Call Me Amish

I admit it. There are a lot of things in modern, suburban America that I just don’t get. I have recognized that my blog readership increases if I discuss politics. Mark Shea’s good at this. He rumbles on about Mitt Romney and Republicans who torture and Democrats who want to change marriage and abort babies. I’m interested in those issues, but I’m not interested in politics. Is that a crime? It’s the Amish man in me. I know I’ve written on this before and more extensively, but it’s still there–this Amish man in me.

The Amish man in me thinks that all politicians are crooked, so why are you surprised? It’s common sense. Who wants to be the most powerful person in the world except a creep? Why would he want to do that except to extend his power and his wealth even further than it already is. How is he going to do that? By selling his soul and saying whatever he needs to say to whoever he needs to say it in order to win their vote. “Elect me! I promise to you solemnly a promise I vow to keep! I promise to never keep my promises!” They’re skunks. So why all the hype? Why all the cute Facebook pictures telling me how evil Obama is and how Romney give so much money to charity?

It’s the Amish man in me who also doesn’t give a hoot about the Mall. I don’t care about getting a new SUV every other year. Do I really have to go to A Night to Remember–  a glittering gala fundraising dinner? Can I just write a check instead? I’m not interested in facelifts or boob jobs or botox or the women who have them. Second (third and fourth) holiday homes for people who are already, by world standards, obscenely rich? Why not just rent a cabin in the woods? Friday night football? I don’t like to rain on anyone’s parade or tailgate party, but it doesn’t do anything for me. I’d just as soon sit at home in my farmhouse reading a good book by the light of the kerosene lamp.

OK. I’m exaggerating to make my point. If you have a beach house don’t be offended. If you like wearing pretty earrings and going to glittering gala events you enjoy it. If you need to have a speedboat in your driveway that you use twice a year–don’t let me stand in your way. If Friday night football is something you’d die for. More power to you. If you are passionate that Romney or Obama or anyone else is the savior of the free world–don’t let me spoil your fun.

What I’m digging at is that I long for simple values and a simple life. The problem is, if you go out and try to live that kind of life it’s all rather artificial. I know! I’m going to build a cabin in the woods and grow my own turnips and have a goat and a generator in the stream and a two pigs named Samson and Delilah and some chickens and say Mass every day in a little chapel in the woods with two old women and a dog and write the book I really want to write. But somehow that would be well, contrived.

So I carry on living in a house in a very pleasant suburb, buying my plastic wrapped frozen food from the supermarket and spending way too much time looking at screens and driving around in one of my cars. This is reality for me, and about the only thing Amish about me is a little attempt at a beard, a tendency to wear black and a fondness for hats.

  • Julie C.

    It all does sound so tempting, doesn’t it, Father? A nice quiet life filled with books for entertainment! I am afraid, though, that you must trade in your motorcycle for a horse.

  • Ella M

    I think somewhere the Amish have something in common with St. Francis. My father grew up Amish & his family still is. When we would visit I found simplicity in the austere lifestyle. If everyone were Catholic, all of us who long for “get back to nature & de-clutter” would all be Franciscans.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      Menno Simons–the founder of the Mennonites was first a Franciscan friar.

  • Dr. Eric

    That was an enjoyable little post, Father. Could I be your neighbor in a little cabin of my own, just up stream from yours?

  • peicurmudgeon

    The concept of Amish life as idealistic is an artifact of misleading references in popular culture. In actuality it is a life filled with physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, as well as denigration of education and dissent. Hypocrisy about the use of modern conveniences is also rife.

    btw. I have noticed that a n umber of your posts have been deleted along with the associated comments. Is this a problem with Patheos or is it your own policy?

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      I guess hypocrisy is part of every walk of life. I like the story about the guy who said to the priest, “Your church is full of hypocrites!” and the priest said, “Why don’t you come and join us? We can always make room for one more.”

      I delete posts sometimes. It’s my blog.

      • peicurmudgeon

        There are very few bloggers that I know who delete posts. The optics aren’t good. Are you ashamed of what you have written?

    • MarylandBill

      So you mean that the Amish are humans with a fallen nature like everyone else? Shocking! I do notice that the Press tends to focus on these issues in groups they don’t approve of. Hence, Catholic Priests, Amish and Orthodox Jews have all been focused on and equal or greater sexual abuse by other groups is essentially ignored.

      Regarding education, I think their attitude mostly sticks out because we live in 21st century America. It wasn’t so long ago that their attitude was common amongst farmers. My Dad who grew up in 1930s and 40s Ireland received roughly the equivalent of an 8th grade education; more was considered unnecessary.

      And please explain their hypocrisy about modern convenience? As far as I knew, avoiding modern convenience is not like keeping Kosher. They can use them when it is necessary, but they find that minimizing their use especially in the home is conducive to their chosen mode of life.

    • Joanne

      While it is true that the public has a tendency to idealize the Amish, a sweeping statement like, “In actuality it is a life *filled* with physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, as well as denigration of education and dissent,” is like saying the Catholic church is *full* of pedophiles.

  • priest’s wife (@byzcathwife)

    I admire many things about the Amish culture- but I want to stay Catholic! I do ‘use’ their philosophy to help myself a bit when I forget the camera and fail to take a photo of the latest activity with the children. Amish don’t use cameras- so my failure to take photo #500 of the year is okay

  • peicurmudgeon

    I have replied, but my comment seems to stuck in moderation.

  • Caroline

    Father, I know this article is sort of old, but I click around links on your blog when I have some spare time and want some really accurate and insightful humor (or just insight). I think that one of the reasons I find your blog really refreshing is that you DON’T talk about politics that much. I also particularly like your critiques of some American attitudes that are subconsciously very tempting, especially to traditionalists like me who have a tendency to romanticize the 1950s family. Some bloggers, like Fr. Z, do. I like reading much of what Fr. Z says but it definitely changes the blog. I’d say his is more of an action-inspiring and current events blog, while yours is this trove of interesting and insightful things to read that is still enjoyable months later.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker


  • Marissa Nichols

    With you on all of these sentiments…except that I wouldn’t turn down a vacation somewhere tropical if anyone offered it to me. Not that anyone is offering…or ever will:-)