August 22, 2008

The Shepherd at Noon: Empire & Exodus

Category: News — Ira @ 6:36 pm




“Let us reason together.”

—Elmo Stoll

It was a Friday afternoon. Special church services were being held in honor of a visiting minister. He had lived in the area for a few years, then moved away. After moving, he had been ordained. The congregation now sat expectantly as the people waited to hear from this former lay brother who would stand before them and preach.

After a short opening sermon by a home preacher, and the reading of Scripture, the visiting minister stood to take the floor.

Head bowed, he fumbled briefly with his opening statements. He was glad to return to the area, even with his increased responsibilities. It had been good, he said, to visit with his old neighbors and friends. To visit his old home area. The congregation settled in.

But then a strange thing happened. The visiting minister could not preach. Instead, he wept and wept. At times almost uncontrollably. He tugged at the white handkerchief in his pocket and wiped his eyes. It was soon soaked with tears.

“Oh, there is a dark cloud on the horizon, and it is coming right into this community,” he cried. “You are going to experience some dark, dark times.”

He seemed, for a moment, to seize control of himself. He blew his nose and wiped the tears away again. Tried to flow into the natural course of his sermon.

But the tears would not stop. Again and again, like a biblical prophet of doom, he cried out, warning of dark clouds and dark times on the horizon. The congregation stirred, restless. What did the preacher see? What was he talking about? What dark times was he describing?

The congregation was assembled in Aylmer, Ontario, in June, 1990. The visiting minister was Alvin Fisher of Somerset, PA.

The night before, Alvin Fisher had stayed at the house of his friend, Elmo Stoll. The two of them had sat up and talked all night, in a sleepless vigil.


After October, 1976, when my family moved from Aylmer to Bloomfield IA, Elmo Stoll stepped into the spot vacated by my father and became the editor of Family Life. Under his guidance, the magazine continued to prosper and expand its audience. His articles and editorials were among the few actually worth reading each month.

He was a man with a vision. On a mission. To convince the Amish world to repent of its old evil ways and renew itself on a more spiritual path. He used all the tools in his arsenal and all his powers of persuasion. He boldly wrote and spoke and preached his conscience, regardless of whose toes got crushed. And in the pursuance of his vision, he persisted in molding the Aylmer church into the image of what he thought it should be.

A few years after he was ordained, Aylmer, which then consisted of only one district, ordained a Bishop to replace Pete Yoder, who had moved to Marshfield, MO. Elmo and Jake Eicher were the only two in the lot. It fell on Jake.

Jake was a kindly, good-hearted man. My favorite preacher as a child. In a normal setting, he would have fulfilled his leadership duties with little difficulty. But this was not a normal setting. And Jake simply could not withstand the powerful combined force of Elmo’s charismatic personality and leadership skills. Before long, Elmo led, and Jake followed. A figurehead leader only. After Elmo’s brother Stephen Stoll, a deacon, moved back to Aylmer from Honduras and resumed his deaconly duties, the two of them simply overwhelmed any leadership opposition. Things went the way they dictated. Backwards, mostly.

While I realize this fact may be difficult for some to face and absorb, it is simply the truth.

As I mentioned before, the Aylmer church at this time thought more highly of itself than it ought. As the shining light for other communities to emulate, it madly plunged about this way and that, searching for ever increasing, and ever more difficult, ways to please that furious frowning God who could never be placated. Or ways the leaders thought would please God. There was no stability. What was OK today was banned tomorrow. What was pleasing to God today suddenly was pronounced unacceptable and would draw His wrath.

This state of raw hubris simply could not stand. The day of reckoning approached. In the distant horizon like a tiny cloud the size of a man’s fist.

Sometime around the late 1970s/early 1980s, four young men, two of whom had joined the church, finally could not take it anymore and rebelled. (That’s the simplistic version. The issues, as usual, were more complicated.) I grew up with these guys. They were my friends. They left the Amish, but stayed in the area. The Aylmer church reacted as one would expect, by cutting off any attempts at effective communication and lowering the boom on the young men with the full force of its awesome might.

The official position was that the young men were bad to the bone. Rebellious. They must be broken of their own strong will. And submit unconditionally. The two who were members, of course, were summarily excommunicated. All four of the young men were ostracized and scorned. Most eventually left the area.

Despite its flaws, the Aylmer community prospered and grew, and in 1984, two districts were formed from the one. Now another Bishop was needed. The ordination was held on October 10th. Elmo Stoll and Simon Wagler were in the lot. This time it fell on Elmo Stoll. He had now reached the office in which he would rise to the apex of his power and influence.

He was already widely known throughout the Amish world as a writer and a preacher. So it did not take long for other communities to request his assistance whenever outside Bishops, or “fremda Mann,” were needed to settle church or personality disputes. He traveled widely and soon gained quite a reputation as a man who gave wise and Godly counsel.

As the years passed, Elmo mellowed a bit from his earlier habits of always demanding his way, in his time frame, usually right now. But he never lost them entirely. And he never quite lost his habit of constantly stirring about, always pursuing some issue, small or large, to fuss about and fret over. At least not while in Aylmer.

At one point, he decided that the motor powered lawn mowers were too worldly. Too handy. He labeled them “flying boats” and began his usual campaign strategy to ban them. But this time his message did not resonate. Motor powered lawn mowers had been allowed in Aylmer since its inception. People were unwilling to give them up. And when Elmo tried to stir up public support to ban them, he was simply ignored. This defeat was highly unusual.

Eventually he saw his wishes would not come to pass. So he remarked that if everyone else has the flying boats, then he will get one too. And he did.

As Bishop, he could be and often was a harsh disciplinarian. Once, a group of Aylmer young people visited the community of Mio, Michigan. While there, several of the youth boys rode around on bicycles. Unfortunately, one of the young men fell off his bike and broke a bone (possibly his collar bone). So their sin was found out.

The fact that they were riding bicycles caused a huge and furious uproar back home in Aylmer. Unfathomable and senseless to us who view the incident in retrospect over the years. But true. Riding a bicycle was a SIN. The young man who broke a bone was not a church member, but others in the group were. All who were members were required by Elmo to make a public confession in church. They did. The yoke he inflicted was heavy.

Elmo insisted on another strict and strange and far-reaching policy. Over the years, some members of the Aylmer church moved away to other Amish communities, perhaps a bit more progressive. Some of these former Aylmer members, years later, left their then-current Amish church and joined a Beachy or Mennonite church that allowed cars. The standard method among Amish churches was to allow the church the member actually left to deal with it. And decide whether or not to excommunicate.

This did not fly with Elmo. He insisted that anyone who ever was a member of the Aylmer church who ever left the Amish, anywhere, anytime, was still under his jurisdiction. I can’t verify that he actually did so, but he threatened to excommunicate people he hadn’t seen in years, and barely knew. Formally hand them over to Satan. Just because they had once been members in Aylmer. The yoke he inflicted was heavy.

After posting my first “Elmo blog,” I heard from many people who knew him and lived under all stages of his leadership. Some I knew. Some I didn’t. But they all felt compelled to join the conversation, for which I’m grateful. They contacted me through letters, emails and on the phone. I heard it all.

From those who loved him. And from those whose memories of him bring only pain.

Some told me of how, after the strident early years, he mellowed and developed open relationships with the young people in the community. How he gained their trust. How they respected and liked him, and looked up to him, even the ones who disagreed with him, because they knew he really cared for them. How easy he was to approach and talk to. How sympathetic he was to the struggles that others endured. How they listen-ed, mesmerized, to the stories he told.

But I heard, too, from the least among them. The ones who could never do anything right. The ones who were openly persecuted and harassed. The scorned. The unloved. Not just by Elmo, but by certain other members of the leadership. These people were second class, the ones who never had a voice.

I listened to their tentative hesitant voices, probably as few before ever have. And heard them. Read their letters. And absorbed their words. It soon became clear to me that there are a number of such people out there today who harbor deep wounds from those times. The passage of the years has scabbed over the wounds so they no longer bleed. But under the right circumstances, the pent-up emotions release and come pouring forth in torrents.

My heart goes out to these people.

Some who participated in inflicting those wounds still live in Aylmer. And in at least one nearby settlement. In leadership positions. They know who they are. And they know who they wounded.

They can still do the right thing.

I last heard Elmo Stoll preach at the wedding of Bert Farmwald and Linda Wagler (my cousin). In Shipshewana, Indiana around 1987. Elmo conducted the marriage ceremony. It’s not the last time I saw him, just the last time I heard him preach. I can still remember some of the things he said that day.

As the 1980s decade approached its end, Elmo Stoll was at the very peak of his power and influence. As close to empire as any Amishman will ever achieve. At age 46, he was a Bishop. Leader. Editor and writer. With a national audience. He was known in every Amish community in North America, with the possible exception of some isolated Swartzentruber settlements. And maybe a few places like Big Valley in PA. He was at the top. The most powerful and well-known Amishman in the world. And, being human, he quite likely was quite aware of that fact.

But here, at the peak of the mountain where he stood alone, something was lacking inside. In his heart, he was unsatisfied and unhappy. The young man who had shown up hatless at his pre-baptismal meeting still stirred in him. The Amish church, he felt, was too materialistic, too focused on wealth. Too restrictive, too culturally dormant, not evangelical enough. Not open enough to those from the outside who were interested in the plain lifestyle and pure Anabaptist faith. Despite his efforts in writing and preaching, he saw little evidence of the changes he had expected.

And there were other influences. Some say this and some say that. That his heart was drawn to isolated communities like Gorrie. And that he had a burden for the outside seekers who desperately wanted to join the Amish, but who were hampered by the language barriers. Some claim that his sons were not content in Aylmer, and Elmo was afraid he would lose them. So he conformed his thinking to theirs. And while I couldn’t double-verify this particular fact, it does seem plausible. He wouldn’t have been the first father to do such a thing. Or the last.

When and to whom he first unveiled his “heretical” thoughts remains obscured. His brothers, I suppose, two of whom were also in the ministry in Aylmer at the time. What is true is that in late summer and fall of 1989, the Aylmer ministers held a series of private meetings in strictest secrecy. In November of that year, all church members from Aylmer’s three districts were summoned together one weekday afternoon. The entire meeting consisted of Elmo getting up and making confession after confession of his wrong and sinful thinking. Without really defining what that thinking was. He was formally forgiven, and people returned to their daily lives, utterly bewildered as to what had just happened.

And so things stood until the following June. A few quiet rumors persisted, whispered furtively from person to person. Until minister Alvin Fisher from Somerset, PA, stood before them and delivered his weeping non-sermon. Alvin had also heard the rumors, and to his credit, decided to travel to Aylmer and check their source for himself. That night, he stayed at Elmo’s house, and the two of them sat up all night, discussing the issues that troubled Elmo’s heart. And while I have heard second-hand some of the things that were supposedly said that night, I am not sufficiently convinced of their accuracy to disclose them.

The next day, Alvin Fisher stood before the church and wept. And from that day, the flood gates were swept open, never to be closed again. Elmo Stoll shocked the Aylmer community and the Amish world to its core.

He formally announced that he and his family, along with others, were moving to found a new settlement. Not just any settlement, but a commune, where all material belongings will be shared. A little socialistic haven for weary seekers. They would not be Amish, or associate with the Amish. They would be known simply as The Christian Community. This was a staggering, unprecedented development.

The Aylmer community reacted as one would expect. The leadership, now shorn of its own leader, clamped down hard on Elmo and any others who were considering the move. Elmo and his little flock of followers were ostracized within the community. Those not already attached to him were strenuously warned against doing so. A palpable tension pulsed through the settlement.

For the little group, these were difficult days. They met semi secretively. Made their plans. Felt persecuted, like their Anabaptist forefathers. And always, always, looked for guidance and strength from their natural leader, Elmo Stoll.

Having placed his hand to the plow, he cast no glances over his shoulders, but forged boldly ahead. He wrote, published and distributed a little booklet outlining his positions. It was entitled “Let Us Reason Together.” In it, he succinctly detailed the problems he had with certain positions of the Amish church, and the solutions as he saw them. How he would follow the truth, even if it cost him his editorship at Family Life, his office as Bishop, and his reputation and good name among the Amish churches.

In early September, 1990, Elmo Stoll and his small group purchased a 200 acre farm in Cookeville, Tennessee for $130,000.00. They had scouted for land in several states and Canada, but settled on Cookeville because of its proximity to a similarly minded group already settled in Scottsville. The farm they purchased was pretty much bare; all their buildings would have to be erected.

And so the dark days and dark times forecast by Alvin Fisher came to pass. Gloom and despondence descended upon Aylmer. The remaining leaders, several of them closely related to Elmo, struggled to deal with the crisis. And the shame of the world learning of the defection of Aylmer’s most famous son.

The raw hubris that had long plagued the community began to chip away. But not entirely. It was deeply entrenched and almost impossible to uproot. It would cling to life for a few more years. Until the Great Light of Truth finally invaded the sinister hidden crevices in which it cowered, and cast it out. Along with a lot of other things.

The shock of the news of Elmo’s plans cannot be overstated. Eighteen years later, people still discuss it as if it happened yesterday. Those involved on both sides remember it vividly. Details of minutiae would fill several volumes.

The news spread like a pestilent cloud. It caused an explosion of speculation and gossip in all the Amish world. Those in the more conservative communities clucked and shook their heads. See how it goes when one goes about reading and writing too much. You get a big head and lose your mind. Think you know it all. Better to stick with reading just the Bible and The Budget. They always were suspicious anyway of Aylmer and its superior attitudes. The news confirmed all they already knew. The progressive Amish groups also reacted virulently. Elmo was clearly off his rocker.

Whatever valid points he raised, and there were some, were lost in the turbulence. Other than the few in his group, almost no one listened and no one heard his message. He had chosen to leave the fold and now was considered deceived.

Elmo was unceremoniously stripped of his editorship of Family Life. He was not even allowed to honestly say good bye to his readers. Just a short statement saying he would no longer serve as editor or be writing for the magazine.

The little group forged ahead with their plans. Auctions were held, belongings sold, farms sold. Elmo continued his preaching duties right up to the last. He ordained his nephew, Peter Stoll, as Bishop to replace him when he left.

Sunday, September 30, was his last Sunday in Aylmer. Elmo preached the main sermon. It was a tense and sad affair, his last sermon as an Amish Bishop. On this day, there were no mellow lilting tones, no shimmering woven tapestries, only sparse and somber words. And tears. He solemnly thanked the community and the ministers for all they’d done over the years. But in true Elmo fashion, he also dramatically warned that unless the church in Aylmer changed directions, it would come to destruction.

The departure date arrived. Great clouds rolled in from the west and the heavens opened and poured forth driving torrents of sheeting rain. Elmo sent his family ahead in a van and stayed behind to load their final belongings on the large tractor trailer. The neighbors arrived to help with the loading. As they were finishing, Elmo suddenly disappeared into the house. The neighbors loaded the last few belongings and closed and locked the trailer doors. They stood there for a few minutes in the rain, waiting for Elmo to emerge from the house so they could say good-bye.

But he did not come out. After standing about forlornly for a few more minutes, the neighbors shrugged and departed for their homes. A short time later, some of them watched from inside their houses as the loaded tractor trailer crept slowly down the soft and muddy gravel road. Rain obscured the truck’s windows and they caught no glimpse of the man sitting in the passenger’s seat. The truck turned south toward Highway 3 and disappeared into the incessant downpour.

And thus Elmo Stoll departed from Aylmer, the community that had been his home for thirty-six years. The vineyard in which he had labored so tirelessly for so long. The people that he had led and shepherded for almost twenty years.

His face was set toward the south and the west. Toward the vision that burned in his heart and called him away. Toward a new flock, in fresh pastures, in an unfamiliar land. Toward Cookeville, Tennessee and the beginning of what would be the final chapter of his life.

Editor’s Note: The third, AND FINAL, installment on the Elmo Stoll saga, “The Shepherd at Dusk; His Vision and Legacy,” will be written and posted when and as the muse strikes me. Not before. Could be next week (NOT), next month, or next year. Don’t look for it until you see it posted.



  1. Let me be the first to thank you for a piece that I’m sure took a lot of effort and time. I am sure Elmo never dreamed that so many folks would be interested in his life. He should have written a biograpy. I personally talked several years ago to someone who had been excomunicated by Elmo at Aylmer for leaving the Amish church. Later, when Elmo lived in Cookville he met this person and apoligised that he had excommunicated him. I think by then he had seen the other side of the coin.

    And let me assure everyone there are still a lot of nice, friendly people in Aylmer. Several weeks ago we were on our way up to N. Ontario to camp, and stopped there. We were blessed with all kinds of good food to take along up. Nephew Simon gave us mouth watering watermelon from his fields, cousin Lydia gave us 2 big boxes of tomatoes, Rosemary and Naomi gave us blueberries, cabbage, beans, peppers and Edna gave us old fashioned summer sausage from Milverton. We were blessed with food galore, and we enjoyed it all.

    Now let me be the first one to wish you a happy, happy birthday this Sunday the 24th. I would gladly make you a peach pie if I could. We usually eat those within the hour after they are made.

    Comment by Rachel — August 23, 2008 @ 12:09 am

  2. Very well written, thanks! And it seems birthday blessings are in order.

    Comment by sms — August 23, 2008 @ 7:49 am

  3. A well written, historical post that few people are willing to write.

    As a person who grew up in an Amish home in Holmes County, OH during the late 1960s and 1970s, I was impacted by Elmo Stoll’s writings. The articles he wrote as being Biblical in Family Life did not match up with what was practiced in our home and church district, therefore causing questions asked by my siblings and I that could not openly be answered by our parents but made an impact on our thinking nonetheless. The questions were raised but the subscription was not canceled by our parets, confirming that what was written was appreciated.

    When a leader always goes with the flow, satisfied with the status quo, few people remember them. Leaders in the church of Christ have greater responsibilities and accountability then anyone. In Elmo Stoll’s case many people will remember him, good and bad, but the truth is God will reward and/or judge him on his motives.

    Consistency is always desired in leaders and a loud cry is heard for such in this post. In the turbulent waters of inconsistency much deep hurt is inflicted and with remembrance seared on the mind long after forgiveness has taken place, understanding that sometimes the pain has to be taken by the afflicted.

    As a leader of a church there are always people available who are very willing to say, it should of been done this way or that way after the fact. If leaders offend and sin they must confess and repent. However, many times leaders would do things differently after the fact, because everybody has more facts, and hindsight is 20/20. To use a couple of sports analogies, in football a Monday morning quarterback is always better then a Sunday quarterback and in baseball it is always easier to see if the runner should have been sent once he is home instead of where the decision needs to be made, at third base.

    Comment by J Y — August 23, 2008 @ 5:53 pm

  4. As always, beautiful and gripping writing, Ira. Reading your blog is becoming a delightful Saturday night tradition. I have never heard of Elmo Stoll before and know little about current Amish, but am drawn to every blog. You think there is a book hidden in your writing? I say not so; there are, in fact, several volumes waiting to emerge. And I look forward to reading them. Keep it up!

    Comment by Mark Graham — August 23, 2008 @ 8:41 pm

  5. Could you elaborate on the Neller-weller Amish? I was raised OO Mennonite and I am well acquainted with the Swartzentruber and Big Valley/Nebraska Amish denominations. I have never heard of Neller-weller Amish though.

    Ira’s response: It’s a term I’ve heard only from Holmes County. I believe it refers to Schwartzentruber-type Amish, but even more restrictive. Anyone from Holmes want to help me out?

    Comment by M A — August 24, 2008 @ 5:59 am

  6. Extremely interesting saga, BTW. I have always been curious about Elmo Stoll and the story of how the Christian Community came into being. I grew up reading Elmo in the Pathway publications. I also had distant relatives and acquaintances who were with him in Cookeville. I eagerly await the concluding installment.

    Comment by M A — August 24, 2008 @ 6:17 am

  7. Poop-wooler is the literal translation of Neller-weller and is the most disrespectful name you can call a Swartzentruber Amish person.

    Ira’s response: Oh my. I had no idea. Guess I’ll remove it from the post.

    Comment by Katie Troyer — August 24, 2008 @ 1:53 pm

  8. Holmes County response to the term “Neller-Weller”. The word commonly used is “Gnuddle-vooler” g is not silent. The origin I have no idea, but it is the term the Older Order etc. commonly use whem referring to the Swartztentruber Amish.

    Comment by J Y — August 24, 2008 @ 3:07 pm

  9. Quite an intriguing story.

    As one who was raised in Holmes Co as well, I was wondering what a ‘Neller weller’ was in reference to, as well.

    One often heard the word ‘Gnuddle-vooler’, and I used to use it also when I was younger, but never meant it as a belittling term.

    I never gave it a thot as to what it actually meant. Should of.

    And, am still not sure what it actually means…tho I wouldn’t doubt that someone started it as being of a derogatory nature.

    Comment by Fritz — August 24, 2008 @ 5:00 pm

  10. p.s….

    For you that ain’t ‘Holmes County Dutch’…..’gnuddle’ is in reference to a ‘lump’ of something. A piece of dirt someone could pick up and throw, for example. Or a sheep/rabbit droppings would be a ‘gnuddle’.

    I have no idea what the word ‘vooler’ would stand for, unless it actually started out as ‘ruller’…which would mean to ‘roll in’.

    Comment by Fritz — August 24, 2008 @ 5:20 pm

  11. I believe it “ruller” is the original word, which means “roll in”. I had never given it any thought, but it is a very derogatory and disrespectful term that should not be used in description of anything, let alone a fellow human being.

    Comment by J Y — August 24, 2008 @ 9:16 pm

  12. There were 3 terms, that I can recall off the top of my head, that were used to refer to the same people.
    Gnuddle ruller.
    hinnerstcha. [being behind/rearmost]

    I don’t think most people think of any of these as being belittling/degrading….but simply a means of identifying who one was talking about.

    Now that I’m contemplating the matter, the last 2 terms might BOTH have originated as a means of belittling…tho I never thot of them in that light.

    Both terms might very well have been offensive to them.

    Comment by fritz — August 25, 2008 @ 12:00 am

  13. Superb job, Ira. Thank you!

    My take on gnuddle-vooler… Our minister from our old church (mid-west conf. Menno) grew up OOA in northern Indiana and he jokingly said that that is what we were back under Elmo in Tennessee (gnuddle-voolers). He said it can be loosely translated as “hair ball” and is in reference to any very old order, not very clean Amish.

    After we had left the Christian Community, a rough looking Wal-Mart employee was inquiring of a friend of mine (we were having a bake sale in the lobby) if we were part of “those people” meaning from the CC. She said, no, we weren’t. His response was, “Good. They don’t wash.” Ha ha. We did wash! But not very frequently, I guess.

    Comment by pilgrimhen — August 25, 2008 @ 8:51 am

  14. Hi Ira,

    I did I short post on Elmo and linked to both your articles.

    I also put your two articles on Elmo in a 16 page booklet and saved the booklet to a PDF. You can download it and print it out and stapled it makes a nice booklet. Or if you like I can send you a 100 or so of them for you to pass out no charge or you can advertise the booklet on your site and I will send them out for free and I’ll cover the postal also. I dropped off a handful to Alvin Yancy tonight.

    Email me at bobmutch at gmail dot com when you do the third article and I will update the booklet.

    I am from Aylmer and I know a number of the people in the Amish community here and a number that were part of the Christian community. My background is Church of God (Restoration).

    More about me here.

    Here is what the booklet looks like.

    Comment by More Christ Like — August 25, 2008 @ 11:20 pm

  15. Oh sorry the booklet is on this page in PDF under Amish Writings.
    booklet on the life of Elmo Stoll in PDF

    Comment by More Christ Like — August 25, 2008 @ 11:35 pm

  16. I would be interested in reading Elmo’s booklet “Let us reason together.” I remember seeing a copy years ago. Does anyone have a copy out there?

    Comment by Steve Wagler — August 26, 2008 @ 8:09 am

  17. Mom has a copy you can borrow–Dorothy

    Comment by Dorothy — August 26, 2008 @ 8:53 am

  18. Ira, I forgot to ask you for permission to publish your two articles in booklet form. I expect you are okay with me doing that but here is my offical request.

    If you want anything changed in the booklet (see the PDF’ed link above) I will change it. I have put a link to both articles below the article titles so people that have the Internet will have a way to find the source.

    Ira’s response: I’m OK with it, as long as you change nothing and don’t charge for it. Also, I’d prefer you keep my disclaimer at the top of the second one as posted on the site.

    Comment by More Christ Like — August 26, 2008 @ 10:48 am

  19. Paragraph from an internet article written by Darrin Byler…

    Behind their backs, the Swartzentrubers are called gnuddel vullahs, or “wooly lumps,” by the Old Order Amish. According to several Amish and Mennonite sources, this is said because, when the Swartzentrubers milk their cows by hand, their long hair and beards gather lumps of manure, dirt and grim from their cows – resulting in matted and lumpy clumps of hair. Because many take baths once per week or less particularly during the winter, due to the time-consuming task of heating water on a stove heated by coal or wood, some Swartzentrubers develop a certain earthy smell and at times their hair care is reminiscent of Rastafarians. In general, the Swartzentrubers are seen by other members of the Amish community as dirty people who “think they will find salvation by not taking baths.” This is a blatant misconception in the eyes of the Swartzentrubers. Insulting ideas of this nature serve only to convince the Swartzentrubers to move inward toward further ethnocentrism, away from the world and other Amish groups in hopes of finding freedom to live their lives peacefully within their tradition. Facing an onslaught of media attention framed to portray the Swartzentrubers as “cultish,” many Swartzentruber members have resolved not to speak about their faith and practice so as to not “cast their pearls before swine.” Although they share the same last names – Stutzman, Gingerich, Yoder, Weaver, Miller, Hershberger among others – often those most unsympathetic to the Swartzentrubers are other Amish who deal with them in practical daily life.

    If you want to read the whole article, here is the address;

    Comment by fritz — September 3, 2008 @ 8:34 pm

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