Why Church Ladies Need to Stop Scaring the Men-Folk

Turns out, going to church can be an awfully scary place for a man.

So says an article on the Charisma Magazine site called “How Women Can Make Church a Safe Place for Men.”

This idea was only a little puzzling to me, that women were making men feel inherently unsafe in church. I say only a little, because I know the man I’ve been married to since 1997 feels a bit unsafe at our church, at least during the meet and greet time we generally have at the beginning of every service.

Indeed, he’s so frightened by the idea of having to shake hands with people he might not know that we’ve been consistently late for church about seventeen years now, and our tardiness has become a running joke between us—and probably with most everyone else who sees us arrive five minutes late every. single. week.

(I must admit that the joke about sliding in after handshakes are over is really wearing thin, because I’m sure people are blaming me, my well-styled hair, and my finely made-up face for our inability to get to church on time.)

So I get it: my husband, at least, doesn’t feel entirely safe during the minute of socializing that opens the service, nor for the much more protracted small talk that generally comes after the service is over. I get it, and try to make church safe for him by keeping my after-church conversations to a minimum.

Yet Charisma Magazine says I (as a member of the female race) actually have a much bigger role in making men safe at church. Apparently, I need to be careful about what I wear, else I will make very godly men lust after me, paying more attention to me than to whatever worship song’s being projected on the big screen.

The article starts with a heartwarming story about the writer, coming home from a business trip, to confront comfort a husband who had recently been at church. During the hand-shaking time, the husband had shaken hands with a visiting woman who, according to the writer, had “the perfect—well, let’s just say she qualified to be a fitting model for Victoria’s Secret. You figure out what was perfect!” (I dunno: teeth? Ear lobes? Why are we beating around the bush here?)

Apparently the writer’s husband, whom she calls Bob, was not the only one noticing the perfect you-know-whats, and though none of the men could remember the visiting woman’s face, they could remember exactly what she was wearing, and how what she was wearing made them feel all tingly unsafe.

Any guess where this article is going? Exactly the same place a million and one other articles venture when talking about women and modest dress: that it’s the woman’s responsibility to keep her brother from stumbling. That a woman is called to be modest in all things. That a man is wired differently than a woman, and is always going to be turned on because they are “especially weakened” by women’s beauty. And that a woman’s best, most secret treasure, her body, is something she must cherish and save for One Man, with whom she will have hot and passionate sex, but only on her wedding night, and maybe—if she’s held her secret treasure tightly closed—on every other night thereafter.

As I read the article, though, several other thoughts came to mind, namely:

  1. Would I ever want to visit a church where the membership talks later about my clothing choices and my boobs, even if I was wearing skin-tight leather outfit? Would I want to attend a church where nobody remembered my face or my name, but everyone chattered about what I had on?
  1. These articles on modesty are as problematic and sexist for men as they are for women. Can we really say that all men have a “special weakness for women’s beauty,” and that because they are so easily stimulated by visual images, they will be sexually aroused by an attractive woman visiting their church? Are all men really that weak, so that women are “hanging a noose around the neck of his spiritual life” when they show up to church sporting a little cleavage?
  1. Sigh. Once again, women are charged to be responsible for the spiritual well-being of those around them, and their every choice must be interrogated, else they cause others to stumble. This impulse to charge women with such responsibility is especially maddening, given how little agency many women have in terms of spiritual leadership in the church and home. After all, if women are so urgently needed to keep men safe from stumbling spiritually, why aren’t they allowed to play a more active role as leaders in their churches and homes?

If you read down into the comments, you realize of course who is really to blame for the lack of safety men feel in the church. It’s feminists, of course. (And Satan, too. And liberals. But they’re all one in the same, no?)  We’re all making church too scary for men, and need to stop all that sinning, so that men can enter church with their heads held high, not worrying that their eyes might stray downward.

Instead of blaming them feminists once again, though, we might want to call this ideology what it really is: modesty culture run amuck. It’s articles like this one, and the misguided advice it shills, that cause me to despair of evangelical Christianity. Or, you know, at least wear my yoga pants to church.