Censure and Criticism for Amish Truth

Last week I posted the accolades and applause for my blog and intimate knowledge about Amish. Here's the ugly, painful side of the truth-telling coin.

I'm not as vote-conscious as politicians nor thick-skinned as famous authors. Hateful criticism stings. Hurts. Bruises me. Maybe "controversy sells" in politics and publishing. But I don't thrive on it.

I won't run from it either.

Sometimes I ruminate for days over sour comments. Sometimes I'm able to turn them over to a big God who brought these ex-Amish into my life as His will. Out of His wisdom. For His reasons.

It'd surprise you who scolds me for writing truth about my experiences with Swartzentruber Amish and their fence-jumpers.
  • An occasional High order Amish (New or Beachy-Mennonite)
  • Some who write Amish fiction (and their editor)
  • Some who read Amish fiction
  • English who only know higher order - or functional - Amish families
  • English who make a living off Amish
Here's a sample: in a Facebook group, a man who knows only higher (less strict) Amish unnecessarily blasted and belittled me publicly, "I think she [Brenda] has a son-in-law who came from the Swartzentruber Amish so that makes her an 'expert' on all things Amish. Far from it, it does make her dangerous. She has never taken the time however to learn to know the larger group of people."

There's a difference between disagreeing, with my answer to a question, and assassinating my character and credibility. He failed to know the difference.

His undeserved outrage didn't merit my reply.  I merely said, "I'm sorry you feel a need to criticize." What he didn't know is I've friendships with ex-Old Order, New, Beachy, and Beachy-Mennonites but, why justify myself to him? What I really wanted to snap back was,
  • "have you taken time to intimately know Swartzentrubers as I do?" 
  • "feel superior now?"
  • "if you've read my posts, you'd know I'm blessed with more than a son-in-law from the Amish in my life and family."
  • "how do you know who I take time to know? Stalking?"
He's the extreme.

Here are the occasional raised eyebrows, censors and morale-stompers (ouch).
  • A couple high order Amish men cautioned me against telling the truth that impairs the rosy image. Um, why? I will if it increases education, compassion and prayers for others! Gratefully, most former Amish - from various orders - are my cheerleaders.
  • One Amish fiction author perpetuated so many false and unsubstantiated allegations against me that I lost my agent, and my attorney sent her a Cease and Desist letter. Hmm, can you say paranoid malice? Vicious competition? Well, she does make up stories for a living. But her distasteful behavior is the exception. Many Amish fiction authors are professional, confident, and give me supportive friendship. Thanks Lynette, Amy, Amanda, Stephanie, and others.
  • Amish fiction fans like entertainment. OK. But don't gripe at me for writing non-fiction. I am the "voice" of many of my beloved ex-Amish friends and relatives.
  • English who know only high order Amish remind me that that's not the way with the ones they know! OK. If you want to pen posts about your affectionate, family-oriented, godly Amish friends, do so.
  • One English woman whose husband is the Amish settlement's milk man, scowled at me, "You just want to write a book to make money off them." First, authors aren't wealthy. I know from experience - 34 books - and I shop with coupons and at thrift stores. Second, I'd never exploit my precious relationships with ex- or current Amish just for money. Not my nature. That's why I refrain from using last names, avoiding detailed identification, and ask their permission before posting.
    To her, I wanted to challenge, "Is that the pot calling the kettle black? What if all your husband's Amish clients moved away, stopped milking, or left the Amish life?"
Her sharp censure is almost my fave because it's the so hilariously far from truth.

Oh, forgot to mention that I'm "Black Sheep" when some Amish discover I help those who left their flock. Condemnation on me.

I have to keep it quiet that I give help and a home to their desperate homeless.

Now you know,
  • the life of an author isn't lucrative (can I get an Amen from my author subscribers?), 
  • truth isn't always pretty (is there an Amen from social service workers or those who advocate for human rights?), and 
  • sometimes you can't please anyone. So please the audience of One. "Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord." Romans 12:11.
Next time you disagree, are dismayed, or disappointed about my "inside" knowledge or observation, don't shoot me - I'm only the wordsmith.
Want an interesting speaker? Let your audience finger through my authentic Swartzentruber Amish clothes as I explain customs/beliefs/behaviors and fascinating facts about the Amish. Email me about speaking at your next event - speaker2parents@ juno.com

(C)Copyright, 2014, Brenda Nixon.


  1. Brenda, I've learned so much about the Amish -- particularly the Swartzentrubers -- from your blog. You've always been clear that you're sharing your experiences and POV (and those of the ex-Amish you know), and that all Amish are not the same. People who take the time to read your posts know that you treat the Amish with respect while also not romanticizing them. If anyone objects to the truth being told, it's because it hits too close to home and makes them uncomfortable. I think you do a wonderful job in educating we English about the Amish and the complexities that exist beyond our cozy image of buggies, barn raisings and homemade pie.

    And yes, I always get a good laugh when someone suggests people write books to rake in the dough. It would be nice if that was true, but the vast majorities of authors are just trying to make a living!

    1. Wow Stacey, thanks for reading/commenting and emailing me on occasion with sincere questions to help you understand.

    2. I second everything she said. You have opened my eyes to what many including myself did not know. You do it responsibly, having said many times over that not all Amish are the same. You have been clear on that. Perhaps the naysayers just don't know how to read?

      Kassandra M.

  2. Thank you for your honesty and research into the closed Amish culture. They are so secretive about there lifestyle and culture. I have read and enjoyed Amish fiction for years. But common sense tells you life does not always reflect what is in those books. That is why it's called fiction.

    The truth needs to be told, and who is going to tell it, if not the people who have left that community. The ones who lived it. The ones who know what goes on in this secretive culture. You are giving those people a voice. You are telling their stories. Thank you for the research and informative posts.

    1. Right, fiction is fine as long as readers remember it's contrived for entertainment.

      As one of my friends reminded me, "God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs," Matthew 5:10, New Living Translation.

    2. I second all this too!


  3. Is a book written for any other reason than to make money? Oh, yes, there would be the angle to impart information. I think you have done your research quite well and don't make up idealized fictionalized stories about the Amish and so many are wont to do. That is why I like and support your style. You can't really pay too much attention to these naysayers....just keep on doing the right thing. When you are doing something right, there will always be someone coming against you. Be the bigger person (and you are!). Let them blow over. They will find other things to do with their time.

    1. Aww thanks Lester! Imparting information is my goal whether writing this blog or a book. And aren't you having a book written about you? Or is that a movie? I'm sure it's just to make money, right? LOL
      For readers: Lester was an Old Order Amish preacher when he left his familiar life for the English world. He's a wonderful, warm friend and occasionally helps me verify facts about the Amish. Who would know better?

    2. I agree with what Lester said. There will always be a few people who just have to criticize or stir the pot, My friend don't lose any sleep over it. I love your blogs, books and friendship. I am sure many of your fb friends really admire you, and speak so positively of you. Keep up the great and informational work, God Bless ! Diane H fb friend

  4. Brenda- I am so sorry that you are being attacked. This breaks my heart. I know your intentions and your kindness and the love you show to those around you. Keep speaking your heart. God will bless you. Truth is truth. I admire you for taking this issue on and even though it is challenging, you are strong and you will prevail. And from one poor author to another, keep writing. When God gifts us and calls us to write, He has a plan. He will shine His light through you, friend. Hugs - Trish Berg

  5. Brenda, I wish I could have tenth of what outsiders think authors make. From experience of hearing your stories of ex-Amish first hand (as you talked from the rocking chair on my front porch in Texas), I know your heart. You have a passion to help those who want to be helped and are unable to help themselves. I've enjoyed all our conversations and your posts. I actually taught tonight in a women's Bible class about when caustic remarks come our way, how they cause "word curses." Our Father is larger than word curses and says in Isaiah 58:9, that God hears the voice of those who have done away with the "yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk (NIV)" God hears your pleas for truth as you are a voice for many ex-Amish. May God bless your ministry.

    1. ya, I wish I could have a tenth of what readers think us authors make. Thanks for your kind encouragement.

  6. Hang in there, Brenda! I left that same Facebook group. Once saved, always saved is what got me in trouble. But the joke's on them! We know the truth.

  7. We were just down to Ohio Amish Country with family a couple months ago. My sister-in-law loves the Amish fiction. She began telling me "facts" she'd learned and I asked where they came from. They were all from the fiction she'd read. I referred her to your blog and also left your URL with a lady we met who does what you do when there is an Amish who wants to break away. The lady herself is former Amish. I don't mind the Amish fiction. It fills an entertainment need in many and this too shall pass as other fiction fads have. Authors fill different needs for different readers' tastes. I just hope readers understand that fiction is fiction. Any fact that it is based on can be bent and shaped to provide the entertainment factor that makes fiction fun to read. Those who wish to stay in the Amish culture have the right to do so but it is nice to know that there are people like you and the lady we met who will help those who wish to break away. By the way, we were assured by several that there was no such thing as the Amish Maffia. Fact or fiction or just bad reality TV?????

  8. I've just read a selection of your posts today, having just found your site. And yes I can support you in your statement that few writers of books make a living from it. The book I wrote, at the request of the publisher made me only in the hundreds of dollars - for about 6 months work. That just wasn't worth it from a financial perspective.

    And as a past blogger I can only pass on what my mentor said. "It's only when you are viciously attacked that you know you have made it. It happens to us all." It happened to me too, and knowing it was common helped a little, though not much. My mentor did say, "Never feed the trolls" by which I understood him to mean, never explain, never respond.

    Thanks for your very informative site. I found it when googling to find out more about the Amish and the eastern states of the US as my husband and I intend to visit at some stage next year.

    1. Welcome Harriet and best wishes on your book. Your mentor sounds wise. Thanks for reading and learning from my blog posts. My life has been a vertical learning curve since meeting former Amish :-)

  9. Hey there friend.....yes, friend! It's Pam from Alabam!!!! I love to read your blogs and I too am sorry for the way people treat you. Speaking the truth "in love" is hard and sometimes harder when you are being attacked by those they want to hide behide a lie. Keep doing what you are doing. It is your calling and Satan doesn't like it. When I make another trip up yhere I would like to introduce you to some of my friends that are ex Amish. Thry would love to meet you. Stay strong. You are my inspiration!!!!!

    1. Thanks Alabama Pam :-) glad you read & have learned beyond the buggies & bonnets image.

  10. Brenda! Thanks so much for your honesty about the Amish culture. Those of us who have had contact with them for years, as myself, realize that they hold many secrets. It is sad that so many people want only fiction about the Amish and tend to stick their heads in the sand - thinking it will go away. As a former (retired) social service administrator, the truth is rarely pretty and yes it hurts at times. So, if telling the truth simply impairs their rosy images, gee too bad! Keep telling the truth Brenda!! Blessings, Lisa Tharp

  11. You quoted one critic, the man in the Facebook group, as saying, "She has never taken the time however to learn to know the larger group of people."

    I find it difficult to believe he's right. But that does raise a question: How much reading and other research have you done? There are a lot of resources about the various kinds of Amish, including one book focusing on an "English" guy's friendship with Swartzentrubers he lives near.

    If you are booking public speaking engagements and talking about the Amish, then I assume you get audience questions about Swartzentrubers and maybe also questions about the Amish generally. I imagine that your answers would benefit from detailed knowledge beyond what your ex-Amish kids tell you; that in turn would enhance your reputation and lead to more speaking engagements.

    1. I share my experiences; that's what I own and know. Along the way I learn through observation, questions, and reading. Book me for a speaking engagement and see if you enjoy my answers :-)
      Few nonfiction resources exist. Ira Wagler's Growing Up Amish is a good read on Old Order Amish. Lester who commented above ^ is having a movie made of his life in Old Order.

  12. Emma K. emailed me privately with these comments. She said I could add them on this post for everyone to read: "Great article! I admire you for what you do. Being Amish for almost 32 years I have not heard nor seen any untruth coming from you. You delicately speak the truths you go Brenda. I am a fan!"
    Thank you Emma.

  13. Brenda, I totally agree with you. I have had a very close friendship with an Old Order family, for over 30 yrs. I think of them as my second family and they the same of me. And yes, you can find all the traits good and bad, that us English have, among the Amish.
    I enjoy reading your Blog, but have not read any of your books, But I would guess they are just as good. I know of an X Amish woman that has written a book, talk about fiction, the names were changed, but I having known the families involved, was shocked at what she had written about them. I have attened Amish church for a number of years. So have seen, heard and done may things most folks would never have the chance to.
    One last thing, I just can't watch stand to watch all the reality show, not just the fake beards, but the picture they paint of the Amish .
    Keep up the good work with the work you do. Thank you!!!

  14. Thanks, Brenda, for sharing your perspectives and for being courageous. I know you've sharing honestly what you've learned. Keep up the great work!