Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Group Norming

Writing about my experience with the conformist non-conformist hardcore crowd got me thinking about the idea of socialization and how group norms function.
Every group has norms, even if it is to have no norms. The most hodgepodge, seemingly random conglomeration of people will naturally mimic one another or some charismatic personality.
There's a movie called SLC Punk which deals with this phenomenon in a humorous way. A memorable moment in the movie is when the main character's "preppy" love interest asks this non-conforming anarchist "did you buy a uniform?"
It's as if each of us choose these affinity groups and adhere strictly to the dress code, mannerisms, and opinions.
To be human is to be in relationship. This is something emphasized a lot in the emerging church conversation and highlighted by early church fathers.
So, is there something ghoulish about the process of norming and socialization? Probably not. In fact, it should be beneficial. Churches establish dress codes, either formally or informally. There are unspoken rules about how to dress. And behavior isn't exempted from this process. Even the hippest-emergingest-mac usingest church or faith community will seek to socialize the people to "the way we do things".
Why not be more explicit? Why not establish written flexible rules about behavior and dress for a given situation?

This summer I took a group of young people to visit various churches. At one of our visits (a predominantly black Baptist Charismatic church) I noticed one of our young men was wearing a rebel flag t-shirt under his dress shirt.
So, I would be in favor of explaining to people that the way we dress in worship should be non-distracting. To me, that means no logos, baudy jewelry, even overly expensive suits and dresses should be nixed. Immodest clothing should be avoided.
I firmly believe that the way a community dresses (intentionally or not) expresses some very important things about what the community values.

So, my church wouldn't hand out "uniforms", but we would be intentional about expressing God's beauty, purity, and grace with our dress.


Chappy said...

Just in case you were about to point a finger, it wasn't me wearing the Dixie Outfitters shirt :) KEep up the insightful philosophical posts man!

Stacy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Stacy said...

That is good stuff Levi. I agree completely. I think "non-conformists" people conform faster than "conformists". Non-conformance is really hip right now. What's interesting is that I don't mind being a conformist because I'm trying to conform to the image of Christ. Even if I appear to be conforming to the actions of others in the body of Christ, I believe its because they are trying to conform to the image of Christ as well. So, go me a conformist. I'll just take it as a compliment.

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