May 20th, 2006
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
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As Christians, we acknowledge in our profession of faith in the
Apostle’s Creed that the Holy Spirit calls us through the
Gospel, enlightens us with its gifts, and sanctifies us as believers
in the faith. As I reflect on the scripture lessons for today, I
think about the disciples who heard Jesus speak the words that they
had been chosen out of the world to be persecuted for following
him. They were called out of the world to march to a different drum.
And so are we. I think about the apostle Paul who was called away
from all he knew to be true to reject his former identity. Paul
was called to embrace an entirely different world view, to become
a different person, and to actively proclaim a new vision for humanity.
And so are we.
These lessons are about how we become the people of God. We are
called through the Gospel. But we are also called to be different
from the world and its ways. Perhaps it is because of my faith that
I have studied the Amish as a professional anthropologist. They
are the subject of much scholarly inquiry because they are different
and that difference begs description and understanding. Scholars
acknowledge that the Amish separatism is motivated by Gospel calls
to not conform to the ways of the world. There is much written about
the ways in which the Amish remain separate. But many of those strategies
are increasingly compromised and some argue that means that the
Amish are slowly conforming to the ways of the world. I don’t
think so, even though it is increasingly difficult for them to maintain
their technological and economic independence.
The Amish remain clearly separate in their rejection of the false
promises of security and happiness that the world offers. They remain
in a faith community that serves the Lord with gladness through
hard work and commitment to others. They march to a different drum
and they maintain a clear religious identity, as individuals and
as a community. Why do they do it? They do it because they read
the scripture lessons like the ones we read today. They know that
the Lord is good and that Jesus will keep his word. For this reason,
they are willing to suffer persecution for the Lord’s sake.
And though they slowly “modernize,” they grow stronger
in faith and their churches increase in number.
Unlike many Utopian religious sects in America’s past that
disintegrated and died out, the Amish do not have a rigid set of
beliefs that they will not compromise. Nor do they have charismatic
leaders. They have a simple faith. They believe that the Holy Spirit
calls them through the Gospel, enlightens them with its gifts, and
sanctifies them in the faith. And so do we. We don’t often
think of the Amish and give thanks for them as baptized sisters
and brothers and fellow workers in the Kingdom of God. But I do
because they are a good example of what it means to march to a different
drum while serving the Lord with gladness.
to the writer of this reflection.
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