Tuesday, 5 September 2006

A Modern Anabaptist Philosophy of Clothing

As late as 1996, Annual Conference was debating
simplicity in a statement
 that opens with the acknowledgement
there is a need to revive and remember the Brethren
heritage of nonconformity, plainness, and simple lifestyles as an
alternative to the hurried excesses of modern life, and to educate
ourselves, our children, and our new congregation in this basic
tradition of our faith and stewardship.
A positive part of attending Bethany seminary is the exposure to
Quakers at the Earlham School of Religion next door. As I've said
before, I consider myself one of many Friendly
. I've noticed a few people walking around ESR in what I'm
pretty sire is traditional Quaker dress, which in some respects, is
similar to plain Anabaptist garb. This has caused me to reflect on the
Brethren stance on 'nonconformity, plainness, and simple lifestyles'.
"A Short History
of Conservative Friends"
 explains their attitude toward dress this
Friends have long been distinguished by the
simplicity of their dress and manners... We believe that as our hearts
are filled with the Divine love, and our lives brought under the
government of Christ, our dress and behavior will come to conform to
the simplicity of the gospel.
post at QuakerRanter
 reflects more personally on the
When I was a kid, I yearned for plain dress like the
kids in Obadiah's family wore. I loved the idea of a Quaker uniform
and couldn't imagine why we didn't still have one. Whenever I asked my
mom about it, she would patiently explain that an outward conformity
in plain dress called attention to itself as much as any worldly
outfit did, and that Quakers should dress as plainly as was suitable
and possible to their work in the world. It made sense, but I was
still sorry.
As one male member of the Church of the Brethren with a mustachless
"Brethren beard", I like to be reminded of our philosophy of plainness
and simplicity that we still seek to hold on to, even if we no longer
wear distinctive garb. But I've been thinking more about what I wear
lately, having just shopped for a new shirt over the holiday weekend.
I like what the blogger at QuakerRanter says about what a contemporary
Quaker garb would be like:
It seems to me that
contemporary plain dress ought to be distinctive without being
theatrical; it should be practical and self-effacing. It should be
produced under non-exploitive conditions. It should be the same every
day, without variation introduced for the sake of variation, and
suitable for every occasion It should be tidy and well-kept—Quakers
were once known for the scrupulous neatness of their attire and their
homes. And it should communicate clearly that we are called and set
Could it be that my blue jeans and white t-shirts that I tirelessly
wore throughout high school and college be some manifestation of a
yearning of my own for this simple and plain way of dressing? I had a
pIain suit tailored for my wedding, and I still wear it on occassion,
but it is too formal to wear all the time. I don't necesarily like
being formal all the time, either. I'm more comfortable wearing
informal clothing. Is donning simple, nonextravegant clothing, like
blue jeans and white t-shirt, enough? There are some in the Church of
the Brethren who follow the plain, distincitve patterns of dress.
For further reflection, read articles at Plainness
and Simplicity

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