Fear & Loathing in Amish Country

10 YEAR ANNIVERSARY 

The Amish are a closed community: not just a religion but a lifestyle, culture and people, descendants of Medieval radical heretics fleeing persecution from the Catholic church and yes, other Protestant Christians during the Reformation era before colonizing ceded Native lands. 

Today there is inbreeding, abuse is commonplace, and being a closed religious community, self-policed. As I have stated elsewhere, the Old Order Amish Church today mirrors the Catholic church-state it opposes. It should be pointed out you can trace Amish (Anabaptist) lineages to Catholicism before Martin Luther and the Reformation, my  ancestors immigrants from Switzerland and France. 

 People see the Amish through the rosy lens of tourism (a common Amish experience is being photographed by tourists). In some states the Amish cater to or are a part of the tourism industry i.e. Lancaster, Pennsylvania and Shipshewana, Indiana.
Everything from furniture to clocks to quilts to baked goods to romance novels to keychains. The Amish-American experience is for sale, all major credit cards accepted. 

When one looks at the American literary canon however there is a void of Amish writers and poets. If an Amish member of the church were to pen a novel or literary work critical of the church they would be shunned, ex-communicated from the church. 
Freedom of speech and artistic expression would not be taken into consideration. 
In this and other ways the Amish church violates our human rights

My debut poetry collection The Literary Party: Growing Up Gay and Amish in America was published by inGroup Press in 2011 but it is hard to gauge the impact of a book, even a decade later, when any copies would be banned by the Bishops should a readership arise. Did I think my book of criticism and queer love sonnets would herald a new Age of Enlightenment? I can dream... 


A copy of "The Literary Party: Growing Up Gay and Amish in America" & handwritten poem placed at the Obermutten International Museum of Friendship 


Ancestral Berne, Indiana 2017 


BOOK EXCERPT



The Amish are a working set Family farming, factories, logging Canine mills for the Lancaster sect That are not into blogging. They have no use for me Homosexuality, John Updike poetry Literary prosody Or the works of T. Capote. The 21st century has begun Cell phones–now allowed! And tricked out buggies for the young Techno music pumpin’ loud. One day forward, two steps back Through the Shipshewana paparazzi set Selling their wares to the tourist pack Who gaze wonderingly upon the sect.


LGBTQ Amish: they are forced into the closet or forced to leave their families and communities. Tbere are no easy options. Those that have left have formed a support group and can be heard on various podcasts sharing their stories. As we move into the Zoom era there are vital conversations being had by ex-Amish i.e. THE PLAIN PEOPLE'S PODCAST. This is important as these voices are reaching Amish listeners and empowering them to make informed choices. 

Yes, there is backlash and pushback from the Amish to enforce tradition and the status quo. 

Above all.

Throughout their history in America the Amish have practiced non-engagement with the outside world and are absent from pivotal moments in history i.e. the civil rights movement and WW2. The LGBT rights movement also bypassed the Amish communities even as their "cousin" Mennonite Church schisms. Medieval anti-gay sermons are not unheard of, a ban on same sex marriage and sending LGBT youth to Amish / Plain run conversion therapy homes are obstacles facing us. Not to mention the lack of education.

It is up to the ex-Amish (non-practising) to provide the necessary resources to the Amish within the church and not attach help with any religious agenda. 

*  As a newly ordained minister I am welcoming to and available for all LGBTQ Amish weddings and spiritual counseling. See the Ministry page for booking info.

FOR AMISH RESOURCES CLICK HERE 

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