How Might Amish Fiction Shape Amish Spirituality?

From last weekend’s Lancaster Sunday News:

And while they generally portray the Amish as admirable for their moral values and way of life, Weaver-Zercher says some challenge the Amish community-focused religious beliefs. This isn’t just her take, but the view of Amish she interviewed, she notes.

Say, at a crisis point in the fictional Sadie’s life, she has a feeling of experiencing God directly, outside the traditional church structure. After a spiritual struggle, she leaves Old Order life and deepens her faith. Or Sadie, sounding to Weaver-Zercher very much like an evangelical Christian, remains Amish but shares the “emotive, personal conversion” experience that now separates her from unenlightened Ordnung-following church members.

Weaver-Zercher has written that “when novelists fashion a fiction about a culture of which they are not a part, and those in the culture read and take pleasure in those fashionings, some measure of cultural evolution is likely to occur.”

To me this is one of the most intriguing aspects of Amish fiction.  How are these storylines and characters absorbed and processed by Amish readers?

Valerie Weaver-Zercher addressed this at the Amish conference earlier this month, and also explores the question in Thrill of the Chaste: The Allure of Amish Romance Novels in greater depth.

If you’re in the Lancaster area, Valerie will be discussing and signing copies of Thrill of the Chaste this Saturday at Aaron’s Books in Lititz (35 East Main Street).

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    4 Comments

    1. New York State of Mind

      I think that some Amish people struggle at some point in life like those of us do in different religions especially when there is a crises in life. We wonder if we are in the right religion, are we doing as the Lord would want, and more. I read Amish novels and don’t believe as many people struggle as books written-but again I don’t know. I know in my struggle, I found that I was where I suppose to be and my crises just strengthened me in my religious beliefs.

      Marilyn

    2. KimH

      I think as humans we each & every one of us struggle with spiritual issues, which are truly the issues that make us human. What we do with them are as different as there are people..

      I think Amish fiction could indeed plant seeds in those who read them, no matter whether you’re Amish or not..
      While evangelical Christianity is much more common outside the Amish community than it is within, there are still people who have no clue to what was phrased as “Enlightened”. We all have to decide on our own what we will do & how we interact with the world of those who are different than we are..

    3. Yonie Wondernose

      Whatever the case may be here. Surrounding culture certainly has effect on all and patterns of life. And thought expressed by columnist Micheal Gerson has really stood out to me when he said That American Christianity is unlike anything the world has ever seen and is often the antithesis of the experience that others have had thru history. My own thoughts further are that the fact that evangelicalism has been the dominant religious influence in the states for so many years it cannot help but shape evangelical theological thought and practice and explain some of the divergence between marginal cultures such as an old order one and an evangelical one.

      One little closing thought is think about the different perspectives that a Chinese Christian or an African Christian would have compared to an American one in terms of suffering because of your faith.

    4. Ed

      Amish theology, from what I’ve learned here and elsewhere, is quite different from Evangelical Christianity which has become the predominant stream of Christianity in the U.S.

      I think it would be all our loss if the unique aspects of Amish theology (“living hope” vs. assurance of salvation, refusal to swear oaths, non-proselytizing, non-violence) were to be lost in a sea of fictional portrayals from non-Amish authors.

      Perhaps a solution would be more fiction written by the Amish themselves.