Sunday, October 30, 2011

the radical amish

The Radical Amish

With all the tumult the Occupy movement has caused lately it’s interesting to compare the sort of uproar they create compared with the uproar the Amish don’t create.

The Amish don’t fly the flag. They won’t join the military or the police force. In wars past they have never purchased war bonds and they have never enlisted or taken up arms.They won’t celebrate the Fourth of July.

Due to this they have been considered not only unpatriotic by some but treasonous by others.

In the First World War they faced some pretty severe persecution for their pacifist stance. So did the Mennonites, the Quakers and the Hutterites, among others.

Churches were vandalized or burned down. People harassed. Some Amish were forced to enlist, drill with rifles and go through boot camp in the hopes of getting them to convert to a warlike mind set.

Some were imprisoned and beaten. Some were killed.

Despite this, none of the Amish of 1917 and 1918 retaliated. Nor did they stop loving America or praying for their country.

The stance they took 100 years ago is a stance they maintain today. It is just as radical now as it was then and just as likely to cause offense. Yet they do not stand on soapboxes or march or occupy buildings or snarl up traffic. They do not shout slogans or lash out in anger or hurl verbal abuse at those who disagree with their pacifism. They do not shake their fists in the air and curse. They live their radical lives quietly, trying not to draw attention to themselves. They live what they live without demonstrations or speeches or marches on Washington.

Unquestionably many people do not agree with the stance the Amish take. The Amish understand that. But they are not running for Congress or trying to win a popularity contest. They are simply trying to live out their faith in Jesus Christ. Agree or disagree with their views on the flag or July 4th or enlistment in the military, it is hard not to respect them precisely because they aren’t screaming out their point of view or handing out pamphlets on street corners or driving into town with MAKE LOVE NOT WAR painted in white letters all over their buggies.

If they are introduced to a man in uniform they will not snub him. They will shake his hand. Despite their beliefs about wars and armies, the Amish do not hate those who do what the Amish do not like. That also is radical. Most people cannot befriend those with whom they strongly disagree. They might be able to do it for a friend or family member but not for a stranger. The Amish do it all the time.

It would be nice, wouldn’t it, if more groups of people who had sharp disagreements with their country on certain matters adopted the Amish approach? We all know what they believe. The nations of America and Canada (who have Amish in Ontario) are well aware not only of the Amish commitment to pacifism but their avoidance of most modern technology. Yet this awareness is not due to Amish attacks on military bases and service personnel or destruction of iPods or iTabs or farm tractors or pickup trucks. There is no violence against what they dislike.

We know what they believe because they live it out in peace

So we watch. And wonder. Then go about our business. Which may include flying an F-18 fighter jet or driving a Buick.

Sometimes, if they want to, people join the Amish who are not born into the faith.

When they join they do so quietly. And are welcomed quietly and with warmth. The Amish do not make a show of it or market it or use converts for propaganda purposes.

Something else that is radical about the radical Amish.

I wrote a book about all this, in a 1917 and 1918 setting, and made it into a story. THE WINGS OF MORNING will be published by Harvest House of Oregon this January, 2012.

I really hope you will get your hands on a copy, read it and let me know what you think. I also hope you will enjoy it and that it will mean something to you.

The Amish of 2011 and 2012 are the same as the Amish of 1911 and 1912.

And 1917 and 1918.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

a movie worth watching

an article reposted from The Winnipeg Free Press online

Eccentric, but maybe not a lunatic, after all
By: Katherine Monk

Wiebo Ludwig is a name that conjures all kinds of thoughts in Canada. Convicted of vandalism resulting in millions of dollars in damages in 2001, Ludwig has often been cited as one of Canada's most noted "eco-terrorists."

He's been on the radio. He's offered sound bites to TV. He's waged an all-out war of optics against the Alberta oil and gas industry -- and lost every single time.

Ludwig always looked like a crackpot, and, thanks to the deep pockets of his biggest foe, there were endless experts available to dissect his supposed psychosis.

Ludwig never stood a chance, and in this new documentary from David York, we're given a front-row seat to the drama behind his media execution.

Picking up the rather long narrative thread that begins with Ludwig deciding to buy a little piece of paradise in northern Alberta, York takes us into the Ludwig compound for the first time.

Just making it inside the farmhouse is a huge victory, because it lets us lay eyes on Ludwig and his family without an imposing agenda. This is key, because Ludwig was always painted as a religious extremist who lived in a closed community where incest almost seemed unavoidable.

He and his best friend started the farm, and all their kids married each other. Now in their third generation, the Ludwigs appear to have kick-started their own Eden. At the beginning, it's a little weird seeing the women in head scarves and gingham dresses, but once we see them address the camera without fear, and with assertively pronounced opinions, we realize they are no Stepford Sisters, nor Big Love babies. They are smart, engaged and responsible women who want to keep their families safe. This is what mothers do, and what fathers are supposed to protect.

So what do you do when all your animals start dying? How do you cope with mass abortions among the flock, and the sight of malformed fetuses all over your fields?
More urgent, what on earth do you do when your own family starts to abort? What if your daughter was pregnant and someone put up a sour-gas well within spitting distance of your house? What if you knew, for sure, that your developing grandchild was destined to be born with birth defects, or worse, dead on arrival?

This is the situation Ludwig was forced to face for years. As he watched the life on his farm slowly die, he felt he had to do something.

But no one seemed to care. And no one listened.

York, a veteran filmmaker, could have immediately taken on the perspective of the disenfranchised farmer, and painted the whole film into an issue-specific corner. But he keeps his distance.

We are observers in this drama, and this is the film's particular strength, as well as its weakness because the facts are simply laid before us, without any specific editorializing.

Eventually, once we realize the futility of Ludwig's complaints, and the individual's place in relation to the oil and gas industry, the viewer becomes undeniably invested, because we imagine what might happen if this were our farm or our children.
When York pulls out the emotional trump card -- the funeral for one of the stillborn infants, whose head was crushed like an eggshell in delivery -- the viewer has to sit there with the horror of it all and realize this actually happened, and in our country.

Nothing less than a tragedy from a human perspective, Wiebo's War is also a cohesive and logical argument against the status quo that puts people and the environment second to profit.

Postmedia News
Movie review
Wiebo's War: A documentary
Directed by David York
93 minutes

Sunday, October 09, 2011

german pancakes?

German Pancakes – Where’s the Recipe?

My mom was a Dressel (or Dressler). She used to make these pancakes that were a foot across that we all loved. How did she do it without tearing them? I’ve made pancakes, sure, but small ones, at the most five or six inches across. Was there a special recipe? Maybe. But it never showed up in her cookbooks or recipe cards after her death.

I’ve gone to German restaurants, Dutch restaurants (not yet Amish restaurants) but I’ve had no luck. Sure, they have lots of nice pancakes but not those foot diameter ones mom made. Most of the time when I say I used to add jam and peanut butter or honey and peanut butter, and then roll them up and cut them, waiters bring me crepes sort of pancakes. No, no, no. Nein, nein, nein. Mom’s were thick – crepes are paper thin. Solid, an eighth of an inch thick or a bit more, they could handle heavy fillings before being rolled. Crepes cannot handle peanut butter and bananas – mom’s could.

In my mind’s eye, there she is, standing over a hot stove, cast iron frying pan on the element, flipper in one hand, batter in a bowl nearby, frying these wonders up. Sometimes, to our delight, she’d add big chunks of chopped apple – of course, these babies could handle whole orchards of apples and laugh. Pancake ready, she’d scoop it out of the pan and place it on a plate and put it in the oven to keep warm.Pour more batter liberally into the pan and cook another. They never stuck and she had no PAM in those days. How was this accomplished? I don’t know.

But maybe someone out there in the big wide world knows. Maybe the Amish of Ohio and Michigan and Pennsylvania know. Or the Amish of Ontario. Maybe you know. I’d love to find a restaurant that cooked these or a recipe that told me how to mix the batter and get the thickness and flip them without ruining them. This site often has recipes, doesn’t it? Well, then, this blog is my contribution – except I don’t have the recipe. You have to find it and post it.

I only know it must exist somewhere because I’m sure mom learned it from her mom and her mom was born in “the old Country” – she carried a Swiss passport, there’s a town in Switzerland named Pura, yet Madegeburg in Germany figures into her story too, as do Alsace and Lorraine. So who knows where the recipe originated? With Charlemagne? Martin Luther? Bach? The Swiss Brethren? Jacob Amman?

Who knows? Wer weib?

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

this is what's happening today

want to write some new blogs soon but:

Last night I signed a contract with Baker Publishing in Michigan for a book about Christian spirituality and the wilderness. I need to write it this winter. It's due in March, 2012 and set for release in 2013.

Meanwhile I've been putting the very last touches to my PhD thesis so that I can submit it for examination by All Saints Day. The viva voce - the oral defense of the thesis - follows 1-3 months later. My school is the venerable University of Liverpool in the UK. (All you need is love.)

On the horizon is the release of two books in January - The Wings of Morning (set in 1917) and Virginia City (set in 1875). They are from publishers in Ohio and Oregon.

This summer I finished my ACW novel (American Civil War). It is due for publication in 2013 just like the wilderness book.

I have at least one other book out there looking for a home and one other proposal for a book out there looking for a taker.

I spent Sunday reading the galleys (next to last version) of Virginia City. I spent yesterday (Monday) and today (Tuesday) going over the galleys for The Wings of Morning. Then I phoned my editor for Wings and went over the errors I had found with him. This took 2 hours and 5 minutes. But he's a nice guy so that made it go better.

I was at a local authors event last week and met a few people and sold copies of The White Birds of Morning. I wonder if I will hear from the Kobzar Award committee that White Birds is short-listed for the 2012 contest? Maybe. Maybe not.

Lots going on in your life and mine.

But I am looking for space to think more deeply and pray more deeply and hope more deeply . . .