Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
'And Jacob said to his household... "Put away the foreign gods that are among you, purify yourselves, and change your garments."'
On reading this passage in Genesis, and interpreting it literally (for the time being)(as in plain dress) I decided that the change of garments was a sign that one had put away foreign gods and purified oneself.
As I have been changing my own garments (to the amusement and chagrin of many people) I was struck by the fact that there are still foreign gods (like Mammon, for one) hovering around me, and by the fact that I am not (needless to say) pure. Therefore, perhaps i should not be changing my garments.
But maybe the change in garments is a sign that the intention to put away foreign gods, and to purify oneself, is a sincere one.
How else can I explain my walking about in a big black hat and suspenders?
Dear Friend Karen,
Ah, but you realize the paradox? You say, "It would be comfortable to just throw on jeans and go back to not having to confront that all day, every day." If you are saying that, you have been called to something else, and you would NOT be comfortable just throwing on jeans and going back to "normal." You are standing in the gap between old and new spiritual skin. Normality has not been restored. :)
Of course, what's "normal" about being a Quaker? Dwelling in the Light means constantly being aware of our mistakes. There is no more living mindlessly.
Your fFriend Paula
Perhaps adjustment in your dress is needed? Perhaps you should be plainer but not perhaps not very plain? I do not feel called to the 'extremes' of plain but a plainer than average style and to head covering. See the transformation as a process and don't feel stressed if you do not find it right at once. Some find the right dress directly, some do not. I am 'some do not'.
I have taken my time to find my way of dressing and at the moment I feel I have found my dress...now. My dress 'later' might be something else. I trust god will not lead me to a place I am not ready to be in, I pray and do my best to follow as the sinful and imperfect human I am. I know god knows me better than I do myself and that s/he will help me on my path.
My greatest concern about having gone plainer (if not plain) is not that people stare, or snicker, or comment that I look Amish, or ask how that Mennonite thing is going, or that my beard reminds them of Abe Lincoln, or the orangutans in 'Planet of the Apes'. My concern is not that they believe I am an American cowboy, or an old time farmer, or that I am going traditionally Portuguese, or anything but a plain dress Quaker.
My greatest concern is that they learn that I am a Quaker, and that I do not measure up!
Nevertheless, here I go.
Karen, my post was mainly directed to the person to Kenneth but I appreciate your thoughts too. I don't think you are too off-topic either, I think what you wrote ties in with Kenneth's thoughts too.
I definitely see that the leap from modern plain to plain is great, I don't think I will ever make it myself and I am not sure if god wants that for me either but I am sure he wants a plainer lifestyle for me. I wore a cap for almost a year but have moved to scarves now and left caps behind. Why? I felt that my caps put too big a barrier between me and other people mainly non-Christians but also Christians. I believe in non-conformity and not being of the world but not in complete isolation.
I cannot say that being more plain has brought up that many things inside for me. Yes, I do need to fight my vanity more aggressively but that was very expected to me. I have not seen that much of previous 'issues' being brought back but perhaps that is still to come? I don't know. I have however seen how much people judge you based on your dress and how people think that you have 'changed'. I don't think that the change came with the dress but before that so I don't understand why people could not see this coming. Many also jump to conclusions that my partner is the reason I dress that way ie that he forces me which is just so sad. He is part of the reason I dare to dress the way I do because he supports me and understands why this is important to me. Now however I think that people have gotten used to the fact that I dress this way and there are also some new co-workers who have never seen me looking differently and people have understood that this is not some weird phase and I am not mentally ill, I just dress this way and I do this for religious reasons.
I am finding it helpful to look at plain dress and headcovering as a spiritual practice, rather than a statement or group affiliation. Spiritual practice is about purification as Kenneth writes and its a process of becoming. If we were not so worldly, perhaps we would not need the practice. Perhaps we are called to this practice because of our flaws and not in spite of them. Wearing plain dress and headcovering announces to the world that you are trying to follow the guidings of the Spirit and live a Godly life. It does not mean you have arrived.
I too have recently felt nudges to go plainer (from "modern Plain"). I've always worn long clothes, took the colors more muted in the past several years, but the old Quaker gray seems like it might be the end goal for me. And recently, I was in my usual shop looking for something that works for me, when I saw some excellent gray clothes. And I felt like this was the turning point. The clothes come from a fashionable store, yet when I put them on, they announce "Quaker." Last week I wore them in public and felt right.
And then I came up against an event that caused me to feel a "personal stop" regarding the gray, something I felt unready to go past: my daughter just had a baby. Was I ready to wear solid gray to the maternity ward? And potentially embarrass my child? Call attention to myself?
I decided that dressing simply, the "Modern Plain" mode, is more appropriate in some situations, and that I had come up against this important test:
What is it? A Calling? Or might it be Ego? Vanity?
I DO KNOW THIS: God has definitely given me clearness about my vanity, that I am to give it up. Clothes are all about vanity, and I realized that in a new way when confronted with being in public representing my daughter.
I do not feel led to dress this plain all the time. That might come. I'm waiting for Light, and in the meantime making careful judgment calls. I bought some non-gray clothes at the same time and had decided I should take them back, but I am waiting now....
Yours in the Light, Paula
<turned to God in earnest>
Taking up the cross.
I once took on a radical experiment in simplicity regarding plain garments. Led by stories of the statesmen of old trecking through the prehistoric woodlands of America making treaties, adjudicating disputes, conducting warfare and seeking marriage partners often without a shred of a garmet, it occurred to me that shedding all garmets except when dictated by cold weather conditions was the utmost of plainness. I sought out a local nude recreation group and attended meetings and took part in outings. Eventually the group leader purchased 80 acres of pristine woodland with a 5 acre lake about 30 feet deep. Then the formation of community unfolded before my eyes and I witnessed a different but very real mode mode of modesty. Albeit, the integration of that sense of community into the larger "textile" society still seems impossible yet our individual vulnerability while nude becomes a strong and binding social glue that leads us to look out for each other as we would for our immediate family. We had Quaker Worship at the acreage weekly during the summer. Occasionally, we would see more people on benches and chairs during those worship sessions than I would at my home meeting.
One year a meadow caught fire and we became fire fighters. Twice we had discovered individuals that had predated upon our children and otherwise violated our trust. We handed them over to the authorities. We had knitting, beading and crochet classes. We played a lot of co-ed vollyball, and picked hundreds of pounds of sand plumbs. We planted 1000 trees and burned up about 400 barely 18 months matue. We experienced everything from personal problems, smacked thumbs, decline and death, but also gestation at the community level; the village that it takes to raise a child.
Later the property owner and his partner split up and the improved property with wells, a pavilion, cabins, showers, a septic system and land recovered from a drilling lease was sold to a church group. The community faded back into the society that held us as morally bankrupt because our modesty was not theirs and their loss.
Before I was a Friend, I was a soldier. My unit earned the presidential citation in 1966 and we all wore plain clothes, od green, every day. My Ffriend Don Satterthwaite introduced me to plain dress and gave me my first Gohn Brothers catalog. I was still wearing the plain dress when attending Earlham School of Religion and was actually going to Middlebury to purchase my plain coverings. It was my "peace" uniform. Plain dress actually resolved dress code problems at work, I could wear denims and still be wearing a suit and tie
Unfortunately, before the internet there was no perceptable sense of community among the plain. Even at yearly meeting there was at most five. Now, I am retired and being pushed in a wheelchair. Textile wise, I think the new plain is the sweat pants and shirt combination as it was the predominate coiture when Barbara and I were married under the care of the Quarterly Meeting. I still like olive drab though and wish that the Gohn Brothers would put in an od line. The grass stains are less noticible.