Separatism, Individualism, Culture, and…Clothes?

Erik Wesner at Amish America pointed my attention to yet another resource on the Amish and other Anabaptist groups (there’s been a lot published lately). This one is by renowned Anabaptist scholar Donald Kraybill,  Concise Encyclopedia of Amish, Brethren, Hutterites, and Mennonites.

Erik’s post includes a brief interview with Kraybill, and he asked a great question: What aspects distinguish more conservative Anabaptists from more “liberal” ones? Kraybill pointed to two key components, (1) how separated from the world they were, and (2) whether moral authority is vested in the group or the individual. Then Kraybill noted that one can tell how separated from the world they are:

In short: it’s about separatism and individualism. I see dress as the key indicator of where a group stands on the continuum. Churches which require a prescribed dress for their members are toward the traditional whole because dress signals a more separatist boundary with the larger culture.

There’s a lot that could be said here. One thing I think of is that the culture is distinguished by its clothing (or lack thereof!). From an application standpoint, a believer’s relation and commitment to Christ and His church or the world is demonstrated by one’s clothing. Am I concerned about keeping up with the latest trends and fashions? How is that demonstrated in what I spend money on? I could keep going….


  1. Clothing is an interesting subject. Yes, what we wear does make an impact on others. It says whether we are familiar with the trends or not…whether we have money, whether we are moral…there is a whole array of implications that can be made.
    Ultimately we need to decide our clothing based on our relationship with the King. Do we dress in a way that says we are His children? On that same note…we need to be approachable to reach people with the Gospel message. Some people can get past the clothing issue and others can’t. For myself…I have some modesty principles that have set my standard, but I try to stay somewhat current. I also don’t spend much money on clothing and prefer clothing not to be my main goal. The goal is to Glorify Christ.

  2. Clothing and how women dress some of my biggest pet peeves. I did a 3-part series on women’s modesty (Mission: Modesty) on my blog a couple months back, plus a couple random posts as well.

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