Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Ex-Amish speaking out on Amish: Out of Order…but is it right?

I’ve thought long and hard before writing this post, as I know there are two camps on the issue of former Amish going on television airing their dirty laundry on an extendable 20 foot Amish clothesline. Some think it’s setting the Amish “free”,  while other see them as perfectly peaceful people in an almost fantasy world, and are appalled.  I’ve come to the conclusion I might be in a camp all by myself.

From what I’ve seen of former Amish on television, it’s very high drama. I mean, the people complaining about their heritage have quite the chip on their shoulder. I don’t think that’s healthy for anyone. And there is no culture that doesn’t have its down side.
To help explain what I mean, I was raised Catholic by a wonderfully devoted mom. She was First Generation Italian, so I told her she was "doubly Catholic". When growing up, I was told we were to hear the Bible from the priest. When I was fifteen, The Good News For Modern Man…aka…Living Bible came out. I asked my mom if I could read it, and she agreed. It wasn’t called "The Bible".

I took it everywhere, but especially babysitting. As the kids slept, I found such peace in this book. So, I wanted to go to a church where I could join a Bible Study, but wasn’t allowed until I left home for college. So, I attended the Catholic church, got involved in starting a folk music “contemporary” service. When I went to college, I went to a Baptist church, but felt torn. A Catholic priest told me I needed as an adult to make a decision, so I became a Baptist. Now I’m non-denominational.

Do I feel “shunned” by other Catholics? Well, no, only when I meet someone who really has their dander up. Like the priest who came to see my mom in the hospital only 4 years ago. He was giving her communion, and assumed I would partake. When I told him I left the Catholic church, his eyes shot fire at me. I mean, this priest was not too nice. My mom, although ailing, tried to defend me…”She’s a good Christian woman,” she said. He started arguing with my mom….
These are the “horror” stories I hear from Ex-Amish. “The bishop told me I was going to hell if I left…” Who hasn’t heard that from some outspoken, self-righteous pastor in a Christian denomination? Let’s be honest here. As for all the media slam about Catholic priests being sexually abusive, only a tiny fraction, maybe .001 percent of priests are cruel or unkind. Most are to be admired. My Amish friends always say, "You'll find a bad apple in every bushel." Well said.

I thank God for my Catholic upbringing. It set the moral bar high and I could clearly see what it was. There’s comfort in structure. I can remember days when I’d just sit in a Catholic church and pray. I couldn’t even imagine going on television and telling some of the ugly things that I’ve seen, because I can barely remember them. My Bible says, “Love doesn’t keep a record of wrongs…” Just as I wrote that I remember the priest who balled my mom out for not going to confession for three years. I mean, she was sobbing and I wanted to deck the guy. So I do keep a mental record of sorts, being human.
There are problems in the Amish community and in every church in the world. Because where you have people, you have problems. From what I’ve seen of the Amish in W. PA and W. NY, I can honestly say they seem happy and peaceful. I don’t see women and children with black eyes. I wouldn’t be this fascinated with their culture if it was abusive.

It took me going to Italy and visiting relatives, going through the Vatican to see the beauty and the light the Catholic church is. I hope angry Ex-Amish will someday see this about their culture….
A picture perfect church in rural Pennsylvania. I've gone to small country churches,
and some should be a warning sign...enter at your own risk. So I understand that not all that's whitewashed
and clapboard doesn't mean peaceful and simple.

This is my favorite picture I took of an Amish farm in Smicksburg, PA.
It's peaceful, as are the people who live there...but they do have problems...since they're human... 


  1. Well said, Karen. I agree whole-heartedly.

  2. Beautifully written Karen. There is good and bad in all religions.

  3. I was raised Catholic, too. At young age, I saw and experienced the raw side ... not of the religion, but of the priests and nuns!
    I would not blame them... They are human(s)
    Since about 25 years I prefer to cal myself human(istic)christian, wishing to go on well with people of all denominations.
    It's a pleasure to follow your blog. Thanks Karen Anna.


  4. There is good and bad in everything as you said Karen Anna Vogel- I dont think God saves any particular church- it is your personal relationship with God that matters!!! Thats why I have had some problem myself with some people being judgemental. I grew up in a strict Seventh Day Adventist home myself- and I know I partly resented the rules and regulations our church went by- but I know now that the limitations set up the moral code that I myself have today- so I could never fault anybody for being brought up as a Seventh Day Adventist!!!

  5. Keep in mind, ALWAYS, that television show producers edit everything for drama and to increase ratings. Unfortunately the norm for news media and TV today is "the more drama and negativity the better". I almost don't watch TV or read / watch the news other than for informational purposes because it's so bad. Well said Karen!

  6. Thank you all for your comments. This was such a hard post to write, but with all this buzz about ex-Amish, I felt like I needed to say something. ;)

  7. Another blog about the Amish, and a very nice one at that. Greetings folks. Richard

    1. Richard, thanks for stopping by. I just visited your blog and wow is it good! I like the answer and question part with Old Order Mennonites. Is there a way I can put a link from my blog to yours? Not super tech savvy here ;)

  8. thank you, Karen Anna, as a former pastor's wife, we often had folks become angry and leave to go to another church and I always said "there are problems in every church....you won't avoid them by leaving". I wish they had stayed around to find healing and reconciliation as I would hope the ex-Amish find the same.

  9. Thoughtful article. On a minor historical point, "The Living Bible" and "Good News for Modern Man" were two distinct projects. "The Living Bible" was a 1971 paraphrase by Kenneth Taylor inspired by a desire to communicate the Bible to his children. "The Good News for Modern Man" was a 1966 American Bible Society product with a newspaper motif on the cover. It was translated from the Greek, somewhat freely, with English-as-a-second-language adults in mind. It was illustrated throughout with very distinctive line-drawings. They were each huge when they hit the market.