Please consider this an invitation.

This is your invitation into a conversation that may be unfamiliar to you. I encourage you to leave any preconceived notions right here.

In many conservative Christian circles, from the time that pre-teens first enter youth group, they hear words like “purity” and “modesty.” With these words often come a list of “dos and don’ts” to help young people honor God with their bodies. Unfortunately, what often comes as a result of these teachings is a word that is not spoken particularly often — shame.

These lessons of purity and modesty from well-intentioned youth leaders come with their own set of implicit ideas. Girls are taught that their bodies have the power to cause someone else to sin, and boys are taught that they are little more than animals, controlled solely by their desires. Womens bodies become the subject of conversation in order to protect the men. It turns women into objects and men into something less than human. The result is shame.

Although this is not the only effect of modesty culture and the purity movement, it is far too common in conservative Christian circles. From people that have grown up in the thick of it, to people who have merely rubbed shoulders with it — each person has their own story about how they understand and engage with their physical body.

I invite you to step into these stories, which could be radically different than your own — or perhaps surprisingly similar.

How do we think about our physical bodies, as people who know that humans are created in the image of God?

How can we allow the Incarnation to affect our understanding of our bodies — that Christ would take on flesh and dignify our fallen humanity?

Finally, how do we engage in a culture that has taught men and women to see humans as nothing more than objects?