Plain people are Christian groups in the United States, characterized by separation from the world and by simple living, including plain dressing in modest clothing (including head covering for women).[1] Many plain people have an Anabaptist background. These denominations are largely of German, Swiss German and Dutch ancestry, though people of diverse backgrounds have been incorporated into them.[2] Conservative Friends are traditional Quakers who are also considered plain people; they come from a variety of different ethnic backgrounds.

Plain people
An Amish family
Regions with significant populations
United States
Anabaptism, Quakers (Conservative Friends)

Origins edit

Anabaptists edit

The Swiss Flag

The Mennonite movement was a reform movement of Anabaptist origins begun by Swiss Brethren and soon thereafter finding greater cohesion based on the teachings of Menno Simons, and the 1632 Dordrecht Confession of Faith. The Amish movement was a reform movement within the Mennonite movement, based on the teachings of Jacob Ammann, who perceived a lack of discipline within the Mennonite movement by those trying to avoid persecution. Ammann argued that Romans 12:2 prohibited conformation with the world.

Quakers edit

William Penn, having experienced religious persecution as a Quaker, offered asylum to others who were suffering religious persecution, an offer that many followers of Ammann accepted, starting with the Detweiler and Sieber families, who settled in Berks County, Pennsylvania, in 1736. Many of them settled near Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which offered some of the most productive non-irrigated farmland in the world. By 1770, the Amish migration had largely ceased.

Plain dress edit

Women of the Old Order River Brethren, an Anabaptist Christian denomination, wearing the cape dress and kapp

Notable plain groups in the Anabaptist tradition are the Amish (Old Order Amish, New Order Amish, Kauffman Amish Mennonites and Beachy Amish Mennonites), Para-Amish (Believers in Christ, Vernon Community and Caneyville Christian Community), many Mennonites (Old Order Mennonites, Conservative Mennonites, Reformed Mennonites, Orthodox Mennonites, Old Colony Mennonites and Holdeman Mennonites), Hutterites,[3] Bruderhof,[4] certain Schwarzenau Brethren (Old German Baptist Brethren, Old Brethren, and Dunkard Brethren), certain River Brethren (Old Order River Brethren and Calvary Holiness Church) and Charity Christians.[1][5][6]

A small number of Quakers (chiefly Conservative Friends and Holiness Friends) still practice plain dress as a part of their testimony of simplicity.[7][8][9][10] The Shakers, a small religious community, dress plainly.[11] Many Apostolic Lutherans also wear plain dress.[12] Historically, members of the Moravian Church wore plain dress.[13]

Early Methodists wore plain dress, with clergy condemning "high headdresses, ruffles, laces, gold, and 'costly apparel' in general".[14] In his sermon On Dress, John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, expressed his desire for Methodists to wear plain clothing in the manner practiced by Quakers: "Let me see, before I die, a Methodist congregation, full as plain dressed as a Quaker congregation."[15] Peter Cartwright, a Methodist revivalist, noted the gradual decline of wearing plain dress among Methodists;[16] today, members of denominations in the conservative holiness movement, such as the Allegheny Wesleyan Methodist Connection and Evangelical Wesleyan Church, continue to dress plainly,[17][18] sometimes including abstention of wearing of jewelry, such as wedding rings.[19] The Fellowship of Independent Methodist Churches, which continues to observe the ordinance of women's headcovering, stipulates "renouncing all vain pomp and glory" and "adorning oneself with modest attire."[20]

Traditional Adventists and Mormon fundamentalists also wear plain dress.[21]

Plain customs edit

Customs of plain people include:

  • Plain clothes, usually in solid, normally dark colors.
  • Plain church buildings, or no church buildings whatsoever.
  • A utilitarian view of technology, similar to the precautionary principle of technology in that unknowns should be avoided, but the emphasis was on the results in the eyes of God. If they were unsure of how God would look upon a technology, the leaders of the church would determine whether it was to be avoided.[22] The degree to which this principle was supported varied among the congregations, but in general, the Amish people believed that the Mennonites had not done enough to separate themselves from the rest of the world.

Religious practices edit

Anabaptist plain groups typically have a bishop presiding over one congregation (Amish) or over a district (group of congregations) (Old Order Mennonites). Mennonites mostly meet in church buildings, but most Amish meet in members' homes. Services among Amish and Plain Mennonites are mostly held in Pennsylvania German, a language closely related to Palatinate German, with extra vocabulary. Bishops are commonly chosen by lot as a reflection of God's will. While the bishop tends to be influential, he tends to rule by building consensus rather than by issuing edicts.

Most Anabaptist plain groups have an ordnung that among other things regulates clothing. The ordnung is a largely unwritten code of behavior, covering such items as clothing, vehicles, and the use of technology. The ordnung varies slightly from congregation to congregation though is in essence the same. Violations are not considered sins, although pride, selfishness and wilfulness are considered to be serious violations of the faith. The congregation can change the ordnung if there is a majority who desire to do so. Exemptions to the ordnung can be provided. In one instance, one farmer was granted permission to buy a modern tractor since he had arthritis and no children to help him harness horses. In other very hot, dry areas such as the Southwestern United States, where horses may not be able to work hard in the field throughout the day, some provision has been made for mechanical plowing and harvesting.

Trends edit

Amish young women at the beach, Chincoteague, Virginia.

The Old Order Amish are among the fastest-growing populations in the world. They have low infant mortality rates. The average Amish woman can expect to have at least seven live births.[23] Other plain sects with the same or similar doctrines can be expected to have similarly explosive growth.

Despite this, the Pennsylvania Dutch—which includes Amish, Old Order Mennonite, and Conservative Mennonites—are expected by some to become a smaller percentage of the population as the sects respond to high prices of farmland by spreading out all over the United States and internationally, and the "English" (the Amish exonym for non-Amish persons regardless of ancestry) population spreads out from Philadelphia into suburban and rural areas. Many Amish and plain Mennonites of the last 30 years have moved into non-farm work, such as construction, woodworking, harness making, shopkeeping, auctioneer services and other crafts. Donald Kraybill believes there are plain church communities in 47 states.

Among people at least five years old living in Lancaster County in 2000,

  • 89% spoke English at home;
  • 7% spoke Pennsylvania Dutch;
  • 4% spoke Spanish.[24]

Most but not all Anabaptist plain churches do not admit children to their church membership, requiring baptism first during the teen years, and so they impose no sanctions on those who do not join but shun those who fall away from the church once becoming a member. Among some groups of Old Order Amish, teenagers who are not yet baptized are not bound by the rules and go through a period of rumspringa, often with a certain amount of misbehavior that would not otherwise be tolerated.

Health edit

The Amish generally do not proselytize and discourage intermarriage with outsiders unless they have joined the Amish. Because of their historic tendency to relocate less in their lifetime, a high birthrate, a high number of double cousins as compared with the general public, and a lower number of possible marriage partners, this has historically resulted in marriages of 3rd, 4th, 5th, and other cousins who share ancestors. Similar to European royalty, this close degree of consanguinity has led to certain genetic problems occurring more frequently among the Amish. Dr. D. Holmes Morton has established the Clinic for Special Children to study and treat families with these problems.[25]

Many of the plain churches prohibit insurance, and instead they follow a system of mutual aid to assist each other charitably in case of sickness, accident, death, or property damage. Internal Revenue Service Form 4029[26] allows one to claim exemption from Social Security taxes under certain restrictive conditions, and members of the plain groups who do not pay these taxes also do not receive death, disability, or retirement benefits from Social Security.

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b Bronner, Simon J. (4 March 2015). Encyclopedia of American Folklife. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-317-47194-3. Only a tiny minority within the Church of the Brethren continues some vestigates of plain dress, such as the prayer covering for women. The Old German Baptist Brethren and the Dunkard Brethren, however, have maintained standards of traditional plain dress.
  2. ^ Dueck, Jonathan (28 April 2017). Congregational Music, Conflict and Community. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-134-78605-3. But Mennonites… are from many places and diverse in terms of belief, drawing, historically, on European diasporic histories, and at present, negotiating a much broader variety of diasporic histories, perhaps especially in Asia (Indonesia, for example), Latin America (Colombia, Brazil, Mexico, among others) and Africa (Congo, for example). A subset of these groups of Mennonites—Swiss Mennonites and Russian Mennonites—sometimes identify or are identified as 'ethnic Mennonites'.
  3. ^ Hostetler, John (1997). Hutterite Society. The Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 105. ISBN 0-8018-5639-6.
  4. ^ Bronner, Simon J (4 March 2015). Encyclopedia of American Folklife. Routledge. p. 492. ISBN 9781317471950.
  5. ^ Scott, Stephen (1 January 1996). Introduction to Old Order and Conservative Mennonite Groups: People's Place Book No. 12. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-1-68099-243-4.
  6. ^ Lewis, James R. (2002). The Encyclopedia of Cults, Sects, and New Religions. Prometheus Books. p. 151. ISBN 9781615927388.
  7. ^ Savage, Scott (2000). A Plain Life: Walking My Belief. Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-43803-5.
  8. ^ Cooper, Wilmer (1999). Growing Up Plain Among Conservative Wilburite Quakers: The Journey of a Public Friend. Friends United Press. ISBN 0-944350-44-5.
  9. ^ "Quaker Jane - Limiting your palette in an addle-pated world. Plain dress, quakers and spirituality".
  10. ^ Manual of Faith and Practice of Central Yearly Meeting of Friends. Central Yearly Meeting of Friends. 2018. pp. 107–110.
  11. ^ The Shaker Manifesto. N. A. Briggs, Publisher. 1878.
  12. ^ Scott, Stephen (1 September 2008). Why Do They Dress That Way?. Good Books. p. 53. ISBN 9781680992786.
  13. ^ Ritter, Abraham (1857). History of the Moravian Church in Philadelphia. Hayes & Zell. p. 145. Accessed 19 June 2017.
  14. ^ Lyerly, Cynthia Lynn (24 September 1998). Methodism and the Southern Mind, 1770-1810. Oxford University Press. p. 39. ISBN 9780195354249. Retrieved 19 June 2017.
  15. ^ Wesley, John (1999). "The Wesley Center Online: Sermon 88 - On Dress". Wesley Center for Applied Theology. Retrieved 19 June 2017.
  16. ^ Cartwright, Peter (1857). Autobiography of Peter Cartwright: The Backwoods Preacher. Carlton & Porter. p. 74.
  17. ^ "I. The Church". Discipline of the Allegheny Wesleyan Methodist Connection. Allegheny Wesleyan Methodist Connection. Should we insist on plain and modest dress? Certainly. We should not on any account spend what the Lord has put into our hands as stewards, to be used for His glory, in expensive wearing apparel, when thousands are suffering for food and raiment, and millions are perishing for the Word of life. Let the dress of every member of every Allegheny Wesleyan Methodist Church be plain and modest. Let the strictest carefulness and economy be used in these respects.
  18. ^ Elwell, Walter A. (2001). Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Baker Academic. p. 564. ISBN 9780801020759.
  19. ^ "Discipline of the Bible Methodist Connection of Churches" (PDF). 2014. pp. 33–34. Retrieved 19 June 2017.
  20. ^ "Brief Description". Fellowship of Independent Methodist Churches. 26 January 2022. Archived from the original on 26 January 2022. Retrieved 3 August 2022.
  21. ^ Robinson, D. E. (1990). "Adopt%20a%20Simple,%20Unadorned%20Dress" "Seventh-day Adventists and the Reform Dress". The Ellen G. White Estate, Inc. Retrieved 17 July 2018.
  22. ^ Zimmerman, Diane (2000). Holding the Line: The Telephone in Old Order Mennonite and Amish Life. Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-6375-9.
  23. ^ Meyers, Thomas J. (1990). "Amish". Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 2008-07-20.
  24. ^ "United States Censues, 2000, Population and Housing Profile: Lancaster County, Pennsylvania".
  25. ^ Kate Ruder, Genomics in Amish Country Genome News Network, July 23, 2004
  26. ^ "Internal Revenue Service Form 4029; Application for Exemption from Social Security and Medicare Taxes and Waiver of Benefits" (PDF).

Further reading edit

External links edit