Whose Responsibility? (Part 1-The Issue)

Man oh man did I start a tempest in a teapot on Friday.  I logged in to Facebook in the morning and saw a lot of women’s statuses were just a color.  Then I saw several (like 3 or 4) that said why this was happening: they were posting the color of the bra they were wearing.  A couple said that they were supporting breast cancer awareness, while a couple of other ones just said that it was a fun girl game.

After seeing about a couple dozen status updates it got old.  So I posted this status update at 10:13AM:

Hey ladies, do us all a favor and stop posting your bra colors. No, really, I mean it. I know it’s breast cancer awareness day, but many of your guy friends on fb strive to honor God with their thought lives, and you talking about your lingerie is not helpful…


That status was supposed to be quasi-funny and just a bit of a nudge, because the part at the bottom is true.  Men receive a good bit of their sexual gratification through their eyes.  Don’t believe me?  Then why is pornography such a huge problem in our society?  Why do strip clubs exist?  They exist only because men receive sexual gratification through their eyes. (and unfortunately in our depraved state seek ways to receive that gratification without any work on our part…)  And whether the ladies in our lives like it or not, when a woman tells a man what kind of undergarments she is wearing it is almost a guarantee that he will picture her wearing those undergarments. 

Even more, would you do this in real life?  Can you imagine a woman just walking up to her friends and announcing “I am wearing a black lace bra”?  Or even just “polka dot,” then when they look at her funny explaining the funny joke and then saying that she was wearing a polka dot bra?  Would you announce to your workplace what color undergarments you are wearing?  I would FREAK OUT if my wife did that to another man, or if my daughter did for that matter.  Inappropriate!  (link for the Conan fans out there) I know that Facebook is a social network and not the same as work, but there are still rules of decorum!

So this was a request to the Christian ladies out there who hadn’t thought about the other side of the coin.  I thought that I might get a response or two, but what happened really shocked me.  Before it became passé, I had 38 responses to that status.  More than one or two affirmed my sentiment, but I got more than a little pushback too.  I started quite a debate!  I had people tell me that I was insensitive and hurtful to all breast cancer survivors.  (note to all: I have a grandmother who is a survivor and an aunt who is currently battling breast cancer…so aloof I am not)  I was told how judgmental I was and how it was all an innocent game, a fun thing that perverts had, well, perverted.  I even got a message from someone I didn’t even know telling me how this whole thing is men’s fault, saying:

…if someone doesn’t like it or is offended by it they can very easily block the post from the “offensive people”, or can delete those temptresses all together so that their weak minds won’t wander. However, you may want to also suggest they stay out of department stores and off of beaches since the the first sells the tempting garments and the latter has such scantily clad women that said men may not be able to control themselves.

I had to chill out on this one for a couple of days because it got under my skin a little.  (and not just me…check out this story in the Chicago Tribune for a similar sentiment)   I talked it over with my home fellowship because I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t off my rocker. (well, more than usual anyway)  They all agreed that this is a big issue and worthy of discussion

The big question that comes out of this debate is this: whose responsibility is it for my holiness?  Whose responsibility is it for the walk with Christ of those around me?  Do I bear responsibility for myself or am I a product of my inputs?  Am I responsible for others and their reactions to what I do, or am I free to pursue my desires as long as it is not actively hurting others?  Where do my liberty and my responsibility intersect as a follower of Christ?  When I look at it from that angle this issue is not about undergarments but about how we live out our consciences as Christians in a community where others are more or less sensitive than we are to particular issues.  This, then, is a chance to examine how to live out our freedom in Christ without ruining others’ walk with Him.

There are a good number of instructions on this issue in the New Testament, particularly in the writing of the Apostle Paul.  This guy started life as Saul the Pharisee, educated at the feet of the highly respected Gamaliel (Acts 22:3) and zealous not to stumble in any way under the Law of Moses (Galatians 1:14).  Since God has a sense of humor, He made Mr. stickler-for-the-law into the one He sent to those who didn’t even care about the Law of Moses! (Galatians 1:16)  He had to try to bring together communities of Christians who were Gentiles (and therefore whose consciences were less sensitive) with those whose background was Jewish (and therefore whose consciences were likely to be more sensitive).  Sparks had to fly, and because they did we get a lot of instruction on how to be toward one another.

To begin, it helps to remember that Christian consciences can differ in non-essential areas.  Paul says in Romans 14:14, “I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.”  In matters of conscience, how we view the issue matters spiritually.  A few verses previously in Romans 14:2 Paul uses food as a barometer of our conscience’s sensitivity when he says, “One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only.”  (Note: while American usage equates “weak” with “bad,” this isn’t the issue here.  Sensitive or not sensitive is the issue)  Some of us have sensitive consciences and some not so much.

What about you?  When you look at your walk with Christ do you find yourself on the “more sensitive” side or the “less sensitive” side?  If you’re like me you probably have some of each.  For me, stuff like language and violence don’t bother me a bit.  In fact, I rather enjoy some violence (like MMA).  I have found, though, that in order to walk with Christ I must be very careful with sexual imagery and situations.  For instance, I can watch war movies all day long…action is great.  One nude scene, though, and I am wrecked for a week in my thought life.  So I am strong in some areas, weak in others.  I think that God made us that way on purpose, knowing that in community we would have friends stronger and weaker than us in various areas.

Simply recognizing that is a victory, because it says that in my community of Christians there are others dealing with the same weaknesses I am, and others weak in places where I am strong.  That realization alone is a victory, because it shows that what I have is a bad case of the normals.  However, if we are not thoughtful we can either become so laissez faire that we don’t help one another live holy lives, or so dictatorial that we do not allow others the liberty that God does.

Next we will look at what my responsibility is in dealing with temptations brought about by others.

10 thoughts on “Whose Responsibility? (Part 1-The Issue)

  1. Hey John, Thanks for the clarification. I read your original Fb post and my first thought was “oh grow up!” However, I do see where you're coming from. If the post were on the other foot, so to speak, I wondered if it would bother me to read “boxers” “briefs” “boxer-briefs” or (gasp!) “thong” on Fb if the game were about prostate cancer. I decided it probably wouldn't – in fact, it would get a giggle out of me – but again, I wouldn't expect that conversation to take place in the office either. And if it did, THAT would bother me.

    Personally, I chose not to participate in this particular posting game, not because I was concerned about anyone visualizing me or from a lack of concern over cancer awareness, but because I didn't really see the point. It didn't accomplish anything, as far as I could tell, besides getting some folks all hot and bothered. So thanks again for clarifying your position and God bless you.

    Casting my net with yours,
    Suz

  2. Thought you might want to post the last paragraph of the message I sent you. The one I wrote after I calmed down a little. The one explaining why these posts were important to some people.

    “I will leave you with this thought. I have a friend who doesn't post her bra color… she doesn't wear one… she had a double mastectomy at age 34. To her, every time she sees a color posted it represents a person who is supporting a fight against a disease that almost took her life. Think about it.”

    Imagine all the people who have fought this battle and won, all the people who have lost someone to the disease, and all the people currently fighting for their lives. Think about how seeing these posts could show support in a way that would bring a smile to their faces.

    I also found the following statement:
    Andrea Rader, a spokeswoman for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation, said the group was not behind the campaign but called it “a terrific tool for raising awareness.”

    Here's to hoping that all this controversy over the topic has actually reminded people why these posts started in the first place.

    Carrie

  3. Wow, Carrie, I am impressed that you've found me on ABF! I was going to send you a followup message on FB, because the last part of your email (or the gist of it at least) is part of the next post. There are more issues here than a single post can do justice to, so it's multi-part. I'd love more interaction with you over this on forthcoming posts.

    My Best,
    John

  4. Anytime John, anytime…

    Isn't it wonderful that we are blessed to live in a country where we have the freedom and opportunity to voice our opinions in a public forum.

    Carrie

  5. John, I totally agree with you. Holiness is the responsibility of each of us. We are called not to be a stumbling block to others. As to the visual thing for guys, that is so true. Long before I was a Christian, I worked at Bookstar. Among all kinds of books and magazines, we sold Playboy and Playgirl. After awhile I noticed that I NEVER sold a Playgirl to a woman. Gay men bought them but never women. Men (of all types) are visually stimulated. Women on the other hand bought romance novels by the armload. I used to joke that it was female porn.

  6. I totally agree with you on this. When I got the email, my first thought was this was done by teenage boys, because no breast cancer fighter or survivor was going to benefit from me posting it. I was surprised at how many of my friends did it, not even thinking about the men in our lives. I don't want my husband picturing my girlsfriends in their bras and I wouldn't want my friends husbands doing the same. It was as simple as that. I'm very surprised that didn't enter the minds of most of those ladies.

  7. I guess in some way, it raised awareness about breast cancer because now here we all are debating about it for. ever. I think there are three issues at hand here: 1. How does it raise awareness about breast cancer? Do we know better today than we did last week how you get it, how it's treated, what they are doing to look for the cure, how we can help those who have it? I can understand that for some this fight is personal, but how exactly did the status update help anyone else not get breast cancer or provide help to those who already have it? 2. When we know that a brother or sister in Christ has a weaker conscience, Paul says we are to give up our freedom so as not to cause the weaker brother to stumble. It is not an easy part of being a Body, and it goes against our deeply-ingrained notion of personal rights. But it is something we are commanded to do. and 3. The problem with Facebook debates is that they can get so hot so quickly because we are not face to face, or even voice to voice with each other to be able to read inflection, concern, sympathy, anger, etc. I think we all need to take a step back and breathe a little bit. If something like this were happening in something other than an internet forum, and a brother confronted one of us girls for doing something that could cause him to stumble, I think the chances are good that we wouldn't instantly go crazy and start making accusations about him being a horrible person and needing to learn how to control his thoughts and that it's his responsibility to keep his mind pure. We would remember that we have our own responsibility to live lives that are above reproach and be kind to those with a weaker conscience.

    All that being said, I just don't entirely see the point. Were people upset over being called out, or were they upset that their friends with breast cancer's feelings had been hurt, or were they just upset because they needed a good cause to go after? And on the other side, once the point had been made, I don't think it needed to be rubbed in over and over. Affirmation became taking sides, and that's especially dangerous when there isn't a face in front of you. I think everyone needs to hug and make up now that the fight is over. Put a face in front of you, and say, “I'm sorry I overreacted. Please forgive me.” Feelings will be mended, and we can continue encouraging one another as we walk with Christ. It's not worth what we might have lost for what we didn't even gain.

  8. I found you through The Sweet Spot and I was offended, as a woman with Breast Cancer in our family that were posting their bra color with no action behind it.

    This is what I posted in my status that day ” As much as I like to know your 'color'. I'd like it more if you took $5 and donated it to the American Cancer Society or Susan G. Komen. Awareness is one thing, putting your money where your color is shows true support.” With a link to donate. I donated $5 to the cause, too.

    I agree with your point too, telling our bra color is not helping our brother's in Christ. I doubt it was thought of that way when posting, however, we have to live intentional. And, 38 reactions is harsh. I wonder if you said that face to face, if it would be reacted to with such venom? We tend to tell a computer things, and type things that other's would NEVER say face to face. Not community building at all.

    Thank you for these thoughts.

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