I was just reading reviews for a lecture series on the effect of color use in our lives. In one review it stated the writer had learned the use of black and white used together gives the impression of expensive.
My mind immediately thought of a particular religious sect where it is the accepted norm for men and young boys to wear a white shirt with either dress slacks or a suit, preferred color being black or dark grey, and a tie. It’s on a few decades back that men sported variety in their dress shirts; a given Sunday afforded a variety in colors and/or stripes of the men’s shirts. To walk into a Sunday meeting in anything other than a white shirt with one’s suit and tie will leave one standing out and, quite probably feeling rather out of place. While this dress code was not, to my knowledge, ever specifically stated as a hard and fast rule, it seems to be a socially enforced rule starting with all of the lay leaders from the top hierarchy on down dress in dark, if not black, suits with a white shirt and a tie. A newcomer quickly learns how to dress to properly fit in.
Woman and girls, on the other hand, do not have this specific a dress code. Nevertheless, there is a dress code; it bears the title “modest dress”. This outfit consists of a knee length, or longer, skirts and or dresses. To come to a Sunday meeting in slacks, a short skirt, a sleeveless dress, or an outfit with a plunging neckline is taboo. To do so would likely render the female feeling out of place and conspicuous.
Upon thinking of this, particularly in regard to what seems to me to be rather a “uniform” dress code for men I began thinking of a movie titled: “The Wave”. This German film is based on a true story of a teacher in Germany who set about teaching his class about autocracy. Autocracy is defined as “a form of government in which a country is ruled by a person or group with total power” or “a country that is ruled by a person or group with total power”.
Initially the students scoffed at the idea a dictatorship could be established in their generation. They did not believe they could be persuaded or compelled to participate in such a thing as that which happened in their country just a few short generations back.
So the teacher decided to do an experiment wherein he would slowly, step by step, establish an autocratic society within his classroom..
He started off by insisting the class address him as “Herr Wenger” rather than by the name they were accustomed to addressing him.
He then strategically seated the class placing students with poor grades next to students with good grades so as to enable them to learn from one another. I believe this helped establish a sense of unity within the group.
Then it is established within the classroom as to proper etiquette in speech, i.e. how to address the teacher and how to properly answer questions.
Next, in an effort to remove class distinction and further unite the group the suggestion to establish a dress code is adopted. In this example the daily “uniform” consisted of wearing a white shirt.
The group learned to march together in unison and established a distinctive salute.
The experiment progressed quickly as the students became very united as a group looking to their teacher for leadership. They became very loyal to their leader and loyal and protective of one another. They began to see their group as being unique and elite, taking on an attitude of “us” versus “them” with the “us” group being superior.
As I watched the movie, witnessing how quickly and easily this transition took place all the while beyond the awareness of the students of how they were changing in attitude and behavior; I was fascinated to realize how easily human being are persuaded without awareness of how we are being manipulated.
However, it makes sense to me because I realize that as human beings we have a strong need for a sense of community and belonging which renders us very susceptible to the attitudes and rules of the society that surrounds us. We mold and modify our behavior so as to be accepted and fit in. It is very painful for us should something happen that we lose our sense of community and we will go to great lengths to preserve it.
I know this to be true because I have both witnessed it and I’ve lived it.
When my husband and I first married he began attending Sunday church meetings with me. Being a stylish dresser he was accustomed to wearing beautifully color striped dress shirts with matching ties. However, within a short period of time he began modifying his dress style to fit in with the accepted style of dress of those with whom we attended church. In a short period of time his expensive dress shirts remained hanging in his closet having been replaced with a white shirt and tie. Upon questioning him about this I was informed he realized the dress code rule was white shirt and tie. It would seem he was more comfortable dressing the same as those around him.
A few short years later, without announcement, he shaved off his mustache. Baffled by his shaving the answer to my question was he and my son had been informed it had come down from the highest level of church hierarchy that all the men were to sport a clean shaven face. Shortly thereafter I noted most of the men at church were now clean shaven. A little later it was announced from the local pulpit that to be clean shaven is not a command but merely a suggestion. I guess someone on a local level took that “suggestion” a little too serious.
Three years ago certain realizations followed with additional knowledge and information placed me in a position where I had to choose between what I know new or the community of which I was so familiar and comfortable. This conflict placed me in an extremely difficult situation wherein I had to make a very painful choice. Having always been a seeker of truth, my nature made it such that there really wasn’t a choice for me—I had to go with what I believe is true, which meant I had to sacrifice community. This meant giving up a community of which I had been a part and felt at home my entire life. That loss literally felt like a death to me; one over which I grieved for quite some time. To this day, with most people I know, I have yet to be open about this change in my life, for fear of rejection
Over the few short years since I sacrificed the security of the community of which I once embraced, I have remained faithful in my devotion to the Lord. In fact I’ve become even more diligent in seeking guidance, knowledge and wisdom from God. Often were the prayers wherein I plead with God to know, to really be sure, what is truth. Eternal will be my gratitude to Him that my path has been led to find and understand His truth. Of this I will, literally, be eternally grateful.
Unlike what I was once warned against, should I ever reject the whole of the teachings I once embraced, I have not become bitter; my life has not become dark. Instead I find my heart is full of gratitude and profound love for the grace of my Savior, Jesus Christ. I have come to know Jesus in a way I once could not have imagined. I have come to understand of His love in a way that fills my being; it gives me the strength to carry on, a sense of joy despite the obstacles and challenges of life, and a peace and an assurance and a hope of my eternal future.
I can honestly say I desire to love the Lord with my whole heart; the choices I make are based upon my desire to please Him. I do make mistakes because I’m an imperfect human being, but the Lord is my compass; I look to him as I try to stay on the narrow path. And it is my love for Him and His love for me that enable me to feel desire to share of His gospel and of His love with my fellowman.
As the song so beautifully expresses:
“Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.”