Friendly Fashion Faux-Pas

John Woolman, revered today as one of the earliest Quaker opponents to slavery in the USA, was considered quite the fashion oddball in his time. He dressed in homespun white wool clothes, whether the wool was weighed down by cold rain or made him sweat in summer heat. Why did he not dress in plain gray cotton clothes, like most other Quakers did at the time?

John believed that neither cotton nor dyes would be available without slave labor and that, if he bought dyed cotton, he would be supporting slavery. He would both be legitimizing slavery and paying slave owners and traders to continue their practices.  

Though many other Quakers soon joined John’s opposition to slavery and The Religious Society of Friends threw its weight into abolition, few Quakers ever adopted John’s attire.

One of John Woolman’s most famous statements was that we should look to our possessions for the seeds of war.

Query for prayerful consideration:

Are there ways in which my possessions are “seeds of war”?

One thought on “Friendly Fashion Faux-Pas

  1. I wonder if it would be easier to count which of my possessions are not “seeds of war” as opposed to which are. What do I own that was not transported to me by dependence on foreign oil? What do I own that is neccissity and not simply a luxury provided to me by the oppression of the rest of the world for the betterment of the US economy? It sounds trite and self righteous to argue that things have gotten much more complicated then they were in John Woolman’s day. But, it has gotten more interdependent and complex. However, this does not excuse from asking what radical pragmatic faithfulness looks like. How can we hear Christ clearly and respond to the simple, but often life altering things we’re called to? Thanks for posing the question Susanne….


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