Monday, March 10, 2014

Lenten Project: Day Five

My family, while being pretty extreme Independent Fundamentalist Baptists, was not as extreme as the Gothardites, or the Hyles-Anderson crazies.  Yet we did do one thing that our fellow "normal" Fundamentalists did not do.  We wore headcoverings.

Floral camouflage 

We didn't have to wear them all the time.  But Dad made us girls wear them to church.  Instead of making our own out of gauzy fabric, like the Amish and Mennonites, we just wore hats, usually berets.  When on furlough in the States, people called us the "beret family" because we always wore them during church services and missions conferences.  Many people thought we wore them all the time, as part of our religion or something, or to show people how much more holy than everyone else we were (I actually have had several people from old supporting churches tell me that's exactly what they thought).

From somewhere, probably the Free Presbyterians he hung out with while in seminary, Dad had picked up the notion that women needed to cover their heads when worshiping God in church, based on an interpretation of I Corinthians 11.  And we weren't allowed to question it or disagree.

But I struggled with it very much. For one thing, those berets were simply incredibly ugly.  (One time, I wore a ball cap instead, and ended up singing with the choir at our sending church. Not only was I the only one up there in the choir loft wearing a headcovering of any kind, but my mom also told me afterwards that I "looked ridiculous." That stung, because I didn't want to wear something on my head at all in the first place! So really, I thought, but didn't have the courage to say, it was my dad that made me look ridiculous.) For another, it didn't fit with the rest of what was taught to us, that all of our lives were to be worshipful and lived spiritually.  If that were true, then we would have been required to wear hats or headcoverings all the time, since we'd always be in a state of worship.  If there really was no difference between sacred and secular for a true believer, why the discrepancy?

I'm obviously thrilled to be stuck with the ugliest beret that day.

So, when I was around 17, I started wearing homemade headcoverings all the time.  One reason was because of the consistency thing.  It had really bugged me all my life that we only had to cover ourselves in church, but, when worshiping with the rest of our day-to-day lives, it was somehow less important to be covered.  I also wanted to be distinct and unique, to have a belief and faith practice of my very own that was not mandated by my parents.  This was the safest, most acceptable thing that would be allowed, since becoming an "evil, liberal, worldly" Evangelical was out of the question.

A scrap of lace, a few bobby pins, and voila! Righteous before God!

I did this till my freshman year of college.  It scared the creeps away from wanting to date me, which was great, but I realised I'd never get a date at all if I continued.  So I quietly quit, without explaining to anyone.  Because that's the Fundy way--to never admit you were wrong, but instead just change the behaviour or action and pretend you've always been that way.

In that same spirit, my dad stopped requiring us girls to wear headcoverings a short time after we moved to Singapore.  No explanation, no apology.  All those Bible verses to support the belief that were quoted to us as kids, just quietly jettisoned.  Now no one in my family does, aside from a sister or two still in Fundamentalism who picked up the practice again after college.