Thursday, April 2, 2015

Yoga: The Pants Not The Practice

     In thinking in depth about this topic which was very hot for quite some time, I had
endeavored to approach it from a Biblical perspective as I do every topic of
discussion. The problem I ran into was the dearth of passages pertaining to modesty
of dress. I was actually a bit surprised. Not that my search was exhaustive, but the few
passages I discovered about proper attire were exclusively directed towards women
and beyond that, were not at all addressing the issue of modesty in regards to
sexuality. The passages were repetitive and were really focusing on, or rather RE-focusing
our views of what is important. (1 Tim 2:9–10, 1 Pet 3:1–6, etc.) So the
admonition in these passages to not be adorned with jewelry or expensive dress
wasn't so much a condemnation of those things but rather a point about what
should be valued in the life of a woman, both by women and men. Even if they could
be taken as commentary about those specific articles of clothing, which I do not feel
is true to the passages, it still isn't about sexuality.

     So where does that leave us? Well, scripture is not entirely silent on the subject. The
majority of the passages that are applicable, switch the question. Rather than
addressing the appearance of the woman, it directs its commands at the man. Part of
this is probably because they lived in a patriarchal society very much unlike what we
exist in today. Secondly, common dress for a woman in those cultures was probably
fairly modest to begin with. Oddly, when sinful women are described, much of the
focus is on jewelry more so than modesty of clothing. Outside of absolute
nakedness. Still, there is never a passage that tells women “don’t wear this or present
yourselves in this or that manner”, but it seems to come back to telling the man, “do
not look at her in a lustful way.”

     Yet, there is a definite idea presented in Scripture of what a holy and pure woman of
God should look like. But this is done by inference. When proverbs describes a
woman coming to a man dressed as a prostitute, we get the picture of a woman who
is dressed in a way that is meant to entice the man sexually. We can infer from this
that a pure woman of God would not want to dress in such a way. But what way is
that exactly? Is it purely a matter of how many inches of material are in the clothing
of the women? Or is it where these pieces of material are placed on the body? Or
how tightly or loosely they adhere to the body? Or, maybe, it is purely a matter of

     This is where I land on these questions. These are not the right questions to ask, or at
least, these questions will not lead us to a place of truth on the topic. Scripturally,
intent rarely seems to matter. It didn't matter in the parable of the talents. It didn't
matter when Peter cut off the ear of the soldier. Some things are good, some things
are bad. Some things are right and some things are wrong, regardless of our intent.
So then it must be a matter of physicality, right? In my estimation, no.

      Time and time again when issues are raised within Scripture it tends to come back to
each person individually and the sacrifices they must make of themselves and their
own rights and freedoms for the benefit of others. Almost exclusively, this is directed
towards men. Especially in regards to sexuality and lust. When those are brought up,
it simply tells us to not do it, to not be involved in it. There is no discussion of the fact
that the woman was wearing this or that, or that she was acting in a certain way
toward him. None of that matters. And it is a high standard. If you look at a woman
lustfully in your heart, it is done. That is not followed by some dissertation about how
women should then dress and act so that they are not a temptation. Nothing like
that. It is simply, men, do not lust.

     Therefore the first thing I would conclude about yoga pants, as a man, is that, it
doesn't matter. It is up to me to do what is needed spiritually to be able to be faced
with this situation and yet not sin. Is it easy, or fair, or even possible? Maybe, maybe
not. As a Nazarene I believe that if God commands it then God is able to bring it to
reality in my life as I submit to Him. But even if I do not get to that point in my life,
God’s grace is sufficient. My response to men on this issue then is nearly as simple as
Scripture’s, no matter what you are faced with, it is your responsibility to not lust and
no one else’s.

      But that is not the final word on the subject. There is still the question of what
Christian women should view as appropriate to wear. There are many things to
consider here. I would say from the start that though it would be noble of any
woman to dress in a manner that would make it difficult to cause a man to lust, I do
not think that is a proper place to come from in this discussion. It is not the woman’s
responsibility to keep a man from lusting. The proposition is preposterous from the
start. Is that even possible? One of my favorite lines from any country song is from a
Dolly Parton song which says “you could stop traffic in a gunny sack.” And while it is
actually spoken of a man and meant to be a humorous exaggeration, it is closer to
the truth than most would like to admit. I am certain there are lust issues with the
men in the nations of burka-wearing women just as there is in countries such as a
Germany where public nudity is fairly commonplace. Men are attracted to women
regardless of what they are or are not wearing. So trying to find the truth in this
manner would be futile.

      We wear different clothing in different settings for different purposes. What is
appropriate in one place may not be in another. And some things may not be
appropriate anywhere. But with Scripture being nearly silent on the subject, who is
to know where those boundaries lie? Granted, that’s the real question at hand, it is
not new nor unique and it only manifests itself in the form of yoga pants at this point
in history. What about swimming attire? What about the length of dresses? What
about jeans? What about sporting uniforms? What about the fact that God created
humans to be beautiful and we are designed in His image? What about the fact that
in His perfect world, clothing was non-existent? This last question might give us a
good foundation on which to build our solution to this pressing issue.

      If God’s ultimate design is for all of us to live in a state of nudity and not blindly
ignorant of each other’s beauty, then what does that say about us now? Why do we
wear clothes at all? What is the origin of clothing? God designed the first article of
clothing, which was leather by the way. He did so because sin had entered the world
and now our bodies were no longer a source of beauty but of lust and sin. The entire
purpose for clothing was to cover our sin.

     So how does this affect us today? I think it should be in our minds, the purpose of
clothes when we decide what we are to wear. This again, is not to ask the question of
what will keep another person seeing me from sinning, but rather, what will keep me
from being presented as shameful or sinful to another person. This will be slightly
different depending on culture. It is not universal. And even though it is perfectly ok
to look to culture as a guide, as Christians, we should have our own standards
beyond culture.

     So let’s boil this down to yoga pants specifically. Are they revealing? Very. Could you
even tell they were on if they happened to be skin colored? Probably not. Showing
the world your butt is one thing but showing them other parts is even more of a
concern. And I have seen that personally. Most likely it is unknown to the woman
how revealing they really are. Are they different from swimming suits and bikinis? I
personally think they are because of how they are constructed. They are more
revealing than most swimming suits. Although I have seen swimming suits that were
pretty much see through when wet. Still, that is not common. And this makes it seem
to me that it defeats the very purpose clothing was created in the first place. But do
they serve a purpose? Yes. And a good purpose.

     The conclusion? I feel that if a Christian woman decides that clothing like yoga pants
are not appropriate to be worn in public and chooses not to wear them, she should
be commended for understanding the true Biblical principle of sacrifice and serving.
However, if a Christian woman decides that it is ok for her to wear yoga pants in
certain settings, I would only suggest to wear other clothing that keep certain parts
covered, keeping her in a place of presenting herself in a dignified manner. So not
for the guys, but for herself.

      And please note I specify a Christian woman. I do not think it is our place to suggest
this to other women. If they are not Christians, they have larger issues than what they
wear, and that is where our focus should be, loving them and caring for them.
If you are a Christian woman contemplating this issue, I would say, stop. Stop
confining it to yoga pants and start asking God to direct you in how you are allowing
God to work in your life by serving others. And I have confidence He will show you
the answer for you. And I will have confidence in you to make that decision,
whatever it turns out to be.

     And for guys, learn to live in step with the Spirit so much so that when you do see
that butt, you do see a person who God created beautifully and whom He loves and
cherishes. And treat her accordingly, in your mind as well as in life.