Category: Morality Written by Nick Pitts
Anyone wearing the burkini will be asked either to change into something else or to leave the beach. The penalty for not doing either is equivalent to around forty-three dollars. According to the law, “Beachwear which ostentatiously displays religious affiliation . . . is liable to create risks of disrupting public order.” It goes on to read: “Access to beaches and for swimming is banned to any person wearing improper clothes that are not respectful of good morals and secularism.”
It is fascinating how the law disassociates good morals from religious obedience. A common assumption is that religion produces good morals, not bad behavior. But according to insinuations within this law, religion is an incubator for disruption and chaos.
This law comes on the heels of a new report from the US State Department that has found widespread religious freedom violations throughout the world. Nearly seventy-four percent of the entire global population live in countries that have “serious restrictions on religious freedom,” according to David Saperstein, the US ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom.
Although beach attire may not qualify as a serious restriction, it is a restriction nonetheless. Other mayors are joining in. More than thirty other French towns have since banned the burkinis according to CNN, despite a ruling by France's highest administrative court that mayors lack the right to outlaw burkinis. This is all happening as a presidential election approaches next year and the tragedies from earlier this year continue to shake the country.
Mayor Lisnard finds that one does not come to a beach to display one’s religious convictions, but this statement is more revealing than a Speedo.
If fashion is a statement, and what one wears is a fashion statement, then it follows that beachwear can be a religiously infused declaration of one’s beliefs.
Religion is the outworking of a set of beliefs regarding the divine. For the Epicureans, they believed the gods were busy enjoying themselves and pursuing pleasure. Therefore, for the Epicureans, they were to be like the gods and enjoy themselves, living a life of pleasure without fear of judgment or retribution.
Today, could modern day Epicureans be prancing on the beaches of France? Seeking to live a life of pleasure, they wear scanty swimwear in an effort to generate praise and adoration from others. Fewer clothes equals more praise. However, fewer clothes and more skin exposure fails to take into account the others on the beach. This all consuming view of self and endless pursuit of one’s own pleasure fails to see the disorder one may be causing on the beach—for the better or worse. Some may be flocking to you, but others may be running away from you.
The Christian assumes a radically different viewpoint. Instead of taking an all-consuming view of self, they think of others more than themselves (Philippians 2). With this mentality, they adorn themselves modestly on and off the beach (1 Peter 3:3–5).
Modesty literally comes from the idea of keeping within measure. These measures are not determined by the loud few, but by the whole of the society. For the Christian, the measures are dictated by the Scriptures (Psalm 119:105). Modesty is not intended to silence your fashion voice, but to respect you and show you that fashion is not your only voice.
These mayors may be trying to keep the peace, but they are in turn keeping out some Muslims. This move may give the appearance of peace, but the clouds of prejudice loom on the horizon. Peace without fairness is like a beach without water. You can call it peace, but it is really just silencing dissent and creating untapped unrest.
In the States, usually less covering means more disorder. But apparently in Cannes, more covering means less order. And when bans like this are enacted, the forecast does not look good.