I get a lot of my material from that Apostolic message board to which I’m addicted. I truly do have a problem. If I’m away from it for too long, I have to read posts on my Blackberry – just to see what happens next. It’s really getting out of hand. And, usually when I’m done reading and reading and reading and occasionally writing, I am a little depressed and defeated.
So, I hope to stop that soon. Anyway…
For those of you that are unfamiliar with Oneness Pentecostalism, it is historically an organization that adheres to a “holiness standard.” This is a very loaded term and can mean a lot of different things to a lot of people. As such, it is the cause of much discussion amongst those in the organization. For purposes of this post, I am referring primarily to outward displays of “holiness.” At it’s most extreme, you will find women dressed almost exactly like the FLDS women we have all seen on TV for the past several months. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you see people that don’t look any different than those not affiliated with the organization.
Those of you who have visited a message board before know what constitutes a page of discussion. As of right now, a topic titled “Cut or Trimming Hair” has 195 pages of discussion. There are currently 1,945 replies and 18,826 views. The topic was created a mere 6 days ago. Needless to say, this is a hot button issue. The contributors cover a wide range of ages, ethnicity and backgrounds, so it makes for some pretty interesting opinions.
What motivates people to either adhere to these standards or not? I want to say up front that I have a lot of respect for people that discipline themselves to follow any standard that they believe is in line with the Word of God. I am not one to judge the validity of those decisions, and I would be getting into dangerous territory by criticizing people’s convictions. I don’t intend to do that.
One man on the message board, a minister of 40 years, deadpans that there will be no women with trimmed hair in heaven. Now, I do think he says things to get a rise out of people (like myself) who think that such comments are ludicrous, but I have yet to see him concede anything. I do think he is a good man, and he seems to have the respect of most everyone on the board, but I just don’t know how to respond to someone who has that much confidence with so little supporting substance. I don’t understand how somone can be that sure based on the interpretation of a handful of verses that are certainly not that conclusive.
Another man, much younger, also a nice guy, has similar views. He often presents the slippery slope argument, and is quick to back up the minister’s posts.
Filling out the rest of the group are people that generally think you should dress modestly, look your gender, and use common sense with regard to representing yourself in public. Occasionally, you get someone that thinks that anything goes, but most people fall somewhere in between.
So what drives people to come down so hard on an issue like this?
I have a theory.
I believe it is a combination of nostalgia, fear of change, and a need for control. I honestly think that ambiguity makes some people really uncomfortable, and the only way to be able to reconcile that discomfort is to draw a hard line where it may not need to be; to choose an answer when there may not be just one; to take a firm stand well inside safe territory. People that need structure crave order. And people that don’t like change need to attach significance to their reasons for not changing.
Every interpretation of the Bible is just that – an intepretation. I believe that we have no choice, whether we’re comfortable with it or not, but to act on faith. The truth comes later. If it was all that cut and dry, we wouldn’t have as many denominations as we do based on the same Book.