Friday, June 09, 2006

Ask Aunt Tillie: Some Googlers Want To Know About The Amish

Blogger's Note: Since this blog is somewhat Amishcentric, I get questions from time to time from readers about Amish life and culture, which I refer to my Aunt Tillie, an opinionated, but humble Amish woman. I noticed recently I got google hits on "What do Amish women use to clean," and "Are Amish considered Christians." I asked Aunt Tillie if she could answer those questions. Here is her response.

Dear Googlers:

First of all, you want to know what Amish women use to clean. I'm afraid you'll have to be more specific. To clean what? To clean a chicken, I use scalding hot water and my hands. To clean clothes, I use a gasoline engine powered washing machine. I will confess there have been a few times when Monday flew by and I still didn't have my wash on the line, that I grabbed a roll of quarters, had one of the boys hitch up old Dobbin, and took the wash in to town and did it in a laundromat. I'm telling you now that was luxury. I could put all 25 loads of wash in the machines, then sit back and look through a women's magazine while everything got done at once. In an hour, I was home with the washing done and had 15 New Ideas On How To Keep Your Husband Coming Back For More! (As if that was ever a problem. I was hoping for an article on 15 New Ideas To Get Your Husband To Just Go To Sleep!) But I'm rambling. Abner says I do that a lot lately. To clean the floors, I use a dry mop on the hardwood and get down on my hands and knees and scrub the linoleum in the kitchen. I use store-bought toothpaste to clean my teeth, although when I was a girl, we used salt to brush our teeth six days a week, only getting to use toothpaste on Sunday mornings. To clean myself? Well, there are some things you just don't need to know. If you can't figure it out for yourself, maybe you can go to a laundromat and find an article about it in a women's magazine.

Then one of you wanted to know whether Amish are considered Christians. Again, I'm afraid you'll have to be more specific. Considered by whom? I've been told, back when we got started, 500 years ago in Europe, we certainly weren't considered Christians. Both the Catholics and the Protestants considered us heretics and did everything they could to kill us off. They confiscated our property, drowned some of us, boiled us in oil, burned us at the stake, and did everything they could think of to make us more Christian, like them. But we are a stubborn lot, and we kept breeding faster than they could kill us off. But they did run us out of Europe; I think I remember someone saying the last Amishman died in Europe around the time of World War I. But here I am rambling again. Do we consider ourselves Christian? Well, we try to follow Jesus, as best we can, and if that's your definition of Christian, then I guess we're Christian. But I hear the Pope claims to be the vicar of Christ and he claims what he says goes as far as who is Christian and who isn't, and there's sure a lot more Catholics than there are Amish, so I guess we better not take a vote. The important thing is whether God thinks we're Christians or not, and if he thinks we are, I sure hope he doesn't hold it against us. After all the modern conveniences we do without in this world, I would hate to think I'm going to have to suffer without air conditioning in the next world because we refuse to fight for our country like the Pope and Jerry Falwell says all Christians should do. And then I hear George Bush likes to go around bragging about what a fine Christian he has become since he gave up drinking and doing drugs. Well, don't get me started about him, but I think we'd all be better off if he went back to drinking and doing drugs. Now, I'm afraid I've said too much, but since Amish don't read blogs I shouldn't get into more trouble with the deacon than I already am.


rdl said...

I'm liking your aunt tillie more and more.

Patry Francis said...

I have such an "idealized" vision of the Amish. Aunt Tillie knocks that vision down with a real face and a very real personality. Sounds like someone I would like to meet.

Amishlaw said...

Thanks rdl and patry.
Patry, when you do your book tour next spring, you should make a point of coming to Central Illinois. I'll set up some readings for you; you can meet my reading group and have coffee with Aunt Tillie.

Anonymous said...

I would hate to think I'm going to have to suffer without air conditioning in the next world because we refuse to fight for our country like the Pope and Jerry Falwell says all Christians should do.

I was googling something and came across your site; couldn't let this statement go w/o comment.

Where does the Pope "say" we should fight for our country? This is simply false. The Pope and the Church were vehemently against the Iraq war. Furthermore lumping Falwell and the Catholic Church together is about as accurate as lumping the Amish and right-wing Texas Baptists together. Most Catholics are strongly anti-war--John Kerry and Joe Kennedy to name two. It's very irresponsible to spread false information to promote an anti-Catholic bias.

Amishlaw said...

Anonymous, you have to realize that Aunt Tillie isn't as sophisticated as you and me. Although many Catholics opposed the invasion of Iraq, many more, including bishops, supported it. I refer you to a piece by Mairead Corrigan Maguire, the Irish Nobel prize winner, about her request directly to Pope Benedict to give up the Just War theory. You can find it here: Also, I think Aunt Tillie's lumping of the Pope and Jerry Falwell was to show the broad spectrum of Christians thinking it their duty to fight for their country; not that the Pople and Jerry Falwell are together theologically on much else. I don't know about Joe Kennedy, but I don't think you could call John Kerry "strongly anti-war." Certainly during the last presidential campaign, he was kind of, at times, in favor of the invasion of Iraq.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link. This was interesting... Four years ago Pope Benedict, then Cardinal Ratzinger, made a statement saying the time is coming when we will have to get rid of the just war theory According to the blurb you pointed me to, the Pope has not yet responded to her demand. Therefore to glean from this any support for war is false. In fact, based on his actual statement he sounds to be even against defensive war. I doubt he would have made the earlier statement if he wasn't committed to non-violence.

She also wonders, "why if the Catholic Church, speaks so much about unconditional love do so many Christians facilitate and participate in violence, armed struggles and war?" (The operative term here being Christian, not Catholic.

The Catholic Church does not control all Christians; it doesn't even control all Catholics. It tries to set a standard. Too bad Islamic clerics, the "Holy Men" of Islam aren't professing non-violence in Mosques. It seems they might be a more appropriate audience for her lecture.

And on another point, I suppose before you write off violence completely, ask yourself what you might do if someone took your child for example, or someone you loved very much and proceeded to torture that person in front of you... would you, given the chance, use violence to stop the abuser? Would you knock him over the head while he wasn't looking? Would you not summon all your strength to overpower him--(the passengers on Flight 93 also come to mind) or would you sit by and trust in some magical thinking to set things right?

Something tells me the Just War Theory ought not to be too hastily abandoned.

Amishlaw said...

Anonymous, I think we're getting a little sidetracked here. In your first post, you accused Aunt Tillie of irresponsibly spreading an anti-Catholic bias by stating that the Pope and Jerry Falwell say all Christians should fight for their country. In your second post, you argue that the Catholics are better than the Muslims regarding fighting and that I shouldn't write violence off completely. Whether I should write violence off completely or would fight for my abused child is a completely different issue from the one for which you were taking Aunt Tillie to task. My purpose in pointing out the item about the Nobel Laureate's attempt at getting Pope Benedict to renounce the Just War Theory is to show that Aunt Tillie was not so misinformed in her description of the Pope's attitude towards war. The Just War Theory is still official Catholic teaching. I am no expert, but if I understand Catholic teaching correctly, all good Christians should fight for their country in a Just War. I don't venture an opinion, nor did Aunt Tillie, about whether that teaching is good or bad. She was responding to a question about whether Amish are considered Christian, and explaining why in the eyes of both Catholics and Protestants, at times the Amish have been considered heretics, not Christians.

Lauren said...

Dear Aunt Tillie,

Do you really believe a respectable Amish woman like yourself should be answering the tedious questions of anonymous, humorless, blog trolls?

Especially when there are a bunch of chickens waiting for a good cleaning.

Anonymous said...

Amishlaw, as I understand it, you made the claim, "Although many Catholics opposed the invasion of Iraq, many more, including bishops, supported it." To support this opinion--which is as wildly speculative as your Aunt's opinion that all Catholics consider Amish hell-bent for not wanting to fight for their country-- you linked to a piece of some sort by Mairead Corrigan Maguire in which she quotes Pope Benedict XVI from a statement [unreferenced] he made while he was Cardinal. The quote however goes more to demonstrate his position of non-violence and hints at the desire to revisit the Just War theory in order to jettison it. Nothing in his statement suggests he or a majority of Catholics are proponents of war with Iraq--yet this was your position and the evidence you pointed me to.

Furthermore, Maguire offers a cynical interpretation of what the Pope didn't say. It's unclear in this piece how or if he replied. She implies he had not responded to her challenge--or that his reply (of which we do not know the content) is phony--after all, the Church has pillaged and destroyed since the days of Constantine...But by that logic, even if the Church dropped the Just War theory the minute she made the demand, it wouldn't be good enough. As I said, his words and the official Church position go more to serve the opposite. The fact is, the Church took a very vocal anti-war stance and went further to say the US war with Iraq did not qualify as "just" according to Just War theory. That some Catholics may not have heeded that directive is also not evidence that a majority supported invasion.

I digressed somewhat with the child/loved-one analogy because I'm not convinced there is never a justification for "violence." And if it is an inevitability, then the Just War standard may not be such a terrible thing as it can serve to keep us out of conflict as well as give us a standard for using force if necessary; it does not, by the way, mandate everyone fight. (The Amish can breath easy).

I went on to suggest that religious leaders who actually profess violence in word and deed (such as many Mullahs and Sheiks) in the name of God are far more deserving of lectures on non-violence than those who profess peace such as the Pope.

Perhaps you want to believe the big bad Vatican is winking at Bush while it says No to war, but there is no evidence to support such a cynical claim. Let's also not forget that just as many Catholics burned at the same stakes as your Amish predecessors, probably more, and as many remain committed to peace and to their faith today.

Sorry I can't put a humorous spin on it for your friend Lauren... A lot of humor is just cynicism in disguise intended to trivialize and dehumanize. If you don't want anonymous people (or "trolls" as your pious friend so smugly referred to me as--I wonder how that dehumanizing is working for her), then don't have a public blog, or close it to only people who don't take issue with your public comments.