I have always had a bit of a fascination with weird cults and odd Christian subcultures. The thing I have always found most interesting was how fashion plays out within these various subcultures. I was at Bed Bath & Beyond a few weeks ago purchasing a curtain rod. The woman who was trying to help me was wearing a long jean skirt, a shirt with a long-sleeved cardigan over it, and long hair with a rather hideous looking headband. Apostolic Pentecostal Holiness, I thought immediately. Considering we have a very large Apostolic Pentecostal Holiness church not even two miles from that store, I know I'm right too. Mormons in prairie dresses. Amish. Plymouth Brethren. Of course, all of these sects have one thing in common: Modesty.
For these subcultures, modesty is tantamount to holiness. Not that one needs to be part of an extreme sect to be subject to such rules of conduct. I grew up in a church that wouldn't let women sing on stage if their skirt/dress was above the knee. We had little cloths that we would drape over women if they were praying on the floor. Even though I pretty much dressed in baggy wide-leg jeans and t-shirts from about twelve on, I was still made to feel ashamed for being curvy and having boobs. As if, my natural breasts, just for existing, were making me less holy. I didn't get over that feeling until after I had breast reduction surgery and came to the realization that the church was wrong. People don't give a shit about me and what I wear. Some people look, but they would have looked whether I was a F, DD, or a B cup.
Yet, I am still fascinated by the groups that are still convinced that men are a bunch of ultra-observant sexual perverts and women can't show any skin, except their faces because faces don't cause men to think lustful thoughts. I am even more fascinated by the weird fashion things that happen within those cultures.
Take the Apostolic Pentecostal Holiness for example. Instead of buying a dress that is below the knee and has long sleeves, they do this strange layering thing. They'll wear a sun dress with a long sleeve shirt underneath. Their hair is long, but rather than simply braid it, or twist it, they pull it up in elaborate hairdos that are mostly just all of their hair piled on top of their head in a way that would only work if they were poodles. And we can't forget the strange headbands that aren't being used to hold the hair back, but rather are pulled onto the forehead like a sweatband. Perhaps the most fascinating thing though is that the "fashion", things actually designed for this sect, look like clothing that your overweight grandma would wear to church on Easter. I get that they are trying to not show their figures, but the layering is just excessive. I'm sure there are some lovely clothing choices one could make (I googled it), but I don't see many of these girls doing so. Like I said, there are a lot around here.
What I am also curious about is, what do these girls think of those who think this is ridiculous? When I was in high school I was taught by my church and youth group to be highly judgmental. Those outside of the church didn't (presumably) know better, but if you were in church then you should dress appropriately. Yet, we absolutely judged those outside the church too. Look at that cleavage. She should leave something to the imagination. I can't believe she would leave the house in that. I bet she has had sex with half the football team. And let's be honest, as a teen I lived in the buckle of the bible belt where risky NYC fashion never got to. No one was wearing backless dresses to church. They weren't walking around the mall with their boobs hanging out. They were wearing clothing from the same stores I shopped in.
When I meet these women at Bed Bath & Beyond or wherever, I wonder if they look at me in my fairly conservative business casual attire and think, that girl must be a slut because her arms and knees are showing. Or is it more of a holier than thou attitude? Look how much better I am than those lowly sinners showing all that skin. Or is this me projecting my own experiences into a situation that has nothing to do with me?
One girl on a YouTube video states that this is not only something we can see in scripture, but that this is what a "true woman of God looks like." The same girl suggests that women have always worn skirts and it is only because they took on men's jobs in WWII that the trend started. Wearing pants is a man's thing. But we'll forget that men wore skirts/dresses for a long time in the Middle East, Scotland, and Ancient Egypt. And Indian women have worn pants for thousands of years. And women in the Middle East did too. So even though this girl claims she isn't being judgmental, she can't help it. And she is being intellectually dishonest in the same breath. But she isn't the only one. There are tons of these people all over the internet, spinning their version of Christianity and claiming it as truth. As much as I am fascinated by the strange fashion choices in this Christian subculture, I also know we have a culture of religious people who absolutely believe that their truth is THE truth. Psychological damage doesn't matter. Who cares if a woman is ashamed of her body? Obviously that is what God wants.
What an imbecile. I'd call that attempted murder. If we lived in old Rome, they would have thrown her in a lion's den. I'd do that if I had a say in this."
I, like most people, am appalled by the news stories I read involving horrible crimes like murder, torture, and child abuse. The idea that there are people out there that would inflict injury on another person, particularly an innocent child, is appalling to me. I have never hit anyone in my entire life nor have I had the desire to. Usually the story exists because the perpetrators have been caught and will now stand trial or face repercussions for the thing they did. Justice will hopefully be served.
What I find disturbing about these stories though isn't just the act itself, but the comments. People who suggest sterilization for stupidity. Ones who hope that the perpetrator is raped and/or killed in prison. Others who wish the same crime they committed to be visited on them and worse. You raped and tortured a woman to death? The same should happen to you.
Put her in a prison cell with the most violent women and leave her there for one year. She will never harm another child, I assure you.
I find these ideas to be just as repulsive as the crime. There are some very sick individuals in this world who have done some terrible things, but there is no part of me that wishes that criminal to be tortured for their crimes. No part of me. That is not justice. That is punishment. It is barbaric and cruel and our system was created the way it was to stop things like that.
In America, we have the largest incarceration rate per capita than any other nation in the world. I think this is because people still have the mindset that prison is a place for punishment, like some medieval torture chamber sans the torture. It certainly isn't a place where people are rehabilitated. In the past few years Norway has had to close down five prisons because they changed to a rehabilitation system and found that by rehabilitating their prisoners, they didn't repeat their offenses and stayed out of jail. I don't think Americans want that for their prisoners. They want them to be punished. Who hasn't heard something like, "How dare they get to watch TV/read a book/get a degree when my loved one is dead/hurt/hurting. They should have to sit alone with nothing to do and contemplate their crimes." In essence what they are proposing is psychological torture, something that sadly does happen to inmates across this country through the use of solitary confinement.
It's a very nuanced problem, one that I can barely begin to touch on in a quick post. But here is my real issue with all of this. We live in a country where 87% of the people believe in a god, a good portion of those claiming to be Christian. How much do you want to bet the people who are proposing the idea of torturing a criminal until they die also claim to be Christian? I was taught growing up that if one became a Christian, God could fix anything. Anything. He would make you a better parent even if you had abused your children in the past and he would forgive you to boot. He would cure you of your homicidal tendencies. Improper sexual urges. God would fix it all.
Of course, this is the same religion that follows the Old Testament too, where eye for an eye was the norm and death for even simple infractions was a given. I found numerous articles in religious magazines and on websites that supported the idea of punishment and restoration being only for the victims.
But I don't think many Christians actually believe in forgiveness and restoration. If they did, our justice system would look a lot different. We would actually believe that people are capable of change and we would give them opportunities to do so. Instead of wanting to sterilize the woman who abused her child, there would be the understanding that she just needs a mixture of parenting classes and god. I understand that it is human nature for people to want justice. The issue is that there are many Christians that don't seem to understand this, thinking that justice is from God and it is our duty as human beings to carry out that judgment. Of course, these days we don't torture people, but it seems that there a lot of people out there who would be happy if we did. Is it everyone? Of course not. But I see this sentiment often and it is pervasive. And it is scary.
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.