Underwear and Religion and the Amish

Every trip to Lancaster County provides me with something to ponder, and Mother’s Day 2010 was no exception.  On one of her trips to the mall, my sister-in-law saw an Amish woman shopping in Victoria’s Secret.  When the woman, in full ‘plain’ garb, was asked by the enthusiastic salesperson if she would like to apply for a credit card, she said she already had one.  Seriously, I am not making this up.  Why is this incident different from the mysteries beneath the burqa, or the Mormon’s wearing their own special underwear?  It is and it isn’t.

My understanding of the underlying theology justifying Mormon (LDS) ‘Jesus jammies’ and Islam burqas leads me to conclude there is a subtle difference with the plain Mennonite and Amish garb.  The wearing of burqas and LDS garments connects members to each other.  In this, they share a common trait with the plain people.  However, both LDS and Islam women have a view of protection or shielding from the outside world.  The simple dress of plain folks means they are demonstrating their desire to be apart from the materialistic world to the world.  They immigrated to Pennsylvania about 300 years ago rejecting fanciful fashion statements like buttons.  Obviously, staying stuck in time in how they dress does not guarantee someone is free from modern materialism of Victoria’s Secret hot lingerie underneath those costumes.

Being in the world but not of the world is straight from the Christian New Testament (I John 2:15).  While sound in their doctrine, the practice is not so simple.  Since most of the people of these sects are forced to stop their education at eighth grade, their intellectual development and social experience is extremely limited – which makes rationalization so much easier.  That limited worldview allows them to consider telephone landlines sinfully connected to the materialistic world, but cordless cell phones (without a visible hardwire connection) sin-free.

There is one story for me that is even more titillating than finding an Amish woman in Victoria’s Secret and that is reading the words “felony charges” and Mennonites in the same sentence.  The Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era (4/16/2010-link to story follows) reported on three plain Mennonite adults hiding a teenage runaway from her parents and the police with the intention of taking her with them from Lancaster County to Kentucky.  It’s hard to know what they were thinking because they were unwilling to testify at their hearing.  I would suggest they considered themselves uniquely qualified to interpret God’s will and expected a bonus from Him (patriarchal culture – of course God is male) for saving a lost teen from her worldly and ungodly parents.

My point is not to vilify extreme religious sects but to make the point that in choosing extreme practices, hypocrisy is a near certainty.  In trying to be separate from the rest of society, it will be difficult to survive, making interaction nearly unavoidable and conflict inevitable.  In fact if you want to be spiritually above the outside world, you probably don’t want to start kidnapping their young. We heathens get a little testy about such activities.  We will be happy to ignore your underwear, but you can’t have our offspring for your cult.

Want to weigh-in? -J.B.


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  • Beki Spurrier  On May 14, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Enjoyed reading this, Jac. The Victoria’s Secret story made my day. Thanks!

  • F4F  On May 15, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    “The Mennonites and The Mob”

    I believe, though not certain, that the Amish, and the Mennonites, are very different groups of people. I could be wrong. However, consider this idea. Is their choice of neighborhood any different than your gated community? Or do you choose to live and expose your children to the life of West Philadelphia? Are the Mennonite women who kidnap teenagers indicitive of all Mennonites? Do you believe George Bush should have bombed the hell out of ALL of Afghanistan, because Al Queda is indicitive of all the Afghanis? I personally believe, yes. I am sure, you don’t.

    But thanks for the insight. I had no idea that the Mennonites had last names like “Soprano.” I’ll be sure to keep a “heads up.”

    And JB…the use of the word “history” is correct. True Christians admit their autrocious past, including persecution, slavery, discrimination and other flaws exposed in their “history.” True Christians, live by this theory; First and formost:

    “Let he without sin, cast the first stone.”

    PS. Go VS. My “reserved for just you handsome” undies of choice ;)

    • allthingsreligious  On May 16, 2010 at 8:53 pm

      Thanks for reading and thank you for your comments. Over time this blog will question many different religious practices, as well as many perceptions about religion. However, please don’t assume this to be a Christian blog. I would never presume to speak for all Christianity, though since it is the majority religion in this country, the subject will come up again.

      The plain Mennonites and Amish are closely related, though they are indeed different sects. One theory on their split was that the Mennonites broke off from the Amish because they wanted Sunday School. They are both Christian Anabaptist fundamentalist groups that have rejected many modern conveniences like electricity and cars.

      I hope my primary point stands that with extremism, comes hypocrisy. I think my more subtle point was just how difficult it is to be an isolationist group in today’s world.

      Thank you again for taking the time to write!


  • Miles  On January 7, 2014 at 2:11 am

    Isn’t the Amish objection to buttons that they (the buttons, that is) are so very militaristic? As I heard it, certain militaries went overboard, buttonwise, and the Amish want to distance themselves.

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