12/12/13

It's Sad. Breaks My Heart

Destructive division. Between husband and wife. Children and their grandparents. Friends. Community. And caused by the not-so-simple Amish.

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:
  1. Leave the life and be shunned. Rehire English for his business as no Amish may work for a shunned Amish.
  2. Stay and obey. The possible new rule may require he "clean up his act"--reduce technology/tools.
In his last correspondence to me, this married Amish man said, "My dream is..." I applauded him for having dreams. That's not the Swartzentruber way of thinking. Dreams, hopes, and aspirations beyond the Amish life are discouraged.

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.

33 comments:

  1. I hope he doesn't wait for the church to split. What about Mark 10:28-30 to encourage them-- Then Peter began to say to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You.” So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife[e] or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.


    It won't be easy to leave, but it will be right.

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    1. Thanks Steph for reading & leaving your insightful comments. I will share your words with this man. Yesterday, he & I talked again. I queried him about his decision for the children's education if he leaves. As an educator, I'm interested in their schooling as they won't be allowed to continue in an Amish school. If this Amish man leaves to become English, he doesn't want to send his children to public schools so he's exploring other options for their education, i.e, private tutor, parochial, etc. So many complexities. I laugh at people who blithely expound on "the simple life" of Amish.

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    2. Thanks Stephanie! I appreciate the support very much!

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  2. sallyinarizona@gmail.comDecember 13, 2013 at 10:40 PM

    Seeing your sad face tells a very big and important story. Thank you for sharing this situation with us all. The best way I know to understand "bad" is to look for the good that it also carries, learn from it, and if possible help others. I see your blog and what you do personally as just that kind of intervention. I am sure there are many who are thanking you for your good will.

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    1. I am sad. I am refraining from giving him my opinion. The weight on his shoulders is crushing and he's so young, the age of one of my daughters. I recognize & feel honored that God trusts me to help this man in his decision and probable transition to the forbidden English life. In a future post, I'll write about his desire to learn to drive. Yes, I'm allowing him to practice in my car! But he ducks down when he see Amish approaching him in their buggy - ah hem, you can't duck down while driving a vehicle.

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  3. This is so sad. I feel sorry for his wife. She's most certainly been brainwashed into believing "Amish is the only way." :-( How cruel and legalistic people can be in the name of religion.

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    1. Such a precious family. Yes, in the name of religion lots of wrongs have been perpetuated. Thanks for your interest and prayers.

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  4. This mans dilemma is a difficult one indeed and I can relate all too well.... from the business/economic standpoint to the children's' education and the pain of being shunned and loosing family. It becomes so complex when you are married with children, so many feelings will be hurt and hearts broken... It is not black and white, right or wrong- rather it is everything but... all I can offer is prayers to this man and his family-- all of them! Either way they have a long and often difficult road ahead. May God Bless you Brenda as you help them through in whatever way you can...

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    1. Being a former Amish, you'd understand Lisa. Thanks for your comments, which I hope helps readers see that the Amish life is not simple and something to be romanticized.

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    2. Thanks for your prayers!

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  5. Wow, my heart goes out to him as well as his wife. They must both be going through hard times. And made more complex by the fact that he wants to escape, and there is peace in escape but I am assuming she is too fearful to try to get out of the church. We were taught that leaving the church was a sure ticket to hell. Once we discovered that was not true, it changed the way everything looks. Lisa Yoder said it so well and I am praying that they can come to a solution that doesn't break the marriage and that they can both get out of the fear that binds them to a cult-like society. Blessings.

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    1. For my readers, Lester was an Amish preacher when he left. So he speaks with extreme knowledge & experience.

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  6. I appreciate everyone's support! What a feeling to have when you don't feel like you belong anywhere!

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  7. Dear "Anonymous", I was so happy to see you and your family at our Christmas service. As I sang, I kept you in my heart and prayed that you and your family would be deeply touched by the story of the birth of Christ, and the truth of his redemption, grace, and great love for you all. I prayed for the future of your children, and peace for your dear wife. There are so many like myself who are praying for you.
    May this Christmas season be the beginning of many blessings to come.

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  8. Thank you so much for everything! I can't thank everyone enough for the prayers in this time of turmoil! I'm sure the Lord will help in these difficult decisions if we ask him for help! Make god bless each one of you!

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    1. Readers; "Anonymous" is the Amish man I'm writing about here. Some have asked how he can read this blog & comment. Good question.
      He has a business where he has cell phone & internet....remember, THAT'S part of the problem his settlement leaders have with him. But hear his heart in the replies.

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  9. Oh, Anonymous, I'm so sorry you are in this turmoil, but often out of the storm comes that still quiet voice that leads us in the right direction. God often communicated with Moses in earthquakes, smoldering mountains, trembling rocks to show his power and might. Moses needed that show of power to lead the Israelites. However, when Elijah was depressed and felt defeated, God guided him through a gentle whisper. Many are praying for you and your family. And God will meet you in your need in the exact way that will assist you the best. I know Ms. Brenda and love her dearly. God has sent her to you. Many blessings...

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  10. This is quite a peek into a world I know nothing about. This is a great site my kidest regards to you and your family this holiday season.

    Sam

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    1. Thanks for reading Sam. Yes, to many this blog serves as a resource for accurate information and true stories unknown to most.

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  11. Anonymous:

    My name is Babs, and I'm a new reader to this blog. I just wanted to help add to the sentiment that everything will be okay.

    It's truly sad how forceful the Amish way can be, and how they scare everyone into submission with their idea of God. This may have worked back in the days of Martin Luther, when there was no formal law enforcement to keep anyone in line. But this day and age, when we know so much more and have the freedom to explore what is out there, forcing and scaring people into doing your bidding just isn't right.

    Tell your wife that the act of shunning may be scary (I can't imagine having all your loved ones turn their back on you simultaneiously is much fun), but that God isn't as fearsome as the Amish churches make Him out to be. In Christianity and most other religions, it is far more important that you do your best in life to be a good person. If you strive to do the right thing, being of independant thought won't keep you out of Heaven.

    In addition, tell her it's important to realize that she'll have a lot of people who will help her and love her on the "English" side and that there's not as much to fear as she thinks.

    I hope that helps. :)

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  12. Thanks so much for everything!

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  13. Thanks Babs. I will see to it that he sees your comment here.
    I agree with you that "God isn't as fearsome as the Amish churches make Him out to be." Many ex-Amish have told me that in their church, sermons always included stories of God's wrath and punishment...especially on those who leave the Amish.
    I also agree with your words that his wife will "have a lot of people who will help her and love her on the 'English' side." She needs patience to allow her mind to process the unthinkable - leaving the Amish. And she may never embrace the idea.

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    1. If she's conditioned to that level, than no, it probably will be quite an undertaking to convince her otherwise if at all. I agree, it is a very sad situation, and she's probably terrified.

      I wish there was a way to fix this. Hopefully you can help your friend show his wife how truly loving God actually is. It sounds like love and optimism is what she really needs to be shown right now.

      On a side note, I'm not Christian myself (I'm Buddhist), so, I don't pray in the same way you do. :) But I'll meditate and send good feelings and offer any insight I can to help get your friend and his wife on the right path.

      *HUGS* I hope things will be okay. I have a gut feeling they will, and I really want that gut feeling to be correct!

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    2. Thank you for your kind & helping comments Babs. I did alert this man (the subject of this post) to your words & he thanks you.
      Since you mentioned in your first comment that this is your first time here, please feel free to browse around, there are posts on buggies, Gma (church), dental practices, helping Monroe, & celebrating Josh's birthday plus many more informative comments.

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    3. I have been! I've gotten all caught up on everything in this blog so far, and I watched the PBS documentary you have linked.

      You provide an amazingly thorough look into the Amish lifestyle. I can't wait to read more and see how you and others continue to help these people transition into mainstream society as they choose to leave.

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  14. I've thought long and hard about anonymous' situation. I can't say I know exactly how he and his wife are feeling and the turmoil they must be going through. However, I do know that there are many religious groups that lean heavily on condemnation and guilt and separation from those they feel have gone astray, as was in my case. It is very difficult. I hope, though, that anonymous and his wife will allow themselves to be guided, not by the condemnation, guilt, and fear, but by God's grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness, and that they would be guided by the ultimate roadmap, which is the word of God.
    I have no quick solution or anything, but what I do have and offer is this. Prayer. I pray for anonymous and his wife. I pray that they will trust and follow God's leading, whichever way He leads, and that in doing so, that the peace which surpasses all understanding will take over and guard their hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

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  15. I feel his pain! The only difference between me and this amish guy is that I am the wife of an amish man who won't leave his church because he will be shunned by his family! Our preacher even stands up and teaches that we can NOT have the assurance of salvation..They also tell us that unconditional love is not for our people! I feel so strongly that we should not stay in this church and raise our two children this way! I wish someone could tell me what I should do because my husband told me recently that he will never leave the amish church! We are taught that we should obey our husbands no matter what!

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    1. Dear Anonymous, wish I had encouraging direction for you. Truth is, always being told what to do, who to obey, & how to think makes it difficult for you to have a choice. I cannot & will not tell you what to do. I will, however, pray for you.
      God is good. God called Himself, "I Am" meaning He is in your situation with you NOW.

      Your preacher who teaches that we can not have assurance of salvation doesn't know the Bible. When we trust in Jesus Christ, our eternal security in Christ is REALITY. When you have trusted in the Person and work of Christ for personal salvation, security is a fact. One of MANY Bible verses assuring us of salvation is, John 3:36 "The one who believes in the Son has eternal life."
      Unconditional Love is for ALL people of any race or religion. English or Amish.
      If you can get your hands on a Bible written in English, check out this verse in 1 Corinthians 13:4. When you read it, replace the word "love" with the word "God" and you'll know what He is to YOU.

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    2. Dear anonymous, just wanted to let you know that I've been praying for you and your husband so that he my come to the truth! I went through the very same situation other than it was turned around! I would be glad to help in any way I can! You are more than welcome to text or call me at 740-398-8577

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    3. Am praying 4 u

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  16. Hello, My name is Jeanette and I want to let anonymous know that I will pray that God will send his strength and comfort to him and his family and give them the wisdom to make the right decision. Not all churches focus on condemnation, guilt, and fear. My Moravian church puts their focus on God's love,grace, mercy, and forgivenes. Our church motto says it best for me: 'In essentials, unity; In unessentials, liberty; and in all things, love.

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