Wednesday, October 25, 2006

To be or not to be Amish

taken from here.

They are a natural curiosity because they are so protective of their privacy. I know them as Anabaptists, as buggy drivers, and by the fact that I don't know them at all.

Several weeks ago when they sprang into the news because of the schoolhouse tragedy, a few details of the tragedy I found very curious. While the man with the gun, Charlie Roberts was holding them captive, The oldest girl, approximately 13 years old, in the hopes of buying time for her younger classmates, asked to be shot first. The second oldest girl followed suit with this request after the first was shot. Here's where it came from originally.

The oldest girl, 13-year-old Marian Fisher, appealed to Roberts to shoot her first, in an effort to spare the younger girls, according to her younger sister who survived. The younger sister, Barbie, appealed to him to shoot her next. She was wounded in the hand, leg, and shoulder.


I teach high school. I don't meet kids capable of this sort of thinking, ever. This simple act on the part of these girls is the heart of what a Christian is to me. That these young girls could exhibit such selflessness and maturity, my only thought was "I want to raise a kid like that".

So I got curious about the Amish.

Naturally the first thing I run across is Rumspringa, which I am sure is a titillating thing for the world to imagine. It is the time after an Amish is 16 and they are allowed to do whatever they want before they decide to join the church or leave. They have an 85 to 90 percent retention rate.

I got Devil's Playground on my Netflix, watch it. It profiles several teens the most tragic being a young man named Faron Yoder (father Joseph, a pastor mentioned in this article on the Shipshewana tragedy), who seems to have a heart of gold but gets addicted to methamphetamines and coke while on Rumspringa and can't seem to extricate himself from the mess he made from his life, ultimately ending up in prison (though the documentary doesn't show this part) turned in by his parents.
Since we wrapped filming Faron got tired of trying to get by in Florida. The valet job didn't make enough in the off-season, and by then he was trying to sell $1500 vacuum cleaners door-to-door on commission which - unsurprisingly - didn't pay. Even Faron, smart as he is, is not equipped to succeed outside the Amish community. He left Emma and moved back to Indiana, succumbing to incessant pressure from his parents and the lure of a lucrative job with his dad. And it wasn't long before his parents turned him in for possession of a loaded gun and drugs paraphernalia.


It is patently bizarre to see these girls dressed Amish tipping 40 ouncers at a heavy metal show, talking about the fun they had at Ozfest, partying, living in sleazy trailers. I believe the ultimate point of the documentary was to show that Rumspringa might be a bit too much freedom for these kids to be able to handle coming from the background of ultimate sheltering and catechism.

Though most of the kids don't go to the extremes that a few kids do...most girls don't leave home, in fact according to the documentarian, most of the rebellion is institutional in nature. Like maybe the girls go buy buttons and eschew the pins that they are supposed to use.

Some old order Amish won't even use bicycles because they are too much fun (?).

It is interesting to learn more about them. A conversation ensued with J about how different protestants choose different passages of the bible to uphold and ignore. Like the great commission (to go and share the Message) at the end of Matthew and found in almost every one of the gospels doesn't seem to register for the Amish, but 2 Corintians 6:14 sure does (that the believer should not be unbeliever should not be unequally yoked with the unbeliever).

Still with the Amish affected by the West Nickel mines school forwarding all the money they have received to the wife of the shooter ($700,000 as of October 12), I wonder how many Christian people I know would do that?

I think maybe it would be easier to be a Christian like the Amish are. Where the world is totally removed, the temptations not before ones eyes on a daily basis. Or for Catholic sisters, whose every detail of their lives held accountable by where they live, their clothes, those who surround them. Much more difficult to try to live up to this standard without this "padding" of context.

Michael W. Smith, a Christian singer, held a benefit and said it was never the will of God that our children should perish. Who died and made him God? Bad things happen. Really, really bad things happen. Tragedies. To innocents, too. Who can know the will of God? Who has his Alpha and Omega wisdom?

What do I know, I know that as a Christian we are not in positions of power. We are not pundits or godfather-like power brokers. The Amish in this circumstance, in their forgiveness, their quietness, their example is really the only powerful thing we can have as believers.

8 comments:

Fitèna said...

What i know of the Amish i learnt through an amish girl who came to Mauritius. She was real nice and didn't drink coffe ecause she said it is not allowed. She also told meabout her 13 brothers and sisters. Then I read a novel staging a love story between an amish woman and non amish man. of course, love triumphed!
I learned an expression in that book "thinking that you are someone": to elieve that you are bette than others.
Of course, we heard of the shootings but the info you provide wasn't broadcasted here.

Fitèna

Margaret said...

It might be easier to be a Christian with little interaction with the world outside, but so many opportunities to teach and share are lost. It's kind of neat how different denominations focus on different parts of the same text.

Adeline said...

Margaret: Teaching and sharing with the outside world are not what the Amish are about, are they? Catholic sisters seem to manage this better.

I am not sure I like the fact that different denominations "cafeteria style" the bible, picking and choosing what they want to follow. I think ultimately that is the downfall of "church". Why don't they follow the "judge not lest ye be judged" part of the bible? There's alot of folks who need to read that part again.

Basically, there is a part of me that knows that the bible is so multilayered, that a church could conceivably (and it is done) pick and choose the parts of the bible that suit them best and go with those. I don't feel so comfortable about that.

But ultimately, it isn't the church that person goes to that they are judged for, but their own heart.

Fitena: yeah amish women are supposed to make as many kids as they humanly possibly can. The documentarian said there was one 40 some odd old amish woman she met who clearly had an eating disorder which she maintained so that she would not have anymore kids. Not good.

As for the love story, since what the Amish believe is that God is Love, than the question ultimately is whose love triumphed? not an answer for that one for us.

It is always bewildering how much we don't get to know.

Zhenya said...

This story has both shocked and allowed us to see a lot of the Amish world. I've always thought of Amish as people who are all about LAW, not grace. I am learning, through this story, that these people not only know grace, they bless others with it. They bless and forgive those whose names will remain infamous amongst us. They give money. They sacrifice lives. They do this in the name of the Lord, for the good of the people. No wonder most of them return to their homes after Rumspringa. I know I would.

Adeline said...

Zhenya

Yeah, even the kids who strayed the furthest in their partying lifestyle, the ones who gave up all community for "220 channels of direct tv, a car and parties every weekend" ultimately started to lament their choice, realizing that to give up what they had in those communities for the JUNK they had was not exactly a fair tradeoff.

it is interesting to watch the documentary. Even Faron wanted to go back and become a pastor like his dad, but he was just mired too deep in his drug usage. And it does put into stark contrast "Are you going to give up a simple life of unconditional acceptance, love and community so that you can wear jeans and drive a car?"

Is that a worthwhile tradeoff?

I told my brother I was going to become Amish and he laughed at me. But yeah, some of the stuff they get in exchange for what they give up is pretty desireable, intangible and almost totally unattainable outside of their communities.

Anonymous said...

you stated in your blog that Faron Yoder ended up in prison after the documentary...could you tell me where you got this info? I am writing a paper for sociology on this film, and am in need of some more information. my email address is krstill@edisto.cofc.edu. Thanks so much!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous above^:
It says on this site about Faron ending up in prison:
http://www.21cmagazine.com/issue1/devils_playground.html
it made me quite sad, but that as in like 2002, so he must be out now, i wonder if he joined the Amish in the end? any info would be appreciated:
thanks

Adeline said...

I have looked for more info on Faron and have really found nothing beyond the 21C documentary. I can't see as I would blame the young man for wanting to not have all this publicized. I don't know for sure, but I think he was shot in a drug related incident shortly after his parents booted him out of the house? I don't remember where I read this though so...