I think of the Amish similarity to Catholicism as going back, not just before Vatican II but before the reformation and counter-reformation. When I was studying Pennsylvania Dutch folk magical/Christian healing rituals, I read that the rituals hardened back to those days.
Menno Simons was a catholic priest who joined the Anabaptists, became an influential leader, and it is from his name that the term Mennonite is derived. Jacob Amman was a Mennonite who helped form a more strict group that became the Amish.
I found an informative little article about the history of Mennonites and Amish. I've never heard of the author, BA Robinson, but I'm familiar with his sources.
"Pennsylvania Dutch folk magical/Christian healing rituals".. that sounds awefully interesting.
Are you familiar with the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect?
Thanks for the Link... will check it out.
For me, it was a major focus for a while. In '92 or '93, I think it was, I presented a paper about it at a scholarly conference led by Don Kraybill, a sociologist hero of mine.
[qb]Are you familiar with the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect?[/qb][/QUOTE]
My parents are, of course, fluent. Mom used to sing a nursery rhyme to me in Pennslyvania Dutch. I've since learned the song and that is about all I know.
Ryan, I took a look. Looks very interesting.. After reading all those Beverly Lewis (Amish) books and now this, it seems many of my beliefs are like the Mennonites. I'll read the rest of it, and let you know what else I think. Thanks!
if you get a chance, check out the poems by this this amish poet...
Not your typical Amishman! According to a bio in Image Journal (July, 2005), "G.C. Waldrep received a BA from Harvard University in American History in 1990... From March 1995 to 2000, Waldrep was a member of the New Order Amish Community at Yanceyville, North Carolina, where he worked as a baker, carpenter's helper, and window maker. Currently he is a member of the Old Order River Brethren."
Thanks, Asher, for the poems.
Viable for whom? In what context? In what ways has such a theology of peace become a viable option for you and people in your community? (Please be specific about how it relates to the influence of Yoder and/or Hauerwas.)
I'm not looking for a long answer, just a clear-pointed one. If this seems like a test, well, maybe it is. After all, those guys are professorial types.
Do the Mennonites practice shunning? I really have a problem with the way the Old Order practices such severe shunning. They say that is how they discipline those who do not follow the Ordnung (sp?) or the bishop, but it seems to me it's sometimes so severe, it hurts the shunned ones family sometimes even more than the person who is being shunned. Thanks.
Hi Katy, Thanks for your question. No, Mennonites don't practice shunning. In my family history, there are no stories of shunning that I recall, not even when my grandparents left the Amish. My grandfather on my mother's side, when he became Mennonite and got a car, started serving Amish family members by providing transportation services. But, now that I think about it, they may have heard that, for a while, they stopped eating at the same table with my grandfather. When my parents took us to visit amish relatives though, they always shared food with us.
Historically, shunning can be thought of as a nonviolent alternative to the death penalty. When Catholics were killing their heretics (Anabaptists among them) Anabaptists were disciplining their defectors, at worst, with shunning.
Do you know some stories of shunning?
All I know about shunning is what I have read in the Beverly Lewis books. Her book, "The Shunning" is the first of her trilogy of novels. I read all three. Her inspiration for the main character in the novel was her grandmother who was severely shunned..and and like your grandfather not allowed to sit at the same table to eat with the rest. But it just seems to me that they got "shunned" at some degree or other for minor "offences".... for every little thing. The girl in "The Shunning" was a lover of music and played the guitar (which they are not allowed to do) She disobeyed the bishop, and didn't dispose of the guitar, and she kept refusing to repent... so they shunned her.
In the 3rd book, the conclusion of the story, she accepted Jesus as her saviour. I still am not clear as to what they believe about Jesus. I think they are considered Christians, but at the same time they follow the Old Testament and a lot of rules, and they don't believe in the saving grace of Christ, but they believe in attaining their salvation through works. They also don't believe in praying to God, or asking for personal "favors"... just rote prayers. See what I mean when I say they remind me of the "old" Catholicism.
Yes, I read at the site you gave me that since they are pacifists, they have the shunning instead, as a means of discipline.
That is interesting about the Catholics killing their heretics and the Anabaptists shunning. Everyone has different ideas, huh. I prefer to be a pacifist, but not shun either :-) Thanks!
Yes, I'm with you about the misuse of shunning. I'm curious, what were the beliefs of the girl in the story who played guitar? Did she have "assurance of salvation"?
The Amish tradition that my grandparents left didn't believe in "assurance of salvation," instead, the taught "hope." In their view, too much "assurance" was a sign of pride and individualism. By contrast, "hope," in their view, leads to a life of humble obedience in community.
Her tradtion didn't believe in "assurance of salvation"... yes, they thought it was a sign of pride. The girl received the kneeling baptism, but she did it only for the sake of the bishop she was supposed to marry....lol... I think I'll read the books again. She ended up standing the bishop up on their wedding day.. She ran away and took off her prayer hat, and let her hair down, and sang and played her guitar, and found freedom..(The girl's name was Katie, remined me of me. I could identify with her)
Anyway, deep in her heart she just couldn't go along with the Amish ways and was shunned, and eventually found "assurance of salvation"
... and there's lots more to the story of course. Great reading, I think. :-)
We have a lot of Amish families in our area (central Wisconsin.) My husband has worked with a lot of them, and has commented that there is a much greater variety of belief and practice among them than one might think; based, I think, upon the differences among their various leaders (bishops?) I know that we have felt enriched just by their presence, especially the beautiful farms, horses, and buggies.
I can't resist passing along this anecdote... an "oldie but goodie"
"While driving in Pennsylvania , a family caught up to an Amish carriage. The owner of the carriage obviously had a sense of humor, because attached to the back of the carriage was a hand printed sign... "Energy efficient vehicle: Runs on oats and grass. Caution: Do not step in exhaust."
True or not, it gave me a smile.
Did your husband give an example of variety of belief and practice among the Amish? On the topic of salvation, I seem to remember at one gathering of my Amish relatives, one person shared that he did believe in assurance of salvation, but then he also said that he was "New Order Amish." Most of the variations I have heard about at family gatherings had to do with technology and how far you could go without breaking the rules.
Yes,the diversity would be about relatively minor matters. About their theology, I don't know.
Can you tell me what the Mennonite's attitude is toward women in the church?
Hey Ryan, if you're around--
Last week at a local library I picked up Hex and Spellwork: The Magical Practices of the Pennsylvania Dutch written under the pseudonym of Karl Herr, a "hexenmeister" from Lancaster, PA. I believe it was published in 2005.
I live in the midst of PA Dutch country and I've heard local people talk about pow-wows and folk magic healings.
You briefly wrote about this on a previous post...can you give more of your thoughts on this subject?
I have to admit I was surprised at most of what I read in Karl Herr's book--he seems to be quite seriously a Christian, humble from what I could tell, and primarily simply using old folk prayers in a way that is genuinely prayerful in intention, not filled with the manipulative intention of magic.
Yet again, a number of the practices ( the Himmelbrief, speaking to stones, and others) he described make me wonder. I didn't feel they were genuine attempts at magic...but yet...
Are you interested in talking more about this? I'm just curious since it's part of the culture where I live--no interest in trying to practice it myself .
FWIW, my mom is PA German herself, and she's talked--mostly negatively -- about pow-wowing. But when I told her about what it seems Mr. Herr is actually doing--simply using handed-down folk prayers-- she surprised me by saying she's heard pow-wowing uses prayers and she was genuinely curious herself.
edit: I see Wiki has an entry under the spelling "himmelsbrief". Hex and Spellwork was published in 2002.This message has been edited. Last edited by: Ariel Jaffe,
That sounds a bit like a contradiction in terms, "magical" and "Christian healing."
How do the Amish view Christian healing?
Yeah, Shasha, I found Karl Herr's book interesting but contradictory.
I'm ambivalent about powwowing myself. I researched it a while back, actually interviewing people, and getting some insider information. Like you I did not plan to do it myself, but then I did join a healing prayer group. Later I quit doing healing prayer. I think it may raise peoples hopes too much if it is done too much in a mechanistic way, seeking cure. What I do now is more of a prayer of compassion... if the person suffering gets better, I rejoice with them, if they get worse, I am sad with them.
I think powwowing is often done with caring prayerful intentions. It can give encouragement during the sorts of illnesses that are usually of short duration anyway. But I see it as a bit misleading as to what is really going on for people who participate uncritically. And then of course there are some people who are gifted as channels of extraordinary healing energy.
Ryan, thank you for your thoughts. Yes, from my second-hand contact with pow-wowing through local acquaintances and Mr. Herr's book, it does appear that "caring prayerful intentions" play a big part in it. And I can see how such focused caring intention from another person could really comfort and encourage. Therein may lie the value of the ritual aspect.
At the same time, and with the sense that some of it could be comfortably practiced by a Christian if desired, it seems to branch into some areas of probably innocent but unnecessary superstitious thinking and also some unequivocally harmful areas.
Here is an example of an outgrowth of this Christian folk practice that appears harmful to me; it's a himmelbrief that Mr. Herr seems clearly comfortable with, though he did not compose it:
"God is with him who carries this heavenly letter in war and in peace; he will be protected from all danger...Whosoever doubts the truth of this may attach a copy to the neck of a dog and then fire upon him, and he will be convinced of its truthfulness...Amen: As surely as Christ has lived, died, and ascended to heaven, as surely as he has wandered upon the earth, so surely shall it be impossible to shoot or stab the bearer; everything shall be free from molestation."
What the heck?!...poor dog, poor Christ, poor person who connects Christ to such a promise.
On a different note, though this area is less "Dutchified" than it was when I moved to my current home in '92, the people around here are endearingly humorous. Some of these wiry old farmers would not look out of place in Tolkien's Middle Earth.
Since I moved to my farm I've frequently had to take a particular road while driving. In one small town, by this fairly well traveled road with many smaller roads veering off from it, stands a 6 foot metal fork--the eating utensil--erected on a concrete base. I wondered about that fork for 15 years. Imagine what a great lightbulb moment it was for me a couple of years ago when a friend giving me directions to her new residence told me to take that road and "when you come to the fork in the road--yes, that real fork in Centerport!--go right."
Either I'm too easily amused since I still smile to myself at such a dim lightbulb moment, or that really was funny...I can't tell which. Or maybe you'd have to see the fork.
Lol. I agree.
I think it is funny. Humor is notoriously hard to translate across cultures though. I think that is why reading the New Testament doesn't make us laugh. I bet there was a lot of laughter when Jesus defied expectation with the result of creating friendships across social, economic, political, and religious lines -- laughing at what used to pass as reality.
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