From the Archives: The Appropriate Dress…REALLY?!

 clarisse-prom-dress-2838-40

I was speaking recently at a seminar in another state, when a mom came up to me and began a conversation. In the middle of our talk, she mentioned that she had attended a purity seminar at a church with her teenage daughter in which a part of the program was about  “choosing appropriate dresses to wear to the dances.”

Well, now I’ve heard it all. I have spoken in many places about the absurdity of parents promoting the dimming of the lights in a gymnasium and the playing of seductive music while encouraging 15-year-olds (whose hormones are running their lives) to move their bodies to said music while touching those of the opposite sex. Many times during my forthright discussion of this modern-day phenomenon in most public high schools, I have seen looks of surprise—even disgust– in the rolling eyes of some young girls. But this was a first. I have never heard of adults planning a purity day in which we help girls decide what’s appropriate to wear to such a worldly event. Really??

Help me with this if you can. Help me to understand the reasoning behind accepting the sin and then helping them plan how to dress as they participate in it. I know I’m old-fashioned, but it is not the Bible that has changed in the past fifty years, since that time when Christians took it for granted that dancing promotes lust. It’s the culture.

Again: Here is a portion of Thayer’s definition of  “lasciviousness.” Remember as per Galatians 5:19-21, it is a work of the flesh. It is one of the items in a list of things we cannot do if we want to inherit the kingdom of heaven. So read Thayer and weep for the state of many women who are going to reap grave consequences for the encouragement of this sin:

“indecent bodily movements; unchaste handling between males and females”

Let’s not pick the right outfit to travel the path of temptation. That’s kind of like when your grandmother wanted you to wear nice underwear in case you were in a wreck! (Only, in this scenario, the spiritual wreck is much more likely.) Let’s eliminate the spiritually damaging activity and then we won’t have to worry about what to wear.  Let’s flee fornication (I Cor. 6:18). Let’s determine to abstain from the appearance of evil (I Thess. 5:22).

Don’t Tag Me

I just cannot figure it out. If my daughter had decided to attend the prom–I mean if she had decided to purposefully place herself in an environment in which the lights would be dimmed and immodestly dressed girls would move their bodies to the beat of seductive music while embraced by or very close to their dates— I would be a bit embarrassed. I would do everything in my power to change her mind. If she somehow got past her father and into that environment (and I can hardly imagine that ever happening), we would both be in prayer for her safety and for another chance to mold her in a different direction as her parents. If she had decided to go against the wishes of the godly elders in our congregation and place herself in that compromising situation, we would apologize to those men and join with them in encouraging her to repent. If our son chose to lead a girl to a place where a couple of the works of the flesh of Galatians 5:19-21 were pretty much the order of the night, we, as parents, would be deeply disappointed. We would beg him to reconsider his decision. We would talk to him about the power of lust and the lack of consecration exhibited by a conscious decision to purposefully place himself in a position in which he would be looking at scantily clad women in seductive positions for a night of entertainment. Frankly, we would be afraid that his lack of concern about exposing himself to this scenario and his failure to flee situations like this might lead to his involvement in other addictive sins of lust. If either of them made this choice, I think we would talk to him/her about the Savior and the great sacrifice he made for us before calling us to live sanctified and sacrificially holy lives. We would plead with them to honor Him by making a comparatively small sacrifice for His glory.

But I think we would also react with shame. I think we would tell everyone who might be able to convince our kids to make a different choice and solicit all of their help. But I don’t think we would tell anyone else. We would be ashamed. I certainly don’t think we would proudly display our kids’ prom pictures on facebook. If our kids displayed them, we would ask them to remove them if they had any respect for us at all.

I know what I am saying is out of vogue with the world. It is out of step with the culture and, to many, it seems silly. But when I have studied the Greek word for lasciviousness, fully recognizing that lasciviousness is a work of the flesh and those who participate cannot inherit the kingdom, I’m convinced that facebook pictures of the prom glorify what makes God ashamed. When we are proud of what makes God ashamed, and ashamed of what makes God proud, do we love Him with all of our hearts? Are our emotions in tune with His? Am I saying that anyone who attended the prom doesn’t love God? No. But I am saying this: If we really consider Galatians 5:19-21 and the gravity of its warning; if we come to terms with what Christ gave up for us; if we look at the prom seriously as the night of revelry that it has come to be, in at least almost all cases in America, then we, as Christians, would want to distance ourselves from it. We would want to take an amazing opportunity to deny ourselves (or our children) this pleasure of the world in honor of the One who called us to be holy.

Another way to look at it is this: If you knew that Christ would return during the prom at the local high school, would you really want your children to be there at the moment of His return? Seriously? If you thought Christ would walk into the gym where the festivities were happening, would you want to meet His gaze? If Christ was your facebook friend, would you tag Him in the pictures of your kids getting set to leave for the prom? If the Lord was walking through prom month with you–physically, with you–would your choices be different? Would you take him to the tux rental store or the formal dress department for the try-ons? Would your money be spent on something more wholesome? Would your excitement be centered on some other activity? Would your very best presentation be a little different and a little differently directed than the one for which you plan so diligently for that twilight hour on that Saturday night in early spring? Honestly?

He is walking with you. There is a sense in which, in His omnipresence, He is there at the prom. He is your facebook friend and he’s at the tux store and the dress shop and the salon. He’s even in your heart and He identifies what you treasure–what’s important to you. Life is short and kids only get one chance to give Him the senior prom. And ypu can’t go back again once you’re twenty-five and realize that the prom was really not such a big deal. Besides, don’t you want your kids to give it to Him while it IS a big deal? It’s the big deals that God wants from us. It’s our treasures He wants us to lay up in heaven.

But, moms, if you’re determined to let them go…and girls, if you are set on going…if you have to put the pictures on facebook, don’t tag me. It just makes me sad. Besides we have a facebook Friend in common. The Lord sees both of our walls. But whether or not He is our Friend in the judgment is the all-important question. “Whosoever is a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4).

One final note. I know a young high school senior who once asked a girl to the prom. He had little interest in religion, but she was a faithful member of the Lord’s church. She declined the invitation, citing that she didn’t think the prom was an appropriate place for a Christian. He had never heard of this, but was intrigued by her answer and challenged by her denial and he began to pursue her. That pursuit culminated in a Bible study with her and her father and then, finally, in his conversion to Christ. He ultimately attended Freed-Hardeman University where he studied to be a gospel preacher and fell in love with a wonderful Christian girl. He has been preaching the gospel for over thirty years now and is currently beginning a work with the great Wood Avenue church in Florence, Alabama. He is the father of three faithful Christian kids, one of which is my favorite son-in-law, Benjamin Giselbach, who is also a faithful preacher and man of God. I am thankful for that seventeen year-old who had enough conviction in her heart to say no to that suitor that spring. Who knows what blessings can grow from seeds of conviction carefully planted by faithful parents? Only God knows.

That Four-letter Word: PROM

I’m a little surprised and a lot saddened that I am hearing (and reading) gospel preachers and elders who think we should not teach young people to avoid the 2011 prom. I hope these guys are using better logic on other risky behaviors than on this subject. Here’s the defense of the activity: “My daughters went to their proms and they turned out okay.”
Here are some true statements I could make about my own two children. (The fact that these are true statements does NOT mean that I would encourage your children to do these things):
My son ate dishwasher detergent once and he turned out okay.

My daughter rode in a car through a terrific rainstorm while the driver watched a tv show on his i-phone and she turned out okay.

My daughter played with a friend who sprayed Mr. Clean directly in her eyes and she turned out okay.

My daughter sat for a long time in a dark, desolate subway station in the “bad” part of New York City in the middle of the night with one of her girlfriends and she turned out okay.

My son once diverted his attention when he should have been looking and got hit square in the head with a baseball…but he turned out okay.

You get the point. Very bad logic. Just because your children have grown into reasonably spiritually healthy adults in spite of some risky behaviors does not license thinking parents to endorse such behavior. (In fact, if I as an adult encourage such behaviors, I might be held liable for their consequences.)

I have in recent years heard the sad story of a mom whose twelve-year-old son saw fornication occurring in a dark corner of a chaperoned middle school dance. (That image, unfortunately, will be seared into that kid’s memory for life.) I had a teacher, who was called on to chaperone the prom at her high school, relate to me how a girl’s gyrations on the dance floor caused her to lose her strapless, very low-cut dress, suddenly becoming completely topless in front of much of the student body. I have heard about the after-parties, the drinking and sex. In fact, I was recently in a hotel trying to sleep and prepare for a full schedule ahead while one of these parties was occurring. It was not pretty. I even attended a funeral of a young man who was killed when his car left the road when he was on his way home in the wee hours from a night of prom partying. I can hear some of you saying, “But my prom is not like that.”

Is your prom a place where you could predict with near certainty that the majority of the girls would be dressed in clothing that exposes backs, cleavage, or thighs? Is your prom a place where guys and girls will feel free to move their bodies to the beat of music in seductive ways in full view of the guys? Is your prom a place to which you would feel uncomfortable inviting the Lord, himself? Is your prom a place where you would be uncomfortable if you knew His second coming was going to occur that night? If your prom is any of these places, may I suggest that you should opt out of this very optional activity? Shouldn’t words like “Abstain from the appearance of evil,” and “Flee fornication,” and “Whatsoever things are pure…think on these things,” have any relevance at all when we examine our options and make decisions about cultural activities that most assuredly push the limits of virtue?

And then there is this passage that, for me, seems so critical when we think about the prom of 2011. It’s Galatians 5:19-21.

Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

Without examining the actions, we easily see their consequences. Those who do these things and other clear (manifest) and similar (such like) works of the flesh shall not inherit the kingdom of God. That’s the consequence of doing things that are in the list.

“Lasciviousness” is in the list. What does the word mean? It means “whatever contrasts itself to purity.” It means “debauchery, a profligate lifestyle, activities that incite lust.” It does not mean “fornication”, for fornication is elsewhere mentioned in the same list.

What troubles me most about the word “lasciviousness” in this list and our acceptance of the prom as an innocent cultural rite of passage… our celebration of it, is that Thayer, one eminently qualified scholar on an extremely short list of respected modern Greek scholars, includes these words in his description of lasciviousness: “unchaste handling between males and females, indecent bodily movements.” Pornography would be characterized by one of these two descriptive phrases. Most table-top or pole dancing in bars would have to be characterized by one of these two. XXX rated movies would be necessarily characterized by one of these two. But ladies, the kind of dancing that is most popular at proms around our country today is characterized by both! And fathers of teen daughters in the church today are paying for their daughters to purchase skimpy-topped dresses–dresses that bare both back and cleavage– to participate?! Give thinking people a break!

“Reveling” is also on the list. Reveling means “a carousal, a letting loose.” It means “feastings at which obscene music is played.” It likely has specific reference to some of the feasts of idolatry among the Gentiles of Paul’s day. These feasts were characterized by partying with unclean music, lascivious behavior and often excessive drinking. I don’t know about you, but I think there are many proms around our nation each spring that might aptly be described as “reveling”.

It’s important to remind ourselves as we make daily decisions that the actions listed as “works of the flesh” in Galatians 5 are obstacles in the way of the kingdom. They are roadblocks to heaven.

For this reason the elders in my congregation have asked our teens not to attend the prom. They are kind in their petition, but they are firm in their resolve. Since I have been a part of the West Huntsville family I know of only one of our young people who violated the elders’ request. These godly men lovingly talked with her upon finding out that she had attended. They encouraged her repentance and prayed with her as she did repent. They spared our younger teens the questions about the appropriateness of her decision and about the consistency of the elders in their shepherding. At the risk of boasting about our shepherds, may I say that their loving commitment to help our youth make godly choices in the midst of a culture of subjectivism is extremely refreshing and most helpful to parents and teens who really want to do the right thing?

Prom. It’s probably my least favorite subject to address. I don’t win popularity contests in many churches when I talk to women about the prom. All of the young ladies in a congregation where my daughter was speaking recently missed the ladies’ day activities on that particular Saturday because they “had” to spend the day getting ready for prom. I wish godly adults had made it easier for these girls to grow some spiritual muscles on that day. But instead, the ladies were mostly very excited and extremely unashamed about the “big day” for their daughters…a day that included missing a great time of fellowship and of studying about spiritual priorities…a day that included adult-approved and purchased immodesty and dancing…a day, at best, given over to the culture instead of the Lord. Poor little rich girls! How blessed they would be if parents had enabled them from young and tender ages to choose to step as far away from instead of as close as possible to the temptations of the devil who walks about as a lion seeking to devour them.

P-R-O-M. Sometimes I think it stands for Parents Relinquishing Our Minds!

P.S. These girls and guys from Middle Tennessee are blessed with church leaders (as are our West Huntsville teens) who help them avoid temptation by planning a prom alternative—a fancy dress-up night with all of the anticipation and fun and none of the regret! Thanks, Jennifer (middle front) for the photo. Someone remind me of the name of your congregation and your great Bible teacher and I will post them.

The Appropriate Dress – REALLY?!

I was speaking recently at a seminar in another state, when a mom came up to me and began a conversation. In the middle of our talk, she mentioned that she had attended a purity seminar at a church with her teenage daughter in which a part of the program was about  “choosing appropriate dresses to wear to the dances.”

Well, now I’ve heard it all. I have spoken in many places about the absurdity of parents promoting the dimming of the lights in a gymnasium and the playing of seductive music while encouraging 15-year-olds (whose hormones are running their lives) to move their bodies to said music while touching those of the opposite sex. Many times during my forthright discussion of this modern-day phenomenon in most public high schools, I have seen looks of surprise—even disgust– in the rolling eyes of some young girls. But this was a first. I have never heard of adults planning a purity day in which we help girls decide what’s appropriate to wear to such a worldly event. Really??

Help me with this if you can. Help me to understand the reasoning behind accepting the sin and then helping them plan how to dress as they participate in it. I know I’m old-fashioned, but it is not the Bible that has changed in the past fifty years, since that time when Christians took it for granted that dancing promotes lust. It’s the culture.

Again: Here is a portion of Thayer’s definition of  “lasciviousness.” Remember as per Galatians 5:19-21, it is a work of the flesh. It is one of the items in a list of things we cannot do if we want to inherit the kingdom of heaven. So read Thayer and weep for the state of many women who are going to reap grave consequences for the encouragement of this sin:

“indecent bodily movements; unchaste handling between males and females”

Let’s not pick the right outfit to travel the path of temptation. That’s kind of like when your grandmother wanted you to wear nice underwear in case you were in a wreck! (Only, in this scenario, the spiritual wreck is much more likely.) Let’s eliminate the spiritually damaging activity and then we won’t have to worry about what to wear.  Let’s flee fornication (I Cor. 6:18). Let’s determine to abstain from the appearance of evil (I Thess. 5:22).

Q & A: Dancing

Dear Mrs. Colley,
I’m sorry to inquire over a wonderful winter (here we have over a foot of snow 🙂 ), but I wish to get something straightened out. Until this summer, I never thought of dancing as something against God’s, but I began reading an article on dancing written by your daughter, Hannah. It made me realize that going to prom wasn’t the right thing to do because of the lasciviousness. Luckily, I got that message right before my junior year, and I have my mind set on not going. But what about other kinds of dancing? I know there must be some forms of godly dancing because the Bible writes about David and Miriam dancing within the Bible. Sometimes I’ll be listening to orchestral music and start dancing just for being happy or joyful. In my heart I feel like this sort of dancing is innocent. I’m not dancing to be lewd and wanton but just to express the emotion of joy. Also, in the Beauty and the Beast, I feel like the dance between the two is just innocent and just expressing love and happiness. Mrs. Colley, if my conscience is on the wrong path, please help me understand so I can correct myself. I hope you are having a wonderful holiday season.
Thanks,
Krista

Hey Krista,
What a great question. The Bible doesn’t tell us not dance. What is prohibited is lasciviousness. Whatever that word means, we need to decide to stay as far away from that as we can, since those who participate in lasciviousness or “such like” can’t inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21). The word is translated debauchery or sensuality in some versions, but what matters is what the word meant when the Holy Spirit, through Paul, first used it. According to Strong’s Greek Lexicon, the word is sort of a contraction which originally and literally meant “not continent”. Strong’s also says the word means filthy, wanton, licentious. The other premier Greek Lexicon is Thayer’s. He says the word means unbridled lust, excess, licentiousness, wantonness, outrageousness, shamelessness, insolence. Specifically commenting on its meaning in Galatians 5, he says it means “wanton manners, as filthy words, indecent bodily movements, unchaste handling between males and females, etc…” Well, when you consider what occurs at the prom or most other middle and high school dances, I believe indecent bodily movements and unchaste handling between boys and girls is a pretty good description. I believe any conscientious Christian girl, like yourself, will want to avoid this activity for this reason. But there are other reasons, too…like the drinking that usually goes on before and after prom, and the excessive display of immodesty that almost always is a part of prom. I just think any Christian who cares at all about his/her influence and is really striving to avoid the works of the flesh will see that there is an obvious danger in attending.

But now, is it possible to dance and not be lascivious? I surely think so. I think a five year old doing a tap dance is not lascivious. I think a married couple doing any kind of dance in the privacy of their closed bedroom is not lascivious, because that would not be sinful. I think there are certain kinds of ballet that are not lascivious if the clothing worn is modest. I think when people hear great news and grab each other’s hands and dance without licentiousness, but for pure joy in celebration, that this,too, is innocent. I’m not sure about the specific dance of Beauty and the Beast, because I can’t recall it (don’t even know if I’ve seen the dance to which you refer). But when our bodies are not against those of the opposite sex, and our movements cannot be described as indecent in any way, and our touching is limited to that which cannot be construed as impure, then the “dance” is not lascivious.

Sometimes parents ask about letting young children learn various forms of dancing. Is it sinful when preschoolers dance? I don’t think so, since I don’t think preschoolers can sin. Could a dancing preschooler be led to a temptation to continue a pursuit of dancing or even a career of dancing when she becomes old enough to indecently move, dress and touch. Well, perhaps. This is where every parent must make judgement calls, always with the primary goal for every child being heaven. As for the Colley family, we danced around the room many times— marching, holding hands, clapping, laughing, skipping and twirling. But as for any lessons or serious pursuits of any kinds of dancing, we decided to avoid them, so as not to even make sinful dancing a possible area of interest when they grew older.