I’m Having Way Too Much Fun to Be Amish

I recently finished reading Ira Wagler’s memoir?Growing Up Amish,?and I highly recommend it. It is a very enjoyable read, and it gives a wonderful, fair, balanced view of what it means to be Amish. It doesn’t overly romanticize the Amish like so many Christian fiction books do, nor does it overly criticize the Amish way of life.

One of Ira’s great struggles throughout his Amish life (he finally left the Amish community at age 25) was the immense number of rules he was required to obey without question. These rules included:

  • No electricity or phone in the main house (and potentially other structures depending on how strict the particular Amish sect was).
  • Only wearing “barn door pants”, which are pants without a zipper.
  • Always wearing “galluses” (suspenders).
  • No modern entertainment, including music or books.
  • No rubber on the wheels of a buggy (again, there was leeway on this depending on the strictness of the sect).
  • And many, many, many other rules.

The Amish stay away from these things because they are “worldly”. In a desire to stay pure and unblemished by the world the Amish separate themselves as much as possible. When Ira would chafe and thrash against the rules he was always told, “This is how the Amish have always done it.”

Now, I’m sure there are many godly, born-again Amish men and women, and I’m sure their simple lifestyle has many benefits. However, the more I read the more I thought about how many good, holy gifts the Amish are missing out on. Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the?Lord’s and the fullness thereof,?the world and those who dwell therein…” God, in his abundant, lavish, creative, even frenzied generosity, has filled the earth with good things. His good, rich, common grace is everywhere, bursting forth from every nook and cranny. His image and glory fill the entire Earth.

When I make dark, oily, rich French Press coffee, I am enjoying a gift from God. When I hear Eric Clapton ripping off an incredible guitar solo, I am enjoying the musical gifts God gave to Clapton. When I get sucked into a legal thriller by John Grisham, I’m enjoying the literary gifts God put into Grisham. When I watch a J.J. Abrams movie, I’m enjoying the visual and aesthetic gifts God has given to J.J. Abrams. God’s glory and gifts are scattered everywhere we look if we only have eyes to see.

As Ray Ortlund Jr. says in his commentary on Proverbs:

What did Solomon understand that made such a difference? He connected the Lord with real life, all of it. First Kings 4:29?34 tells us that Solomon was a Renaissance man. He was fascinated by everything. He studied plants, from the cedars of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of a crack in a wall. He studied animals. He composed music. He did not compartmentalize God. He understood that everything is connected with our Creator, and therefore everything is interesting.

I love that! Everything is connected to our Creator, therefore everything is interesting! Does sin pollute and pervert the good gifts of God? Yes, of course. But that doesn’t mean we should throw out the gifts altogether.

The Amish aren’t the only ones guilty of discarding and ignoring God’s gifts. Under the guise of holiness, we too can create rules that prevent us and others from enjoying what God has declared to be good. And in our good desire to guard our children from sin we can inadvertently teach them that certain good things are evil.

Does that mean I’m going to watch?The Exorcist with my daughter Charis? No. But I want her to be able to see the glory of God everywhere. I want her to be able to see God’s creativity in the creativity of Roald Dahl (author of?Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory). I want her to feel God’s creative energy when she listens to “Imagine Dragons”. I want her to thankfully enjoy a glass of wine with her steak. By God’s grace I want to teach her to carefully, thankfully, and reverently see God’s glory in all that she does.

Again, I love how Ray Ortlund Jr. puts it:

Because of Christ, everything God made will be redeemed. So even now everything is, in principle, eligible for wise enjoyment under Christ (1 Timothy 4:1?5). The NFL is good, fallen, and redeemable. Gardening is good, fallen, and redeemable. Your job is good, fallen, and redeemable. Everything?the arts, the military, family life?everything God created is good, and we should rejoice in God our Creator. John Calvin was believing the doctrine of creation when he wrote, ?There is not one little blade of grass, there is no color in this world, that is not intended to make men rejoice.?

I’m going to pursue holiness with all my might. But God is way too much fun for me to be Amish.?

Comments

  1. Lauren says

    I loved this post! Thanks! Just a question – what would you say to someone who uses this argument about enjoying God's gifts as a excuse for "worldly" pursuits that are unedifying and ungodly? LIke your example of not having your daughter watch the Exorcist – what if someone said he was enjoying the writer or director's gifting or something like that….

    • Stephen Altrogge says

      Great question Laruen. Your question moves into the gray areas of wisdom. There are certain things that are simply unwise and foolish to do. It would be foolish for me to watch a movie that is full of sexually inappropriate material – that would cause me to be tempted and would be the opposite of fleeing temptation.

      So I think we must always ask the question, "Is this helping my relationship with God?" In some cases certain forms of entertainment do not help our relationship with God, and in those cases we must use wisdom. Hope that makes sense.

  2. Marie Walker says

    I took an Amish buggy ride with my 10 yr old grand-daughter in Lancaster County. We sat in the front with our tour guide and buggy driver Rachel who was a 24 yr old single Amish girl. Delightful. She completely opened my dim eyes to another side of being Amish. I learned that they are not all the same in all of their beliefs and practices. She talked about her boyfriend of 2 years, how some girls prefer to learn to cook and sew and keep house, but she much prefers the outdoors and had been raising horses for 10 years on her family's farm. She was the oldest of 8 children. "Is there an age you must get married?" my grand-daughter asked. She said no, and that some of her friends ask why she isn't married yet and her response was that she had her whole life ahead of her.

  3. Marie Walker says

    (continued – sorry so long!) She spoke of preference, choices, differences. Someone asked what she meant when she said she'd be "hanging out with friends tonight" – and she said they gather at someone's home and play games and talk and have fun. She laughed, she communicated, she said things like, "that was insane"… and we all loved her. We asked about the "rules" of the Amish and she said there are different ones for different groups. Near the end I asked her if she liked her Amish life. A big smile came across her face as she tilted her head back and guided the horse she said, "I love my life and I love being Amish". Although it is not for me, meeting lovely Rachel brought a new perspective to this mystery clan called The Amish.

    • Stephen Altrogge says

      Good points Marie. And Ira Wagler brings these points out very clearly in his book. It becomes clear that there are no strict rules for how long a person must date or when they must marry or what a particular person is supposed to do with their life. These things vary from sect to sect.

      But Ira also brings out the fact that the Amish generally don't do well handling those within their ranks who struggle with the Amish rules. Ira was always told to simply do the right thing, even though doing the right thing meant obeying the Amish rules. There wasn't a clear understanding of freedom in Christ, and this caused Ira to believe that if he was not Amish he could not be a Christian. For many, many years he felt that if he left the Amish church he was damned to hell.

      So yes, there is certainly a massive amount of variation in the Amish community. And not all Amish people struggle the same way. Many simply love being Amish, and I think that's outstanding. But, as with any community of faith, I think there must be a constant return to scripture to ensure that we are enforcing God's word and nothing more.

      I hope that makes sense. Now I'm the one rambling. Anyway, thanks for commenting!

  4. Melissa says

    I know Ira and sent him a link to this post. He had not seen it and he said, " That's one of the coolest reviews I've seen about my book
    :)." I thought it was super — just such a great reminder of the freedom that we have in Christ.

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