As I was commenting on the comments for another post, I began explaining some information about the various differences and lack thereof between protestant denominations. I will add a little something of what I know about Catholicism. After all, my Jewish friends and acquaintances are always asking me about these things. I think it's about time I blogged it.
As a former protestant, who even went to a protestant college, there really is no difference between most of the denominations and often two of the same denomination are nothing alike. For example, a black baptist church is NOTHING like the right wing fundamentalist baptist church I used to attend where everyone was white. I bet the women wear pants at the black baptist church. I wore pants to church one Sunday and I got more looks than I did when I wore a pantsuit to an Orthodox shul early in my conversion.
Now there was a guy in my college whose family was with their local Free Methodist church. So, I, the analytical girl that I am, had to ask what is the difference. Well, at one point churches or maybe just Methodist churches charged for seat or didn't let blacks in or something. Free Methodist was the first group to do this.
The Xtian college I went to was Weslyan which is a kind of Methodist. Now, as mentioned before, Methodist... Baptist... whatever... Actually, we didn't have a "dress code" like you will see that I encountered in the Baptist world. However, I don't remember problems with girls wearing short skirts or anything. Most of us wore baggy jeans and a t-shirt or sweatshirt.
As alluded to above, dress code changes as greatly across the spectrum of churches as it does across the spectrum of synagogues. The right wing fundamentalist baptist church where I found myself for the first three years of high school had a dress code similar to the Orthodox one.
One differences was that we didn't have to cover our elbows but, we did have to cover our shoulders because those were considered too sexy. I once saw a girl on a date in a kosher restaurant wearing a long sleeved shirt with the shoulders cut out. I can just imagine her defense, "well, my elbows are covered." I was so embarassed, as I was with an Xtian friend who said, "I thought Jewish girls were supposed to cover up?"
The rules regarding skirts and skirt lengths were the same. The skirt was supposed to be to the knee or lower and slits should be only below the knee. It's unfortunate that this seems to only be in theory in the Orthodox world, as I frequently see the super tight jeans skirt, you know the one I mean, above the knee with a slit in the back that goes waaaaaaaaaaaay up.
I promised you I would speak about Catholicism. My mother was raised Catholic and gram, who lived with us, still practiced while, my mother lapsed in her practice. So, I should know more about it, but, I don't really know much. The Catholics pray to saints and light candles. Their churches are large and echo a lot. They also smell funny. I think it's the candles and the old ladies' perfume. Catholics are the ones who make a big deal about Mary. Whereas, for the protestants, she is just a character in the story.
A lot of people send their kids to Catholic school, not because they are religious, but because they don't want their kids in the public school. This is where the misconception comes about that non-Jews are not religious and don't have required dress codes. Jews have told me, "but, the Catholic girls wear such short skirts..." Yes, but, these are not religious people letting thier daughters go about like this. I am, though, kind of surprised the schools don't hold a higher standard. I guess the schools just want the money.
Perhaps, we have just as many identifications in Judaism. However, we have these umbrellas: Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist. Think about it though, how many kinds of Orthodox are there? Well, there's MO liberal, MO machmir, Shomer Mitzvos, Carlebachian, Yeshivish, Chabad-those who believe the rebbe was moshiach, Chabad-those who don't believe the rebbe was moshiach, whatever variation in the sephardic world and then we get into allllllllllllllll the types of Chasidic, as well as people who proclaim, "I don't fit into any group but, I'm Orthodox." I, of course, have no clue about whatever breakdowns might exist for the other umbrellas I mentioned.