An Amish man is desperate to leave. His wife wants to stay. She's paralyzed with fear. He's immobilized with turmoil. The couple is torn. His young children may be cut off from their grandparents.
He's talked to me about it. Here's the complex back story:
The Amish is a patriarchal society. Men are always the decision-makers. Men are chosen as Church leaders. A father controls his family. He tells his children what to do even after they're married with their own family. In this situation, the elder patriarch wants his married son to shun family members who've left the Amish. But the son resists the order. They argue. The disappointed elder feels disrespected. Angry.
To disobey the parent is to sin and face hell (in more ways than one). Amish preach - indoctrinate - the Ephesians 6:1 Bible verse, "Children, obey your parents," disregarding the remaining verse, "in the Lord." In the Swartzentruber and Old Order Amish, obeying a parent is obeying GOD.[Click to Tweet that]
Added to his family discord, his local church is making new rules. Each year, leaders may add rules to the settlement's Ordnung (oral rulebook). To me, it's like the Old Testament Jewish Pharisees who piled rules onto rules. This past year, the Church leaders thought the married son should close his business or they'll prohibit other Amish from working for him. Why? He's using too much technology and electric tools in his business. As a Swartzentruber Amish, he cannot hire English employees--they're exempt from EEOC laws--nor ex-Amish. Employees must be Amish, so the church can control them.
The leaders met to discuss making a rule about his high-tech business practices. Not all agreed so for now, it's not a rule but it's not settled.
For those who think the Amish have a simple life read on: The church cannot agree on the new rule. So they have one year to come up with a rule that the leaders agree with. If they "can't come up with something, the church usually splits into two separate groups," he told me. And if that happens, "people can get out without being shunned." He goes on to say he "hopes that the church splits so we wouldn't be shunned."
How pitiful. To hope for a church split so he, his wife, and children can exit without the emotional torment of shunning. [Click to Tweet that]
For now, here are this man's two choices:
- Leave the life and be shunned. Rehire English for his business as no Amish may work for a shunned Amish.
- Stay and obey. The possible new rule may require he "clean up his act"--reduce technology/tools.
For anyone, it's hard to live up to dreams and decisions. This post isn't entertaining or easy but, neither is the life of Swartzentruber Amish. I'm reminded of the Brazilian author Paulo Coelho who wrote, "I realized that despite the fear and the bruises of life, one has to keep on fighting for one's dream."
Please join me in prayer for this man, his dream, his decision, and his five precious children.