an extreme that misses the entire point, not the true form of the belief; which, again, is only a small part of Chastity. Therefore, it makes sense that her views ventured on the extreme while she grew up and that she had to discard this view of modesty to free herself. However, the way she presents the article has resulted in her pigeonholing various forms of Christianity under the banner of Conservative Christianity. Conservativism is not directly related to what the Church believes and neither is liberalism. Actually, both tend present good and bad versions of what the Church believes. Some people do not want to help the poor, which is wrong, and still others want to just give the poor everything and do not look to actually teaching them a manner that would make their lives more manageable. Teaching people to always wait for handouts cannot be good for them as well. Help people stands. Those views are not necessarily all inherent in the Church, but the point is that the Church can be considered liberal in some ways and conservative in others and that depends entirely on who is viewing their actions. She unfairly pins all of the Church as a cause of her confused views.

The next two points are related to an earlier point. The author says that she was taught to think she was a decoration and she was made to objectify herself. Is the real belief of modesty something that objectifies people, from a Christian standpoint? Clearly not, being made Imago Dei is enough to place a certain matter of pride within any human. It means that everyone is created and loved in the same manner. If you cannot hold your head up--you who are dust--knowing this, then how will you ever really respect yourself. Is not being a beautiful temple enough?

It is a misunderstanding to think that women are to be unsexy and vice versa. She was given modesty in a corrupted form and ascribing it too all ecclesial communties and the Church is wrong headed. I have known plenty of women who have no issues with modest dress.

Her next point is also related to her other points in that it is a focus on appearance. As I have shown, everyone is on display and it is not just women. Additionally, simply saying or asserting that modesty is a valid concern for women hardly objectifies her and tells her that appearance is the most important thing. It does not logically follow to say such things.

Saying something is important or is a valid concern does not mean that you should focus only on that one thing. It hardly gives you the whole picture, especially in what the Church actually believes. Sure, some people mess these ideas up, but the Church is made of humans and those mistakes will happen. The whole belief in modesty is not necessarily oppressive or scarring. I would never point someone to the kind of "church" the author attended, but I would hope that they dress modestly though I have no control over that. The author acts as if a woman's free choice is eliminated by this "doctrine." It may have seemed like that, but many laws exist in the secular world that are broken every day. Choice is hardly the issue, but there are consequences for every action. Maybe you should not wear that little black dress because it is too small or to make sure your interactions are not coloured simply by your sexuality. The World is more focused on looks than the Church is. Looks can be deceiving and looks are not everything. The author was given a certain view of it and ran away with it into depths unknown. I have never heard such arguments in my life.

Finally, the young miss makes a good point about how you cannot properly look at women if you believe it all circles around your sex drive. Correct me if I am wrong, but most of my friends are not of that mold. I am sure people like that exist, but we all respect and love women. It is not strictly about our sex drive. Sexuality is not the whole thing that everything is built on. It is not the foundation of the Church's beliefs or doctrines. Too much emphasis was placed on it and that was the result.

However, I will have to take issue with the idea that modesty is a philosophy that is dehumanizing. If it is taught and executed in a proper manner it gives humans great dignity. The Church has always been in favor of life. There have been times where people have strayed, but life has always been sacred and rules only tell you a few things that you should not or should take care to avoid. The covering of the body is done to accept its sacredness from roving eyes that take a woman's body as if it is made purely for his pleasure. Eve was a helpmate, that's what a wife or girlfriend (in a sense) is supposed to be. Not simply an object of pleasure. Most of what the author is concerned with has little to do with actual modesty. She was taught wrong and that is that.