Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Modesty and the FLDS Women

I've written before on this website about modesty and dress, especially as it impacts Catholics and in particular Catholic women.

My view of the subject can be summed up as follows:

-Catholics have an obligation to be modest in their clothing choices.
-This means that Catholics should never wear clothing that is clearly and purposefully too revealing of what ought not be revealed.
-This does not mean that women may never wear pants or slacks, short-sleeved shirts, or skirts or dresses that fall just below the knee; there are modest clothing options for women that do not require her wrists or ankles to remain covered at all times.
-The question of what constitutes suitable attire for certain times and places is a different question from the question of modesty. Suitability will involve many personal reflections which go beyond questions of modesty
-In general, encouraging Catholics to wear nice clothes for Sunday Mass is a good idea. Judging people for not wearing clothes nice enough to satisfy our standards is a bad idea.
-It is never right to judge others for the sin of immodesty in dress; they may be ignorant of the matter or be unaware of the effect of their clothing.

There are Catholics who would disagree with one or several of the principles I've outlined. I know of some Catholic women who insist that women ought never to wear slacks, or that only wrist-length shirts and ankle-length skirts are ever appropriate attire for a Catholic woman. To discussions about practicality, hot weather, etc. they tend to say, "Well, but look at the prairie women, who spent all day in long underwear and long sleeved, ankle length dresses, when there wasn't even any air conditioning!"

Dresses like these, and underwear like this.

Those links come from a new website designed to help members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints support themselves while they continue to live away from the ranch; since the CPS investigation is continuing, the women have been advised not to return home. From a Salt Lake Tribune article:

Cynthia Martinez, a spokeswoman for Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, said that many of the 48 mothers her firm represents face financial challenges that didn't exist when they lived at the ranch in a communal lifestyle.

"Now they are renting homes and apartments and have to figure out how to pay for that," she said.

Although the children are back with their parents, legal counsel advised many FLDS mothers to stay away from the ranch until the CPS investigation and action is over. The sewing enterprise allows the mothers to care for their children and support themselves.
Now, I don't blame the FLDS women for trying to earn some money while they are away from the ranch. There is always hope that some of them may decide to leave the polygamy lifestyle and seek help in doing so, and the greater their contact with the outside world, the greater the chance of that happening.

But I have to wonder whether it would be at all advisable to support this enterprise by purchasing these wares, if one should happen to be of the mindset that clothes like these are more modest and appropriate for today's children than the vast majority of the clothing that is available in the stores.

In other words, could a long-dresses-only Catholic make purchases from the FLDS sect, knowing how deeply at odds their religious beliefs and practices are with our own? Does it matter, considering that most of our other clothing options also come from countries, regimes, and value systems we dislike and would rather not support? Does the goal of wearing a certain type of clothing which one sees as eminently superior from a modesty perspective outweigh any negative aspects of possibly aiding these women to return to their polygamous homes with their sister-wives, children, and the children's many half-siblings?

My own view of modesty doesn't require that I wrestle with this question on a personal level; I believe that it is quite possible to wear modest and suitable clothing by selecting from among the choices offered by more widely available clothing sources. It may take a little extra shopping ingenuity to find clothes that are not too revealing, and it may mean avoiding certain fashionable styles which are clearly not modest, but I think it can be done.

But there are women who will only wear clothing that is not all that dissimilar from what the FLDS offers, and who would very much like to see these styles on their daughters; I imagine that for them the decision about whether or not to buy some of these items will be less simple to resolve.


Boise Leon said...

I am LDS, not FLDS. In addition to modesty, clothing was suggested by God in the beginning as a protection from the elements. The sun in the southwest can be cruel. My LDS ancestors lived til the late 80s and my non LDS ancestors died very young from cancers and melanoma. My LDS grandmother wore a bonnet and gloves in the sun and had very clear skin until she died at 91. Long sleeves and a hat will extend your life in the southwest.

Daddio said...

Interesting comment. Sounds reasonable. Is there any sort of study or data (not just anecdotal) to back up that assertion?

I am inclined to agree that purchasing FLDS clothing is the same as purchasing red Chinese clothing or Amish furniture or General Mills cereal (aren't they one of the ones that supports planned parenthood? Who doesn't these days?). I don't consider that "cooperating with evil".

My own employer (a leading property and casualty insurer) is quite liberal in providing same-sex partner benefits, and aggressively promotes a United Way fundraiser every year, who in turn provide support to homosexual activists and Christian charities alike. It bothered me when I learned about these things, but it pays well, which allows my wife to homeschool my children. So I'm not going anywhere, not for those reasons anyway.

Back to the clothes. If there are other sources that are Catholic, I'd want to support them out of comradery. And this FLDS stuff seems fairly expensive too. But it's morally neutral. IMHO.

I draw the line at buying the red cell phone to support the UN's AIDS relief program (which promotes contraception and sterilization). As my sarcastic wife says, "I don't support AIDS. Or breast cancer." (referring to the Susan G Komen pink stuff everywhere) I'm not going to actively promote these causes I disagree with. But I'm certainly going to stretch my dollars.

Daddio said...

PS - I'm not calling the Amish evil. Just wanted to clear that up. Not that any are likely sitting in front of a computer right now...

Lisa said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Red Cardigan said...

Lisa, I had to remove your comment because I'd rather not have commercial links in the comment boxes, generally speaking. Thanks for understanding!