Something that has always intrigued me in life is to learn that my belief about a particular group of people or subject matter is absolutely wrong when the “truth” confronts me- regardless of how popular the truth may be. Perhaps it is somewhat innate in the human nature to accept positive beliefs of what you really do not understand very well, or maybe the human spirit comfortably rests its curiosity within truth until one is enlightened by a reputable source? Either way, when my understanding of some subject is blasted away it always catches me off guard. It bothers me.
Confused? Same here- when I learned the truth about the Amish in Lancaster, PA.
Recently, a friend of mine and I had an e-mail dialogue about how the Amish view deer hunting in their rural community. My friend mentioned that he was fully aware that they hunt at night, with lights, no bag limits and don’t bother to pay license fees or report their ‘kills’ to the proper authorities once game is taken. When I questioned if this was due to some religious tax-exempt status bestowed by the state that I was not aware of, the reply was startling as it was saddening. Having spent many years living in the Lancaster, PA. area, here is what my friend reported:
“They don’t think they have to…nothing to do with their faith. They are
arrogant beyond belief. A friend of ours tried to shame the Amish about
killing their fill of deer at night, without a license. They felt that licenses and fair chase was a game for the English…they did it their way, and the seasons be darned
.One of the farmers was asked about the recent (school) killings and what he thought of it. His response was something akin to, ‘We have to get back to the harvest.’ Or, business before grieving. Money drives them. All the banks in Lancaster County are owned by the Amish. My wife and I were turned down for a loan when it was discovered we were going to buy land. The reason given was ‘our kind’ wouldn’t be happy living there. (We were not Amish.)
Every Amish man we met was a millionaire and very fleshly minded. They look down on you and your values. They are very good at PR when selling their products in town to others - as long as you are buying.
When the Amish boy wants to cut loose and go to town and partake in the flesh pots of Philadelphia, they take off their distinctive clothing and get into their properly licensed new car and drive into town and party hearty. When they are done, they come back to the remote barn, park the secret car, put the farm clothes back on and walk or bicycle home.”
Even now, after soaking all this in, I’m still in shock and amazement at this revelation. Though I’ve never visited this part of the US, never seen an Amish person, I thought I knew a little about their culture. Wearing plain clothes, shunning all modern convenience and culture, and having pious attitudes- these are fundamental to their way of life. Or so I thought. It appears that they, like many in our modern society of today, are swayed by the very things we all struggle with- materialism, greed, envy, lust, power, status, exclusivity.
Part of what I thought these folks were like, what I wanted to believe, is my perception of their religious cousins- the Mennonites. I’ve met many Mennonites in my home county in Texas and even had a family as clients when I was in sales. They fit the very perceptions of how the Amish are portrayed in Lancaster, PA. Honest, hard-working, plain-looking descendents of German immigrants with thick accents. Many of them still conversed in the Germanic tongue. The women all wore plain, hand stitched dresses with bonnets (every day of the year regardless of how hot it was in the summer), and wore their hair very long- always braided. Kids were dressed exactly like the parents. Young boys wore coveralls if old enough, and black leather, lace shoes like their dads and grandpas. I was also amazed at the children’s manners at a very early age. I’m talking three years old and up- absolute respect and very polite. I never had any difficulties of any kind with these humble folks- in person or in business. They were always very accommodating. But, they are a different group than the Amish having ‘split’ from their cousins many generations earlier. These particular Mennonites use mechanization at every opportunity, having gas-powered vehicles, electricity and running water in their homes.
It saddens me to learn that the Amish - taking their beliefs so seriously by way of fencing themselves off from the ever-changing culture around them - would succumb to the very sins generations of their forefathers arduously attempted to protect them from. True, not every one within a particular group should be painted with so broad a brush. I'm hoping there remain a few faithful families in Lancaster who are still honoring their heritage by raising the current generation by the "old ways".
This is where History and Truth collide - and I’m an innocent victim of Relativism.