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Carl Lentz and the ‘Hot Pastor’ Problem

I’ve heard from Christian women over the years who have been asked to wear baggier tops or a different bra (yes) while in worship rehearsal because their bodies could be distracting. More damaging, women’s modesty is considered a factor in determining whether victims of sexual assault and harassment “deserved” what happened to them.

The hot pastor ethic supports this ethic: When Christians talk about modesty, they talk primarily about women’s sexual allure. As if women aren’t visually attracted to men. And as if modesty is only about sex and not at root about practicing humility before God and others.

If modesty is about sex drives, however, churches need to be consistent. They should ask whether pastors who wear tight pants and deep-Vs while preaching or post shirtless selfies on Instagram are healthy for their young women. Don’t make me stumble with your chest ripples.

Granted, churches can’t control whether church members find a pastor attractive. Physical appearance aside, power, talent and money — all of which can come with a megachurch pastorate — are pretty intoxicating, too. What churches can control, or at least monitor and scan for in hiring decisions, is whether a pastor clearly wants to be found desirable. Professor and author Alan Noble said it well, that he can tell when “ministers desire to be desired. … The way the person carries themself, dresses, speaks, gestures, and posts images signal to me that the(y) desire other people to desire them.”

This desire is at the heart of the hot pastor formula. Megachurches recruit spiritual leaders who are designed to be found desirable by congregants. Their mission becomes bound up in their need to fill their ego, a need to be loved and desired.

Christian humility is about forgetting oneself. “True gospel humility means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself,” writes the Presbyterian minister Timothy Keller, who has planted several successful churches in New York himself. “In fact, I stop thinking about myself.”

It’s hard for anyone standing under the bright lights of a megachurch stage to forget about themselves. Maybe the problem isn’t the hot pastors like Lentz but a toxic megachurch culture that makes narcissism a prerequisite.

This article originally appeared on ReligionNews.com.

(Katelyn Beaty is a former managing editor of Christianity Today and the author of “A Woman’s Place.” The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily represent those of Religion News Service.)