Christian entertainers can’t sell sex, but it’s what some of their audience wants to buy, putting a unique pressure on artists to be modest.
“Everything that you wear sends a message,” V. Rose told Wade-O Radio’s David Daniels.
And every message not only has a sender, but a receiver. While those like V. Rose believe that artists are accountable for how fans receive this message—whether or not it causes someone to stumble—others place responsibility solely on the hearts of both sides.
“If a person has an issue with something, that person has to deal with their issue,” said Rawsrvnt. “It would be hard for you to walk planet Earth without that issue causing you a problem if you don’t deal with it.”
Mary Mary gospel singer Erica Campbell sparked debate after releasing the promotional picture to the right. Critics deemed her dress too tight and white for someone with her body type.
Clutch Magazine reported that those critics included at least one pastor, Apostle Stacey Woods of Impact Outreach Ministries, Inc. She posted the following comment on Campbell’s Facebook photo.
THIS IS NOT OKAY. Yes, you are a beautiful, curvy woman…but NO MA’AM YOU ARE SINGING THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST. Saints…smh COME ON.
Male Christian artists aren’t immune to accusations of immodesty either.
Lecrae occasionally posts pictures on social media of himself working out. In those occasions that he’s wearing a tank top, the critics come out.
Criticism of the image to the right ranged from telling him to “COVER UP” so he isn’t a “stumbling block for [his] sistas” because his exposed arms are for “[his] wife ONLY,” and he “can be held accountable for that one day.”
The go-to Bible passage for the most conservative Christians on modesty is Luke 17:1-2 (ESV).
And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.”
Christians hold varying interpretations on where to draw the modesty line, as well as if a fine line even exists. Pressure on Christian artists to walk this debated line is amplified. A greater platform comes with greater responsibility, and groupies.
Strangers have proposed to V. Rose after shows at least 10 times. One man handed her a flower before telling her, “Keep it with you all the time … Don’t ever lose it.”
“I’ve supposedly been so many women’s husband in my career,” he told Wade-O Radio. “[Women] have countless times even said, ‘God told me I’m going to marry you. You’re going to be the father of my kids.’ Single women with kids have [said], ‘You’re the perfect daddy. Why don’t you come over?’ Married women have [said], ‘God doesn’t want me to be lonely. My husband’s out of town right now.’”
Are these situations preventable, and how much are they influenced by modesty? Rawsrvnt doesn’t believe wearing a bed sheet would prevent them. V. Rose doesn’t rock a bed sheet to concerts, but she’s extremely calculated on how she dresses.
Criticism over the dress that she wore in the music video for Flame’s song “Surrender” increased her cautiousness.
The dress exposed no cleavage, not even leg. Some still accused V. Rose of immodesty.
“It was discouraging to see that’s all people took away from the video,” she said.
V. Rose and Clear Sight Music saw nothing wrong with the dress, which for Mahogany Jones is enough justification. Jones, who released her latest album Pure earlier this winter, claimed women know their body and the reactions certain clothes will draw so well that their intent alone is sufficient to judge modesty.
“It’s really what it’s in your heart,” she told DJ Wade-O. Your shape dictates what you can and cannot wear. If I was shaped like Erica Campbell, would I wear that dress? Eh. I don’t know.”
Essence reported that, even in hindsight, Campbell and her inner circle saw nothing wrong with the dress. She found the controversy so silly that she responded by posting on Instagram the image to the right.
Campbell defended herself by stating that the dress made her feel beautiful. Martymar of Social Club stressed the importance of being yourself as well, but clarified the difference in dressing for yourself. He asserted that Christians being themselves will dress out of love for those around them.
“The way you appear is not for you,” said Martymar. “It’s out of respect for whoever’s there.”
V. Rose also believes that artists must consider their audience.
“I may say, ‘Well, I’m not trying to send a certain type of message. I just like dressing like this,'” but, despite innocent intent, one remains capable of causing another to lust, she said.
Each artist Wade-O Radio interviewed believed the heart dictated modesty, but what exactly this meant—and how much responsibility one had for another’s heart—differed. Perhaps no Christian hip-hop artist has mulled this issue over as much as Rawsrvnt, though. His participation in the reality television show The Ultimate Merger in 2010 forced him to.
The conclusion that Rawsrvnt came to: lust is only avoided when everyone focuses on keeping their own heart pure—the artist’s role shouldn’t be emphasized.
“If a person is trying to lose weight and, right after church, we go to a buffet, that didn’t help,” he said. “Do you have the discipline to reserve yourself and not go crazy at the buffet, or is it my job to go, ‘You’re trying to lose weight. Maybe we should go to Salad Sensation?'”