Thursday, March 1, 2012

Spousal Abuse in Amish Knitting Circle & the PBS documentary, The Amish

I just finished watching The Amish, the new PBS documentary on the Amish. I thought it was very balanced and showed the other side of Amish life we don’t like to talk about; dysfunctional families, especially spousal abuse.
People ask me who Ruth and Luke are in Amish Knitting Circle. Well, they’re a real Amish couple.  We met “Luke” when an Amish friend decided to sell us fifteen acres of his land in Western PA. He moved to Marathon, NY and wanted us to have his land and not Luke.  Our friend called Luke a bad apple. “You can always find a bad apple in every bushel,” he said. 
Well, Luke found out that our friend was selling us his land cheaper than to him, and thought he was in error, preferring us Englishers too much. So there was a big dinner to reconcile differences, but Luke still didn’t see eye to eye with church leadership. 
But all this happened for the good. It brought attention to Luke’s wife and seven children. We told the Amish that the children all had rotted teeth and looked hungry. The house was in shambles and asked if they thought this was normal. Luke’s wife looked afraid of him…a lot. I told them I was afraid of him too because he swore at me when we went to look at the property.
So, there were more meetings, and Luke had to apologize to me. After he did, he asked if we wanted to buy his farm that bordered our land. He said he needed to move next to his wife’s parents because she wasn’t happy.  I was so glad to hear this, and he genuinely seemed to want to change. We didn’t want his farm, but told him we’d look for others who might.
I know many Amish in Western PA and NY and they read Amish fiction and are very excited about my books based in their areas. As they read Amish Knitting Circle, I hope they see that the church district Luke is in dealt with him in the right way.  They didn’t sweep spousal abuse and neglect of his children under the rug.  They’re also not opposed to having professional counseling, if needed. And I'm happy to say that "Ruth", Luke's wife, looks so much happier today.
The Amish are a Christian sect, but not so narrow minded as to ask outsiders questions. An Amish friend asked me out of the blue one day, “Why do you think married couples loose love for each other?” I was shocked and asked if she and John were having marital problems. She beamed. “No, I don’t deserve such a gut man. He’s so gut to me.” She must have had someone else on her mind. I told her that Christ loved the church enough to die for it, and a Christian husband is to love his wife in the same way. She nodded and agreed. I also said I believed there were three in a marriage, husband, wife and God. She nodded in agreement again, as if this was a common belief among her church district.
I felt I had to write this blog today after watching The Amish. I'm glad they made it believable and not like something off of Little House on the Prairie. God cares for wounded sparrows, like the Bible says, so how much more a wounded wife or child?


  1. What a very GREAT and insightful post Karen. Thanks for sharing!
    It is true that sometimes to hear and or see that others are JUST people too! IT makes it so much easier.
    Not that I want to hear of spousal abuse or child neglect BUT it is nice to see that this documentary wasn't used to just paint the perfectly white heavanly depiction many have of these people. It never ceases to amaze me when people say "oh well they are Amish they wouldn't do that" I always say.....Are they human? Did Adam and Eve do human things? What about Christ? Then I say why is it we feel that they should be expected to do better than human?
    We all make is what we take away from those mistakes that is important!

  2. Well said Allyson and thanks for leaving your comment. I wondered if I should share the not so good parts of the Amish I know, but guess who wants it told? The Amish! They're tired of people portraying them in "far-fetched" ways. It takes a lot of work to live in community and where you have people you have problems. But it's how they run toward conflict and not away, in most cases, that keeps the peace. The woman in the PBS documentary who married an abusive husband was odd to me. It wouldn't be tolerated by the Amish I know.

  3. This is an interesting post. I didn't see the program, and I've never assumed that these things don't happen in their community. As Allyson, they are human. We sin. But Christ, He did NOT sin. Ever.