Posted by: smstrouse | June 30, 2016

Interfaith Headcoverings?

18-oz-chow-chowSeveral years ago, when I was back home in Pennsylvania, I asked our music director/ administrative assistant, Orion Pitts, if he wanted me to bring him anything. Since Orion is also from PA Dutch country, I figured he might need to stock up on pot pie noodles, pretzels, or apple butter. What he asked for was a jar of chow chow (for the uninitiated, chow chow is a pickled relish made with a variety of vegetables).

I bought a large jar before I headed to the Philadelphia airport and tucked it into my carry-on bag for safe-keeping. When I went through security, I was pulled out of line and asked what was in the jar. “Chow chow,” I said, never expecting that a PA Dutch condiment would be seen as a threat. But it was. Orion’s chow chow was confiscated. Thankfully I wasn’t detained as a potential Amish terrorist.

mennonite3Why am I thinking about this incident when I’m writing about head coverings? Because our speakers for our Pluralism Summer series this week are members of the Mennonite church. I grew up among Mennonites in PA, so I’m remembering the bonnets worn by some women and girls in both Amish and Mennonite communities. The basis for these coverings is most definitely a religious one, based on Bible passages such as 1 Tim. 2:9-15, 1 Peter 3:1-6, Titus 2:3-5, and 1 Corinthians 11:2-16.

Now, I may have some very different opinions and interpretations about these texts, but I do respect the right of members of a religious tradition to wear symbols of their beliefs.


Of course, it becomes problematic when it comes to women because patriarchy raises its ugly head. Most of the reasons for women covering their hair involve modesty, but there’s also a measure of subordination to men involved – including the Mennonite/Amish tradition. It’s always good to hear of women in all of the religious traditions questioning and/or rejecting these reasons – whether or not they continue to cover.

I don’t have a problem with anyone’s head-gear – as long as it’s freely chosen. I can’t imagine the any woman other than the most burkaseverely oppressed and brainwashed to freely choose to wear a burka. Bhijab1ut the hijab is a different. Again: I don’t have a problem with the hijab as long as it’s freely chosen. There is so much hostility these days towards Islam, including calls to ban the head covering entirely. And some of that is in response to its perceived
symbol of male oppression.

I’m not even going to get into all of that right now. I’m just wondering: will we have the nerve to include other religious groups that require women to cover their hair, including  Orthodox Jews, Sikhs, Amish, and Mennonites?





  1. I’m still waiting for my chow-chow.


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