Escaping the Amish – Part 1

203 Comments

In February, I received an e-mail from a reader using a Columbia University address — Torah Bontrager — that ended curiously:

“…and if you ever want to hear how I escaped the Amish, let me know.”

Those peace-loving bearded folks from Witness? I called Torah, and after just a few minutes, I knew this post had to be written.

For those of you who feel trapped because of a job or self-imposed obligations as an entrepreneur, this will put things in perspective.

How do you escape your environment if you’re unable to control it? If almost no one on the outside realizes what’s happening?

I’ll let Torah tell us in her own words…

Torah Bontrager after escaping the Amish at age 15.

To start, tell us a little about your background.

I’m twenty-seven and graduated from Columbia University in 2007. I was born in Iowa. We moved to Wisconsin when I was three and to Michigan when I was ten, and I lived with my family in traditional Amish communities this whole time. I escaped from my family and the Amish when I was fifteen. I’m the oldest of eleven children. Four of my siblings were born after I escaped.

What are the most common misconceptions or myths about the Amish?

Here are some of the most common false beliefs about the Amish:

-The Amish speak English (Fact: They speak Amish, which some people claim is its own language, while others say it is a dialect of German. Most people don’t know that Amish was only a spoken language until the Bible got translated and printed into the vernacular about 12 years ago.)

-Amish teens have a choice whether they want to remain practicing the religion. (False)

-Amish is only a religion (Fact: It’s a religion, culture, and language, etc.)

-Amish kids go to public school, or are taught similar courses (e.g., science) as public school kids

-The Amish are Mormons (False)

-The Amish have arranged marriages (False)

-Amish men have more than one wife (False)

-The Amish put all their income in the same pot, like a communist or socialist banking system (False)

-Cameras and music/musical instruments are allowed (False)

-The Amish are “peaceful gentle folk” (False)

What were the positives of growing up Amish?

-Growing up bilingual (Though I didn’t become fluent in English until after I escaped and I was always very self-conscious about my command of the English language)

-The emphasis on the solidarity of the extended family unit

-The emphasis on being hospitable to strangers, helping those in need, whether Amish or “English” (anyone who’s not Amish is “English,” no matter what language or culture he/she represents)

-Building your own houses, growing your own food, sewing your own clothes

These experiences taught me self-reliance, self-preservation, and gave me the ability to relate to non-American familial cultures much better than I might otherwise.

The biggest negatives?

-The rape, incest and other sexual abuse that run rampant in the community

-Rudimentary education

-Physical and verbal abuse in the name of discipline

-Women (and children) have no rights

-Religion–and all its associated fear and brainwashing–as a means of control (and an extremely effective means at that)

-Animal abuse

I consider these negatives as personal positives in a somewhat perverted or distorted way. Without having experienced what I did, I wouldn’t be the person I am today, shaped by the experiences I’ve had since. I always tell people that I’m thankful for having grown up Amish but that I’d never wish it upon anyone else.

What had you want to escape?

For as long as I can remember, I had always envisioned a life such that wouldn’t be compatible with the Amish religion and lifestyle.

I loved learning, and cried when I couldn’t go back to school the fall after graduating from Amish 8th grade. The Amish do not send their children to formal schooling past 8th grade. A Supreme Court case prevented forcing Amish children into high school on grounds of religious freedom. I knew that, by US law, I wasn’t considered an adult until eighteen. I didn’t want to wait until then to go to high school.

For four years, I tried to come up with a way that I could leave before turning eighteen without my parents being able to take me back, so I could go to school.

People generally have a peaceful image of the Amish. Can you explain the physical abuse?

The Amish take the Bible verse “spare the rod and spoil the child” in a literal sense. Parents routinely beat their children with anything from fly swatters, to leather straps (the most typical weapon), to whips (those are the most excruciating of), to pieces of wood.

When I was a little girl, my mom used to make me run down to the cellar to retrieve a piece of wood to get beaten with. I’d choose the thinner ones because I thought they’d hurt less.

One day I couldn’t find a thin piece and I had to get a thicker one. Luckily, I discovered that the thick ones hurt less. So every time after that, I’d get a thick one. It made her feel like she was hurting me more, and I’d scream harder just to make sure she didn’t catch on that it actually hurt less.

One of my acquaintances stuttered when he was little and his dad would make him put his toe under the rocking chair, and then his dad would sit in the chair and rock over the toe and tell him that’s what he gets for stuttering.

Even little babies get abused for crying too much during church or otherwise “misbehaving.” I’ve heard women beat their babies — under a year old — so much that I cringed in pain.

How did this all culminate for you prior to the escape?

My dad was a hunter and taught me to shoot. One evening after eighth grade, when I was fourteen, I came back from target practice in our field. The sun was just setting and I paused for a moment on a little knoll just below the house to enjoy the view. I had just gotten done with a good practice shooting, and I remember that the thought suddenly struck me: today would be a good day to die.

I hadn’t gotten beaten by my mom that day, and we hadn’t had any significant arguments over anything. I thought that if I died, I wanted to die without being mad at my mom. So I thought, I might as well take the opportunity to do so before I got back to the house—at which point who knows whether there would be another fight or a beating.

I put a bullet in the chamber and raised the rifle up. The closer it got to my head, the faster my heart beat. I was taught that whoever committed suicide would go to hell. But I was so miserable in the Amish culture that I believed God would understand that my motives were good.

In the end, I didn’t have the guts to point the barrel straight at my head. Okay, I thought, I’ll just put the gun next to my cheek to see what it feels like.

The instant I felt that cold hard steel, I suddenly realized that I wanted to live.

I had never had that thought before in my life. I had always thought I wanted to die. I don’t know where the idea came from that I wanted to live, but it completely changed my outlook on life.

Just remembering the feel of that cold steel still makes me shudder.

It was an instant flash of revelation—one that appeared and disappeared just as quickly. But in that moment, I realized that I truly wanted to be alive, that someday I’d be happy, and that I must be destined for something better in life—or surely I wouldn’t have gotten a crazy thought like wanting to live.

I branded that thought and feeling into my head. I told myself never to forget it, that no matter how depressed or how much I might want to kill myself in the future, even if I don’t have that same feeling again about wanting to live, I still shouldn’t kill myself because there was a better life in store for me.

At that point, I knew I had to escape.

[Continued in Part 2]

Postscript: This post is not intended to generalize all Amish. Rather, it is one person’s experience with the common constraints of the Old Order Amish. Please see Torah’s further explanations in the comments below.

Posted on: July 15, 2008.

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203 comments on “Escaping the Amish – Part 1

  1. I am not saying this is completely false, but i do believe that the wording exagerates what probably actually happened. the word escape is using excessively and i know for a fact that amish teenagers are pressured to join the church, but are not forced to. Furthermore, this one story should hold little weight in the opinions of Amish society to the average person who reads this.

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  2. and the fact that it took her this long to brew a good story to tell says a lot to me. sorry to all those “moved” folks out there, but if i was an amish father and my duaghter was talking back and being defiant, i would use the acceptable dicipline methods. these are different for the amish, so it all seems wrong to us. so…I’M CALLING YOUR BLUFF HERE. youre stretching this and if you want my repect, don’t post part 2.

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  3. It seems everyone is taken or moved by this story in many different ways. Some want to praise you for your stand, and courage. Some want to correct you on your disipline ideas, or take on an oppurtunity to define whats right and wrong to them. And, some simply find a spot for debate or argument.

    I find your story to be a sincere personal sharing of what you have come to know, and have become, as an adult. And, congratulations for finding you. I know alot of amish personally-and, have heard many ideas of why and how the amish live as they do. But, as it is-it’s simply IDEAS, as individuals have come to know it.

    There is always a grain of fear, doubt and uncertainty in what we may not understand. And, some are challenged -to make sense, and understand that which seems so very different. Even more so, when the amish beliefs appear hush-hush, secretive and uninviting to outsiders.

    No doubt, what you have shared with the world about your life, has been an eye opener for many. I hope writing your story has been an emotionally theraputic experience, I am a writer also ,and find a great comfort in writing. I wish you strength, and that you find love in the world around you.

    With Kindred Spirit, peace

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  4. Dear Torah, many people are well aware of cruel Amish/Mennonite puppymills.
    http://www.prisonersofgreed.org/Lancaster.html
    Of course not all Amish people own puppymills but when we speak about treatment of animals by Amish people, don’t they view animals as cash crop, production unit, etc and not as living feeling creatures who deserve humane treatment?
    It is so heart breaking to see atrocities in Amish puppymills and cruel treatment of farm animals by Amish/Mennonite people!
    I am not saying all Amish and Mennonite torture animals but Amish/Mennonite puppymills are well known to Animal Welfare/Animal Rights people.
    I am sure when people see shocking cruely in these puppymills, it is enough for people who dislike animals to get so disgusted.
    Amish/Mennonite are also involved in cruel veal business.

    Do you have contact with Mary Byler who was born in Amish family and raped by her step father and brothers.
    Her mother end up in jail because she did not protect her.
    She has her own website and she speaks about her sad heartbreaking life before she left Amish community.

    Torah, I see you as courageous intelligent lady who never hesitate to speak truth and to be honest, I am little jealous of your accomplishment.

    P.S.
    Sorry for my poor English.
    English is my second language.

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  5. This story was well done and I appreciated reading it. I am a bit annoyed by emails from people, who don’t want to believe this story but I understand where they are coming from. They can’t let go of their fantasy about the lovely Amish people living happy lives, being kind and peaceful and all that BS. I was raised Amish and left at age 18 and I have to admit my family wasn’t as terrible as Torah’s but I knew of Amish families like hers. There is a great deal of variation in Amish communities and families and in their Ordnungs. The Ordnungs are the rules like length of hair, kinds of machinery and things that are or aren’t allowed, etc. Some Amish allow electricity now; they are called New Order Amish. Anyhow, there is a great deal of variation like I said and many people suffer terribly in Amish families and communities that are really strict and in the less strict ones too. My family wasn’t so strict and I can still visit them but the visits are very cold and depressing sometimes. So, we may wonder if the Amish have more of the abuse problems Torah mentions than in the “regular” world. I would have to say, yes and here is why. When Amish people commit crimes like rape, physical abuse, incest, ugly things like that, the Amsih people tend to ignore it and the Bishops try to hide it. In cases of murder, they definitely sometimes cover things up so that the Amish don’t look bad or the people who commit the crime get off lightly like maybe they are shunned for a few weeks or months for raping someone! This means they get to do it again and some of them do repeat their action many times. SO, YES, it happens more in the Amish world and you can deny it and believe in your silly fantasy or accept it as the truth. You certainly aren’t helping anyone except yourself when you live in denial.

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  6. Wow,
    Very cool to hear this perspective. I grew up in a traditional Mennonite house. No where near as conservative as Amish culture, but would make most people shutter. My grandparents all spoke Pennsylvania Dutch, which is a dialect of high german, very similar to Amish. Fortunately, my family broke off from the very traditional church when I was young, but they always remained ultra-conservative by today’s standard.

    I don’t think most people can understand the strangle hold traditional religion holds over the mind. It permeates every aspect of your thought and behavior, and for someone who was immersed in it, it is very difficult (but possible) to divorce yourself. I know for me, I felt like I was betraying my culture and heritage.

    However, now that I am “out” and living my life I definitely respect and can appreciate some of the value system, etc. despite the fact I no longer practice and my family considers me “heathen.” I guess that is the cost of being free and happy.

    Best of luck Torah,

    Dan

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  7. @George

    Speaking of angry, hateful people, which one of my leftist colleagues and friends raped and abused you so that your cultivated view on “leftys” became so foul?

    Seriously, my friend, chill out and clean your own house of hatred before thrusting similar judgement on others.

    The only person who knows of the validity in Torah’s story is herself. I, as an apparent leftist extremist, can only hope that her account is true, fore placing such harsh words upon a community by a self-proclaimed academic would be indeed a sad, sad day.

    -teelor.

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  8. Are there any Amish/ ex-Amish/ Mennonite/ ex-Mennonite people in the North Central Indiana area able to meet for coffee/ conversation about Amish life? I know this is obviously a long-shot, but I’d truly enjoy a face-face conversation before I move to GA this coming Friday (the 17th of July).

    Thanks!

    teelor.

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  9. Teelor, I’m an Amish-Mennonite with lots of friends (Amish, Amish-Mennonite, Mennonite, ex-Amish, etc) in Northern Indiana. Drop your contact info to hansmast at hansmast dot com and I’ll try to arrange a meet.

    -Hans

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  10. Hey Torah,
    Sorry for your personal hurts however i will gladly personally differ with you. My husband was Amish-12 siblings-wonderful family. We have left the amish with high respect for many and most.

    Your story may be very true but is it for the hoped for fame? Help? that you have so severely exaggerated the extents. I am a 43 year old mother and sure -there have been isolated incidents-i am also evangelical and am finding some homes, families and hence cultures/churches have them in their midst just as you described. Fallen man to sin is the culprit. Sin wants to hide behind culture, church, money, you name it-so before you or your friends hope to make a quick stardom here-be careful for your own healing sake and the fact there are hundreds of us(you and i) who have left the amish and read blogs like this and become very concerned about the hypocrisy of it and will pursue avenues to correct items intended to approach issues as a testimony of truth.

    But i do know you apparently came from a very sad, unstable environment and i hope you move forward. So have some of my Baptist, Catholic, non-christian friends. They just are not finding it healing to distort or use their pain for gain.

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  11. Hey Angela,

    I also grew up amish, and let me tell you that the things that Torah discribed as having happened to her, are not isolated incidents from my perspective. It pretty much depends what community you come from. By the way Angela, if amish life is such a wonderful life to you, why did you leave? If you were never mentally or physically abused like Torah and I were, then you have absolutely no right to judge. Have a wonderful life.

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  12. i dont know about other amish communites but there is one 4 miles from where i live. i own my own trucking bussiness and own a skidloader, ppl say that amish do almost everything them selves. alot of amish call me to haul hay with my flat bed and we unload it by hand or pull it off with a team of horses. or they will buy a semi load of hay and will pay me to come unload it and put it away and in the winter time they will hire me to plow snow. and if there in the truck with me going some where to get hay if they need to use my phone they just take it off the dash of my truck and use it like they own them selves. iv become good friends wiht one family just because that family impitiular is about the nicest iv met yet, i was tlakin to there young son one day and i asked him where his older brother was and he told me that he went english, and i was kinda shocked then he told me that he has had other brothers and sisters leave. and when his dad got close he just said i never told u that. i thought it was kinda funny that they keep it that hush hush.

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  13. My debut novel, Amish Snow, has been out for a couple of months. An ex-Amish man that I do not know contacted me after seeing the website and story line, and asked if I would be interested in his story. I told him I was interested, and he sent me a most poignant accounting of his tortuous decision to leave the Amish faith, mainly around health issues.

    Other than deleting their names, here is an excerpt of the unedited email. I can almost hear the clipped singsong accent so characteristic of the Amish manner of speaking:

    Hello Roger;
    I was born in Canada. Then we moved to new york state lived there for 10 years
    Then in 1990 we moved to michigan.But threw those years i would get sick all he time.
    I thought after i got married to my wife it would stop it got worse.Be cause the amish life stile of using either kerosene,white gas or like camp fuel,and propane.for lights
    ect.it was the lights mostley. that i got poisend in the brain that i almost shot myself because of all the fumes from the propane to top it all of.We had a freezer fridge 2 lights in the house and then in my wood working shop i had 2 lights a unvented heater and 6 used propane tanks that i used to run my shop tools. it was the fumes that made me sick i got
    letter from my doc to take to the elders that i need electricty for every thing that i use propane for the elders said no.i went to my nees and repented all my sins to God asked him to be my savior. soon after that i asked God if i should put our phone in the house he
    said yes i got three yeses. (the rest of his story is on my website)

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  14. Iknow of somethings that she says are true. The strictness I know well. Also the fact that males dominate the families. But ordnung says that you are free to choose until baptism. Its strange for me , I like driving back to see people but feel out of place. I also am out of place in society.

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  15. A number of points here: As has been said above by a number of calmer heads above one cannot define a people by one family or by one child in one family. Torah shows little understanding of teen anguish and the frustrated rebellion that is common at that age. It is probably almost as difficult for the parents of a teenager as it is for the teen. To my mind, the main problem with the Amish as a culture and in individuals is ignorance. Ignorance, frankly, is where the crime is.

    One can’t grow up in a closed society such as the Amish, a culture that does not value learning for its own sake and have that person marry and start his or her own family on that same basis and expect much progress, except in exceptional cases.
    I know a lot of Amish who are very bright and who, given a proper education, would no doubt be valuable people in civilization. Those who choose to stay – and again, some are very bright- do so for their own reasons: among them, love of family and tradition, love of God as they understand it, love of the land and its peaceful rhythms and a distrust of those on the outside.
    But if Torah wants us to believe that she is depicting the Amish as a whole she is painting with way too broad a brush. Her family may – MAY, I say – have been that brutal but I frankly doubt it. She is fond of the word ‘beating’; spanking, slapping, even whipping, are common in Amish families but I know of no such thing as an Amish woman or man BEATING a baby. If her parents did so, they are sick and should be brought to court.
    I was Amish until I left home at age 17 and I still have many Amish relatives. I resent Torah’s sensationalized account of being Amish. Even “escape” is sensationalistic; in my day we called it “running away from home.”

    Elva Bontrager

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  16. I was never Old Order Amish , but I come from that back ground as well as being a Bontrager. I am a genealogy buff and have read a lot about my Bontrager and European anabaptist history. It is a rich heritage. They suffered a lot for their faith.

    The good Amish will not retaliate when people say things about them, good or bad.
    And, yes there is bad things that happen. When a person does a wrong to another it is right to bring them to account.
    When people have been wronged they most always need a healing. A big part of the healing eventually includes a forgiveness and it may take a lifetime.
    By the good Amish, I’m talking , being a Christian.

    The best example of that is an Amish bishop born in 1868, lived a good share of his life in the Shipshewana-Middlebury area. Toward the end of his life he wrote his life story. He was taught it,he believed it, and he lived it. Eli J. Bontrager .
    If you can find his story , read it. It will make you feel good.

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  17. I always thought that the Amish were good, loving, caring people. I live in Iowa and I see the Amish all the time! I cant believe whats behind those sweet innocent eyes! It almost made me sick after I read this. They claim to be holy and righteous but yet they are doing all these bad things that our society claims a wrong doing and evil! Are they hypocrits? What has the world come too? Have the Amish always been like this?

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  18. I grew up in a small town in NE OH. The only minority in our town were the Amish. I didn’t realize I was different until I was eight. In our town, non-Amish were called “Yankees”.

    Much of what you’ve said, I’ve seen or suspected. As a baby I had Amish babysitters; I’ve babysat Amish children; my children were babysat by Amish adults and kids. I consider myself pretty “Amish saavy” and just smile when people go on and on about how wonderful the Amish are. It does absolutely no good to try to dissuade them.

    When the news reported (1990′s, I believe) about the mysterious, “Amish Birth Defect” syndrome, or something like that, it was simply imbreeding. Incest produces babies by family and you have children with disabilities. It’s pretty basic, but no one seems to get it.

    I’ve personally loved a few Amish folks as dear friends. So I believe that, like all peoples, there are good and bad Amish. Beverly Lewis has painted a very pretty picture of the Amish culture. I believe that that makes it impossible for anyone to think anything negative. Most people think that the Amish are the best carpenters, bakers, furniture makers, cooks, babysitters, farmers, Christians, and have the most loving families.

    I would normally have said, “let them think what they want”, but when you say that it’s important to educate people for the safety of the women and children, I feel like my head just popped out of the ground! You are absolutely correct.

    Barbara (Borkholder) Keim is a woman who “yanked over” as we would say in my hometown. (That means she left the Amish culture/religion/life.) You can read her blog here: http://amishreflections.blogspot.com/

    You two would make an awesome team!

    Be blessed,
    Kelly
    PS: Please don’t spend too much time responding to the naysayers. People will always be ugly and it’s just a trick to take you off the path you need to focus on. :-)

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  19. Hi Torah,
    I appreciated your story and even though I experienced none of the abuses you did, I certainly know that they diffidently exist in the Old Order Amish community. I was born & raised Old Order Amish in Lancaster County PA, by a very Loving & nurturing Mother, and a Father though not very nurturing never raised his voice or hand against me or My Sisters. But I know that wasn’t so for all the Amish I knew growing up and including some of my relatives, as a matter of fact one of my First Cousins on my Fathers side (He’s around 70 yrs old) is in prison for life because he molested lots of young boys for years before he got caught.

    I’ve thought about writing about my life as an Amish Kid since I was 16-17 and I only started last week on a blog, I’m now 60 yrs old so I guess its about time HUH??/

    Best of Luck Torah & congratulations on what you have already accomplished. BTW I also ended up in Manhattan for a lot of years, & My Wife & I now have a small Diary Farm in the mountains of Central New York, Thanx for listening Ammon K. Fisher

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  20. Torah, I am so sorry to hear about these things. I am lds and I think each cultural religion has their flaws, although I have not heard of things like this before, not even in the lds scriptures. I am glad that we have people like you to shed some light on some of these things.

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  21. Torah, thanks for your story.
    I can’t believe the people who want to debate the issue of abuse. I work in protective services and we generally adhere to the rule that acceptable spankings are done with the hand. It is harder to really harm a child when spanked with your hand. It will hurt you as it hurts the child.
    Spankings with objects are a different matter. Boards, belts and cords are too easy to get carried away with when you are angry and you have no idea how hard you are striking a child.

    If you were spanked with boards or straps, that is defined as abuse in most states.

    I completely agree with your discussion of religiously Amish versus culturally Amish. You can see that in the “english” world. I have freinds who were raised jewish or catholic and now consisder themselves ex-catholic or ex-jewish. But all you need to do to see the cultural influence, is to visit their homes around the holidays. You can see many examples of how their lives are still influenced by the way they were raised.

    I have an ex-catholic friend who, while serving as a brides maid at a friends wedding, had communion pushed on her by her old grade school priest. Later she was fuming and said, “I told him I’m not Catholic and I didn’t want communion but he just stuck the wafer in my mouth.”
    I said, “Why didn’t you just spit it out in your hand?”
    She said, “No, you can’t touch the ‘host’, that’s a sin.”
    I said, “host, what’s host? It’s a cracker, spit it out.”

    A lifetime of indoctrination in any faith can run deep and be hard to change.

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  22. I have lived around the Amish most of my life. The sad thing about this story is that people who don’t know the Amish will assume that this is the norm. This is NOT the norm! This is the story of an abusive family…just like in our “english” culture, we too have our share. But I assure you 90% of the Amish families (that I know WELL) do NOT abuse their children in this way.
    They are people, they have the Good, the Bad and everything every other culture has. There are many, happy, healthy families percentage wise in their communities than in ours.
    I sense in the comments here a dangerous trend of sterotyping by those who have no idea what the true Amish community is like.

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  23. Torah, I am sorry you suffered as you did. I am a Christian, raised my daughter in a loving and supportive environment, and only disciplined her with an occasion spanking when she crossed way beyond the line of acceptable behavior, which was rare. She got her BS at 19, her masters at 21, and I think is genuinely a happy, loving, and generous young lady who is very self-reliant, but has a keen sense of community responsibility. Her mother and I have also tried to teach her to be happy with the little and simple things of life. Sorry for this long preface, but it leads into what I guess I would like to ask you, which is if the Amish community is no more abusive than secular and non-secular society, which I suspect is the case (?), then wouldn’t you at least think that they are better off not being wrapped up in the “English” society based on a model that stresses monetary success at all cost, academic status over production (and I mean no offense to you – you should be very proud of what you have attained), and total focus on self to the detriment of anyone who gets in your way? I’m just wondering if you have ever thought that the world that was hidden from you may well be worse in some ways. I’m in no way condoning the abuse you suffered. No daughter, no child, and certainly no baby should be treated as such. But would you agree that there are many good practices of the Amish that should be appreciated by secular culture such as self-reliance and simple lifestyles that don’t require massive nuclear plant energy production and fossil fuel burning to function? And that there must be some Amish communities that are less abusive and more gentle, whose children are happy and loved? Or do you believe that that is very rare? Again, I’m asking you to compare it with modern (let’s say secular for argument’s sake) society. I would be very interested in your thoughts on this.

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  24. To all of you who are concerned about the inbalance of the Amish image, think about this; When a totally positive picture of the Amish is presented, why are you not there to demand a balanced picture? If the public believes the propaganda that Amish are all good, moral and upright people, is that balance? Why then do you show up in droves to disparage a story that leans away from the “good” image, yet remain silent when the truth is fudged in the other direction? Balance works both ways! The truth lies somewhere in between the extremes. Something to think about.

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  25. @Eli: Actually, it’s far more common for me to have to patiently correct non-Amish folks’ unrealistic views of the perfection of Amish. I cannot tell you how many times I have said, “Amish are people too. They have bad apples just like any other people group. They argue as families, etc, etc.”

    As I mentioned earlier on the thread, I am Amish-Mennonite which are basically Amish with technology and a greater emphasis on evangelism and education, and a lesser emphasis on a pastoral occupation. My parents would have born Amish and I have a bunch of Amish friends and family.

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  26. the anabaptist community and religion is not a good one as it is perceived to be. growing up a mennonite i can tell you that it is awful and comparable to a cult. everything you do in life you are taught that you are going to hell. you aren’t allowed to watch tv cause thats a sin. you must be obedient to your husband or else you won’t go to heaven. marriage at 16 is completely all right and encouraged and you must produce kids cause that’s what god wants and what is expected of you. education is a complete no-no cause women shouldnt be educated but should be mothers to like 10 children. the more the better it seems. the saying is “woman and children should be seen and not heard” is the motto in the mennonite church. its not like that in every mennonite community but it definitely is in mexico.

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  27. Hi Torah and anyone reading at this point,

    Sorry to butt in to a 3-year old thread/article. Your general assertions about dialects vs. language are correct, but with regard to German dialects, mutual intelligibility is not the best way to make a dialect vs. language distinction since most (uneducated) speakers of a given dialect may not understand a dialect from a distant dialect area, but both are considered German dialects by native speakers and linguists. By German standards, only one German “dialect” is considered a different language – Swiss German – and that is so because of grammar differences, not accent, pronunciation or vocabulary. German dialects can be surprisingly & radically different sounding from one another and can change quickly from one town to the next…probably more so than any other major language on earth. But grammatically they’re still considered similar enough to only merit being called dialects of German even though on a mutual intelligibility scale they’re as close as Spanish vs. Italian. Standard German itself is a bit of a construct and a lingua franca between dialect speakers.

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  28. It’s interesting to read about the bravery and spirit of kids who grow in this type of environment. Most of us don’t ever really see this type of adversity at that age and for them to take these life changing decisions. Great post, unbelievable, thanks.

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  29. Our group deals with Amish guys who have sexuality concerns -but absolutely do NOT feel comfortable to the “GAY” community. LOTS of Amish guys have MAJOR questions about sexuality & lots have serious Scriptural concerns as well. We have the answers -in fine detail.
    For more general info, -G00GLE g0ys (g0ys is spelled w. a zer0).

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  30. I’m currently taking a class on the Amish, and my professor is the leading Amish scholar in the world. I have read almost 3 of his books and 2-3 by others on the Amish. And many of these are written from personal experience with the Amish (i.e., he has lots of local Amish friends). This girl’s experience is saddening but is NOT a generic, standard Amish experience. I’ve talked to people who have left the Amish because it was stifling and those who love the community and are very dedicated to their way of life.

    “Amish” is NOT a dialect. In Pennsylvania and some other states, they speak Pennsylvania Dutch, which evolved from German.

    Amish youth DO have a choice to stick with the Amish or not. They are pressured to remain but there are a good number (although a small proportion overall) who leave.

    Although, as in any culture, you will find Amish who are argumentative or otherwise “non-peaceful,” the Amish are largely a peaceful folk who keep to themselves. Read the book Amish Grace, written about the Nickel Mines shooting. The Amish exhibit an amazing ability to forgive VERY quickly.

    Yes, there are situations where Amish life seems far from ideal or fair. But is modern society perfect? FAR from it. Do not assume that one girl’s experience applies to all Amish.

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    • I dont think you can rely on any book to over look what this young woman has experienced, also at the end it states that this is her experience in one community….

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  31. Amish Forever – The Stranger, is my latest release of Amish fiction, co-authored with Crystal Linn. It is a serialized publication, much like the old radio series (for those of us old enough to remember those). We plan to release a new volume on Amazon about once a month, 4,000-6,000 words in length. I’m having a ball writing it, and am trying to get the word out.

    Roger

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  32. Thanks for your story Torah.
    I live in the midst of a large Amish community (Seymour MO) and am thankful for your insight. I do feel for the lack of a worldly education (not a guberment education) that the Amish do not get. My Amish friend sprays Roundup in his garden all the time and had not heard anything about roundup causing cancer or being dangerous. They have no means to learn about many important things. It makes me sad at times. But then again many of my English friends are not educated at all even with all the opportunities they have.

    And as you said there are many wonderful things about the self sufficient life style. I think in the coming hard times I am going to rely on the knowledge of the Amish a lot.

    God Bless
    Joe

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  33. If you think about it the whole idea of no photos can be taken of the. Its a perfect idea for how to keep people outside from evidence. The clothes cover everything up but more than anything what fear does to the mind.
    Its the perfect way to run a cult.

    I’m not say’n that’s how they all are because I don’t know. Each amish villiage is different based on church that group decides onwhats right & wrong.

    I know many mennonites & all but 2 are the best of people. The other 2 were just the really old really grumpy men.

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  34. A real eye opener, we had questions about the amish because we were studying them and this link is going straight to my teacher because so far all the facts are written by outsiders who document and its great that you have been able to share your life story with us…. Can I ask a question though, do you keep in contact with you family?

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  35. I am so glad u shared ur story. I am a God fearing woman and have always wondered what it would be like to be Amish
    And was looking it up tonight in serious consideration thinking it would bring me closer to the Lord….now I do not
    See how they even call theirself christian!!!! I pray for them and am thankful for your freedom. Rape and incest!!?? I feel so sorry that there are so-called christians that behave in such a manner. I am Baptist that also came from anabaptist, wow, is all i can say and my prayers are there for all who are blinded by man.

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  36. Actually the Amish do have a choice whether they would like to continue on with their religion. When they become teenagers they have the option to go on Rumspringa, which is an Amish tradition where the teens leave their society for 6 months in order to go get a taste of the real world. After seeing everything the outer world has to offer they go back to their families and make a decision. Most of them come to the conclusion that the our technological world is extremely corrupt and they decide that they would like to continue on with their much simpler Amish lives.

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    • It seems to me there is too much misinformation in too many of the comments made on this website. A grain of truth makes misinformation more believable, but it does distort the truth.

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  37. Many thanks for sharing and publishing this story. I was a taxi driver for an old order community. I fell in love and married an amish man who didn’t like his religion but did want to live simple. Perfect! I don’t like religion either and I also enjoy a simple life style! A few years and a couple children later I asked for marriage counseling and he filed fo
    r divorce. Moving my family forward has been a constant turmoil, which includes a court that has favored him because of his Amishness. If my family can get through this, I want to start a non profit to help others, especially women and children. It seems like the more modern the world becomes,

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