Taking a Stand
© 2012 Reynold R. Kremer
STANDING UP FOR CHRISTIANITY
“If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name” (1 Peter 4:16.) In the many presentations I have given about the Amish, the question I am asked most often is, “Are they Christian”? I enjoy the question because it helps to lead me into the first part of my talk dealing with the history of the Amish people which began on October 31, 1517, when a monk named Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses on the church door in Wittenberg, Germany. From there our focus shifts to Ulrich Zwingli’s church in Zurich, Switzerland, the birthplace of the Anabaptist movement. (I give more details in another article.) In the very early years of the Anabaptists, two creeds were penned that attempted to explain their stand on the major church doctrines. First came the Schleitheim Articles which were later refined and expanded in the Dordrecht Confession. These two documents showed that the early Anabaptists were indeed Christians who believed in the truths of sin and salvation. They confessed that believing in Jesus Christ was the only way for one to achieve eternal salvation. (“God comforted man by giving them a hope that there was still a way to become reconciled to God, namely through the Lamb, the Son of God who would redeem and raise up fallen man from his sin, guilt and unrighteousness. . . . We must go to God with an upright heart and in perfect faith, and believe in Jesus Christ that we might be forgiven, sanctified and justified, and made children of God.” Dordrecht Confession para. 3,6) The other doctrines mentioned in the papers included adult baptism, the Lord’s Supper, swearing oaths, views regarding the government, excommunication, marriage, etc.
With my background as a Lutheran minister of education, I respectfully disagree with several areas of Anabaptist teachings. (I will detail many of these differences in other articles.) However, having said that, I do not wish to make any attempt to change their church doctrine or practice. That is not my place or belief. Rather, I continue to pray that these people would remain true to their foundation that was originally built on faith in the redemption that is ours through the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This means that although I have many Amish contacts, I will not attempt to enter their arena and try to change their church in any way as long as their foundational beliefs remain true to Christianity. However, if the actions of an individual or district are opposed to the basic tenets of Christianity, or if I see that the foundations of Christianity are attacked or distorted by those within the Amish religion, I will say so.
STANDING UP FOR THE AMISH
I began with the above paragraphs because I have a care and concern uniquely for the Amish people. It’s not the romantic feeling that many English have when they shop in an Amish grocery store and are enamored by their lifestyle. Rather, I sometimes secretly sit on the sidelines and cheer for them because I do admire many of the things the Amish people stand for. In many ways they have taken a stand apart from the world where few societies have. When I see so many modern Christians bending over backwards to be like “the world” I often wonder what makes us different at all. Certainly I realize that they are as far from perfect as any other Christian church. Some Amish are downright evil, and the Amish are by no means immune from any heinous and despicable sins. Just being Amish does not provide a ticket into heaven. But there are many parts within their culture that I deeply respect (and even envy.) (I once said that to an Amish lady who looked at me askance as if to say, “Why would you admire us?”) I’m certain that many of the Amish do not realize some of the blessings that their society provides.
The family is certainly one aspect that the Amish hold in high regard. In modern society (including modern Christian society), divorce, unwed mothers, children ruling the home, and fathers not accepting responsibility for their families are far too common. Among the Amish, pre-marital sex is always a sin, divorce is forbidden, and marriage is only blessed between two adults who share the same faith. These views are rigid and unmovable, and they reflect a deep and demanding respect for the family institution.
Respect and care for the elderly is also a positive of the Amish life. Grandparents are cared for in the home where they can receive the help, love, and respect they have earned through years of trials and hard work. The role of the father is also important to the Amish. Home is where dad belongs, and it’s also where he wants to be. Theirs is a patriarchal society in which there is unquestioned respect for the father. He has the final say in important decisions and he takes his role as head of the household seriously. Yet the Amish also know that the woman of the house is far more important than just for having babies. She is the glue that holds the family together. She sees that schedules are kept, meals are prepared, gardens are planted, clothes are mended, the sick are nursed, and that the home is clean and tidy. Children are also an integral part of Amish life. They discover at a very young age that they are an important part of the functioning household. They are constantly in training as they grow older until the day that they can function on their own as responsible adults. This is truly an area that is sorely lacking among the English. Too often the English place their children on pedestals trying to prove that our kids are smarter, more athletic, better looking, more talented, and certainly more deserving than all others.
The Amish philosophy of humility or selflessness (Gelassenheit) is another trait that deserves attention. The Amish have turned topsy-turvy the world’s whining of “me first” with their conviction that our purpose in life is not to stand out above the rest, not to climb the ladder of success, and not to be worshipped and praised, but rather to be of humble heart, quietly thanking the Maker who designed us.
And in a world of excess, Amish birthdays are celebrated, but with restraint. Gifts are given at Christmas time, but within reason. Weddings are joyous occasions, but without great expense and extravagance. The Amish view of self and others is one of the most difficult elements for outsiders to deal with. The Amish lifestyle and work ethic, the surrendering of oneself and the humble attitude that is purely Amish are areas that need to be bred from little on.
Many of us long for a time and a place where we and our families can live our lives separate from the sins, lures, and entrapments of modern society. We can’t help but agree with the hymn writer who said that “the world is very evil, the times are waxing late.” We often wish our families could simply withdraw to some secluded place and live out our lives with those of our faith and conviction. It almost seems that the Amish have attempted to find that secret Utopia that we all are searching for.