May 8, 2009

Heathen…

Category: News — Ira @ 6:39 pm

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“Is it a book,” he would whisper hoarsely to any aspiring young
author, at the same time rolling his eyebrows about – “is it a book
that you would be willing for your young daughter to read?” Mr.
Stoat had no young daughter, but in his publishing enterprises
he always acted on the hypothesis that he did have, and that
no book should be printed which he would be unwilling to place
in her hands.

The result, as can be imagined, was fudge and taffy, slop and goo.

—Thomas Wolfe: You Can’t Go Home Again
____________________________________

I don’t know why I did it. I should have known better. Actually, I did know better. But for some reason, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Can’t imagine what I was thinking.

The three Elmo Stoll blogs have been percolating out there ever since I wrote them. The occasional comment still appears. I still get private emails from readers now and then. So I got to thinking. Why not see if I can get them published somewhere? Done properly, in a little book, with some editing and perhaps a bit of expansion here and there, it would sell. By the thousands. I know that.

I ran the idea by a couple of friends. One of them offered to drop off a hard copy at a decently large publishing house, where he knew some people. The company and its location will remain anonymous. But the company is “plain.” Owned by either Amish or ex-Amish. But very modern and certainly capable of professionally producing the little book.

The next day, my friend called. He was at the publisher’s office. With Joe (not his real name), one of the staff there. I was placed on conference call. The three of us talked. Joe seemed like a knowledgeable fellow. Asked pertinent questions. What did I have in mind?

I told him. The three blogs, edited and perhaps touched up here and there, and com- bined in a book, would sell. “It’s different writing,” I said. “Unlike anything you’ve read before. And I’m not sure your company will want to publish it. It might jeopardize your relationship with other plain clients. Check it out. If you turn it down, that’s perfectly OK.” I gave Joe my email address and cell number and left it at that.

A week passed. Then two. I knew what was happening. That the company would not publish the Elmo story. And that was all right. They have a lot a “plain” clients. No sense offending any of them. Business is business.

And then one morning my cell phone rang. Unknown number. I answered. It was Joe. After exchanging brief pleasantries, he hemmed a bit. He’d read my stuff. And read it again. And passed it around at the company, to get others’ opinions.

He had decided they would not publish it. “That’s perfectly fine,” I said. “I told you when we talked before that you might not want it. Appreciate the time you took to consider it.” I prepared to hang up.

But Joe wasn’t done. He hemmed and hawed a bit more. Then spoke. “Some people I showed it to here thought it was sacrilegious,” he said firmly.

He should have let it go. Let it rest. Had he done so, this post would never have been written. But he didn’t. Somehow, someone had stuck a burr under his saddle. And his bronc was plunging out of control, bucking wild.

And I should have ignored the comment and hung up. Told Joe that we’re not going there. Boy, should I ever have. But I didn’t. I engaged.

“Sacrilegious?” I asked. “What do you mean, sacrilegious?”

Bolder now, Joe plowed on. “The ordination,” he said. “That is a holy thing. And the way you described it, it was, well, it was not a holy thing.”

“I saw what I saw. And I wrote what I saw. I was a little kid, but I remember. What’s wrong with that?” I said defensively. Another huge mistake. It only made him bolder.

“Some here have suggested you wrote this to divert attention from your own life choices,” he said, his voice dripping now with holiness and unctuous hostility.

I realized where he was going. He was my judge and jury. And in that instant I knew the man had read the things I’d written from the heart and gleaned not the slightest shred of understanding, was incapable of grasping even a glimmer of the true human condition of his own culture. Incapable, or deliberately blind. This man, who would contract for publication the driest didactic tomes and untold volumes of doggerel poetry, doomed to unread purgatory on dusty shelves.

In submitting my writings to him, I had cast pearls before swine. Anger and frustration surged through me.

In the past, he could have read Thomas Wolfe and Ernest Hemingway and Sinclair Lewis and F. Scott Fitzgerald and a host of other truly great writers of that age and yawned in boredom and disdain. Because of the narrow prism of his blinkered lenses. And because he would judge all they had said from inside the impenetrable walls of his cultural shell.

He had just trotted out that old Amish canard. That rusty, time worn antique, that sly stiletto, that cheap poisonous accusation. The one I’d heard countless times before in previous lifetimes. In my youth. What you are saying cannot possibly be legit, because you have forsaken your own birthright. And you are motivated to point out the flaws of others to detract from the glaring sins that are your own.

There is no defense against such slander. You can’t prove a negative. (When did you stop beating your wife?) Whatever one says in response only proves the accuser’s point.

He sat there, gloating, firm and smug. I could feel it through the phone. He had me.

I should have shut it down right there. Politely. Firmly. And hung up. But I didn’t. I don’t know why. Probably because I wasn’t mentally prepared for such an attack from a supposed professional. Maybe because I clung to a tiny wisp of hope that I could explain, could make him see. Besides, I simply could not believe what I was hearing. So I stayed on defense.

“This is the first time I heard anything like that about any of my writings,” I countered.

“That’s what people here are saying,” he repeated smugly. I could feel his spirit on the attack as he closed in like a shark. “We feel that you have disrespected the church, the church that is holy and perfect before God.”

And that was just the beginning. On and on he rolled, rebuking me for an endless list of offenses. Furious frowning God. What does the family think or say? Why was I so harsh on Aylmer?

I said little. There was really nothing to say. A pause, then. Insufferable piety oozed through the phone.

“Are you Amish?” I asked.

Joe balked a bit, then admitted that he was. “But around here, we are Christians. That’s what’s really important.” he added piously. Inwardly, I groaned. How many more clichés would the man spout?

One more, apparently. A big one. “I’ve checked your web site,” he continued, as if talking to a child. “And you say you are a Christian. But I wasn’t able to tell from your writings. Of course, I didn’t read them all. But the ones I read, I had to wonder. Are you a Christian?”

“Look,” I flared. “I’ve experienced a lot in my life. A lot of tragedy and a lot of grief and loss. I try to tell the stories as they happened. Honestly. I don’t preach. I don’t close out each writing with a syrupy didactic little lesson. Where everything all works out. Because sometimes it doesn’t. I let people figure it out for themselves. That’s what literature does. I’m not saying I write great literature or anything. But that’s what I try to do. As best I can.”

I may as well have been talking to a wall. He would not, could not hear my words. His voice oozed with high holiness and sanctimonious judgment.

“But are you a Christian?” he persisted obstinately.

“I am,” I said.

I could feel his response in the silent pulsing tension. He knew I was lying. That I was a heathen.

He’d just called me one. With his asinine questions.

A few stilted oily preening comments then, in closing down the inquisition. He insisted I should look him up, when I’m “in the area.” He would like to meet me, he claimed patronizingly. We hung up. The interrogation was over.

The great ten-ton gate of final judgment clanged shut with a mighty thud. I was found wanting. And stood condemned.

Blind rage surged through me. I stumbled back to my desk and tried to regroup. To figure out what had just come down. To process the fact that an Amish man miles away had just sliced and diced and dissed me. Had spit me out. Rejected not only my writings, but me as a person. Before God. With all the pious judgment and concrete assurance of the most spotless Pharisee. It was tough to absorb. Fortunately, the office phones rang steadily, and I was soon immersed in the daily grind of my work.

But the rage seethed and bubbled in me. That night. The next day. And the next. And then, about the third day, the light began to penetrate the darkness that clouded my mind. And I began to see.

A lot of things. Why I had allowed a man I had never met, and have no desire to meet, to trigger such a strong reaction in me. Why I had delegated such power to him.

It wasn’t Joe as a person, but what he represented. And the host of dormant memories that were unleashed from the recesses of my mind, and descended like a flood. Of the dark underbelly of the culture from which I emerged so many years ago. The sinister powers of that shadowy world, powers that will not see or speak the truth about certain things. Or allow them to be seen or spoken.

Universal things, the ebb and flow of life, the pride and passions, the pain and loss, the flaws and triumphs, the faults and failures, and the good things too. That are the stuff of human experience, regardless of time, location or culture. Things that have rarely been honestly told by anyone who has emerged from an Amish background.

They stand guard at the gates today, those in the network of that power, of which Joe is but a tiny cog. And blandly pretend to honor the memory of a man like Elmo Stoll, all the while demonizing and condemning those who truly do honor his memory and his name. By being honest about who he was.

They refuse to acknowledge, those guardians at the gates, one important point about themselves and their history. It’s not all darkness. And it’s not all light. Nothing human on this earth is. To pretend otherwise, and to demand obeisance to such pretense, is disingenuous at best, deliberately obtuse at worst.

That doesn’t necessarily make them evil. Not in and of itself. It just makes them wrong. A culture that refuses to tolerate honest examination from others, even its “wayward” sons, cannot truly know itself.

As the realization of these truths sank in, I calmed down a good deal. I’d seen it all before, many times. In the past, years ago. Other hapless questioners, crushed like bugs. But somehow, you never think it will happen to you. That you will be the one in the crosshairs. As I now am. Squarely.

I don’t feel sorry for Joe, but I cut him some slack. Not that I’m excusing the ambush. He chose to do what he did. To blindside me with his condescending unctuous litany of tired worn out clichés he passed off as original thought. But I don’t doubt that he did what he thought was right. He’s probably a decent guy, a loving husband, a caring father. And a sincere Christian.

He just happened to be the one who broke the final straw. At least six times this year, my bona fides as a Christian have been called into question. In similar fashion, but electronically via email or on this site. (Comment #26 on the last Elmo blog is a real doozy. Scroll to the last comment.) Once on another public forum. You can shake it off. For awhile. But there comes a time when such scurrilous, intellectually lazy attacks must be confronted.

Not so long ago, had something like this happened, I would have reacted with a rash of impulsive vows. Not to ever allow something like this to happen again. I will be on alert for even the slightest hint of attack. Suspicious. On guard. But as my good counselor Sam has patiently reminded me these many years, such negative vows tend to close the heart, to choke off the vibrant flow of life and passion. And end up hurting the one determined not to get hurt. In this case, me.

I trust Sam. He looks out for me. So I won’t make such a vow. But I won’t be a sheep led to slaughter either. I learned from this little episode. Even so, it’s possible, even probable that some day, somehow, another ambush might sneak through. From another “Joe.” If it does, I plan to confront it and cut it off. Politely. Cut it short before it escalates, as this one did.

It’s tough, to be rejected by your culture. Years ago, while on the wheat harvest, I worked for a man whose father had emerged from the Hutterite Colonies as a youth. The father was now old. I forget the exact details, but somehow he purchased a piece of equipment from the Colony he had forsaken decades before. Might have been at a public auction. When the time came to settle up, the Colony leaders would not accept his money. He had left them and was considered a heathen. The father was deeply affected by their rejection. Thrown for a serious mental loop.

I remember at the time wondering why. How it could have affected him so deeply, so negatively. Why he allowed it to bother him so. Why he gave them such power. Why he didn’t just shake it off.

I don’t wonder anymore.

This, then, is where it stands. Joe’s attack and its aftermath clearly shed light on some core truths. Among the Amish churches, there exists a strong element that is almost entirely hostile to me. Certainly not all of them. But a substantial percentage. The guardians at the gates. And their minions. The “Joes” of the world. To them, my writings are a toxic poison. To be resisted on every front. And quashed as necessary.

Oh sure, they’ll read the stuff. Can’t help themselves, I guess. It’s good to know what the enemy is up to, and all that. So they read. And shake their heads and seethe inside and murmur to each other, wondering how such a scandalous thing can be.

There are no more illusions. If anything I write is ever published, there will be a horrendous social and cultural cost. And no “plain” publisher will ever touch any of my writings with a ten foot pole.

I’m not making any vows. Sam taught me that lesson well. A heart filled with rage and tension and conflict and bitterness can produce only the fruits of that seed. I won’t live like that. And I don’t want to be defined by such a harvest.

Tomorrow is promised to no one. I don’t know the future, or whether “The Shepherd Chronicles” will ever see the light of day. It might happen. And it might not. For now, it needs some extensive reworking and editing. We’ll see what develops.

And so, it seems, I’ve reached a milestone. One that I’d perhaps not anticipated, but is really not that surprising in retrospect. The realization that any person who writes the stories of his past, his youth, his life as he lived it, and the characters around him, will pay a price. From those who take exception and offense at the writer’s conclusions and perspectives. It’s been thus always. And, I suppose, will always be so.

I have to choose. I can shut it down, shamed, chastened, and allow my voice to be silenced, or at least subdued. Or I can continue the work that has sustained me through the shadows and fog of these past two years. Writing as the muse strikes, writing the things I’ve seen and lived and learned and felt. As honestly as I’m able. And posting it on this blog that is open to all who wish to read. Including those who scan closely with critical eyes to search diligently for some reason, some slight justification, to disparage and denounce my motives, my character, and my faith.

Those who know me should have no qualms; they should know well the choice that beckons.

There is only one.

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(54 Comments) »

  1. I am sorry that happened to you. Please do not accept the spirit of accusation onto yourself but keep having faith in God. I enjoy reading what you write.

    Have you thought of self publishing it on lulu.com?

    Comment by Tina Miller — May 8, 2009 @ 8:01 pm

  2. Everyone uses expression Christianity, like people use the word love so loosely, so it’s meaning is so broad it has no real value. So many Amish people use the word Christian, as a catch all term, to condone every type Amish conduct good or bad.

    I am “half Amish”, from my paternal Slabaugh surname, of Mennonite / Amish ancestry. And yes, as a child I was exposed to nothing but Christian religion, by my mixed European mother. But now as man knowing the truth, I honor my paternal half Amish / Mennonite Jewish heritage, by learning Hebrew Judaism faith.

    It is funny, the Mennonite / Amish fought Gentiles persecution, to force them to convert to Christianity, by leaving Europe. To only come to America, to adopt Christian beliefs, and judge each other on their Christian conviction. What happen to the Jews, which believed in Jesus as Messiah, do they still exist in souls of Plain People?

    Comment by Lee Nelson Hall Junior — May 8, 2009 @ 8:59 pm

  3. Hang in there!!!!! Keep on writing!!!!!

    Comment by Humdinger — May 8, 2009 @ 9:48 pm

  4. You know, Ira, it’s funny how so many who are “CHRIST”ians are so quick to judge and are so quick to act in a way that is completely contradictory to Jesus himself. There’s a difference between honoring your religion and honoring the Lord – it’s wonderful if that can be done together but we all know when manmade rules get in the way that can’t always be the case.

    I’m glad you calmed down because he is entitled to his opinion, but you know that doesn’t mean he’s right. Duh. Offending and insulting someone, then pushing them away – yep, Jesus was probably pattin’ him on the back! Get serious. God knows you better than he does. Too bad you couldn’t post as you were talking to him because we could’ve helped you with some good comebacks! OK, that’s not very Christian either.

    Like you said, he was probably doing what he thought was right, misguided though it was, and no one tries to bring another down when they’re feeling “up” themselves. Maybe he has a wavering faith. Say a prayer for him. I’ve never met anyone who hasn’t needed any!

    We were talking at work the other day how a million people can compliment your work or tell you you’re doing a good job, but when that ONE has a complaint about you, that’s what sticks in your head. Why are we so quick to believe the worst rather than the best?

    Comment by Beth Russo — May 8, 2009 @ 9:55 pm

  5. I have encountered my fair share of “holier than thou” plain people when I lived in Lancaster County. Just try to remember all the family and friends that love you and know you are a Christian!

    Comment by Dawn — May 8, 2009 @ 10:00 pm

  6. I am also a Christian heathen. I have been dissected this week again and I am going to keep my mouth shut until my entrails heal.

    Comment by Katie Troyer — May 8, 2009 @ 10:34 pm

  7. I have in the last year been torn to shreds by my own grandfather for daring to write about my journey. I was even ripped for rejoicing in a measure of reconciliation with a parent. Didn’t I know it was all my fault? How dare I say God is working in my parent’s heart?

    You know who I am.

    Comment by Your Fellow "Heathen" — May 8, 2009 @ 11:04 pm

  8. Self publish at http://www.blurb.com

    Comment by Eric — May 9, 2009 @ 7:26 am

  9. You have a rare gift of writing that I envy. Don’t let ANY “Joe” keep you from using your gift. God uses this kind of attack to polish off our rough edges, painful though it is. And the pain you felt in that conversation was not only the pain of the moment, but it surfaced a LOT of pain from your past.

    Comment by Cricketsong — May 9, 2009 @ 8:05 am

  10. The (so called) Christian army is the only army who openly “kills” its own.

    Comment by Dorothy — May 9, 2009 @ 10:29 am

  11. Guess there’s a good side to this: Oh yeah- that’s what they’re like… how quickly we forget… how quickly we can be lulled back into remembering the pleasant side of what was, forgetting why we ever struggled to get free of it. (I’m saying this partly from the perspective of someone who lives in Eastern Europe- there is huge nostalgia among some people here for the ‘old ways’ when a bus ticket anywhere in the country cost the equivalent of a few pennies… but they forget about all the rest. I once read that it is part of the normal human psyche to heal…and that means forgetting (in part- at least this is how I understood it) the worst of the worst.)

    And – interesting that we get so taken up with claiming the title Christian. Anyone can claim any title they want and be correct or not. In the end, it matters very little what we think of and about each other- but if God says He’s mine- that means quite a lot.

    OK- I’m gone. As always, enjoyed your post. Don’t always say it…

    Comment by Ann — May 9, 2009 @ 11:26 am

  12. *applauding* Really liked what you wrote! Keep speaking the truth!

    Comment by Sheila Martin — May 9, 2009 @ 1:00 pm

  13. Vow this. . . to live (and write) boldly, freely, and joyfully, unfettered by the opinions of those who don’t know your heart.

    Comment by Velma Smucker — May 9, 2009 @ 6:52 pm

  14. I wonder, Ira, if legalistic Christianity marks us such that we can never really escape its pseudo-divine gaze. Many people (myself included) who have left legalism (such as American fundamentalism) still desperately look to it for subconscious approval, some warped sense of justification. Since, to the legalist, godliness (rather, “a form of godliness, denying the power therof…”) equals approval and acceptance by the legalist status quo, perhaps we “apostates” can never truly be free from that pernicious longing to be accepted. Something deep within us mistakes the gaze of the self-righteous we once respected for the gaze of God. And that is why it hurts so deeply — because we subconsciously mistake it for the frowning gaze of God Himself.

    Comment by Mark Graham — May 9, 2009 @ 8:22 pm

  15. Well, I’m not from a Christian upbringing, so I admit I cannot relate to being hurt by such.

    My thought, however, (hopefully not too overly pious) is that Psalm 133 applies here. To all of us. As it always has. Perhaps it is the most difficult grace, as I reflect on the word from better lips in John 17.20-21.

    I hope no one takes this (and that it is not offered) in a spirit of condemnation. (Email and blogs leave some things to be desired.)

    Comment by LeRoy — May 9, 2009 @ 8:37 pm

  16. Ira I would be happy to print the booklet for you like I did before and send you a bunch of copies for free.

    Here is the booklet with the first 2 posts in it.

    The Amish here in Aylmer love to read it, I am not sure why, but they like your blog.

    Bob Mutch
    More Christ Like Blog

    Comment by Bob Mutch — May 9, 2009 @ 10:14 pm

  17. Do the Amish at Aylmer actually approve of Ira’s writings? Or do they like reading his blogs because he is an ex-Amish Aylmer-ite?

    Comment by Katie Troyer — May 9, 2009 @ 10:51 pm

  18. Emily Dickinson (1830–86). Complete Poems. 1924.

    Part One: Life

    XI

    MUCH madness is divinest sense
    To a discerning eye;
    Much sense the starkest madness.
    ’T is the majority
    In this, as all, prevails.
    Assent, and you are sane;
    Demur,—you ’re straightway dangerous,
    And handled with a chain.

    Comment by Sarah — May 10, 2009 @ 9:48 am

  19. In this life there will be hurts, there will be those people who believe they are called to judge people harshly based on their incorrect application of God’s Word. There are a limited amount of things we can do with that. We can see if there is truth to what is spoken and make correction accordingly, we can let this minority control our next step in life or we can acknowledge that it was done in ignorance and move on. In this case the latter is applicable.

    Comment by Fellow Traveler — May 10, 2009 @ 9:59 pm

  20. The best 3 sentences in this blog for me?

    “A heart filled with rage and tension and conflict and bitterness can produce only the fruits of that seed. I won’t live like that. And I don’t want to be defined by such a harvest.”

    I am printing this and putting it on my desk at work. May I credit you?

    Ira’s response: You may.

    Comment by Sally — May 11, 2009 @ 7:43 am

  21. IRA!!! NEVER STOP SPEAKING THE TRUTH—EVEN AND ESPECIALLY WHEN IT HURTS. SOMEDAY SOMEONE WILL COME BACK TO THANK YOU.

    Comment by LIZ — May 11, 2009 @ 9:03 am

  22. No common sense anywhere any more. Who will be our mentors in the future? Good thing for us, the Bible stays the same, always. Just the people change how they view things. So scary for our children, will there be any wise ones to lead them? We do know the end of the book. Another subject, I’d like to take the change of suggesting you another book, think you’d really enjoy it! It’s by Joe Gibbs, “Racing To Win.” Let me know when you get it finished, please.

    Comment by Krindee — May 11, 2009 @ 1:59 pm

  23. Some Amish churches have one. Or maybe a lot of them have a “Joe”, or his likeness. Out of nowhere comes a sudden accusation of a vile act of sin. Not only is the act suddenly to your surprise labeled as sin, even the motive is trotted out for all to stand by and nod their agreement. It takes a powerful debater to stand up under such fire, and most of us would simply wither. Without strong Bible understanding, I stand no chance at defence. Many a person has simply given in for the sake of peace. At least, that’s what I did in times past.

    If you were to write and express your faith, you would be closely examined and then properly disregarded. The blogs would most likely be considered an attempt to bring Amish around to your way of thinking. But you choose to simply recount events and depict them in a way most of us with Amish background cannot express ourselves. Now you are guilty of not being a Christian as your faith is invisible! You can’t win! Just keep writing and let the “Pharisees” wallow in their shallow, self-righteous understanding. None of us can change them!

    Comment by Eli Stutzman — May 11, 2009 @ 2:45 pm

  24. I hope these are all the comments you’re taking to heart (the ones above).

    Next time somebody starts flappin’ their snide remarks at you, just nod and say, “Well, that’s one way to look at it.” Or the mature way to handle it would be to say, “I’m rubber, you’re glue. Whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you!” I’m making light of it and I know I shouldn’t, but hopefully you know by all this support, what’s done is done and I have yet to see out of all these responses one that says, “Ira, you stink! That guy is brilliant and you should listen to him, rejoin the Amish church, and do everything he says!”. Besides, what would we all do on Friday nights from now on??

    Comment by Beth Russo — May 11, 2009 @ 3:20 pm

  25. Just what does the ‘approval’ or ‘disapproval’ of MAN amount to, in the END?
    Doesn’t amount to a HILL OF BEANS!
    [ this saying must of come about when beans weren’t worth a whole lot…! :)]

    NO MAN will have any say so in who STAYS and who DEPARTS on THAT day!
    MANY will be told to depart that will be in total shock.
    But, it will be final.

    With that said, SURE IT HURTS to be rejected by our fellow man.
    And SURE IT FEELS GOOD to be patted on the back by our fellow man.

    BUT, we have to realize how LITTLE this really means.
    Get it in it’s proper perspective.
    10,000 can pat a person on the back and it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in the end.
    10,000 can condemn a person and it also won’t amount to a hill of beans in the end.

    What really matters, is WHAT DOES HE THINK.
    Professing to KNOW HIM doesn’t amount to much either.
    The world is FULL of such.
    What matters, is who does HE KNOW!

    Comment by fritz — May 11, 2009 @ 3:52 pm

  26. I want “Joe” to look into the face of “Hell” and then tell me how good of a Amish Christian he is..

    Here are some choices:

    1. A rapidly metastasizing bone cancer with a three month time clock. It is amazing how the prospect of being hanged in two weeks focuses one’s mind. A great opportunity to know whether you know God or only say you know God.

    2. The H1N1 new flu switches into its lethal form in August (just like the 1918 H1N1 did, starting mild in March of that year then suddenly changing) and burns through his settlement in October with a 30% kill rate in his family. Now explain to the listening audience about a loving God. I think I know my answer (but only the application of the test will tell for sure), but I want him to rationalize what just happened in just two weeks with a string of well worn platitudes.

    3. Wife suddenly drops into the low cycle of previously undiagnosed Bi-Polar Personality disorder. That is a guaranteed do you really trust God test of faith.

    4. Daughter is three months pregnant but a relatively safe, completely confidential abortion is at hand. Do we save face in the community or do the right thing and save life in the face of universal condemnation?

    5. Granddaughters are lined up and shot down. One dead, one alive with an IQ of 40 and the third one with her face so disfigured that when she is 21, she can ask grandfather why none of the boys want to take her home from the singing and if she can write a story in his publication about this “little problem”. Good chance to see if these Christian Amish settlements are up the standards of southern Lancaster county.

    6. Joe reads “The Man Who Corrupted Hadleyburg” and actually understands what Mark Twain was getting at. I have read it three times and I think this should be required reading for all thinking plain people.

    Comment by Mark Hersch — May 11, 2009 @ 3:56 pm

  27. Isn’t it amazing….this post and comments!
    EVERYONE professing…and yet, just look at the actions/reactions!

    Isn’t heaven going to be a wonderful place!!
    Can’t wait till we all get there!

    Comment by fritz — May 11, 2009 @ 6:37 pm

  28. Romans 14 makes it clear that the “weak” Christians are not to judge the “strong” (even though they cannot follow their liberalism, because Jesus Himself sometimes looked like He violated God’s principles, for love), and the “strong” are not to judge the “weak” (as even Jesus Himself would look legalistic to some). Jesus, the Word made human, cuts both ways.

    “Are you for us or against us?” asked Joshua. “I come as Captain of the Lord of the heavenly army” was the non-answer. It is easy for us to take the side of our friends. It is easy to excoriate those who choose a different path. But we all need correction at times; none of us can cut off another.

    Comment by LeRoy — May 11, 2009 @ 6:39 pm

  29. This takes me back to my high school days when I read works by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I distinctly remember the chill I got while reading The Scarlet Letter. The cold harsh reality as the “Rev” who was doing the hunting, suddenly became the hunted.

    Perhaps it’s time to brush the dust off the embroidered scarlet “A”. I would guess Joe will know how to wear it.

    Interestingly enough, the “splinter” we see in our brother’s eye is recognizable and familiar to us because it is a by-product of the large timber that is protruding out of our own eye.

    Keep writing, Ira!

    Comment by Joanna Miller King — May 11, 2009 @ 7:55 pm

  30. Several basic questions for this Joe guy, what are you as an “Amish Christian ” doing on the internet???? Real Amish would be strictly forbidden, also wonder if your Amish Christian Bible has anything to say about judging people??????? Mine does. Amish people definately have their good points, too bad a few Joes spoil the reputation of them all.

    Comment by Rachel — May 11, 2009 @ 11:19 pm

  31. It’s as wrong to judge the ‘Joes’ of this life, as it is wrong for the ‘joes’ to be judging others.

    Comment by fritz — May 12, 2009 @ 8:08 am

  32. Ooooh, Fritz, good point!! I don’t know if I see it as the posts necessarily judging “Joe”, but rather supporting Ira in that he doesn’t need to listen to and take to heart those who are judging him. We can probably all claim to never judge others, but the reality is we subconsciously do it more than we think. I just love your readers, Ira, seriously. What a neat group of people. Great thinkers, honest, and great supporters.

    Comment by Beth Russo — May 12, 2009 @ 9:18 am

  33. Regarding post 32

    Everyone can judge themselves in the matter.
    We ARE allowed to JUDGE ourselves! :)

    Comment by fritz — May 12, 2009 @ 9:41 am

  34. We’ve been scrutinized and found lacking by many “Joes” during our journey. And I am sure it will happen again. Know you are not alone.

    A couple of the comments stood out to me… #14 Mark Graham: “perhaps we “apostates” can never truly be free from that pernicious longing to be accepted.” I for one have found this to be all too true. And the Emily Dickinson poem sums it up nicely as well.

    Something to remember too, is the verse my husband used to quote when we were at the CC: Gal 4:17 “They zealously court you, but for no good; yes, they want to exclude you, that you may be zealous for them.” The thinking is, if they make you feel bad enough, not a part of them, maybe you’ll come back. Joe was doing what comes naturally to him.

    I understand and can relate to the raw emotion expressed in this piece. Thank you for writing it. And I am so glad you have Sam to bounce things off of.

    And to Katie too: Take heart, my friend. Don’t let ‘em get you down and just stay close to the Healer of our souls.

    Comment by pilgrimhen — May 12, 2009 @ 10:07 am

  35. Forget Joe, get back up on your feet and keep going. There’s writing to be done. There is truth to be told.

    A thought about self-publishing: If you go that route, no other publishers will want you. That is how the game is being played right now. It may change in the future, but self-publishing makes you dead to many publishers. So make a commitment to find a publisher who believes in you, or print it yourself knowing that you may have to publish your own stuff forever. I believe you can find a publisher. I believe in you!

    Comment by Monica — May 12, 2009 @ 12:25 pm

  36. Matthew 7:1 (Judge not) that ye be not judged.

    John 7:24 “Do not judge according to appearance, but (judge with righteous judgment).” We are told to make righteous judgment.

    Pick the scripture which best fits your need and have a great day!!!!

    Comment by Gerald D. Hochstetler, Jr. — May 12, 2009 @ 9:47 pm

  37. Regarding post 33-

    I Cor 4:3-4….”But to me it is a very small thing that I should be examined by you or by man’s day; rather I do not even examine myself. For I am conscious of nothing against myself; but I am not justified in this, but He who examines me is the Lord.”

    We are not qualifed even to judge ourselves….leave it to the Lord!

    Romans ch. 14 is a great chapter to read on receiving the believers. In my study Bible (Recovery Version) the note on Romans 14:3 says, “The basis on which we receive the believers is that God has received them. God receives people according to His Son. When a person receives God’s Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, as His Saviour, God receives that person immediately and ushers him into the enjoyment of the Triune God and of all He has prepared and accomplished in Christ for us. We should receive people in the same way and should not be more narrow than God. Regardless of how much people differ from us in doctrinal concepts or religious practices, we must receive them. When we receive people according to God and not according to doctrine or practice, we demonstrate and maintain the oneness of the Body of Christ.”

    I think many Christians don’t get this….but I love the way God thinks about His body of believers!!

    Comment by Doris Vetter — May 12, 2009 @ 9:47 pm

  38. one thing we are forbidden to judge and are incapable of judging, is the ‘motive of one’s heart’.
    The ‘motive of one’s heart’ is very important to Him.

    Nowhere is it forbidden to strive to judge ourselves.
    Rather, we are told to.

    The statement that Paul made there in 1 Cor 4:1-4 was regarding his office as a steward/minister over the mysteries of God.
    In that office/position, he was to do as the spirit bade, regardless of what anyone thot, including he, himself.
    If that is your scenario, then it applies to you.

    1 Cor 11:28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.
    29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.
    30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.
    31
    For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.
    32 But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.

    2 Cor 13:5 Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?

    Luke 12:56 Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time?
    57
    Yea, and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?

    Acts 13:46 Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.

    Comment by fritz — May 12, 2009 @ 11:22 pm

  39. It is rather amazing…

    Folks don’t realize what kind of ‘class’ they put themselves into.

    Read John 7:20-24
    When Jesus made the statement, to ‘judge not according to appearance, but to judge righteous judgement’ he was speaking to folks that were accusing him of being of the DEVIL.
    This statement was not made to His followers.
    Read it.

    The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee?

    21 Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel.

    22 Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man.

    23 If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day?

    24 Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.

    Comment by fritz — May 12, 2009 @ 11:37 pm

  40. To post 36.
    I would agree that we can learn the principal of what Jesus said, there! :)
    It’s just that He wasn’t speaking to ‘us’ in that setting…

    Comment by fritz — May 12, 2009 @ 11:59 pm

  41. Do not worry about what other people think of you; Worry about what you think of other people.

    Find a better, more opened minded publisher that fits your style. Your background and your heritage give you a tremendous opportunity as a writer. Do not let this stepping stone become a stumbling block.

    Keep on writing.

    And have wild day!!!

    Comment by Chris — May 13, 2009 @ 4:00 pm

  42. Fritz, I hope you caught the sarcasm in my earlier post. Here’s a few more scriptures I’d love to have an explanation. This is a subject I have often wondered about.

    1 Corinthians 6:3 Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life?
    1Co 6:4 If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church.

    1Co 14:29 Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.

    What about the scripture where He says that by there fruits we shall know them? Do we judge the fruit but not the heart? In other words the fruit is rotten but the heart may be good?

    Great discussion!!!!

    Comment by Gerald D. Hochstetler, Jr — May 13, 2009 @ 7:31 pm

  43. Gerald…
    Well, thanks for clarifying.
    Wasn’t quite sure what the intent was….
    But, i can see with your additional comment, what it was…
    That ‘conflicting’ viewpoint that the scriptures SEEM to give on quite a few issues….
    Like the ‘i came to bring peace'; ‘I came not to bring peace’ type of thing.

    One reason that there are so many diverse/conflicting/false doctrines floating around Christianity, is because of scriptures being taken out of context.
    Folks isolate them, and come up with all kinds of teachings/beliefs/doctrines.
    John 3:16 is an ex.
    Right in the context, it compares the ‘lifting up’ of Jesus with the ‘lifting up of the serpent in the wilderness’.
    If we take the time to go and read about that setting/scenario, and do some analyzing, it should help us ‘rightly divide’ John 3:16.
    ***********************************************************
    Those are some good questions. Hard to answer on a post like this.

    I’m not a believer in ‘jumping in and trying to analyze some verses’.
    It is a combination of always looking at the setting/scenario of who was being written/spoken to, what was their status, [Jew/Gentile for ex] what time period was it in, what light was available.
    Then taking principals that we know to be true, and knowing how and when and where to apply them.
    [Heb 5:14b…..who BY REASON OF USE have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

    “No scripture is of private interpretatiion”.
    Meaning that it is not up to a human mind to determine what is meant. [what you think or what i think type of thing]
    Individual scriptures need to be looked at in their context; The context needs to be looked at in it’s setting; and on and on. Till we get to the biggest picture. The overall.

    We have to constantly step back and look at the overall picture of what we are painting. [if we know what it is]
    Picture a painter trying to produce a LARGE painting, which is made up of many smaller paintings.
    Those smaller paintings will ALL have to fit together, in the end, or that large painting is going to be quite a picture.
    So we could say, “no small painting is to paint a picture that conflicts with the overall’.
    Some folks are going to end up with quite a painting in the end.
    Warped/confused/upside down/inside out.
    And that’s the way they will spend eternity.
    Eternal confusion.
    That’s the choice they are making.

    There are eternal principals all around us. We live in the midst of them. These creative works were established/ founded upon them.
    We have 2 ‘great’ works to help guide us.
    Creation/scriptures.
    Both…portray ‘truth’.

    I believe that is all i’m going to say on this post.
    i would be willing to present a few thots of what i believe to be truth concerning some of the things you mentioned, for your consideration, but i would need your email address, and i don’t know if you want to go that route.

    Comment by fritz — May 14, 2009 @ 9:19 am

  44. I’ve been waiting for someone to reference the scripture that says something about not causing your brother to stumble. But think about it really – what does calling into question someone’s faith do? How many times have you experienced that over a hem line, something else trivial, a major life decision or something you have absolutely no control over. Those who have been ostracized over ideas, or Ideology dressed as Theology will most likely say that the judgment did more then make them just stumble. The vocation (yes vocation, what some folks call a “calling”) of an artist (that’s you, Ira) is to illuminate the human condition – make us see. Some may side with “Joe” just because they would rather not see.

    Comment by Glo — May 14, 2009 @ 2:43 pm

  45. Yeah these comments keep getting further and further away from what actually happened here. Don’t think most of us care how well you know your Bible. I’ve been away from the Amish (church) for 15 years and this story is like so many incidents in the lives of those of us who have found our way out of that dark hole called religion. I had to laugh cause I know just how Ira felt. Kind’a good to see this foolishness actually bothers others like it does me.

    Comment by Paul — May 14, 2009 @ 8:14 pm

  46. Well, i happen to love them scriptures. :)
    Scripture n nature.
    The harmony and beauty of nature is quite something. What man hasn’t ruined.
    But, i don’t blame anyone for being ‘fed’ up with religion.
    I wouldn’t doubt that you are right about most not caring.

    Comment by fritz — May 14, 2009 @ 11:02 pm

  47. Ira, such anguish… Your writing knows how to hit me where it counts.

    My question is not about “Joe” – he was just doing the predictable thing. It’s about you. What the heck were you doing, standing on his doorstep hat in hand?! Is there a part of you that still thinks that if you write beautifully enough, with as much honesty as you can muster, they’ll like you again?

    Comment by Vera — May 16, 2009 @ 3:52 pm

  48. It is true a writer takes a risk. Yet it takes more courage to write than to criticize the one bold enough to expose truth.

    Comment by sms — May 18, 2009 @ 8:15 pm

  49. C’mon. We all pass judgment, and it isn’t wrong to do so… Ira made a judgment concerning the Amish man and the Amish man made judgment on Ira. And, Ira did a fine job with the writing. That’s why he is such a great writer, he calls things the way they are.

    You can’t write and call things as they are if you don’t evaluate them..Make a judgment. This “don’t pass judgment teaching” has gotten way out of hand. I live in Holmes County Ohio, and there you hear it all the time. That’s why I mentioned the other scriptures. There is a balance to everything.

    By the way, Paul, (and I’ve been out of the Amish for more than 15 years) you passed judgment when you said that most of us don’t care about about how well we know the Bible. Maybe you were right about most, but not about me. I’ve always been facinated by the Bible. It’s what helped me get out of the Amish setting. You also called the Amish a dark hole of religion… passed some pretty heavy judgment there.

    Ira wrote, “He sat there, gloating, firm and smug. I could feel it through the phone.” Now Ira could not see that man’s heart. But he made what I believe to be a right judgment about the man. That’s why I like his writings. He writes from his heart.

    Comment by Gerald D. Hochstetler, Jr. — May 22, 2009 @ 1:42 pm

  50. You know, what the Amish culture has become is a far cry from what our Anabaptist forefathers gave their lives for. That rubbish they spout now isn’t worth it. Ira, honesty is a revealer, and they don’t like it. There is treasure to be held onto from the culture, but it has nothing to do with ‘religion.’

    Comment by Annonymous — May 23, 2009 @ 11:49 am

  51. I’ve been following along with these comments- they’ve been interesting. The above (#50) I can totally agree with.

    Comment by Ann — May 23, 2009 @ 1:48 pm

  52. My, my, my, Joe must feel slightly justified by reading all the blood-thirsty comments left by the so-called “real” Christians.

    Comment by Dan — June 20, 2009 @ 5:22 pm

  53. Ira, keep on writing! Make the best of the talents God gave you!
    People will be people, so-called Christians or not.
    Remember, you need to live with yourself!

    Comment by Miss Jane — June 23, 2009 @ 12:11 pm

  54. Ira,
    I just now came across this blog. I just needed to let you know that I love Joe.

    Years ago, he was a close friend of mine, I stayed at his house. He published one of my books.

    There came a day when I offended and obviously embarrased him. He shredded up my books, and he let the pius holy crowd know, that in his holy indignation he felt justified to crucify me.

    That he declared himself a believer over and above the poor ignorant element of the Amish, will come back to haunt some day.

    I love him, because Christ does.

    Keep your cool, I love you!

    Ben

    Comment by Ben Girod — April 7, 2010 @ 9:14 pm

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