The events of the past few weeks, as have so many others over the past year or more, produced a constant flow of written expression that flies in the face of what was once called language. Because so much of this “communication” has led one only to a dead end. Because it was written and published, I’d like to think it was true. But one cannot count on such verification these days.
Although significant television was just emerging, during my college freshman years, as I recall, we had enough sources to be able to view Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953, and later in the 50s when I was editor of my college “newspaper,” I tried to inform students at Arkansas Polytechnic College in 1956 regarding the occupation of various countries by the Russians. Like any other legitimate college “newspaper,” The ArkaTech would have been astonished to the state of unbelief that blatant lies had become the expectation of the day.
Much of our sense of truth, facts and accuracy has vanished from most major publications. And we have many months ago ceased – for the first time in the history of the country – to be startled by statements made publicly by the person occupying the Oval Office. We have become accustomed to daily blatant lies scattered across the newspapers and air ways and “public media.” Nothing surprises. Longstanding institutions such as government and religion cannot be trusted to abide by their long established standards. Paramount among the most recent obscene trends has been the portrayal of much obscene language and behavior as being Christian!
Of course, just a casual Google examination re the major “fundamental” Christian application will lead to chaos. Certainly, no “traditional” application to the term Christian can be applied to most of the behavior of the major “Conservation” Christians as reflected in the daily press these days.
It would appear the directives re “loving ones enemies,” and “doing good to those who curse you,” long valued as a fundamental model for human behavior, no longer have meaning for many prominant (and exceedingly well paid) “pastors” and “ministers” whose faces and comments pepper social media.
But I’m remind that this ancient directive has not yet totally vanished from this earth.
I’m reminded that the one human quality represented as Christian for at least the last thousand years had been what has led me back to a piece I posted some years ago when in an Amish community in Pennsylvania several young Amish girls were killed in their country classroom.
From what is being publicized over these months – the prices of vast homes of “ministers,” or “pastors,” or those pseudo “pastors” who seem to be frustrated by their lack of a private plane – Christianity – indeed, religion in general – is dissolving into insignificance .
As a result, one could assume that anything like “fundamental” Christianity has vanished from this culture. Actually, it’s difficulty to argue otherwise. But there remains The Amish who, by their actions, verify fundamental applications of the tradition Christian tenets.
Just one more reflection on what was occupying my thought some years ago.
For a couple of weeks now, I’ve been unable to erase thoughts of the Amish from my everyday consciousness. Since every detail of the tragic murders of their schoolchildren in Lancaster County, PA and the events that have followed have been carefully (and inevitably, in some case, vulgarly) presented through the mass media – the reactions of that community have surely challenged the souls of this nation. We — the mass of Americans living outside the Amish community — have been amazed by their behavior. Its strangeness, to most of us its unnaturalness, might well have been from outer space. Yet, they profess, unashamedly, to be Christians!
What a contrast to the behavior of the mass of the much-publicized American Christianity, particularly the much-publicized “fundamentalists” of that sect!
What I know of the Amish is what I see and have seen for years from the various media presentations of their behavior and lifestyle. The visual media seems to love to insert evidence, still and moving images, of their life style, particularly their horse-drawn buggies in the midst of Volvos and BMWs on a public highway. And their men with long beards and women with quaint bonnets. Perhaps it’s the cynic in me that makes me think they have long been waiting for them to screw up big time! The tabloids have been long dying for an Amish scandal — something on a par with the fringes of the Mormon congregation. Yet, the Amish, generation after generation, continue to disappoint, since they, more than any social or certainly religious group one can think of, have continued, generation after generation, to live by the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” To locate even a minor infraction in the Amish communities is like searching for a needle in one of their haystacks.
But no one would understand better than they that even among the most peaceful communities lies a serpent waiting to spoil the peace, and that’s what happened in this rural isolated county in PA. a week or so ago.
Their reactions to this invasion must surely have startled the nation. Here we have professed Christians who really practice the generally believed philosophy of Jesus: “Love your enemies; do good to those who curse you”! How fundamentally unnatural is this? According to press reports, almost half of the assembly at the funeral of the murderer were Amish! To them it is most important that they genuinely forgive the offender, to remain true to their faith.
The Golden Rule has long stood as a model for (liberal) civilized behavior. It has long been touted as a safe haven: Leave everyone else to their on devices and they will (you assume) respond in kind. This is precisely the philosophy of the Amish. Because they wish to be left alone, they allow others the same station. They have no wish to proselytize. They just wish to be free to live their own lives in their own way, to search for answers to Life’s mysteries and just to be left alone. What more could or should anyone wish than just to be left alone? Everyone, in the eyes of the Amish, is left to search for answers to the eternal questions on their own. No judgment is required. How much better it would be if their fellow “fundamentalists” shared the same notion!
I am shown by this morning’s press that the Amish community chose to remove completely overnight the schoolhouse site of the murders and plant its space with clover and grass in order to return it to its natural state, allowing Life to move on.
If such behavior is not inspiring and instructive to us today, then there is little hope for us.
10.15.06 Footnote: Why didn’t the 1985 Harrison Ford – Kelly McGillis film Witness occur to me earlier? A marvelously creative fictional look at the consequences of an Amish family who venture into a city where a young Amish boy is the sole witness to a murder. The murderers (serpents, indeed) search for him on the rural farms until they come into violent contact with Ford, the investigative detective. Honest look at social and moral contrasts.