On Modesty and Shame and the Sacrifice of Humility

The modest veil

I kind of got a mild scolding for a facebook entry. I said something about God giving us clothing to cover our shame, referring, of course, to Adam and Eve. (Pretty basic Judeo-Christian stuff, right?) It was said in a mildly facetious way, too, in reference to laundry.

So should we be ashamed of nakedness?

Well, no, not really. I would be embarrassed to be found naked by anyone but my husband, but that’s cultural conditioning. I don’t find the human body a thing of shame. Hey, I had two years of studio drawing classes. You do get used to nakedness pretty fast, or drop out. God made the human body, just as He made all living things. He didn’t make it as an object of shame.

The shame to which we refer in the narrative of the Fall from Eden is the shame of sin. Adam and Eve didn’t try to hide until they sinned. Then they tried camouflage, but no one can hide from God. It was the naked sin which was their shame, not their physical nakedness. We are given to modesty as a sacrfice of humility. It isn’t because human bodies are uglyor unseemly. Modesty is a mark of humility. We do not claim God’s beautiful creation of ourselves for ourselves and of our own making. We veil the mystery of the image of God.

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17 thoughts on “On Modesty and Shame and the Sacrifice of Humility

  1. Do you think that a bun cover is sufficient to be a head covering in line with Corinthians or do you think that a veil or bonnet is more appropriate?

    Thank you in advance for your thoughts.

    • Yes, it is, since your intention is to cover. We can’t generally legislate how much fabric is required! I prefer a cap myself, but it is not for everyone.

  2. I had a similar discussion with an Amish-Mennonite lady a while back. We agreed that the naked body is not a dirty thing but it should be private.We also discussed nudity in art- how that in some artwork it is porn but in other art it is beauty and/ a study of the human body.Many people expect artists to be able to produce 100% accurate work of human beings without looking at the human body which is impossible.I never bothered with life drawing classes as it doesn’t affect my work but in the past when I needed life drawing classes and couldn’t get any I looked at anatomy books.

    djannon I believe that the covering is to cover our glory (the long hair) just as the angels cover themselves in the glory of God- so a bun cover or bandanna are not enough as they only cover a tiny bit of the glory and leave the rest exposed to tempt men.Before I discovered headcovering I would have Indian men trying to chat me up & staring at my hair, I had boys who tried to brush, stroke and plait my hair and I had a guy at a big church conference who unknown to me played with the ends of my hair as sat 2 rooms from the front amidst 500 people.Covering my hair merely with a bandanna would not have stopped that.

    Also a buncover does not spell out one’s faith to others.It would be more of a way of secretly covering so that others do not notice- and what is the point in that? It’s covering our light!I do know of Mennonite churches that were once plain but are now liberal and this happened by dropping plain dress and the gradual shrinking in the size of the covering.After time the women eventually just stopped covering. Certainly I wore a bandanna on top of my bun and it covered my glory but people did not recognise my faith, but with a white veil people like to talk to me in shops, people hold doors open for me, men do not chat me up &c.. None of this happened with the badanna because it looked secular.Afterall any woman can wear a bandanna or buncover but only a Christian woman will take a more religious covering.

    That said both are good ways of starting to cover before moving onto something better. The kapp and the veil however aren’t the only “correct” coverings. Catholic women wear mantillas in church and Orthodox women wear headscarfs almost Muslim style.

    Sorry Magda to contradict you but it’s based on my personal experience!

    • I don’t think you’re really contradicting me – I’m just leaving the options open to conscience and calling. Now, I jumped in with both feet when I was called to cover, and wore a soft kapp right away. My veils are long and white and make me look like an Anglican sister. (Which, in a way, is very accurate.) But not everone can do that. Just getting started with the discipline of covering may be harder for others, and the simple cover of kerchief or bun-cover may be all they can handle at first. Maybe someone is not called to the obvious Christian cover, maybe their life circumstances don’t allow it. I agree with all that you say here; The headcover that is obviously Christian does cut back on the unwanted attention (and any guy who touches my head is likely to get a look that will wither!) The kapp and veil are the strongest Christian witness in headcovering, but not for everyone. D will have to follow her heart in this; I’m sure she appreciates the input!

  3. I wear a more obvious covering at home but at work I only wear a small non obvious cover to work, oftern only a small bun cover. I agree with you Magdalena in such I think it is an individual thing and quite often progressive.

    • I haven’t had a job outside the home so I haven’t had that come up much. I went through a few weeks, about two years ago, when I didn’t cover, but it made me very unhappy and conflicted, and I asked Nicholas if he would be okay with my covering again. I haven’t left the house at all without a headcover since. (Oh, but once I drove to get gas in the truck having forgotten my kapp, which made me laugh when I got home and realized that – what! – I was head-naked!) At home I may go uncovered if I’ve washed my hair. Today I wore just a kerchief since I knew we would be alone all day. MY casual “at-home” outfit is a plain long black dress, a full apron, and a kerchief or older soft cap. The kerchief allows me to wear my hair down, which I think is good for the hair and scalp from time to time.

  4. Magdalena,

    When i began covering over nine years ago now, my first and only point of reference was the Hijab. (muslim friends), having come to covering through Biblical study, prayer and conscience alone; no church or ‘extra coricula’ sources… no internet or access to print literature either (significant vision impairment).

    I wore hijab either ‘babushka style’ or after the traditional Hujabi manner for the better part of the next four years, enduring sharp church criticism, sisters trying to pull it from my head, shouting and abuse from both men and women within church gatherings after the service… Horrible; with a disgraceful show of aggression on the part of my father and step mother Christmas 2002 that estranged me from them for the next year; I simply had to remove myself from a relationship that caused pain. I am still scarred inside from one of the ugliest encounters I have ever faced for my covering conviction; forgiveness is difficult; forgetting is impossible. They will not accept the extent of the hurth that was caused and refuse to understand principles of physical manefestation of faith such as covering/modesty; there are some who believe it may also be sabotaging my witness to them and other family that has stepped away from Christ; to this, I would dearly love support…

    When in prayer, worship or Bible study (private or corporate) I now wear either lace bandanas made by Bayley, lace coverings similar to the Garlands of Grace Cessily, wide ‘knit’ covers bought from a hippie stall at university (magdelaina will know the type of thing; headcover, tie died everything, hippy skirt etc actually a lovely form of modesty, though none too plain…:-) ) and buncovers. When around family or in a non covering area (live next to one of Sydney’s largest Muslim populations where its commonplace to encounter women wearing everything from the vaguest nod to hijab right through to full Niqabis who include gloves and lowered eyeveils into their modest ensemble( so these forms of covering, when combined with fairly plain attire doesn’t raise questions. I wish more ladies covered; wish god would either convict another who is already there or send someone strong in covering (don’t mind if its just bundcover or something more substantial) along… When out of area, with family etc, I buncover only. This seemingly uber minimalist form offers a thread of tangible connection to something I believe is not only valid for Christians but God’s preferred option…

    here is a fine supplier of buncovers.

    http://www.katiesmercantile.com/bonnets_head_coverings.html

    As for caps and charity-veils, Australia does not have a a herritage plain community such as menonite, Old German Baptist, Amish, plain quaker etc. half the bruderhoffe we have who migrated to Aus in the mid late 1990’s were deported back in 2003… and some those that remain have adopted the akubra and wear it when outer bonnet would normally be worn.

    I am not at the point where I could wear a full fledged veil or cap; firstly, though plain, I am not part of a plain group (with all due respect to Magdalena and the other sisters here) such as an intentional faith community… finally, my husband is distinctly uncomfortable with caps and veils, preferring the subtlety of my buncovers and headbands. I never go out with my hair down or in ponytail; its always coilled under the buncover.

    • What did the bruderhoffe do to get kicked out? (For those who don’t know, the Bruderhoffe – the Brother’s House – is a communal Christian group similar to the Hutterites, and were temporarily aligned with the Hutterites but split on issues of the Trinity and Incarnation.)

      I was alone in covering in New Brunswick, except for a small group of Mennonites on the border; I’ve even been asked if I was a polygamous Mormon! Admittedly, I have a tough skin and can take a fair amount of trash talk, but it does get wearing. When I sojourned with the Orthodox I wore my cap with a shawl over it, draped around the head and neck – very Old World and Eastern. I still do this in the winter if a bonnet isn’t practical.

      Sarah, your obedience is more important than the style of covering, as I always say to married women. If your heart is for the Lord, it doesn’t matter if you are forced to wear sackcloth. The Lord recognizes the modesty of our hearts.

      However, I do agree with Lucy that those of us called to be strong visible witnesses should do so. She is living in a part of the world with a history of Quakerism, although Plain Quakers are scarce on the ground now!

  5. Magdalena,

    The govt. line re the Bruderhoffe was that of immigration law, though they’d been legitimate residents here since their arrival, and much loved by the surrounding community in which they settled; local polititians tried to advocate for their stay, but to no avail. the widely held view is that the govt. used immigration law as a smokescreen for their genuine feelings; re a visible close-knit community of faith with traditional modesty/family values etc was seen as a cult; viewed with similar suspition to that in which the Closed Brethren are viewed. Since around 2006 we’ve had bruderhoffe settle in Tasmania, a handful of traditional menonite communities have also sprung up in Tasmania, rural Victoria and Queensland, though these are likewise viewed by the general public as harmless eccentrics at best, cults at worst. These new communities are very small and formative at present, founded by mission outreach from North America. Australians have a lousy track record re serious Christianity and the uptake of this way of Christian life by Anglican, Catholic, Assemblies of God etc is non existant and not expected to rise at all, though god can work miricles; it is a twist of irony that pre formal ‘discovery’ Dutch cartographers referred to the little of Australia that was then known (17th-18th century) as ‘The Great South Land of the Holy Spirit’… they’d be horrified today!!

    Re being called as a clearly visible witness to Christianity I see where Lucy and yourself are coming from and admire you both for such steadfast conviction. I wish I could ‘ramp it up a notch’, but God obviously has me where He has me for a reason… if I were to consider the cap, the mini mesh cap some on-line retailers offer would potentially work; in black, or close to my natural haircolouring; white only when in white though I am still to be convicted one way on this, and I would potentially be seen as ‘miswearing’ a Jewish or Muslim male covering if I adopted it…

    If God leads me in to Theology teaching, if Ph.D. is His will for me, I would seriously consider wearing a proper veil when instructing my students; this jumps out at my conscience, though it may seem odd that such a scenario warrants it in my mind while present situation does not; in the theology classroom, I am about god’s express business, and would wear it both as a sign of faith and a sign against the prevailing culture that most of the kids find themselves part of.

    This might seem odd, as I’ve mentioned, but it stands out in bold illuminated lettering at me…

    Blessings,

    Sarah.

    • It’s too bad about the Bruderhoffe. They ae productive and self-reliant, and certainly, from what I know of them, no burden. I don’t agree with where their theology has gone, but that concerns me less than you might think. (I said to a friend who is a retired bishop, when we were discussing some theological issues, that in the end, we may all find that we were wrong!) I don’t tolerate out-and-out heresies, but how we define the nature of the Trinity is always problematic and limited. And sitting around contemplating what is far beyond our reachto know is not getting the work done! Give me a worker who lives out the love of God on the street rather than a briliant but cold-hearted theologian who sits in the ivory tower!Teaching is a charism, but it needs to be coupled with willing hands.

      All in God’s time…it may not be best for you to raise a bunch of trouble right now over headcovering. Either the Spirit is telling you to keep your energies for other things, or it may be that those around you will be distracted from your intelligence and words by something on your head. (Sorry if I sound like a little Jesuit there.) It sounds like God is leading you, so be patient with that.

  6. I think bandanas and buncovers are enough if one feels they are enough. I cannot see that the bible has given specific instructions on exactly how the covering should look and then one must trust her feelings. I do think a bigger covering is better as it covers more of the hair but at the moment I am not ready for covering completely at work for example. In fact, I do not even cover my hair every day yet, but most days. My aim is to wear ‘something’ every day and to go towards bigger coverings with time.

    I do not cover my hair for people, I cover it for god. My body on the other hand I cover for both. If someone is turned on by seeing my hair I see this as a fault in them, not in me for not covering. The rest of the body is a joint effort. I try to cover it up and others try not to undress me with their eyes. I am not yet at the point where covering up all the time seems like the natural choice.

    I love swimming in the sea or a lake so I do wear a bathing suit sometimes and sometimes I sunbathe on my balcony but I have cut down on possibilities of seeing me wearing less than what I feel is proper. I would love to find a swinsuit I could feel comfortable in while yet be able to swin without being hindered. Most covering swim suits have skirts and things like that which complicates swimming or are too covering. I am fine with one that covers from the knees and up and is sleeve-less or with a short sleeve and which does not have ruffles or skirts and so on. That seems to be non-existent though. They are either meant for muslim women and covers everything or they cover about the area I require but have skirts or way too much decorations. Until I find one that I like I wear a regular bathing suit (one piece) and a dress when not in the water.

  7. Magdalena,

    Your comment re ‘little Jesuit’ – LOL!! You sound just like my pauline Literature teacher!! πŸ™‚

    Let’s see where God is leading me; he has blessed my studies thus far and given my husband a wonderful heart of support for me especially at semester’s end when the papers are backing up and nothing’s getting done around the house because I’m typing myself into RSI!!

    Re swimsuiits,

    Folk might like to take a look at a humble little Aussie invention; the Bourkini;

    http://www.ahiida.com/

    The tunic doesn’t ride, the cuffs at wrist and ankle don’t ride or baloon with air/water, the suit doesn’t impede movement and dries fast when back on dry land.

    Also look at

    http://www.hydrochic.com

    they have everything from kneelength with cap-sleeve to skirts (for beach wear or swimwear) and all the permutations of modest swim and exercise wear one can think of.

    http://seasecret.biz/

    A few modest clothing/headcovering sites also sell swimwear; Lillie’s apparrel sells it (it is similar to an historic ‘neck to knee’ but in modern fabric and prints; can be as plain or colourful as you like; they can also add length to sleeves and bikepants if you wish.

    if all of this fails, a modest one-piece beneath a pair of long boardshorts (quick-drying for swimming) and a long-sleeve rash vest with one of those ‘baseball’caps’ that have a ‘foreign legion’ veil to cover the back of the neck would do; ripcurl used to make these caps; I used to have one but lost it camping years and years ago…)…

    if you go for the latter option, simply wear a sarong over the ensemble when heading to the beach, dropping it before heading into the water.

    You’ll find something; now, all I’ve got to do is lose a few pounds then I’ll join you in the water; as it is, I’d have either Green Peace, the japanese Southern ocean fleet, or both to worry about πŸ˜€ if I headed anywhere near the sand and sea πŸ™‚

    Thank heavens it is winter now!!

    Blessings,

    Sarah.

    .

    • The swimsuits look cute. Hydrochic would be my choice, because it could double as gym wear. In my running days I looked like an Olympian, but now the lower half has a distinctive Jennifer Lopez shape! If you were ever ahtletic, once you get started again your body bounces back quickly. Exercise is more important than a calorie restricted diet. And that’s my downfall right now – not enough exercise! We live on the beach, too – just a block away, but honestly, I am not going to swim in Lake Erie.

  8. Lake Erie eh? Ugh! I remember terrifying documentaries on the television about the great lakes in the 70’s and 80’s re polution…I wouldn’t even dip my little toe into any of the Great Lakes!! Its a tragedy, and I sincerely hope they’ve cleaned up their act ( Industry, Govt and supposed EPA type agencies)… Like you, exercise is my downfall; when on training with Aaron, the weight fell off; back at uni, especially in the latter half of semester, not walking as much as necessary it piled back on; I have my mother’s metabolism and shape; short, round very efficient at storing energy reserves…

    I’ll probably buy from Hydrochic this coming summer; we holiday down near my brother’s, in Sussex Inlet (South NSW Coast) and I’d like to check out the water this time…

    Blessings,

    Sarah.

  9. I was convicted to cover before my 13th birthday, but wearing it in public, being a dancer, and some people CONSTANTLY asking why I wear it was getting to be a little much. So right now I’m only covering during church/prayer time/youth group. Maybe if I drop out of dance next year, I might reconsider covering full-time but as for now it will only be in church/prayer/youth group.

    ( Also, I’m the only one in my family who covers. And honestly only my immediate family, the people in the house, know I cover. One of my aunts has seen it once but I think that’s it. Please pray for me. )

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