Last night I watched an interesting program on BBC iPlayer, Trouble in Amish Paradise. Unfortunately I don’t think it’s sill up there so if you missed it I can’t think of a way for you to watch it for now – they might put a repeat out though. The program was very interesting and I felt there was a lot in it for us Christians in Wales – especially evangelical – to learn from.
First of all the program made it clear that the Amish today are a cult to all extends and purposes. They manage to persevere as a cultish community because of the absolute subordination of their members to their elders, called the amish bishops. The program followed the story of one particular brother; he had broken away from the cult side of amish through looking at God’s words for himself and refusing to accept the bishops leadership and guidance un-questioned. He was like a modern amish version of Martin Luther I guess. I very much admired this brother and found him to be a very humble and gracious man. But one of the most interesting things about him was that he wanted to keep to most amish traditions and culture despite his new life in Christ.
Are there any lessons to be learnt from this story then? Well, for starters it teaches us again that we must search God’s words and follow it rather than follow our movement, denomination, organization or tradition unquestioned. For example is it really wrong to play ball on a Sunday? No it’s not! Is it really a sin to have a pint or two? No it isn’t! I remember hearing a story once about a little boy who had a rather conservative evangelical upbringing; he saw a car drive past and declared that they were not Christians because the wife was driving and the husband was in the passenger seat! That goes to show how the power of tradition can deviate the word of God. Ok, the boy was little but there must be something wrong with the culture he was bought up in that he was lead to make such a remark in the first place.
The second lesson that can be learnt from the amish brother is that we shouldn’t turn our backs on our communities and culture after coming to Christ but rather we should commit to it anew so to serve humbly. This is a real problem in Wales today because some Christians leave Welsh churches to join English evangelical/charismatic churches after coming to faith. On one hand I understand why; trying to bear witness in a lot o Welsh churches is hard, unfruitful and disheartening; but when we have new energetic Christians leaving it just makes it much worse. Is this the right thing to do? What about your responsibility to your people? It would have been easier for the amish brother to turn his back on the amish community after coming to faith in Christ; but no, he was determined to stay with his people so to witness to them and to serve them. I have huge admiration for him.