Have you noticed I don't publish the last name of "my guys" who are ex-Amish? Never will.
Sensitive to the consequences, I discussed this topic previously with Mosie and Josh. My daughter suggested that I change names to a pseudonym to protect them.
Today we discussed it with Harvey, my son-in-law. I chatted on the phone with a lady who used to teach in an Amish school. She's givng me permission to share her experiences, firsthand observations, and spiritual compassion for the Amish. "Don't publish my name in your book," she warned. "They [Amish] don't like me."
"Why?" you ask.
Believe it or not, among the Swartzentruber Amish, secrecy rules. This "most hard core" sect, as ex-Amish turned author Ira Wagler calls 'em, doesn't want outsiders - you and me - to know their goings-on. Their ways are their ways and they don't feel obliged to explain anything to outsiders. In fact, inside the culture questions aren't welcome. Curiosity isn't valued. Understanding doesn't matter.
What I've been given permission to write pulls back the curtain of what goes on . . . for readers. Parents feel betrayed, afraid, disappointed, like failures; worse, those who have many children leave are labeled "Black Sheep" by their settlement. Harvey's parents were angry he left - "jumped the fence" to use a common phrase. He's turned over to Satan, as is Mosie, Josh, Uria, and the others. Those feelings would intensify against the ex-Amish if anyone in their settlement read published stories of their upbringing and about the culture.
I'm taking a risk. When/if Bishops know who I am, they may label me "Black Sheep" - if they don't first ban my book. Yes, the Bishop controls everything including censoring books their people read.
You'll discover that I neither romanticize nor criticize Amish but, help curious readers understand this cloistered - and often misunderstood - society. Too much false information is already in books and on TV "reality" shows. And it's a shame when English think they know all Amish by one book or show.
So to answer the "why no last name" question, I answer, "To respect the people inside from community retribution and to protect those outside from enjoying a hopeful reconciliation.
It's a fine line and I'm trying to walk it in love. ~ Brenda