What Is Plain?
Plain Folk is a term given to those Christians who practice “separation from the world” and espouse a simple lifestyle that includes very modest dress, prayer coverings for women, and little decoration.
There is a difference between “plain” and “Plain”. 😀
Simplicity and some degree of separation from the world are the key features, but there are degrees of simplicity and separation.
The Old Order Amish will not connect to the power grid, for example, while Conservative Mennonites can often be found online. Old Order Mennonites and Old Order Amish drive horse-and-buggy, some churches are “black car” which means that only black vehicles are permitted, and many drive regular vehicles. Some feel that separation means being separate in all things and not interacting with outsiders, while others feel that we can be IN the world but not OF the world, interacting while not participating in the more worldly pleasures like drinking and wild parties.
Not all Mennonites (or even Amish) are Plain. Jane at Thy Hand Hath Provided, for example, is a wonderful example of a Mennonite but she is not Plain.
There are Plain Mennonites and Amish, as most everyone knows, but there are also Plain Catholics, Anglicans, Baptists, Quakers and more. And, like our family, there are simply Plain Christians who are not affiliated with any denomination.
Of course, the question comes up – why would anyone choose to live Plain?
I suspect that many who did not grow up Plain were led slowly, and sometimes painfully, to an acceptance of this as a right path. That is, I have no idea if being Plain is right for anyone else, only for those who feel a calling to it.
For that reason, nothing in this series is intended to convert anyone. That is not my job.
I identify as a Plain Christian of no denomination. There is no church that tells me I “must” dress or act in a certain way. For me, it is a matter of listening to the Holy Spirit and being guided in the right path.
That is, we are not Amish or Mennonite, although some of my dearest friends are Plain Mennonite and I have a closet full of Old Order Mennonite dresses.
We are not, in fact, affiliated with any church and will join any of our Christian friends for worship.
Wiser minds than mine have written about Plain living, and so I beg you to take what I write on this subject only as my humble thoughts. Most of those great writers, though, have grown up in a Plain church or with significant Plain influence.
Living Plain is certainly easier if one lives physically separated from society, away from the internet and radio, popular culture and all of the other distractions that come from living in this world. It is easier if friends and family are Plain. We have friends who frequently urge us to sell the homestead and move into a Plain Mennonite community – where it is safer, with less temptation, less distraction.
I believe it is, however, quite possible to live Plain in a fancy world, to be in this world but not of this world. Harder, but not impossible.
Despite what many think, living Plain is not about living a life full of rules and restrictions. In fact, I would venture to say that my life is more free and less stressful than before we went Plain.
Plain living is about developing a connection with the Holy Spirit, not about seeking out a list of rules. Plain living is to make Christ one’s main priority and to diminish those things which distract from that and pull one into conformation with the world.
Rules are comforting and having someone present a list of “Thou shalt not” feels safe. The problem, though, is that Christianity teaches that rules – ie., the Law – will not save us.
And yet there are many actions, characteristics and ways of living that are common to Plain folk. How is one to reconcile this “not rules-based” living with what seems to be a litany of restrictions and rules?
Among the most obvious Plain folk – the Mennonites and Amish – rules are set by the membership and differ from church to church. Their purpose is to maintain community and family relationships and not, as some believe, to earn their way to Heaven.
I want to make this clear – Plain folk may seem very “Law” oriented with their rules, but these rules are about their relationship with other people and not about their relationship with God.
Others, like Quakers and other Plain folk who attend fancy churches, rely on the Holy Spirit to lead them personally on a difficult and sometimes lonely path.
Of course, these are based upon what I have seen and experienced, so they may not match how other people view Plain living. And, hopefully, this will lead you to further reading and exploration – I am certainly not an expert on Plain living.