Modesty and the Church

In this episode, Kymberli Cook, Christina Crenshaw and Jonathan Pokluda discuss the benefits and issues surrounding purity culture, while reflecting on the biblical values that undergird the movement.

About The Table Podcast

The Table is a weekly podcast on topics related to God, Christianity, and cultural engagement brought to you by the Hendricks Center at Dallas Theological Seminary. The show features interviews with guests who are experts on the chosen topic, and each episode is hosted by a member of The Hendricks Center’s team.

Timecodes
1:14
Approaches to Purity Culture
6:15
Biblical Foundation for Modesty
13:39
Practical Applications of Modesty
24:00
Who Does Modesty Impact?
31:08
Societal Push Away from Modesty
40:17
Issues and Hurts Surrounding Modesty
Resources

Birds and Bees Website – Mary Flo Ridley 

Embodied book – Preston Sprinkle 

Gay Girl, Good God book – Jackie Hill Perry 

Outdated book – Jonathan “JP” Pokluda 

Transcript

Voiceover: 

Welcome to the Table podcast where we discuss issues of God and culture. Brought to you Dallas Theological Seminary. 

Kymberli Cook: 

Welcome to the Table podcast where we discuss issues of God and culture. My name is Kymberli Cook and I'm the assistant director here at the Hendricks Center. Today we are going to be talking about modesty and the church. We hope to be engaging the general conversation around purity culture and hopefully moving a little bit even past that conversation. To help us get there, we are joined by Jonathan Pokluda, the lead pastor of Harris Creek Baptist Church, and our resident scholar, speaker, and Hendricks Center research associate, Christina Crenshaw. Thank you guys so much for joining us. 

Jonathan Pokluda: 

Yeah. Thanks for having us. 

Christina Crenshaw: 

Thank you. 

Kymberli Cook: 

Absolutely. All right. First, before we launch into the meat of our conversation, I just want to give everybody who's listening and watching an opportunity to hear. How did you first begin reflecting on this area? How did you encounter the concepts of modesty culture, purity culture, chastity, all of that? How did you get to the point where you were thinking through it and having thoughts to the level that you would be, I guess, on a podcast? Jonathan, who's also known as JP, So, if I call him JP, that is still the same person. Jonathan, why don't we start with you and then we'll hear from Christina. 

Jonathan Pokluda: 

Yeah, thanks for asking. for 12 years I led a young adult ministry called The Porch, and in doing that we would do retreats and going into those retreats we would, there's water slides and swimming pools and lake parties and all the things. Just trying to think through, "Oh, okay, what instruction should we give the participants to just help them be wise, help protect them from others, all of the things. Really, I would say, over the past 12 years there's been this shift where things that were largely acceptable, emails that you'd send that no one would ever question, now are like, "Wait a minute, that's body shaming. That's out of bounds. Hey, that stirs up, that feeds purity culture and creates shame for people and retraumatizes and triggers," and all of those things. You have to be extremely thoughtful on the topic, in the way that you approach the topic, and I'm sure we're going to discuss it. But there's ways that the church has missed it. 

Jonathan Pokluda: 

I think, for some of your listeners, I think we're at a risk when we just throw out everything and say, "Oh, he or she has used some of those terms, so they must be in that camp and I'm not going to listen any longer." I think you have to approach these things with an open mind and ready to learn. That's how I want to approach them. 

Kymberli Cook: 

Awesome. Christina, how did you start thinking through these things? 

Christina Crenshaw: 

I think when I was first intentional about considering what is purity culture and what does it mean to engage dating and relationships with a semblance of intentionality, a purity. That was probably my senior year of high school when the book I Kissed Dating Goodbye came out. I don't know if I would say that that was the height or the beginning, but it definitely falls under the umbrella of purity culture. I remember reading the book and actually thinking, "This is helpful." The thesis of the book, anyway, which is, "Let's not be casual or cavalier about how we treat fellow brothers and sisters. Let's be intentional with the way that we date and pursue people." 

Christina Crenshaw: 

I remember thinking that's actually really helpful conversation that I don't really remember people having beforehand. I think similar to you, JP, there were times, primarily in high school, where things were said in youth group that I thought, "Oh, well that feels a little misogynistic, or that's directed towards women and it negates and disqualifies the men from the conversation." But holistically, I remember encountering purity culture and thinking, "Oh, this is actually really freeing to have some guidelines." That was my first encounter with what I would consider purity culture, was senior year of high school reading I Kissed Dating Goodbye. 

Kymberli Cook: 

I'm so glad that you bring that up that's what we're talking about even when we were using the term purity culture. Something I read said that I Kissed Dating Goodbye was one of the main textbooks of that culture. I thought that was an interesting way to put it. I think it is worth recognizing, and you just did, but I'm going to reiterate a little bit. But there is an element that we need to be very deeply thankful for the heart behind those in the church during that era who were trying to address societal issues of various kinds. They were doing it the best they could, and they were trying to do it in a way that was accessible, especially to teenagers. They were really trying. There were some good things that came out of it, especially if you look at some of the statistics that changed after that era in the church, it's pretty startling what they really did accomplish societally. That is not to say that there weren't some negative ramifications that I'm sure we'll touch on in a second, but we do want to be super thankful for what they did. 

Kymberli Cook: 

We also want to be really honest with ourselves, even if it doesn't fit with society, what society seems to say. We want to be really honest with ourselves and reflective about what scripture says about just instruction and warning on sexual sins and chastity and just everything in that arena, biblical vision for sexuality, all of that. We want to be honest to what we see there. My first question for you all is let's dig to scripture and what scripture has to say and some general definition of terms and how we should be thinking about all these different terms. What do you guys see as the biblical roots for these concepts of modesty, chastity, biblical vision for sexuality? What do you see in scripture that we need to look at and say, "Okay, we've really got to hold to these things, and we can figure out what that looks like in our current context. But these are non-negotiable instruction." 

Christina Crenshaw: 

I'm going to let the theologian go first. 

Kymberli Cook: 

Lead pastor. 

Jonathan Pokluda: 

First Corinthians 6:18-20. "Flee sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body. Whoever sins sexually sins against their own body. Do you not know that your body's the temple of the Holy Spirit who's in you, whom you've received from God. You are not your own. You've been bought by Christ. Therefore honor God with your body." This is out the gate, "Hey, Paul's letter to the church in Corinth. This is how we need to think of sexual morality." Then the debate comes, "Hey, what is sexual morality? The word porneia, Really, it's anything other than the kind of intimacy that God allows. Which we believe is, or I believe, I'll speak for myself, in the context of marriage between a husband and a wife. 

Jonathan Pokluda: 

From there, you have First Timothy 2, you have First Peter 3. These are your classic modesty scriptures that people will go to, that both essentially say something very similar. That is, "Hey, don't let your beauty come from the outside." If somebody's going to attack the scriptures, these are most likely one of the three verses on the topic at hand that they're going to throw stones at. We just have to dig in and say, "Okay, what did these say? Who was it being said to? What does it mean? What did it mean for them? And what does it mean forever? What does it mean for everyone?" Others are, "Keep the marriage bed pure, undefiled." Hebrews. Proverb 31:30, "Charm is deceitful, beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." I mean, these are some of the scriptures that are going to come up pretty quick in the topic. 

Christina Crenshaw: 

Yeah, I think because I knew that you would be able to cite more scriptures than I could. But I think, too, what I think about your body being a holy temple, the Lord says that your body is a temple, so it's really a question of what we do, our thoughts, our actions, the way that we are posture, our body posture, is it honoring to the Lord? And I do think that there are some different, maybe more nuanced conversations to be have within the context of marriage versus singleness. But what is shared between marriage and singleness is really the question, "Is this honoring to God? Is this honoring with my body? Is this honoring with the way that I'm representing the Lord?" When we talk about modesty, yes, it encompasses purity culture. Certainly it's concentric with a lot of other areas, but really modesty is your heart posture much of what we see in culture is indicative of what is happening on the inside, so it's a heart question of what's going on with your heart that would then lead you to engage others the world this way. Go ahead. 

Jonathan Pokluda: 

No, I think you crushed that. You brought two things to mind. I think my favorite scripture on modesty, and it really reframes the conversation, is Philippians 2, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. But in humility, consider others more important than yourselves." We follow a savior who gave everything, Mark 10, "For he did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many." At the center of our faith as a savior who put everyone else's interests above his own, and that's really what we're seeking to do. We do that with our words, we do that with what we wear, we do that with how we act. I mean, this is just an aspect of it people are going to say, "Well, that's old fashioned. What about God?" 

Jonathan Pokluda: 

It raises up a lot of questions that I think we can give answers to, but we have to start with that framework. "Am I putting myself first or am I putting others first?" Jesus says, "Out of the mouth the heart speaks." I would also say what we put on and what we take off and what we show off is also displays our heart, what's happening within our heart. He just is essentially saying what happens on the outside shows what's happening on the inside. Do we dress in such a way and act in such a way that we're trying to take the attention off of ourselves and consider others more important than ourselves? 

Christina Crenshaw: 

I think it's worth noting, I mean, this is a conversation as part as modesty in the church, that there are different cultural contexts. 

Jonathan Pokluda: 

Absolutely. 

Christina Crenshaw: 

Right. I've been on a number of overseas mission trips where shorts aren't allowed because apparently that's really a very American tradition to wear shorts. Or just it's a more modest culture in general, particularly if I'm in the Middle East, that sort of thing. I do think when in Rome honor the Roman traditions, to quote Paul, so to speak. We want to make sure that we're honoring the culture that we're in. But that doesn't really remove us, whether we're in the Middle East or we're in America, whatever culture we're in, or whatever time period we're in, it doesn't really change the heart question of why. Why are you doing this? 

Jonathan Pokluda: 

You keep using that word, which I think is the one and done. It's the end all, be all on this subject, is honor. Are we showing honor to God? Are we showing honor to others? And are we honoring ourself in what we do, say, act, and, in this case, wear. Because that argument's going to be used against this topic to say, "Oh, well if it's universal, if you go to Africa here, they'll dress in this way over here in Haiti." It's like, no, but what is honoring in that culture, and what's happening in our heart? And anytime we take that, wait, wait, wait, hold. No. We dig our heels in, we put up our fists, and we're ready to fight. Well, now we're operating in pride. What does it look like to take a deep breath and say, "Okay, Lord, what would you have me do? What would be honoring to you?" 

Kymberli Cook: 

That, again, and because we are talking about so many potentially different cultural contexts, and even contextual situations, that kind of thing. I feel like it is really difficult to say, "Okay, well, but here's what it means to be honoring." Especially when we're talking about we as a church or we as a youth group or a singles ministry. Is the answer just to say, "Hey, this is what we mean by that we're not going to necessarily say this is what scripture means." Is there something in scripture and church tradition that makes it clear, or at least a little clearer, what might be constituted as honoring? Because we've talked, and maybe this is even the point to really talk about, some of the really great things and some of the harmful things that purity culture did introduce, and how do we figure out what that really looks like in a helpful way? Does that make sense? 

Christina Crenshaw: 

Yeah, it does. I think what you might, I mean, I don't want to put words in your mouth, Kim, but I think what you might be hitting on or getting at is how do we discern legalism from the heart motivation? Because you're right, some of this can become legalistic very quickly and we can all think of different fundamental church situations or even other cultures outside of Christianity. You're like, "That just feels like sheer legalism," and it doesn't really get to the heart or it doesn't get to what scripture says. New Testament, Old Testament, there's quite a few guidelines. But New Testament, there's a lot of freedom in Christ. I mean, that is the biggest theme of the New Testament. There is freedom in Christ. A lot of things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial. I do think, particularly for people who are Christians and believe in this Christian narrative of redemption fall restoration redemption, that we look at what is our heart motive here for our actions. 

Christina Crenshaw: 

Because there isn't going to be a verse for, "Do I wear the one piece or the two piece to the swim party," sort of thing. And again, context. What I would wear with my family at a beach might be different than what I wear to a co-ed, co-mingling singles church party. But again, that doesn't change, well, what does scripture say about the overflow of your heart? Part of what purity culture may be missed was the heart motive. They focus, perhaps, I've heard the argument, too much on the rules and not enough on the why. 

Jonathan Pokluda: 

I think that's good. I'd give another word that I would put just under honoring in order of importance, and it's thoughtful. You said, Kim, "it's hard to know what's honoring to others." I think if we go into that thoughtfully, and if we just give consideration to how they may feel, that's where I see a lot of millennials and now Gen Z, just skipping that step of, "Well, I didn't even think about that." As followers of Jesus, we don't have the luxury to not think about that. It's just like, "Okay, what if a group of guys are playing volleyball in a co-ed environment and they all take their shirts off." They just need to be thoughtful. Like, "Hey, how does this make our women friends feel?" 

Jonathan Pokluda: 

Now there's people that are going to hear me say that and say, "Man, that is ridiculous. That is absolutely insanity." I say, "You can never be too thoughtful in considering someone else's feelings and emotions." I think that loving others is often just inconveniencing ourself for their good. I might be hot with my shirt on, but that's okay if that's helpful to other people. How can I live in consideration to other people? How can I be thoughtful? 

Kymberli Cook: 

I've done a lot of work with an organization called Relational Wisdom and so has our center. One of the fundamental principles that really challenged me, was the idea, more or less, of the application of the Gospel to each and every interaction that I have with another person. When I'm going through my day, even though I'm tired or I'm stressed, I need to be willing to die to myself and think of the, perhaps, custodial person that's right there with me, and take a moment and say, "Hello, and how are you?" And recognize them as a person, or think through my interactions that I would have with my coworker. Think through them, like you're saying, with regards to being thoughtful. I guess when you were talking, JP, it made me think of that same idea of I am willing, to a degree, to crawl up on the cross and die to what I would prefer or even being willing to take the effort to do it. That, in and of itself, is a way of applying the Gospel to your relationships. 

Kymberli Cook: 

We've talked a little bit about purity culture. Is there anything else you would like to say about that movement or where it even is nowadays? Are there still people who hold to that? What is the current state of that conversation? 

Jonathan Pokluda: 

I just think Christina nailed it, Dr. Crenshaw, on the idea, the reality that if we focus on the rules then we miss the heart. When we talk about purity culture, if we're saying, "Hey, don't do this. Here's the boundaries. Stay within the lines." I'm a dad of two daughters, and at an early age. My daughters are 13 and 15 and we talk. "Hey, sex is good. It's a gift from God. God invented it. It is the brilliant idea of the father, son, and Holy Spirit. One day my prayer for you is that you would get to enjoy it in the context of marriage. What you do outside of marriage is going to steal from that." Now, my story is that. I wasn't a believer when I was dating, and I wasn't following Jesus, so I have a sexual past. I have sexual addiction in my past, pornography addiction in my past, and I have stolen things from my marriage prior to ever even meeting my wife. 

Jonathan Pokluda: 

Now there is grace and there's healing that takes place, and I get to experience incredible freedom in Jesus. But CS Lewis says that, "When you climb over the fence to taste the fruit, it doesn't taste as sweet when you enter through the gate." I think that's just an amazing metaphor when we're talking about purity, that the person that we're speaking with has to understand that we're not trying to take something from them, we're trying to give something to them. Really, that's expression toward us. He's not trying to keep us from good, he's trying to give us great, or the better, if you will. 

Jonathan Pokluda: 

I think our culture has just made sex our god. We have put it on such a high platform that it is the ultimate entitlement and don't you dare try to take any kind of sexual pleasure away from me, because I am entitled any and all kinds of sexual pleasure. That's the way the culture feels. I'm speaking for our culture. And it's just not true. Sometimes we want the freedom to do something that we don't have the freedom to stop doing. That's my story with pornography. I wanted the freedom to look at pornography, but then I got stuck in that cage. I had the freedom to do whatever I wanted inside that cage. But I could not get out of that cage, so I couldn't experience the joys of life because I'm stuck in the cage of pornography. That's not freedom. 

Christina Crenshaw: 

I think this is tangentially related and worth noting, but so much of why we aren't permitted to speak into sexuality is because it's become identity. Actually, DTS, little shout out for you guys did an entire conference on healthy sexual identity that's available for people to go and look at. They had the CMDA Christian Medical Dental Association come and do this conference on healthy sexuality identity. But, I mean, arguably, at least in western culture more than ever before, our sexuality has become so much of our identity. So to speak into places of brokenness feels like an assault on someone's identity. That's hard about that. But I think the flip side to that, I would say, is the need for community and accountability. That sexual purity, or just even purity of heart outside of sexuality, isn't really something you can solely do alone. You really do need community. 

Christina Crenshaw: 

Actually, I want to give an example I think is kind of funny in it involves you, and it's not related to purity culture specifically. But we had JP and Monica over for dinner and then JP texted me afterwards and was like, "Hey, I just want to let you know, because I would want someone to tell me, that your son," you've met Christopher, my nine year old "taught my son an inappropriate, bad adult word." I was so thankful, JP. I felt loved by community. I felt known. I felt like I wasn't raising my children alone. That really was important to me. It mattered to me. 

Christina Crenshaw: 

I think within the context of modesty in the church, I really want community to speak into my life, and to say, "Hey, in love, here's a place you may want to work on with your own life or your kids or I would want someone to tell me." I think that that's just a great example of community refining each other and iron chirping iron. You really can't do purity or modesty alone. You need a community. You need a tribe of people following Jesus, loving Jesus, to run the race with you. 

Kymberli Cook: 

I do have another question. Is this just a conversation that impacts teenagers in the church, or even singles that we've brought up? Or are there broader ramifications for this conversation? Because I think that it really does impact more than just how we train up people who are either growing into the adult world or trying to navigate a world where there are sexual options for singles today, and whether or not they choose to take part or not as a believer is something that they're wrestling through. But I think that it has, JP talked about it a little bit with regard to stealing from your marriage ahead of time, but just give me y'all's thoughts as it relates to who is this conversation really for. 

Jonathan Pokluda: 

Everyone across the board. I mean, even as I have the privilege of shepherding a church, I mean, sexual sin amongst marriage couples is rampant right now. I don't know if it's COVID or just a new season I'm in and the conversations and the circles that I'm in right now. But I'm seeing a lot of that, and the root of it is, you said earlier, purity of mind. If you get the purity of mind thing right, everything else, as Christians, we use the mind and heart a little bit interchangeable, which can be confusing. But I think the scripture does too. 

Jonathan Pokluda: 

So, if we just begin to think purely that's going to be necessary to a second grader. That's going to be necessary to a 17-year-old. That's going to be necessary to a 22-year-old, a 47-year-old, and a 63-year-old. All across the board, I think we want to have our thoughts pure, and therefore our actions follow that. That will look different in a different season. But I think, in the way that we dress, now as a married person, I want the way that I dress to be honoring to my wife. I want it to be honoring to my children. I want it to be honoring to the congregation. I have to think about those things. 

Christina Crenshaw: 

Yeah, yeah, I mean, really, because you're not just an ambassador for yourself or your family, you're an ambassador for Christ. I think we both have extensive work with college students. I've taught college students at the undergrad level. You have shepherd college students single right out of college. I do think that research would support that there is more of a sexual, I guess, proclivity within that age group. Males and females are only fertile for so long. I think that there is certainly a biological and a research-based argument for that. But to JP's point, larger and broader than just sexuality and purity, when we talk about the renewing of our heart and the renewing of our mind and really understanding, again, to bring it back to community, it's really hard to hide sin when you are walking closely with the body of Christ. Or it is harder, I mean, not impossible. 

Christina Crenshaw: 

I think that, no, this is not a conversation in purity culture exclusively situated and centered on young people by any means. I've done extensive work, too, with the anti-trafficking and pornography. The concentric relationship between those two things is real. I mean, there's a correlation. That happens with all age groups. But I do wonder if we aren't discipling our young people as well anymore, because we're afraid of the conversation. There's been such a backlash to purity culture. But it's almost like we don't have the conversation really at all anymore. There's a discipleship crisis with purity culture and modesty and what that means and the reflection of our heart to the world. 

Jonathan Pokluda: 

I think it comes from, at the foundation of this is just, in Romans 8 he talks about the flesh and the spirit. It's just this spirit of "I want to do whatever I want. My body, my choice." At the center of these things, like, "Hey, I want to do, I want to wear, I want to act, I want to go, I want to say, I want to drink whatever I want. This is my body. I can dress it or decorate it however I want." The problem with that is the scripture. Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you've received? You are not your own. You've got that body on loan. It belongs to the creator of the heavens and the earth. 

Jonathan Pokluda: 

Another great purity verse, Romans 12:1-2. "Do not conform any longer to the patterns of this world. But be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Before that it says, "Therefore I urge you, in view of God's mercy, present your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God." This is your spiritual act of worship. 

Jonathan Pokluda: 

At the foundation of this, to combat that spirit of selfishness or self-centeredness or pride or "I can do whatever I want", is, "No, I belong to God, and at every turn I should do whatever he wants." As the male voice between the three of us, I am not in any way at any point in this podcast or discussion, speaking directly to women. This is a male and female issue. I want to make sure that that's clear. Because I think sometimes ladies can feel like, "Oh, when you talk about modesty, you're talking to women." No. Even if you go back to my volleyball analogy. No, it guys have to be thoughtful. Guys have to be honoring as do women. 

Christina Crenshaw: 

Yeah. Yeah. And again. 

Kymberli Cook: 

Sorry. Go ahead, Christina. 

Christina Crenshaw: 

Well, again, if this is transcendent to the heart, the body and the mind are connected to our outer appearance, then it isn't just a female issue. It really is a male, female, what is the condition of what's going on inside your heart? 

Kymberli Cook: 

I was actually off of that, I do want to talk a little bit about the role of women in this conversation. Because it has been so strongly, I guess the responsibility for this conversation has been so strongly put in the female camp at time. I want to get y'all's thoughts with regard to this conversation surrounding modesty and the church and how it interacts with feminism and the idea that in talking so much about modesty that you're still, especially with regard to women, that you're still essentially sexualizing their bodies even if you're trying not to because you're trying to have modesty take control. What are y'all's thoughts with that as far as, you talked about some of the backlash to the point that we're not a 100% sure how to address it with our kids these days. Let's talk a little bit about what that backlash really is, and some of the critiques that have come about even beyond just the evangelical church looking back at purity culture. But even the wider conversation around sexual abuse and sexual assault. Again, the feminist critique. 

Christina Crenshaw: 

I like how you're deferring to me on this one. 

Jonathan Pokluda: 

Mm-hm. Yeah, yeah. 

Christina Crenshaw: 

I want to start- 

Kymberli Cook: 

... Bible versus. 

Christina Crenshaw: 

Yeah, yeah. Give me feminism. Well, I want to start because I have a very harsh critique of there's been four waves of feminism. Some people are arguing that we're entering a fifth wave. Although it's hard to define it when you're in. It'll have to be retrospectively that they do. I want to say that there's so many aspects and facets of feminism for which I am thankful and I have benefited. The right to vote, the right to equal pay, a place at the table in the workplace. That there have been so many great things that women who have come before me have done in the name of promoting women. 

Christina Crenshaw: 

One of the things that has not been, I think, beneficial to women has been this sexual revolution. From that we see, for example, like Roe v. Wade. We see sexual pleasure on demand. Again, that conflating our sexual identity with our right to access to that. It grieves me that so much of what the church is shaped by is culture. We talk about culture within the church, but we can't have that conversation divorced from our cultural influences. The sexual revolution has definitely, which was largely driven by feminism, has had an influence on how we see our bodies inside the church. 

Christina Crenshaw: 

I don't know, again, going back to how not everybody is thoughtful and pauses to think about the apologetics for what they do and they believe, I don't know that people always recognize that they've been very culturally influenced by different theories within culture, and that's influencing their hermeneutics or their apologetics in a way that they're not necessarily recognizing as they enter conversations with people or engage with them. I think an answer to the question, there have been a lot of great things that feminism has done for women, but when it comes specifically to purity culture, I'm hard pressed to think of many off the top of my head that have really been advantageous for women. 

Jonathan Pokluda: 

The pendulum always just, we just over-correct, and just swings one direction and then it swings, and that's too far the other way. You have the '60s, you have the sexual revolution, you have the invention of birth control, you have the abortions made available. Really so much of that is used to allow us to go back to that spirit of self and to do whatever we want to do, and try to mitigate the consequences. But you can't get rid of the consequences of the heart. That's why he says, "Whoever sins like this sins against their own body." He takes that and he puts it in this special category. He's like, "You don't understand. You're hurting you. You're hurting you. This has an impact on you." I think then you have the purity culture and that pendulum swinging the other direction, and then it's just goes back and forth, goes back and forth. 

Jonathan Pokluda: 

I always just try to get this book and just read it almost like I'm on a deserted island. Because I'm like if there is a God and he created the heavens and the earth and he knows all things. He knows the end from the beginning. Then he's just going to be so much more. His foolishness is wiser than my wisdom. I look at it and I'm like, "All right. What does it say and how can we apply it to these topics?" It has a lot to say about these things. I don't think, in the end, a hundred years from now when we're face to face with Jesus, I don't think we'll ever regret doing everything he asked us to do, sometimes it's not going to make sense. 

Jonathan Pokluda: 

I try to talk to my daughters about that. I mean, very recently we had a discussion around a bathing suit. We were going to a church thing at the water park and I just said, "That's not the right bathing suit. I don't mind that you own that bathing suit. This is not the right place for that bathing suit." I remember processing things when I was in business development and in the corporate America. I want to wear the right thing for the right occasion. So much of modesty is doing that, is, again, back to that thoughtful where what does the occasion call for and how can I be thoughtful? 

Christina Crenshaw: 

And again, because I have sons, I have two boys, I'm thinking, "Well, how is this applicable in the context of sons?" On the one hand, to be very pragmatic about it, my boys really do like to wear the swim shirts. They feel like it's not modest if they're running around shirtless. But to make this a little bit, because that is so pragmatic, but more abstract, transferably, I think it, again, goes back to what is permissible within that context. Because I think they're less apt to feel that way if they were just with their family in our backyard, in the pool versus when they have other people around. There aren't black and white answers to a lot of what we're struggling with. So much of it is contextual. But again, I keep coming back to what is the condition of the heart? Because that is the one thing that feels very solid, like a touchstone we can keep coming back to and rely on. Because cultural will change. 

Christina Crenshaw: 

We were in San Diego this summer, at the Dell. I was looking at the pictures of the 1920s and the wet suits that women had to wear if they were ... So again, so much of this has changed and that felt excessive and unnecessary. But that was culture then, so I think we go back to, "Okay, in what ways as a Christian do I honor the Lord given the cultural context? I'm sure somebody could do some sort of a gymnastics approach to why it's okay to do whatever. But at the end of the day, they have to give an answer for their heart before the Lord. 

Jonathan Pokluda: 

That's right. Yeah. Because our critics are going to say, with knowledge of the Bible, in the beginning they were naked and unashamed. In Eden, prior to sin, yeah, they did not have clothes, but they did not have shame either. Then why do we have to wear clothes? You'll get into these philosophical debates and I go back to our words honoring. What is honoring and what is thoughtful? 

Kymberli Cook: 

I do have one question, and this is probably our last one. I think that we've thrown out so many helpful ideas with regard to a healthy approach to this. Particularly, you guys have just said over and over, which is great, but being thoughtful and being really concerned with honoring the Lord and honoring those people around you. Those are the core elements of what it means to have a modest posture. 

Kymberli Cook: 

I feel like there are some people who have basically taken this idea and more or less victimized other people because of it, because they had a different definition of, or it could be argued that they victimized. Let's say that. They had a different definition of what it meant to be thoughtful or honoring the other person. How would you all speak into that situation? Because we're getting a little bit back to earlier what we were talking about with the cultural context. But when it comes to interpersonal interactions and even within the church, we do have, at times, different opinions of what that looks like. How do we as believers wrestle through that together in this area, that it doesn't seem as gray of an area at times for at least one side. 

Christina Crenshaw: 

Okay. I think I'm going to answer it macro level, and then we can unpack that. But I think similar to a conversation related to this that we've heard about church hurt lately. I mean, I feel like this is a pretty relevant conversation, pretty recent. But one of the things that I keep coming back to when I hear people talk about their church hurt, because I don't want to invalidate that. But an important question to ask people is like, "Were you hurt by the whole, big C, church or even your local church? Or were you hurt by one person?" 

Christina Crenshaw: 

I think that similarly, with purity culture and modesty in the church, I find, I sit mostly with women and listen to their stories. But when I'm listening to them, I'm like, "One pastor might have said something that offended your spirit. Whether he was in line or not, it's irrelevant here. But you're holding all of purity culture or modesty in the church hostage, or choosing a victim mentality or imposing this victim mentality on other people, because of one comment or one person." That really isn't like the holistic heart behind the church or behind modesty in the church or behind purity culture. Again, I think it kind of goes back to whittling down, "Okay, were you hurt by a message, a sermon taken out of context or misunderstood versus the entire philosophical theological undergirding of this?" 

Jonathan Pokluda: 

That's a word. I hope people clip that and listen to it again. I run into that all the time. Maybe it was legit. I mean, maybe you had a bonehead pastor who said some really stupid things not representative of the heart of God. I can just go literal. A woman reached out and it was talking about purity culture and she said, "Help me understand what you mean." You had to define these terms. She just said, "I went through True Love Waits." I'm thinking, "I went through True Love Waits." She said, "I was told that I need to give sex to my husband anytime he wants, on demand. I need to be readily available. I can't work outside the home. I can't do this." I'm like, "Oh, oh, oh, man. Oh, I am so sorry. I'm so sorry that someone said," and it was a list of things. We could just go through. It's like, "Let me try to make that true. I don't know why he said that. This one, I think I know why he said it, but it's a misunderstanding." 

Jonathan Pokluda: 

Do I think I have the corner on truth? No. I'm just confident didn't, even more. We bring in help. Let's gain clarity on that. To your point, you can't write off the whole church because of a representative. Somebody might say, I used to work for AT&T, and someone might say, "I hate AT&T. I hate ..." You don't want to hate AT&T. You had a bad call. You had a poor customer service representative and that person didn't represent the organization well on that phone call." But you still need a phone and you've got to figure that out. 

Jonathan Pokluda: 

For us, as we walk around with hurt or trauma, a lot of times what's happening is somebody's hurt by a pastor and I'm a pastor. They project all of that hurt on me it's almost like I did it. But I'm like, "I didn't do it. I just met you and you don't know what I believe. Give me a chance to talk through these things with you slowly, and let's take time and space to have the conversation." I think that's needed for healing, but also on a macro level too. 

Christina Crenshaw: 

Yeah, that's good. I think, too, so much of what we're discussing, there's biblical threads that are redeemable within almost any conversation we can have. If it's feminism, I can find places where I'm like, "Jesus would partner with that, and that's actually really good." Or different critical theories that we can name. I'm like, "Actually, I really do see a lot of overlap between what scripture teaches and what this," which is why it's even partial truths. But our job as believers is to superimpose a biblical worldview on it and to partner with that which speaks truth and to reject what doesn't. 

Christina Crenshaw: 

I think, to your point, you encounter people who have just holistically accepted the whole narrative without discerning, "Okay. Wait. What here actually aligns with scripture and what is just purely culture and needs to be rejected? Hats off to you. It's very gracious that you go low and you're like, "I know you're projecting all this hurt onto me. Let me walk you through." Yeah. 

Jonathan Pokluda: 

Any dangerous truth. I mean, any dangerous lies going to be partial truth. Because we're able to spot bold faced lies and, "Oh. That's not real." But it's when it looks like truth, that's when it's really dangerous. 

Kymberli Cook: 

Well, real quick. What resources would you all point someone to if they're trying to sort through these issues, if they're trying to sort through these issues with/for their kids, for their ministry. What things out there, because there's a lot. There's a lot Of thoughts in this area and have been over time. What would you point to and say, "Man, these one or two books, or video series, or whatever have handled this really well and we would suggest this to someone." 

Jonathan Pokluda: 

Yeah. You're going to know better than I. I'm not the biggest reader ever. But Mary Flo Ridley, Birds and the Bees, I think. Is that ministry. I like what they put out. When you're trying to talk to children, it's good. Preston Sprinkle has created some resources for youth. That has been beneficial. We've actually used that here at Harris Creek in talking about gender and sexuality. Those two come to mind. 

Christina Crenshaw: 

Jackie Hill Perry, I think, if we're talking specifically about gender and sexuality. She's got a lot of great just books and different content out there. I don't know specifically on purity culture. I feel like everything has been rejected. When I think about different, I'm even hesitant to name resources. Because for every book I can name, there's five different criticism on them now. 

Christina Crenshaw: 

But I would say, I go back to anything that is apologetic space that teaches you to look at scripture. What does scripture say about this? I'm a big believer in people's ethos. I want to know the fruit of their life. Before I want to listen to your book or your podcast, I want to know, "Well, do you actually have a healthy marriage? Are you flourishing in this?" Before I want to hear what they have to say on something. I would just say, as a litmus, I don't know if that is a resource. But as a litmus, look through the lens of what is scripture actually saying about this before you just wholesale accept what somebody is teaching you. Because not all teaching is profitable out there. 

Jonathan Pokluda: 

Some would say Outdated, an amazing resource out there. 

Christina Crenshaw: 

It's his book. It's his book. Outdated is a good book. This is the part where we can plug his book. 

Jonathan Pokluda: 

I'm just kidding. 

Christina Crenshaw: 

Outdated is a good book. I ended up getting three in the mail. I ordered one, and then your team sent me two. 

Christina Crenshaw: 

I gave them to my college students. 

Jonathan Pokluda: 

We can't give them away. Okay. That's the reality. Somebody wants one, we send them three. 

Kymberli Cook: 

So if anybody wants one. 

Christina Crenshaw: 

I purchased one. But I would say, it's for singles, right? 

Jonathan Pokluda: 

Yes. 

Christina Crenshaw: 

It's for singles dating. Outdated. I have given that book to a number of college students, actually. Or at least three. 

Kymberli Cook: 

Well, I just want to thank you guys so much. Our time is up, but I really appreciate just being the opportunity to sit and chat with you all on this. It has been a lovely conversation. 

Jonathan Pokluda: 

Thanks for having us. 

Christina Crenshaw: 

Thank you, Kim. 

Jonathan Pokluda: 

Appreciate it. 

Kymberli Cook: 

Absolutely. We want to thank those of you who are listening and just ask you to be sure and join us next time when we discuss issues of God and culture. 

Voiceover: 

Thanks for listening to the Table podcast. Dallas Theological Seminary. Teach truth. Love well. 

Christina Crenshaw
Dr. Christina Crenshaw is a professor, researcher, writer, and human trafficking fighter. She teaches faith and writing, vocational leadership, and human trafficking courses as a Lecturer at Baylor University. She has also co-published and presented on human trafficking curriculum research in peer reviewed journals and at academic conferences. Dr. Crenshaw recently completed a Cultural Engagement and Leadership Fellow with Dallas Theological Seminary’s Hendricks Center. For the last five years, Dr. Crenshaw has worked with several anti-trafficking organizations such as The A21 Campaign, UnBound Now, The Texas Governor’s Human Trafficking Task Force, The Heart of Texas Human Trafficking Coalition, and Operation Mobilization’s Freedom Climb. Prior to moving to Waco, TX, she lived in Southern California and held an Assistant Professor position in English and Education at California Baptist University. Dr. Crenshaw dedicated the first four years of her career to teaching as a high school English teacher. Those early experiences birthed a soft spot in her heart for vulnerable youth.
Jonathan "JP" Pokluda
Kymberli Cook
Kymberli Cook is the Assistant Director of the Hendricks Center, overseeing the workflow of the department, online content creation, Center events, and serving as Giftedness Coach and Table Podcast Host. She is also a doctoral student in Theological Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, pursuing research connected to unique individuality, the image of God, and providence. When she is not reading for work or school, she enjoys coffee, cooking, and spending time outdoors with her husband and daughters.
Contributors
Christina Crenshaw
Jonathan "JP" Pokluda
Kymberli Cook
Details
October 4, 2022
church, modesty, purity, sexuality
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