June 20, 2014

“Wannabe” Amish…

Category: News — Ira @ 6:43 pm


“A wannabe really is clueless on the real deal, only seeing what he wants
to…But you can tell the wannabe what he needs to know; we don’t all have to
go through deep waters to learn that [if we do] we will get very, very wet.”

-Excerpt from an email message

I don’t know what it is. I guess I’m just a magnet for certain things. And no, I’m not grumbling about the emails that still trickle in now and then from readers. I appreciate the time people take to write, and tell me they read my book. They had to be a little affected, or they wouldn’t have gone to all that bother. It’s when they take things a little further, as has happened a couple of times just lately, that I sigh and shake my head. It’s when they tell me. “I really feel like I want to join the Amish. I’m serious. Can you help me? Is there anyone you know that you could connect me with?” And I sigh a little bit more. Some of my closest friends around here are Amish. But I’m pretty protective of those relationships. I sure don’t like to bug my friends with a load of unnecessary baggage. So no, I think to myself. I don’t know of anyone who could help you become Amish. I don’t usually bother even responding to requests like that. It wouldn’t get anyone to any good place, anywhere.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad the Amish are as popular as they are, in the current publishing climate. That popularity is a big part of the reason that the Tyndale people ever gave me a shot at my book. Absent that, I don’t kid myself. The book would never have been written, because it never would have gotten anywhere. So I’m grateful that people like to read about the Amish, whether it’s fiction or memoir. (I think that whole market’s getting pretty saturated, though. I can’t see it holding on to such intensity for much longer. But maybe I’m wrong.) And I’m not going to scold anyone who takes it to the next level, and wants to join. But I’d like to have a little chat with such people, right here.

First off, I’ll tell you. You have no idea of what you’re asking. You really, really don’t. It’s not the kind of culture that adopts outsiders well. There is little mechanism for such a thing. And what about the language? How are you going to learn that? You have to be born into the culture. Yeah, I know. It all looks too good to be true, so idyllic and peaceful from the outside. You marvel, that people can even exist in today’s world, in such a setting. But they’re just people, too. Flawed, like the people in your own world are. You yearn for something more, something deeper, in your life. Which is fine, to yearn for a more peaceful place. But coming from where I came from, I can tell you that some of those “peaceful places” look a lot more peaceful from outside than they actually are when you’re in them. I mean, I just wrote a book about all that. And if you’re contacting me, you’ve probably read that book.

They’ve tried it by the dozens, people have, over the years. To join from the outside. I’ve always been fascinated that anyone would even want to. And I think it takes a certain type of personality, to get so far as to even try. I saw a good many of those people up in Aylmer, back when I was a child. Somehow, that community was a magnet for such seekers. It probably had something to do with Family Life, and those other magazines they were cranking out up there. Here we are, speaking grave noble proclamations. Here’s the shining city on a hill. Here we are, living right before God. And they came from all over, it seemed, the eager wannabes. They sure brought some color and flavor into our rather drab and provincial lives. We didn’t really treat them all that politely. But they were fun to hang around with and talk to. Bottom line is this, though. Of all those characters that came slogging through, all starry-eyed and eager, of all those seekers, not one of them made it. At least not that I know of.

Oh, except one man did. But he came around way early on, when I was pretty young. He wasn’t with the crowds of others, and he wasn’t that welcoming to those others. That one success was David Luthy, the eminent Amish historian. He set his roots, there in Aylmer. Married. Raised a family. And there he remains today. But he was a rare, rare, and I mean rare exception to the rule. I’ve always thought he made it because he came from a hard-core Catholic background. I’ve said it before. Amish guilt and Catholic guilt are pretty much twin models. He was (and is) highly educated, with a Master’s Degree from Notre Dame. And he was figuring to enter the priesthood, when he heard about the Amish. He decided to check them out. Their simple structured lifestyle appealed to something deep inside him. And he joined, up there in Aylmer. Or maybe it was northern Indiana, where he first touched base. He learned to speak the language, pretty fluently. He was a staff writer for Family Life, when Dad and Joseph Stoll launched that magazine. And he wrote all kinds of little moral stories. I remember one such story about the “little places,” in which he decried that the Amish were moving away from their legacy of farming. I guess he saw that happening in northern Indiana, where they work in factories a lot.

I think he grasped at a perfect concept of what he thought the Amish should be, should look like. They shouldn’t have little places. They should have farms. Like so many others who try to join from the outside, he was more Amish than the Amish. And in the end, despite all he wrote about the glories of working the land as s family, of seedtime and harvest and the beauty of it all, he never was a farmer. Which I completely understand. I’m not a farmer, either. He ended up on a “little place,” himself. And from that little place, the man produced an enormous body of first-class, historical writing.

Since those years, David Luthy has done some of the finest quality research about the history of the Amish. And he’s produced some of the finest writing ever done on that subject. It seemed like it was just destined to be, that a man like him would come along, and preserve much of the history of a culture he wasn’t born into. It’s kind of startling and surreal, when I think about it. I certainly respect the man a lot, and I respect all he got accomplished.

But I still don’t understand why he did what he did, in joining the Amish. And I’ll say it one more time. He was a rare exception. For every success story like his, there were a hundred wannabes that crashed and burned. And burned out.

Years and years ago, right about the time I was fixing to go to college, David Luthy said something to my father that Dad never forgot. “I always thought Ira might want to move here and help me with my writing and research,” he said. Or something along those lines. I don’t know if he actually meant it, but Dad latched right on. And he seriously asked me, the next time I came around. “Wouldn’t you consider taking up David’s offer? You’d be accomplishing something real and lasting, if you worked with him. He told me you’d be welcome.” I never even remotely considered the offer, although I was flattered that David thought highly enough of me to mention something. I’m not a research kind of guy, I told Dad. I’d get bored to death, trying to force myself into a role like that. Besides, I don’t want to be Amish. It took me years, to break away. Why would I ever want to walk right back into that mess? Dad never quite let it go, though. Pretty much every time he saw me after that, for years, he brought it up. “David Luthy wanted you to come and write for him. That was a real opportunity for you. I sure wish you would have gone” That’s fine, I’m honored, I always said. I don’t regret it, though. I guess that’s what’s going to have to count, in my life.

So David Luthy made it, to join the Amish for good. And Sam Johnson made it, too, there in northern Indiana, about the time I came wandering into his life, a desperate and despairing man. I’m really glad Sam stuck it out. He was there for me, right when I needed someone like that the most.

But I think of all those other poor souls who came wandering by, all those years ago. I can’t remember their names, and their faces are blurred, in my memory. But they came. They came and tried to follow their visions of living the peaceful Amish life. Poor lost souls, is what they were. I feel nothing but pity for them. They came from families, somewhere. And when it all blew up, when none of their dreams worked out, when they left, they went somewhere. I wonder sometimes where they are today. And how all their lives turned out. Here’s what I want to say about those people. They all spent a lot of effort, a lot of time and a lot of blood, sweat and tears, to follow their vision of joining the Amish. A lot. And eventually, they all drifted off, deeply disillusioned. Sure, you can chalk it up to “just having an experience.” They certainly had one that most people never get to see. But still. All those years, all that toil, and all for nothing, in the end.

And recently I heard from such a person, someone who had tried to join the Amish. She sent an intelligent and reflective email. She’d read my book, and wanted to tell me she nodded her head a lot while reading. The stuff I wrote was real. And she told me. She and her husband had joined the Amish in an eastern state. They never felt as if they were totally accepted. She didn’t go into a lot of detail, but I could see that happening, not being accepted. And then they spun over to the Eastern Mennonites. I don’t know much about Plain Mennonite groups, but the Easterns are among the strictest, at least around here. Nice people, don’t get me wrong. You just don’t want to try to join them. Anyway, that didn’t work, either, the woman wrote. At some point, then, they drifted back to the outside world. And that’s where they live today. And she told me, in conclusion. “Now we are back to being Christians.”

And so they looped around, this woman and her husband. I don’t know if they have children, she never said. And I’ve thought a lot about her statement, there. Now we are back to being Christians. Isn’t that what it’s all about, in the end? To be calm wherever you are, to follow Christ wherever you are? She did say they had some good experiences as well, among the Plain groups. And met some very nice people. I’m sure they did. But it seems to me there was a lot of wading through deep waters, too, and a lot of lost time. You don’t ever get that lost time back. It just seems like there was so much wasted effort. And for what, in the end? For what?

So if you are a “wannabe” Amish, let me tell you as frankly as I can. It won’t work, to join. It will not work. Well, I guess it could, because it has. But the odds are astronomical that it won’t. And it won’t be anything like what you’re envisioning, joining. It won’t be utopia. There is no utopia on this earth. It’s not the kind of culture that adopts outsiders well. If you come from the outside, you’ll always be an outsider. There is no mechanism for such a thing, to deal with people like you. That doesn’t make you a bad person, or anything like that. It just makes the path you are considering pretty much impossible. You have to be born into the culture. You have to be born into its ways. You have to be born into its language.

And there’s one more thing that bugs me just a little bit. I’d like to ask those who write me, looking for a connection to the Amish. Did you actually read my book? If you did, how did you not catch the part where I almost lost my mind, breaking away? It’s about as hard to break away as it is to join from the outside, at least for some of us it was. How did you miss all that turmoil, all that tortured anguish, all that frantic running, all that grief? And if you didn’t miss that, why in the world do you think a guy who went through all that would ever want to tell you how to get to where he came from?

And no, I’m not scolding. I’m just asking.

A few closing thoughts on a few things. July 4th is coming right up. Flag waving, rah-rah, we’re-the-greatest-country-on-the-face-of-the-earth Day. I think most of you know how I feel about all that. I won’t be waving any flags. But I’ll be having fun with friends, cooking out and hanging out. And I probably won’t post that Friday. I’m thinking I won’t. Of course, when the pressure’s not on, something might just come on its own. If it does, I’ll post. If not, I won’t. We’ll see.

I haven’t gone off on a tangent like this for a while. Had to wait for a trigger, I guess. But here goes. The state does nothing but impede the free market. It’s a vile and evil entity, and it will always be vile and evil. The state has not one redeeming quality. Not one. It will always gorge itself on innocent blood until it implodes under its own weight. Then it starts the process all over, and repeats. That’s just how it’s been, through all of history.

And New York is a vile and evil state. I had a wide load to deliver in upstate New York, scheduled to leave this past Monday morning. We ordered the wide load permits last week. On the Friday afternoon before, around 4 o’clock, the permit service people we deal with called Rosita. There are two counties up there that demand special permits, to take wide loads through. And until those county permits are issued, the state permits will be held back.

It was all such a mess, over the weekend. I stressed about it a good deal. The two counties require 24-48 hours, to get their permits signed. So the load was backed off. On Tuesday morning, my driver headed out to a truck stop in New Jersey, as far as his permits would take him. And there he sat, waiting until the New York permits were faxed to him. He finally got to his drop point around mid afternoon, to unload. He got home real late that night. Meanwhile, the guys who planned to start the building on Monday had their schedule yanked back for two whole days. All because of the state. All because of a piece of paper you have to pay for, to get to where you’re going. It’s like paying thieving warlords, to cross their territories. No, it IS paying thieving warlords. And it’s all one big racket.

A while ago, I had some correspondence with a Facebook friend I’ve never met. She comes from a Plain Beachy Amish background out in the Midwest, from what I can tell. She’s broken totally away, like I have from my Amish past, as least in dress and lifestyle. I think she’s a little closer to her experience than I am to mine. She left more recently.

I forget what my post was about, on Facebook. But in her comments, my friend told me she had spoken recently with a cousin who still is with the Beachys, somewhere out in the Midwest. And that person told her. “We don’t like Ira Wagler, because he just writes what he wants. He doesn’t care what anyone else thinks.”

I’ve thought some about that comment since. And I gotta say. It’s probably the biggest compliment I’ve ever received about my writing. I can’t think of one that pleased me more. I mean, if some people choose not to like me because I don’t care what they think, how much freer can you get than that? Especially if I don’t even know who they are. I choose not to walk in “fear of man.” I never try to be deliberately offensive, of course. But I write what I want to write. I don’t much care what you think about it, one way or the other, as far as agreeing with me. I guess I care a little bit about whether or not you read my stuff. I want as many readers as I can get. But in the end, even that doesn’t matter much, not when it comes to writing what I have to say. I’ll write it anyway.

If I wrote all perturbed about what my readers will or won’t think, about whether or not they will like me, especially readers from Plain places, I wouldn’t get a whole lot of writing done. I never would have. I’d be too paralyzed.

It’s one of my biggest passions. Freedom. I will walk free, when it comes to speaking what I have to say. And it’s a beautiful thing, to write free like that.



  1. It all comes down to each person makes their own journey through life. It takes a total life change to become someone that is so different from what is familiar. You took your path and found your comfortable niche by your own set of circumstances, and it is only logical that they should do the same, by finding their own way. You are wise to not let them use you for a stepping stone.

    Comment by Carol Ellmore — June 20, 2014 @ 7:08 pm

  2. Good post.
    I’ve also never understood why people would want to join a shelter culture like the amish or the strict mennonite (where I came from), because I’m all about freedom and cultures like that don’t have any.

    Love your last paragraph – speak and write on!

    Comment by Janet Oberholtzer — June 20, 2014 @ 7:09 pm

  3. Have a friend who was raised Catholic and tried to join the Eastern Mennonites. He says they are the Marines of the Mennonites. I thought that has a nice ring to it.

    Comment by john e smucker — June 20, 2014 @ 9:06 pm

  4. What if a person has experienced that most real of all experiences, the new birth, and they are dead to the world and wanting to live only for Christ?
    What if they are not mired down in Protestant, Catholic, or evangelical theology, and believe that God actually meant for us to obey his Word, including:

    “Come out from among them and be ye separate” 2 Corinthians 6:17
    Choosing lay ministers by lot Acts 1:23
    Women’s headship veiling 1 Corinthians 11
    all of the Sermon on the Mount
    and much, much more.

    Granted, just because someone is Amish does not mean they are born again. Far from it.
    And yes, there are many seeking a certain lifestyle who should look elsewhere. And there are a lot of crazies who have very deep needs that the Amish community is not set up to deal with.

    But there is a small sliver of the population that lives in limbo, between the world, and a culture that is based on scripture, that extends back 500 years and then forms a bridge back to the first couple hundred years of the Christian church. It is tragic that for these people, there is no way “in.” Your father, some of the Stolls, and some others have had a heart for these seekers, and that is greatly appreciated.

    Comment by Naomi — June 20, 2014 @ 9:22 pm

  5. Thank you for another great blog post. Yes, freedom is beautiful. The reason I like your writing is the exact same reason the Midwest Beachy’s didn’t.

    Comment by Judith Y. — June 20, 2014 @ 10:00 pm

  6. Thanks for writing and sharing your thoughts. Hard to break away from all the legalism and nice to be just be a “Christian.” I wasn’t raised Amish or Mennonite, but I can relate to all the rules and regulations that we had to follow. Felt smothered. Keep writing!

    Comment by Debra Davis — June 20, 2014 @ 10:13 pm

  7. I wannabe a politician. I’m thinking the best route would be to join the military and aspire to an officer’s position first. Maybe start off working for the DOT for awhile while I get my ducks in a row. I know you have a lot of connections…would you hook me up? :D

    Comment by Lisa DeYoung — June 20, 2014 @ 11:28 pm

  8. Excellent post and one that needed to be written. ‘Amish’ is greatly misunderstood as you know.
    I think it takes deep experiences like in your life or something like the serious illness I have been through to really think freely.

    Comment by Linda Ault — June 21, 2014 @ 8:59 am

  9. Yes that was a compliment – the best thing about your writing is that you write what you want to write – I guess those who are constantly worrying about what other people think don’t like to see the freedom you have.

    Comment by rosanna — June 21, 2014 @ 9:32 am

  10. I met a much younger married man of the Amish persuasion at a Christian retreat, and thinking that he was wearing a military uniform, I thanked him for serving our country! A short platonic friendship formed, and I disclosed that I had always thought that I would enjoy joining the Amish community, but had been unable to convince my husband. He frankly told me that we probably would not be welcomed.

    Later, I met the beautiful Amish women, and experienced what he was talking about. Their demeanor seemed to be related to an ongoing, uptight distrust. I was about 30 years their senior.

    We all have our ideals that we aspire to, and sometimes they may not be based on the reality of the situation, but more on our longing for something more pertinent and fulfilling. Now I am blooming where I am planted, for the glory of God…, or trying to.

    So there you have it, Mr. Ira, one woman’s confession and rationale for previously desiring to “join the Amish”!

    Comment by Kathy Dean — June 21, 2014 @ 1:52 pm

  11. Belief me if you want to, or not, but you and I, no doubt agree about government more then you think. I just have grown a little older, (hopefully wiser)and have learned to put more Faith in God, having control of things. Nothing happens to us, unlest it first has past thru God. Each and every trial should be accepted as a Blessing, as we should be learning from that trial. I read a good quote the other day, it went something like this, “Belivers see Earth as Hell, and Unbelivers see Earth as Heaven.” We that Belief, know that the Best is to come.

    Comment by Warren — June 21, 2014 @ 3:00 pm

  12. Thanks for making me think about it. I never wanted to *be* Amish, but I did join the Mennonites about 20 years ago. It has been rewarding in many ways, but also I have to ask myself if I’m just a glutton for punishment? I gave up about a year ago. I just quit trying to fit in, and the oddest thing happened- I became accepted.

    I’m still trying to make sense of all of this. Perhaps it’s the more liberal church I’m attending? Or perhaps I just quite fixating on trying to be *plain*?

    I’ve taken the best from my experience. I’m not leaving the Mennonites, but I am enjoying the freedom of using my own conscience to make decisions, rather than an adopted doctrine. Still, I can’t say it hasn’t influenced me for the better. It continues to be a good journey.

    Thank you for sharing your perspective Ira. You’re spot on, as always.

    Comment by Kelly Hunt — June 21, 2014 @ 3:01 pm

  13. Thank you for always writing from your heart and for not caring what others think. Enjoy your freedom. You are a great writer and I always enjoy your posts. Keep up the good work.

    Comment by Rosanna F. — June 21, 2014 @ 7:39 pm

  14. Hi Ira, glad you’re still penning posts & have an articulate command of the English language. I enjoy your writings (because you write well) and because of your candor. Keep up the good work.

    I’m still writing my blog about ex-Amish, most of whom are out of the Swartzentruber Order. You commented on one of my posts last year.

    I like your opening excerpt (from the email). From what my Swartzie “family” & friends tell me, the wannabes have no idea what it’s really like to be Amish. Interesting flip-side — often Amish have no idea what it’s really like to be English until they jump the fence and are trying to adapt.

    Comment by Brenda Nixon — June 21, 2014 @ 8:53 pm

  15. Tonight at a concert in Manitoba I was introduced as ex-Amish. That happens quite often. Even in my home community!

    Believe it or not, when I was running around with the Amish in my late teens & early twenties, joining the church did cross my mind. It would have never worked, but I was too young and dumb to think that through at the time. I learned to play guitar while working for an Amish barn building crew, and that (the guitar) kept me from getting too serious about such a doomed plan. I cherish the heritage, language and work ethic that I inherited from them, but I am so blessed to just be me. And free.

    Oh, and great blog! (I know what you think about exclamation points, but it was great!)

    Comment by John Schmid — June 22, 2014 @ 12:47 am

  16. A photograph was shared among my Floridian relatives of a six foot alligator who climbed up the front of somebody’s house and leaned precariously close to the doorbell. Somebody added the caption: “Oh, thank God it’s just an alligator. I thought it was a Jehovah’s Witness!” I’m mindful of the “alligator effect” whenever the conversation turns to how to live like a Christian. Jesus inspired people to come down, not climb up into the trees.

    Not to go off on the alligator tangent, but here’s an original photo and news story in case anybody’s curious. http://www.gainesville.com/article/20060619/WIRE/206190318

    Comment by MGarone — June 22, 2014 @ 10:08 am

  17. I grew up in a couple Amish communities that had a lot of “outside seekers” come through and the same as in your experience most didn’t make it and for many it would seem as if they would’ve been better off not expending that time and energy. It can be especially difficult and traumatic for families with children and teens.

    I was married to a girl for fifteen years that comes from a family that attempted to join the Amish and then ended up hanging on in a “Charity” splinter group. I learned a lot of things in those fifteen years and one thing I learned is that there is a huge gulf fixed between the two cultures in understanding each other. The turmoil and confusion that people and families experience as they walk that road is incredible and for most there is simply no chance that it’ll work in the long run.

    The plain culture has a lot of virtue but it makes them unable to be relevant to the needs of the culture around them. I’m on the outside now and have been through some very difficult things and I’ve noticed how many plain people are unable to relate and seem uncomfortable discussing my problems or if they do they just come across as somewhat clueless or naive. I do appreciate those that try to reach out and be a comfort and some are able to do that, blessings to those….

    Comment by Paul Yoder — June 22, 2014 @ 8:55 pm

  18. I’ve been asked the question, too. I can point them to this blog post now. Thank you.

    Comment by Dee Yoder — June 23, 2014 @ 12:30 am

  19. I don’t know, I may be way off here but I think what attracts people to the idea of wanting to join the Amish is the term “order or structure”. It is that sense of simple community that people long for, to belong. As Ira has said again and again, the Amish will not accept and what we see from the outside is not a realistic view of their reality. Maybe what we long for is not where or how we are currently living, but it doesn’t mean joining the Amish is the answer. Having come from a Mennonite background I understand the non-acceptance, but more than the non-acceptance is the legalism and that is so hard to explain to people that have not grown up in that way of life that is even a bigger issue. I know my ex used to say “are you sure you aren’t Jewish”? He understood me and my family much better after watching the movie “Fiddler on the Roof”.

    I have been away from it for many years and even away from an organized church for a number of years and now I am able to view things much differently. My daughter said it well “it is though a veil has been lifted and you can see things for yourself and not what someone else is telling you to think or believe.”

    I do miss that sense of community at times, but there are other ways of having a simple peaceful life without joining the Amish.

    Comment by Rosie (Schmidt) Simmons — June 23, 2014 @ 11:48 am

  20. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. John 8; 36.

    That is how to be free regardless if you are Amish, Mennonite or any other denomination.

    Comment by Paul H. — June 23, 2014 @ 12:07 pm

  21. A generation that feels rootless seeks for some roots. But we all already have roots. And our freedom comes not from merely discovering them, but in recognizing the good and the bad, getting in touch with the blessings from our true Father, and – once we are overcoming our own sins – then progressively overcoming the iniquities that have been dealt to us, by serving others in their overcoming. Paul was clear enough in Colossians that it is not by “do not taste, do not touch” that one can be free of real contaminants, but by a power of the Spirit. Grace is that empowerment. It can only be received by a humble heart. That is regardless of which of “the families of the earth” one is born into (Eph. 3). Such covenants are inward and eternal. The clothing is specified is Eph. 4 and Col. 3. How we deal with the outworkings according to each one’s conscience – that is dealt with in Romans 14. Grace and peace to you all, in the King of kings, whose Kingdom in in spirit and thus not at all like the States of this world.

    Comment by LeRoy — June 23, 2014 @ 1:54 pm

  22. David Luthy made it, but most of his children didn’t. They never felt accepted, which surprised me for I thought they were accepted.

    Comment by Katie Troyer — June 23, 2014 @ 2:50 pm

  23. Freedom. A friend of mine used to say, independence is attractive, you walk through the crowd, look em in the eye, and hold your head up. He worked and lived among the Amish, probably knew them as well as a non Amish person could and would marvel at all the constraints and lack of choices, the ministers breathing down your neck looking for any infractions, the community group think. And we talked a lot about the culture, he got them, liked some of it and yet,he would say, I could never live like that. And I had to agree with him, even though they are my people, the ones I come from. At a very young age, sitting thru a long church service with my dad and brothers, looking at the clothing and beards, seeing the rituals, hearing the High German readings, a sudden thought went thru my head. What does all this have to do with finding God? I knew better then to voice that, for it would have been blasphemy, at least to my parents. Maybe that was the beginning, a long torturous search to get to where I’m at today.

    And my suggestion to the seekers, the ones on the outside looking in. You really don’t know what it’s like and unless you were born into it you never really will. You got it again, IRA…thanks

    Comment by Lenny — June 23, 2014 @ 5:46 pm

  24. I really enjoyed reading this as well as the comments. It reminded me how we are all searching for something or someone. I think it’s ingrained-put there by the Creator God. It’s when we begin to seek out people, places, and things in lieu of Christ that we run into trouble.

    The Amish are the only culture I know of, who believe in God, that don’t want anyone to join their group. I suppose they aren’t desperate for converts since those that stay have such large families. Plus, in looking at the blueprints of the culture-a culture that demands complete control of the individual-anyone that’s experienced “freedom” or individuality is a real threat. A bad apple. It makes me wonder what little Amish children are told about everyone outside of their culture. Kind of freaks me out.

    Katie mentioned that David Luthy’s children never felt accepted amongst the Amish. I wondered about this. I wondered if they ever really accepted David. I bet not. Afterall, he wasn’t born Amish and he was highly educated. Two strikes. But your father seems to have. They probably connected as two intelligent men that enjoyed writing even if it was in the confines of their culture. There’s something to say about having a friend that you can relate to. (Speaking of your dad, I hope he’s well.)

    Oh, don’t get me going on the state having their money grubbing fingers twiddling around in everyone’s pockets. Tolls. I hate them! I go out of my way just so they won’t get my money. I don’t care if I waste gas. It cost me about $15 in tolls to get to Ohio! Tennessee doesn’t have tolls and their highways and byways are just fine. Grr.

    Have a wonderful Fourth of July and don’t forget to toast to America. The land of the free. The home of the brave. Don’t forget to sing “America the Beautiful.” Here, I’ll get you started:
    “Oh beautiful for spacious skies,
    For amber waves of grain,
    For purple mountain majesties
    Above the fruited plain!
    America! America!
    God shed His grace on thee
    And crown thy good with brotherhood
    From sea to shining sea!”

    This is a very long song and I’m sure you would like to look it up and print out the lyrics to share with your barbecue buddies. Don’t forget your harmonica.

    Comment by Francine — June 24, 2014 @ 1:40 am

  25. Read Friday’s post, and–of course–I loved it. You summarized my story with great care. Thanks for that.

    Where we were, we did not have to learn the language to join. Funny thing, I actually wanted to learn it, but it was like pulling teeth to get started. One day in a church service someone announced PA Dutch classes would be given to those who were interested. Well, neat; teach me! But, no, it was explained that those classes were intended for members who had come from the outside, and since we weren’t members yet … Once we joined, we had some classes. But that was how it often went: The things I was ready for were discouraged; the things I wasn’t ready for, well, do them now!

    But if it’s not chickens, it’s feathers. They didn’t require us to learn the language, but there were plenty of other stipulations that needed to be worked out. Always some new hoop to jump through–never saw the next one coming, either. Usually cultural–or odd–stuff. Anyway, you know what I mean.

    And, again, I nodded reading about David Luthy. I never met him, but I have met people like him. One couple gave us an especially hard time. Yes, he and his wife are more Amish than most Amish. Some seekers referred to this couple as the police. If they even suspected that you weren’t conforming to their ideal–even in your thinking–look out! We had about thirteen porch steps leading up to our house. Whenever we’d hear someone clumping up those steps, we’d get a sickening feeling: Who is this coming? What are we in for now? An ever-present air of intimidation; I call it the Amish atmos”fear.” The Mennonites we were with did a tad better–not pushing cultural things as much–but they use similar tactics to deal with whatever it is that does irk them. Like you said, nice people, just don’t try to join them! We did and eventually the claws came out.

    Those were some tough years–four years living among the Amish, four among the Mennonites, joining first one group, and then the other, a couple of years toying with the idea before moving there. Ten long years. A decade. Amazing. Anyway, I know in my heart that it has done me much good too. Some of the sermons we heard there, the lessons we learned, we would never have encountered otherwise. I mean, it was like entering another world. And we aim to take the good from it, the biblical applications that we learned. Then, I have several friends in those churches who I’d never have met any other way. And one of our children is the result of something we heard there, among the Amish. That alone makes the experience worth it–to us. But if someone out there is considering joining, please think about what I am sharing with you. If the church you attend is vexing you, move on if God is nudging you out. Immerse yourself in His Word; pray for guidance. If nothing else works out, maybe start a little house church instead. Most Plain churches are not the answer that you think they are. You see the ditch many mainstream churches are in, and you long for structure. That makes sense. But if you go the Plain route, you will end up in yet another ditch.

    We were never really Amish wannabes, not the type who were all dewy-eyed over their quaint and cozy ways. We just happened upon something that seemed biblical–many aspects are–and we decided to join, not realizing what we were getting ourselves into. Well, everything happened in such microscopic increments; you can’t see the whole scene while you are slogging through it. So you keep going. Then we got a few wake-up calls and God rescued us. I mean, He really did–providentially, He gave us a way out. If someone had warned us, someone who knew something about it, who knows? But I have to think that God wanted us to learn some lessons there, to meet some sweet souls. He allowed it all for a purpose. And maybe He wants us to warn others that the grass is only greener there because of all that horse manure. :-)

    Romans 8:28 is a comfort that God can use all the things we went through for good. I think you’re right; these days many Plain churches resemble the Catholic church. Oh, I know there are believers in Plain churches–sincere Christians striving to do what is right, putting up with the bullying that goes on there. But I think if the early Anabaptists saw what is going on today, they would speak out against it. Maybe they would say something like this: “Stick to the Bible; stop binding people’s consciences to the traditions of men. Make sure your hearts are as clean as your Sunday best. And reach out to seekers with the right hand of fellowship, instead of a closed fist.”

    Recently read your post on spiritual bullies. I got a lump in my throat, tears formed. All that is still so fresh. Much to work through–the artificial guilt, the fear, the mind control. And some are so good at it, that one hesitates to share anything with others, unless they have experienced it too. I mean, if you ever fail at being in a Plain church, you will be told by some that everything is your fault–EVERYTHING. The bullied are at fault, never the bullies. And, sure. They never left so they’re okay, they claim. I know that is silly, and yet when you live in that setting long enough, your thinking starts to suffer. You start to believe that you really are worthless, that you need someone to tell you what to do, how to blow your nose maybe, and that you must do it that certain way, to prove how submissive you are, to appease Brother Bully. But why is that always a one-way street? None of that is in the Bible, and God’s Word is the only standard we need.

    And this bullying, this pecking order, affects insiders as well. Reminds me of public school–the different cliques, the cruelty that goes on behind the scenes. Some never seem to get it, to see that it is there–a humanistic survival of the fittest. But it is there. And the hapless outsider will likely find himself at the bottom of this ugly, bloody heap.

    Some wannabes might think, “Oh, they just didn’t have what it takes; we will get it right. We will make it work.” No. What it takes is to agree with whatever you are told–whether it makes sense or not, whether God requires it of you or not. What it takes is to become … whatever the person talking to you at that moment demands that you become. And, guess what? Everybody has a different opinion. One says you are doing fine; another says change this … change that. Someone else comes along and ridicules a seeker’s hat–you know, the one that he sent away for, convinced that it was the “right” hat. Another seeker is told that his bean plants are too close together, and the incident reaches a crescendo when the ministry descends upon him to settle the matter. … One seeker’s house has too many doors and this had better be rectified, another’s house needs more windows, despite a lack of funds to buy them. … Someone’s children must go barefoot, especially when romping around the cow pies. It never ends! You can explain all you want–how you grew up in the city, how some things are really hard for you to do, to get used to. Some will understand; some won’t. A good portion of the church doesn’t care one way or the other about you–at all. You will feel belittled, worthless, like a piece of trash. Does God make trash? Is that the kind of atmosphere God wants for His children in the long run? No.

    Even those who arrive out-of-the-box “perfect,” struggle there. One family fled and have seemingly left the faith. They felt so bitter, so disillusioned. Another family also had the lifestyle down pat, but other issues kept coming up. This amazed me because I once thought that maybe if we had been more farmy, maybe we would have fit in. Apparently not.

    All that reminds me of how, when I was growing up, my family cared for two foster children at different times. The one who was closer to my age irritated me to no end–sad to say. My sister had the same problem with the other one. I mean, they were different; they were not like us. Is that part of the problem? Probably. But maybe God used those feelings to help us leave and to also help us see that there are other things going on, serious things. Sure. You can live out the Christian life there, among the Amish or Mennonites. But when a church runs so much on man-made rules, coercion, intimidation, fear–in the long run–it is not a good place to grow.

    And yet, as you said, we are all flawed. I can never look at the Amish or Mennonites and smugly say, “See, those folks have problems!” More so, I can say, “See, they have problems just like I do!” But a bigger problem is that many of them will not admit to this because they do not see it, and how can things improve if they deny reality? Why don’t seekers just take the good from these groups and live it out apart from them? I mean, it’s like knocking on a stranger’s door and announcing, “Hi! I’d like to join your family!” Most of the people in that house are always going to look at you as if you are some kind of fruitcake. Of course, it shouldn’t be that way. But it is.

    When I read your point somewhere about glossing over the negative, how that is dishonest, it rang true. After being among Plain people for so long, you start to do a lot of glossing over when you never used to. And when I read your point, I thought, “Yeah. That is being dishonest.” I mean, I want to focus on the positive, but there is a definite place for warning people, for speaking out against what needs to change.

    Sorry for the rant; keep warning the wannabes.

    Comment by A Christian — June 25, 2014 @ 3:39 pm

  26. IRA I read your book: Growing up Amish. This is a great book. I learned so much about the life style of the people. I felt all the anxiety you were going thru. This page will help the ones who are trying to get there.

    Comment by Barbara — June 26, 2014 @ 4:08 pm

  27. The last paragraph reminds me of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, Chapter 5, verse 1: It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. (NASB)

    Comment by Jon — June 28, 2014 @ 12:09 am

  28. I’m one of those who joined the Amish and that was 29 years ago. It hasn’t always been easy, but I’m content where I am and richly blessed. Having said that, I’ll add it’s not for everyone and I’m pretty vocal about warning “seekers” what they are getting into. Most don’t succeed but then most are coming for the wrong reasons. In my case, the Amish were a lifeline and I’m profoundly grateful I came to the Amish when I did.

    Comment by Mark — July 2, 2014 @ 9:52 am

  29. Amen.

    Comment by Emelda Kerkhoff — July 2, 2014 @ 5:03 pm

  30. I left the amish for the last time when I was 25. I was fed up with all the man made rules and regulations. The discontent among church members all trying to determine whats right and whats wrong. I was not a christian and yet I knew something was not right with their beliefs. I am now a born again christian and belong to a nondenominational church. The Lord has Blessed me so many ways, I can’t began to count them. Praise the Lord for watching over me. Hallelujah !!!!

    Comment by Dan Nisley — July 7, 2014 @ 9:02 pm

  31. We don’t have Amish here in Australia, but we do have Conservative Mennonites. I spent 6 months with them. You might be interested in my blog post on ‘Why I’m not Mennonite':


    Comment by Lynda — July 9, 2014 @ 2:31 am

  32. On August 8, I posted about you & linked to this post at my Beyond Buggies and Bonnets blog. BTW, I won JULY 2014 BLOGGER OF THE MONTH at The Book Club Network online magazine. Yeah. Continued good wishes to you my fellow author and new friend.

    Comment by Brenda Nixon — August 9, 2014 @ 12:55 pm

  33. Amish are amusing oddities. They are fun to observe but I’m sure glad I’m who I am.

    Comment by Sho — December 4, 2018 @ 5:18 am

  34. Amish are amusing oddities. They are good conversation fodder. They do their thing and we do ours. Thank goodness for freedoms and the choice to live freely. Severe pontificating is a turn-off but it’s part of free speech. Yawn…

    Comment by Sho — December 4, 2018 @ 2:19 pm

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