Twelve years ago, with two friends of mine, I sat in a tiny ramshackle restaurant in Castro, on the island of Chiloé. You may see Castro on the map, on the first and largest of a long string of islands down Chile's south coast.
Served with great steaming bowls of cazuela de vaca by a stocky Alacaluf waitress, we sat discussing our exotic circumstances, until . . . what was that? My two Pennsylvania friends stared at a small TV on a shelf above the counter, then cringed in dismay. Sure enough. Nothing other than The Witness, playing on Chilean National TV. Movie stars, not only wearing Amish broadfalls and head-coverings, but now also speaking in garbled Spanish translation.
Is no place on earth remote enough to escape the unearthly horror of the "Amish movie"?
For the last twenty-five years, ever since the first showing of The Witness in 1985, the media, the International Press and the entertainment world, have outdone one another in publishing things on us conservative Anabaptists. Here at Rocky Cape, besides getting featured in a three-page spread in our local daily paper, we have turned down another big city paper, plus the local TV station, Channel 7 TV from Melbourne, and recently ABC TV from Sydney (the national broadcasting network). One TV station even tried to buy exclusive rights from us for all future broadcasting. . . .
What on earth is going on?
"How to Get to Heaven in Montana," about the Hutterites. "Living in a Perfect World," about the Old Colony Mennonites. Numberless magazine articles. The Doctor Phil show. Youtubes ad nauseum. And several months ago our Evangelical neighbors, divorced and remarried, both of their families in a world-class mess, handed us a DVD with the film "Trouble in Amish Paradise." They had seen it on TV and felt we must have copy.
"You really must see this," they told us. "It is a nice unbiased documentary. Showing things like they really are. . . ."
As if they would be the ones to know.
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For a long, long, time we plain people have said nothing, or very little, on this subject. Many of us have also read or watched these reports, found them interesting (giving us a lot to talk about) and passed them on. Our own website, until recently, featured a relatively benign little film done by CBC TV in Canada, back in 1964. But the time has come for the Spirit of Jesus to open our eyes, to see what Satan -- the accuser of the brethren -- is up to now.
How long shall we sit in silence, or think it is funny and "really interesting" when the world makes our fellow plain groups (some of them obviously not too spiritually-minded or even unconverted) look ridiculous? Shall we take part or pleasure in the failures of our neighbors, or even much worse, in the flaming sins of the media set on fire by hell (Romans 1:32, James 3:6)? Righteousness and wickedness, says Paul, can have nothing in common. Neither can light and darkness have fellowship one with another, or Christ and Belial stand in harmony, for "What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?" (2 Corinthians 6).
No, we cannot stop the world. Until the judgment of God falls on Hollywood like it fell on Sodom and Gomorrah in Abraham's time, the world will keep on writing, filming, publishing what it wants to about us. Look at what worldly ungodly people did to Jesus, to the early Christians, or to our Anabaptist ancestors.
Only one thing we can stop. We can stop listening to the world or sitting like so many idiots agape at what those liars want to show us next. If not the island of Chiloé, let our Christian communities, at least, be islands of refuge in a sea of Satanic deception, distortion and godless distraction in our time.
So the Amish are in trouble, are they?
The very idea that BBC should fly a crew of highly-trained professionals (at the cost of millions of dollars) from England to America to pick up on the troubles of a handful of farmers in Pennsylvania should start all sensible people thinking. The Amish? In trouble? As compared to what?
Let us say we turn that around. Let us say we take a crew of Amish to the UK to see if they can spot any trouble in David Cameron's (or David Beckham's) paradise.
Let those Amish brothers and sisters infiltrate British society, snooping into family after family's household affairs, checking up on their kids, seeing how it goes with their sports clubs, their churches (that hardly anyone attends) their ex-partners, their drugs and alcohol intake, their serial relationships, their suicide rates and teen dropouts, violence and gangs and politics and people-trafficking for prostitution -- counting all the TVs, computers, play stations, and who watches porno movies or not. Or, better yet, let the Amish start investigating the quality of life of the very men and women that came out to film them, how happy they are, how meaningful they find their lives, and what would we have?
Trouble in Amish Paradise. . . . The very idea that the whole world should want to focus on the troubles of a few Amish families in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, is all the proof we need that the whole world, as we know it, has gone off the rails.
* * * * *
At first when I heard of this phenomenon I shrugged it off as "just more of the same." But after watching it develop these last 25 years, and evaluating where it has gotten to now, I sense there is much more to it than first meets the eye.
"Amish movies" are yet another front in the great war on the saints revealed to the apostle John.
Because they hate God and hate the Truth, the post-modern post-Christian world feels driven to discredit us plain Anabaptists, either by outright condemnation and shocking exposés or by making us look like a few harmless but simple-minded kooks, somewhere out in the boonies, making quilts or cooking sorghum molasses.
The world, rabidly opposed to the idea of a God that judges and punishes people, or holds them accountable to his rules, needs to keep reassuring itself that even the most godly are not making it either. "Look, they've got more troubles than we do!"
But the world is wrong. Order (die Ordnung) if held to in the Spirit of Christ, is not trouble. It is blessing and health and peace. The ban and shunning (Bann und Meidung) of the rebellious comes straight from the words of Jesus in Matthew 18:17, and the words of Paul in I Corinthians 5, 2 Thessalonians 3:14, etc. Contrary to what the movies and Amish novels love to portray, it does not bring trouble if properly applied. Sorrow and heart-ache, yes (2 Corinthians 7:9-10), and it is supposed to, for out of godly sorrow comes repentance. But the media are being totally hypocritical, and the world's concern over Amish shunning is a farce.
Amish shunning means you can't eat at the same table in a funeral.
What is that compared to the unspeakably greater wretchedness that comes from divorce and remarriage, allowed (even promoted) by the media and the world, but something the Amish do not have? It is the broken homes of the world, not the shunning of the Amish, that have untold millions of children in greatest spiritual need, boys and girls hanging themselves in school bathrooms, shooting one another, stoned out with alcohol and drugs.
Some of my closest friends are ex-worldlings -- men and women, entire families, that have left the world's way of life, thrown out their TVs, put on plain clothes and come to live among us. All of them assure me that no matter how many issues we plain people face, our troubles are microscopic compared to what they faced "out there."
Be serious, wouldn't you rather work on your boys wearing suspenders or your girls getting their heads covered right, than to be bailing them out of prison, taking them to rehab, or seeing them go for an abortion?
The media cleverly zeroes in on the aberrant behavior of fringe groups among the plain people, or speaks with ex-members that have either left God altogether or picked up on a more conventional Evangelical way of thinking. They do this so my neighbors in Australia may know "what the Amish are really like."
They do it as directed by the head of their department -- Satan, the father of lies.
If the media really wanted to present the plain way of life to the world why wouldn't they go to Huron County, Ontario, to Caneyville or Scottsville in Kentucky, to Danville or Worthington, Ohio, to Lobelville or Delano in Tennessee, to Rich Hill, Missouri, to Smyrna in Maine, to Hillsboro in Wisconsin, or to an absolute host of other places where horse-and-buggy driving people are leading godly lives, raising large families, feeding and clothing themselves with simple, home-produced products, being good neighbors and minding their own business?
I can tell you why they don't go there. Those people at Caneyville or at Lobelville, or at all the places above mentioned, would walk up to the camera and witness to the Living God. What is more, they would discover, in nearly all of these communities, people who have gotten sick of the world with its troubles, turned their backs on the godless media, and found true peace in Christ, living in plain Anabaptist communities.
That is the last thing the media want my Australian neighbors to know.
I used to think the media were simply out to entertain (to make money), not to objectively inform. But I have changed my mind. The media are a tool of the masterminds of world deception, artfully feeding twisted information, slanted stories to steer humanity further and further away from God. And do not kid yourselves. The media is no longer worried about deceiving the world. That already took place, generations ago. Now they are working on you.
TV, the Internet, the daily news -- or those DVDs your neighbors bring you to gawk at and giggle about -- no matter through what channel the media have infiltrated your home I say watch it. If you knew you had a cobra under your chair, your giggling, or yawning, would stop.
Do not trust the media, trust God. Turn off whatever machine is robbing you of sanity and inner communion with him. Go out for a walk and pray. Pray for the Amish. Pray for the Old Colony Mennonites. Certainly, they need God and his transforming power. But above all, pray for a lost world that needs him six billion times as much.
And now for the question: Do I recognize the man in the picture above?
No, I have not watched "Trouble in Amish Paradise" and I have decided not to do so. Neither have I ever seen a Doctor Phil show.
We have work to do.
Rocky Cape Christian Community
19509 Bass Highway
Detention River, Tasmania 7321