The title of this blog comes from Lil’ Wayne’s song “A Milli” from his album Tha Carter III. That album was nominated for the Album of the Year Grammy and won the Grammy Best Rap Album, along with the BET Hip Hop Award for CD of the Year in 2008. I vividly remember the first time I ever heard the song—it was a hot summer afternoon in Colorado when a guy was blasting it from his radio while I sat on my best friend’s parents’ porch. I was struck by that line in particular and thought to myself then, as I have many times since, “Is that true?”
Of course it isn’t true; that’s not what the Bible teaches at all. But somewhere along the way Lil’ Wayne picked up that idea and shouted it to all who listen to his music, thus giving Christians an opportunity to correct a misconception that the wider culture has about the biblical view of women. But before we get there, let’s be honest with ourselves: I think all of us can remember at least one time we’ve heard this sort of anti-women teaching in a Christian context.
I, for one, grew up in the heyday of purity culture, during which I was warned many times about the wiles of women who would lead me astray, and the young women in my youth group were told again and again to dress modestly to avoid causing a brother to stumble. Men, you see, are simply incapable of not lusting after a woman. Therefore, the responsibility—and the blame—falls on the woman who would not dress modestly. (Of course, the Bible has plenty to say about how we present our physical bodies; see 1 Pet 3:3–4). Purity culture seems to have fallen out of favor, but I still hear sermons and have conversations along these same lines.
Think, for example, of a lot of the talk about men’s struggle with pornography. Many of the strategies for avoiding pornography include things like installing anti-porn software, tossing out one’s mobile devices, and avoiding situations that are particularly tempting, such as time alone. These are all fine and good, of course, but it’s as if men wouldn’t lust if only they didn’t have access to images of naked women (that is, if all women dressed modestly). But I don’t think that’s the real problem, the real reason why people look at pornography. The problem, I think, is that they view the people in the videos and images as objects for one’s pleasure, not as people made in God’s image.
The theological problem with purity culture and how we talk about the plague of pornography—and why I think it contributes to Lil’ Wayne’s lyric—is that it sexualizes women (and men, though I think to a lesser extent). It promotes the idea that if women would only cover their bodies, then men would not lust after them. Easy-peasy. And that’s where we’ve gone wrong—the Christian response to pornography and premarital sex has been to sexualize and objectify. Rather than addressing the underlying issue, namely that women are human beings made in God’s image and created for relationship with him, we’ve bought into the same worldview of the larger culture, which is that women—and all people, really—are objects for our consumption. Rather than attempt to stem the tide of sexual immorality by imposing rules like “wear this, not that,” let’s instead articulate a clear, biblical view of women. That is the countercultural truth Christians have to offer.