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Friday, 17 April 2015

Myron on Mennonite Modesty

I've written earlier on the Mennonite Modesty Mishap and Misplaced Mennonite Modesty. Myron Horst (aka Hurst) is writing a book about Mennonite modesty. Yesterday he posted a long comment to a blog, excerpting his book, which I reproduce here as I found it, without comment.
    Myron Horst April 16, 2015 

    Thank you for addressing the subject of "modesty". I'm sorry you had to be affected by this wrong teaching. It is something that your parents were deceived about and that I was also deceived about. I am going to share several excerpts on modesty from the book I am writing about the Amish and Mennonites. While it addresses these groups, it applies to ATI, Patriarchy, Vision Forum, and other "dresses only" groups.

    The Bondage of the Term “Modest”
    The modesty doctrine of the Great Amish and Conservative Mennonite Dress Experiment has been a complete failure in protecting girls from sexual abuse. There is not a major difference in the sexual abuse rate between conservative, modestly dressed girls and girls who dress according to what the dress experiment calls the immodest dress of the world. If anything, the dress experiment “modest” dress is actually more “immodest” because the regulation dress and everything that goes with it makes girls more vulnerable to sexual abuse than the “immodestly” dressed girls in the rest of society.

    “Modesty” is not a concrete, clearly defined concept, but is open to a wide range of opinions about what is modest and what is not. Total nudity in public is a God-given shame that a person, Christian or non-Christian, usually tries to avoid. One of the places God tells us about the shame of nudity is in Revelation 3:18: “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.” But beyond nudity, a person’s conscience of how much of the body must be covered in order to be modest tends to defined by those who one is influenced by. There is a very wide range of opinions among professing Christians about what is modest and appropriate and what is not.

    Jesus has not defined what is modest or what is immodest. Mennonite churches have attempted to regulate modesty, feeling that the Bible alone is inadequate on the subject and that husbands and fathers cannot be trusted to regulate it in their own home. Modesty is a concept that is drilled into conservative Mennonite women. They are made to feel guilty and responsible if a man were to look at them in any way sexually. Jesus on the other hand, puts the responsibility on a man for his lust.

    Part of the failure of the Conservative Dress Experiment is because it is based in part on Old Testament Law. Among the Amish and conservative Mennonites, the women have been required to wear dresses, based upon the church’s interpretation of one command that was handpicked out of the Old Covenant Law (even though Christians are no longer under the Old Covenant Law). “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.” Deuteronomy 22:5...

    What is ironic about Amish and conservative Mennonite “modest” women’s dresses is that in addition to not preventing men from lusting after girls and women, the dresses with their open bottom hem are an open door that allows easy access for perverts and sexual molesters to quickly do their wicked deeds without fully undressing their victim. Is a dress safe? Is a cape dress really modest with its double layer at the top and an open door at the bottom? Can a dress really be labeled as modest for a young girl to wear? Little girls have great difficulty keeping their dresses down and end up showing their underwear at times. It is young girls and teens that are the ones most likely to be sexually abused.

    A friend of ours, who did not grow up in a Mennonite home, told us that she was taught growing up that dresses were immodest. When I first heard it, I was surprised because it was the opposite of what I had been taught growing up. In reality, dresses are actually more “immodest” than pants. On the internet there are a number of testimonies of women who have been sexually abused who feel very uncomfortable wearing dresses. Addressing the question about why women don’t wear dresses anymore, is this answer: “Some women may have had bad experiences with wearing skirts or dresses, since a lot of them may have been sexually assaulted in the past (direct or indirect), a skirt or dress does invite molesters to unlawfully play down there.”
    Myron Horst April 16, 2015 
    ...Trudy Metzger says this about the blame and responsibility that the conservative church puts on the women and girls:
    “Boys wore normal clothes and acted like nothing happened when they violated us. We were stuck in homemade dresses, giving males easy access, and still the bulk of responsibility fell on us. When they violated us, it was because we must have behaved in a sensual manner, dressed inappropriately, or perhaps flirted with them. They couldn’t help their sex drive and if only we would behave right and dress right, we would protect them.

    “How ironic. In a male-dominant culture, where men were portrayed to be the godly leaders, the strong ones, they were not required to be men at all. All they had to do was cry, “she asked for it” and the onus was on us. And even if they didn’t cry it, that was a given. There was nothing of teaching young men and boys to honor, respect, love and protect a woman. Nothing of saying, ‘if you find her naked, be man enough to cover her and protect her’.”

    Trudy’s words, “if you find her naked, be man enough to cover her and protect her”, gives new meaning to what Jesus said in Matthew 25:41-46 when you look at it in the context of sexual abuse, “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.”

    It is a Christian man’s responsibility to protect those who are least able to protect themselves – children - from sexual abuse. If a man exposes a child’s nakedness and sexually abuses the child, he saw or felt their nakedness and did not cloth them. He has Jesus to answer to. Jesus views the sexual abuse of a child as the same as an attack on Him – “I was… naked and ye clothed ME not”. Jesus knows what the sexual abuser has done, even if the church doesn’t. This can be a real comfort for anyone who has been sexually abused. Even if no one else has stood up for you (the victim) Jesus has. He has felt your pain and defilement, and the perpetrator WILL suffer the consequences – everlasting punishment unless he/she repents.

    The guilt that conservatives have placed on women in the area of modesty, and the hypocrisy by which women are judged are paralleled by the conservatives in Jesus’ day. The scribes and Pharisees brought a woman that they claimed they had caught in the very act of adultery. What is conspicuously missing is the man who should also have been caught in the very act of adultery if it really was adultery. The woman was being tried for committing a sin, but not the man. Many sexually abused women in Amish and Mennonite groups can identify with this woman. They feel like they too are the ones that were tried by their Amish or Mennonite church leaders, and the men who sexually abused them are not. “And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, they say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” (John 8:3-11)

    The conservatives, the Pharisees, treated the woman as if she had committed adultery all by herself. It is similar to the way Amish and Mennonite women are treated in the modesty issue. Modesty is treated as if a woman could commit adultery all by herself by dressing “immodestly”. Women are judged for dressing “immodestly” without proof that a man has looked on them and committed adultery with them in his heart.

    Knowing how the Pharisees made up rules and went to extremes in expanding God’s commands, I have to wonder if the adultery that the conservative Pharisees were accusing the woman of committing was a manmade “sin” that they called adultery and was not sin at all, similar to the Amish and Mennonite manmade sin of “immodesty” that they hang over women’s heads. Several clues that it probably was not the true sin of adultery are that there was no man involved, and Jesus did not condemn or rebuke her for what she had done. Whatever the case, there is a strong parallel between the way the Pharisees judged this woman and the way many Amish and conservative Mennonites judge women in the areas of modesty and sexual abuse.

    (there is much more that could be said but I will stop there)


  1. I was forced to wear pants as a young girl, by my parents. I always felt this was because they really wanted me to be a boy. Now I wear skirts, because when I put on pants I feel masculine.

  2. Completely unbiblical. I have worn modest dresses and skirts my entire life and will never change. The bible clearly teaches modesty... You just have to study it.


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