22 October 2012

Broken Amish



Recently, due to a television program that has portrayed Amish youth in the big city, a lot of interest has been stirred up about these sectarian youth and efforts to transition them into the broader society.  Change is hard.  Change is painful. Change is enduring. Change is necessary.
Having been raised in a conservative Christian home, I know what it means to experience strong opinions about social issues.  There was a right way to think about something and a wrong way to think about it. 
 Absolutes were the daily menu of life.
 In Fundamental Baptist culture, most young men are specifically encouraged to consider giving up their own lives to ‘full time’ service for the Lord before even considering a practical job or career.  Teens are encouraged to be preachers, missionaries, evangelists, etc.  Bible College and marriage to someone of the opposite sex is usually the prerequisite for such an endeavor.  Leaving family and home’s surroundings, youth and young marrieds travel across the globe to ‘save’ the ‘heathen’.  Service for the Lord is considered paramount to being ‘full surrendered’ to God and his work on the Earth. 
Spirituality is gaged by ‘self- sacrifice’ of time, talent, and careers in order to please God. 
 For Amish youth, there are more practical living absolutes.  Going to school till the 8th grade, getting a job working hard with your hands, dating someone of the opposite sex, being baptized into church membership and marrying appropriately (within parental approval) are all very real absolutes in the life of an Amish young person.  There are few exceptions to this general rule of societal living, and usually someone who remains single is made to feel strange, like they are on the fringe of the group and less committed. 
Whatever the group, and whatever the pressure, breaking out of any set mold of conformity is very hard for an individual to do.  It is not specifically that emotions and feelings of hurting the sensibilities of others discourages, but rather that the one who desires change feels like embracing that change would somehow be less rewarding then the secure, socially constrained life they now live.  This reticence to step out and embrace something different is evidence of the broken condition a person develops under the demanding strain of social conformity.
Closed societies demand adherence to their principles by every member within their realm of influence.  No individualism of thought or deed can be tolerated if the group is to maintain balance.  People live with the constant mental knowledge of loss, pain, regret, and isolation if they ever choose to depart from the prescribed ways of their group.  In the military, a soldier in basic training is clearly shown the boundaries of the training camp.  He is familiarized with the term AWOL- absent without leave.  He is taught the direct consequences of him ever being unaccounted for or missing from where he is supposed to be, when he is supposed to be there.  Stories of beaten and bruised soldiers, lain up in hospitals and being recycled to go through basic training again for being caught AWOL, are very real examples taught to each new recruit.  Many fundamentalist Baptist youth grow up with feelings of terrible shame and failure if they do not succeed at ‘winning lost souls to Christ’ as preachers, missionaries and evangelists.  Amish know the extreme physical, emotional and spiritual shunning and censorship that will occur if they do not conform to the Order of their church.  
 These people are broken into the mold of their respective societal order.  
 They are not free spirits or individualists.  They are not encouraged to think outside of the box of what they are told.  They are not encouraged to see the world differently than by the view given to them.  They are not able to stand tall on their own, morally and socially responsible in their own right.  Being gay, or having same gender attraction is just one more thing added to the list of impossible options for many people living in closed cultural societies.  For a young fundamental Baptist, imaging what being free to live openly and honestly as his truly gay self is something far from remotely imaginable.  There is no legitimate option for existence seen in his mind.  An Amishman, who comes to acknowledge his true gay self inwardly, can only see a doomed future in embracing that reality. 
 There is no bright tomorrow, for the security and health of today within the acceptable embrace of society clouds out the glint of sunshine in the future.

How does one heal oneself from such brokenness? 
I. Recognize the blessing of Creation in your personal life. 
    -God made you who you are individually as a person who is loved and unique
II. Embrace the value of order and tradition but appreciate opportunities for innovation
    -God has people in differing situations for specific reasons.  He had a Noah, Moses and Abraham, he doesn’t need you to be them, he wants you to be you.
III. Have faith that God’s ways are not always what humans think they are.
    -Church order and societal constraints are not direct commands of God but are man-made
   -Life is possible outside of the prescribed agenda of any given society, and it can be healthy
IV. Closed societies are not the God-given manner for all people to dwell within
   -Individuals can live happily outside of tightly controlled environments
    -Being openly honest and true with yourself about your same gender attraction can be the most rewarding decision you make in your life.
   -Meeting a partner, finding a job and having a new family, church group and supportive community is all actually possible outside of the constraints of closed societies.
V. Believe enough to make the choice, and step out by faith to do it.
    -God desires obedience far more than sacrifice.  He asks you to be honest and true, before him and with others.  It is better to obey him than to hide within the ‘safety’ of socially closed churches, sacrificing the chance to be who you really are openly.
- Fear of man brings a snare and torment into one’s life.  Living daily with that fear is not healthy.

One of the biggest things that the youth portrayed in the recent television showed mentioned, was that they feared being alone and living out in the wider world unsupported. 
  Living a closeted life of self-deprecation within the ‘supportive community’ is a lonelier existence and more damaging than stepping out and embracing who you are honestly. 
  It is my sincere prayer and hope that those, living inside communities who restrict the possibility of anyone actually living openly as their gay self, be encouraged to embrace healing for  themselves of their broken spirits and step out by faith to live before God how they were created by him to be. 
Many conservative churches and people will not change their minds about the reality of gays.  Gay people within those churches must choose to live outside of their societies boundaries or remain broken within.  Coming OUT is the change that is needed and living OUT is the healing that can make a positive difference in the lives of any same gender attracted person.






The content of this post is written by the author of this blog for the purpose of encouragement and enlightenment on issues facing GLBT person's in or from Old Order and Conservative Christian church affiliation. Comments and observations are always welcomed by follower's of this blog towards fostering helpful dialogue and enrichment of spirit.

06 August 2012

Gay Amish: Surviving the Shunning


Gay Amish: Surviving the Shunning
In any family unit, whenever a member is cut off and ostracized, it is a very painful experience for all involved.  Unfortunately, this is all too often what happens to a member of many conservative and Old Order churches when that person is revealed to have same gender attraction.  Such is the vehement abhorrence of this particular issue, that it is considered a ‘gross sin’ and worthy of coming before the whole congregation for judgment and excommunication.  Amongst the Old Order churches, different levels of sin are understood to exist, and the German word ‘gross’ refers to ‘big’ in English.  Having same gender attraction or being gay, is definitely considered a BIG sin.

Form of Discipline
Shunning is the official form of discipline in many Old Order churches.  Varying degrees of judgments are passed in private by council meetings of Elders and Deacons in regards to a person’s misdeeds in the community.   Most are considered for the severity of the actual trespass in the minds of the individual congregation, and the impact on other congregations or the church’s reputation in the surrounding civil community.  If a person is seen smoking, or drinking, or a member is witnessed going into a movie theatre, that offending member might be privately reprimanded or forced to confess publicly during a specially held council meeting and/or before they are permitted to partake of communion.  Certain moral transgressions are often dealt with discreetly in private, with individuals being counseled and reprimanded by Elders for their behavior.  Many times, a type of social stigma is placed upon a person for their offence to the community of believers and they are barred from shaking hands or the spiritual kiss amongst members for their transgression.

Administering the Discipline
 Old Order Amish are noted for practicing one of the most strict forms of this discipline, but when it comes to this particular issue of being gay, even Old Order Mennonites and Old German Baptists behave just about the same way as their Amish cousins.  Being gay trumps all of the lesser evils committed by erring brethren and runs right to the top of the list of don’ts known by any of these church members.  If a church member of one of these congregations is found out or reported to the ministry as having committed a sexual act with someone of the same gender, or if they are known to be interested in doing so, that person will immediately be considered under suspicion and seriously in doubt of their position as a member in that congregation.  The Bishop, Ruling Elder and at least one other minister or deacon will visit the offending member in their home and immediately explain that they’ve received report of this heinous sin being present in the congregation and that it must be dealt with according to the biblical injunctions of Matthew 18.  The Amish believe the scripture literally commands church members not to eat any meal with those who have been disciplined by the church.  Mennonites and Brethren often do not carry their discipline this far, preferring to only prohibit eating the communion meal together.  Following the visit in the home of the offender, the ministry will then let it be known that a council meeting is to be held to deal with this situation, at which time the transgressor is expected to publicly confess their sins and submit to the church’s discipline.  If the member is not present to do this, the congregation will accept the absence as proof of guilt and officially ban that member from their fellowship.

Options for life
When an Amish, German Baptist or Mennonite has been disciplined for being gay,  there are only two options in life for that individual: One, is to accept the discipline as just and bear with the scorn, in the hopes of showing enough contrition to be allowed back into the congregation as a valid member, understanding that there will always be the stigma of being less than everyone else; Two, is to not accept the judgment of the church as just and to embrace God’s love for all people no matter what their sexual orientation happens to be, choosing to live outside of the community and its prejudices.  Continuing to live amongst a society and culture that has proscribed one’s existence as sinful, abnormal, variant and unhealthy can be most difficult and emotionally damaging to the point of suicidal temptations.
Leaving the family and community one has only ever known to live outside in a big wide world of differing cultural influences can be a challenge and a very daunting prospect.  Contact with other supportive Christians and people familiar with Old Order life can be a great help to any individual who has experienced such change and loss in their life.

Choosing to Believe
If someone who has same gender attraction is disciplined by their Old Order or Conservative Christian community, and they choose to leave, finding their way spiritually can be a challenge.  Many church members understand participation in the congregation to be the ultimate experience of spirituality, with personal beliefs and knowledge being somewhat secondary.  For an individual separated outside of such a community, there exists a choice of what to believe or not believe about the whole host of Christian teachings and even beyond to other religious concepts.  Many gay people who have been shunned or rejected by family and church, will feel like God and Christianity has rejected them as well.  This is not true!  One section of religious bias and prejudice may be against the existence of same gender attraction in the lives of God’s created beings, but that does not mean that all of Conservative Christian teaching is rubbish.  I believe wholeheartedly that one can remain true to just about all the basic and foundational teachings of the Old Order and Conservative Christian churches and still value their same gender attraction as a gift God created them with.  Individuals choosing to live outside of the community will be faced with real choices concerning what clothing styles to follow, what kinds of work environments they feel comfortable in and what kinds of friends and social connections they are going to make.

Hope and Stability
For a church member who has experienced shunning from their Old Order or Conservative Christian community, there is hope and stability in life to be found.  Clinging to faith in God and belief in His love for us as part of His Creation can be spiritually stabilizing amidst a sea of disrespect and disparagements. Living a happy and good life, working and providing for oneself and others, will eventually show those who detract from your legitimacy that you are acceptable in the beloved of all God’s creatures.  You hold a valuable place on this Earth, and having same gender attraction in no way detracts from that truth.  Yes, the Bible condemns hurtful and degrading physical acts of violence towards all genders of people, but loving and committed sharing together between any two people is a gift and blessing to be cherished.  There is hope and blessing to be had for any gay person who has suffered the experience of shunning and/or excommunication from their church community.  Jesus Christ is a faithful friend, and the Love of God exists to heal and bind up the wounds such experiences can create.  May we ever look to our Creator, who gave and forgave that we might be healed and live!




07 July 2012

Gay Amish and Monastic


Gay Amish and Monastic

To many people, these three words would seem to embody totally different qualities which are mutually exclusive from one another.  Many still view being gay as a licentious aberrant lifestyle, being Amish as a seriously controlled lifestyle and being a Monk as totally ascetic.

These three things do have a central common connection- clothing, and its related issues of moral composure.  Gays in today’s society are ridiculed by Conservative Christians for being flagrantly promiscuous and unabashedly free with the exposure of their bodies.  The Amish are still predominantly regarded as some of the last bastions of Cultural conservatism.  Monastic living is often regarding by many, as the ultimate retreat of spirituality, away from all the wrongs of the outside world.

Sexuality and clothing are directly related issues in Conservative Christian theology.  Many churches have promoted the idea that the level of physical exposure of the body is directly proportionate to the likelihood of promiscuous behavior.  The more exposed a person is, it has been assumed, the more sinful and capable of sexually explicit activity.
From the early days of Monastic Orders being established, Christians have been preoccupied with the amount of physical exposure they allow their bodies to have in public. Church attitudes regarding clothing have been historically based on examples from Old Testament scripture regarding the garments of the Jewish Levitical priesthood and their purification laws.  Monks have for centuries traditionally worn garments based on these criteria.  During and after the Reformation, the Anabaptist groups of believers, many of whose leaders were former Monks, adopted similar orders of dress and sober living, perpetuating the concept that more covering equals less sin. I do not doubt that for some, being Gay has included a reaction to traditional thinking regarding clothing and deportment.  Being Gay should specifically refer to one’s same gender attraction regardless of any other behaviors or attitudes individually expressed or accompanying that person. An Amish person is specifically defined outwardly by their unique cultural garb, as is a Monk.  Gay people are in all different garbs and cultural costumes around the world and in every society. 

Another connecting issue between these three groups of people is the morality issue that accompanies why clothing is worn by conservative Christians.  Promiscuous behavior is constantly linked to lack of clothing or tightly worn provocative apparel.  Monks have chosen the long-robed look, and Amish have chosen the long-sleeved, long trouser combination.  Many Gay people, in reaction to these severe dress codes and their accompanying ostracizing attitudes, have become flamboyantly free with their bodies. Monks stressed rules of celibacy and Amish society’s strongly enforced heterosexual marriages, all specifically exclude the possibility of any physical intimacy or paring together contrary to their order.  Monks profess through celibacy, that they are physically reserved unto Christ and that their bodies are holy temples not to be profaned by sexual intimacy with another human being.  The Amish staunchly reserve sexuality only for procreation purposes within the confines of marriage between a man and a woman.  Both of these groups of people reject that sexuality is a physical attribute and characteristic given by God to be cherished and enjoyed healthily as a naturally occurring part of the human creation.  They insist on sexuality and intimacy either being locked away from all human experience or secretly confined behind long clothing, locked doors and only within a lawfully acknowledged marriage.  Any sexual activity that occurs outside of these controls is immediately considered aberrant, unlovely and detestable sin.

Whenever people create a box to live in, it becomes an attraction to any who desire safety and comfort.  Many, many young gay individuals have been and continue to be attracted to the celibacy of Monkish ordered life or the ascetic value of the Amish way due to the safety and societal acceptance living in this manner would bring to their lives.  Conservative Christian theology, with its stringent clothing and moral expectations which exclude the possibility of being Gay, constantly beats down and destroys the safety and human dignity of any under their influence who dare differ with them.  Some gay people choose to accept these rigours and embrace the box, while others break free, ‘come OUT’ and live more openly honest with their bodies.

The issues of clothing, dress, nakedness and sexuality are continually entwined in the psyche of Western Culture and particularly influenced by the traditional religious past.  In the modern age, as some have reacted to past teachings by establishing nudist colonies and beaches, humans have shown more examples of life ‘outside of the box’.  Some are clearly able to see and appreciate the natural expression of nakedness as something totally separate from promiscuous sexual behavior.  Gay people often find acceptance of their differing relationships amongst these people because they too live outside of the box.  Yes, unfortunately, humans do commit unsavory acts of sexual aggression and transgress the laws of the land concerning sexual offenses.  The reasons for these atrocities are the subject of another discussion, but not necessarily directly related to types of clothing or the lack thereof.

Being a Monk and observing the long robed discipline of a particular order has its place and time of experience for those who truly and spiritually desire to live that way.  

Being Amish and observing the disciplined ordered life of community in their way has its purpose and time for those choosing to live that way as well.

Being Gay and being free to dress and respect oneself as one of God’s Creations, is equally purposeful and timely.

All three groups of individuals, choosing to live and associate with others according to their cultural and physical abilities, have a place on this earth to breath and live according to the conscience God has given them.  Oh that we all may dwell together in peace and love as Christ truly taught us to love, our neighbors as ourselves.


07 March 2012

Gay Amish and Gelassenheit

Gay Amish and Gelassenheit

In a continuing  effort to write on this subject, I want to mention the importance of structure and belief  in relation to personal identity.  Being Gay Amish or Gay Mennonite, or Gay Conservative Christian of many differing denominations is extremely difficult.  On the surface, the communities ignorance concerning individualism stifles and subjugates a gay persons identity as such.  Inwardly and privately, a gay individual must deal with the concept of submission to the Church and its traditions in relation to their own same gender attraction.

Preaching and teaching, verbally pronouncing having same gender attraction as a personal lustful desire and sin, denying any possible reality of someone actually being created from birth with that identity, is the most common approach taken by Old Order and Conservative Christian ministers.

Common stereotypical  opinions of Gays being overtly sexual, indecently exposed, predatory, disease ridden and utterly unnatural are all too often the assumed characteristics of anyone who identifies as Gay among these people.
Due to long held but mis-informed interpretations of certain scriptural texts (i.e. Sodom & Gomorrah) most Old Order Amish and other Conservative Christian groups automatically assume that anyone Gay must share the lustful and base desires of all fornicators, adulterers, abusers, and deviants mentioned throughout the Bible.  Many would automatically assume that HIV (AIDS) is a direct and just judgment or plague from God against Gays in general around the World for their lustful and sinful acts.  Even some conservative and evangelical Christians among mainstream society openly broadcast their opinion that “homosexuality is ‘unnatural’, that it's detrimental and ultimately destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization.-Kirk Cameron”

Apart from these vocalized prejudices against Gay people existing inside or outside of Old Order and Conservative Christian communities, there is another powerful form of repression -The Church Order or ‘Ordnung’.
 Most Amish communities have unwritten but generally known and understood guidelines for their daily activities, employment, dress and general living.  There are some written statements as well, and both of these serve to guide the church member into the appropriate communal expression of ‘right living’ or ‘Christ-like’ testimony.  Most Old Order churches and many Conservative Christian churches have this concept of obedience to ‘Church order and Biblical principles’ deeply embedded in their understanding of what it means to be Christian and faithful to God.
The Ordnung is used to produce gelassenheit, which is to be shown via a yielding of spirit to the traditions. The Amish glance back into the past and examine their traditions, treasuring them.
Modern culture's aggressive individualism sharply contrasts with the Amish gelassenheit. Through gelassenheit, an Amish person yields to the Ordnung, the will of God, church, elders, parents, community, and traditions. The individual suppresses the will of 'self' in lieu of the Amish community.
By giving up individuality and any thought of selfishness, they embrace God's will by serving others and submitting to Him. To the Amish, Gelassenheit is seen in all of the following aspects of Amish life:
Personality: reserved, modest, calm, quiet
Values: submission, obedience, humility, simplicity
Symbols: dress, horse, carriage, lantern
Structure: small, informal, local, decentralized
Ritual: baptism, confession, ordination, foot-washing.
— The Riddle of Amish Culture, Donald Kraybill ,  Johns Hopkins UP, 1989, p.26. “

Gelassenheit is probably the most powerful single factor of Amish identity, because it expresses the individuals submission to the communal opinion of right and wrong for all areas of life.
If the community feels being gay is wrong, that having same gender attraction is not a born identity but rather a deadly sinful lust, then Gelassenheit demands an individuals will be united with the Church in agreement.
 For an individual to maintain opinions contrary to the generally accepted ones of their community is to add unhealthy characteristics to their own personality and values.

Due to the rampant stereotypes labeling gay people, Old Order Amish and other Conservative Christians automatically assume that being gay militates against the principles and values propagated by Gelassenheit.
Gays who are flamboyant, extremely social, fashion conscious, lively, vocal or independent  in the ‘English’ world, are seen as the obvious expression of what it means to have same gender attraction.  These characteristics are seen as totally in opposition to what it means to be a humble, conservative, God-fearing Christian.  Overcoming these obstacles may seem nigh to impossible, but truly, the only way for people to eventually understand is for them to be confronted with their own misunderstandings.

Conservative Christians and Old Order Amish and other similar groups need to be made aware of the legitimate existence of people with same gender attraction, even amongst their own congregations.

Many statistics point out that at least one-in-ten amongst any group of people on the planet, have same gender attraction.  Being Gay is simply having same gender attraction.  It is not a foregone conclusion or subscription to the many stereotypes which abound, supposedly defining what being Gay really is.

It is totally possible for someone to be brought up in a Conservative Christian home or Old Order Church community and have same gender attraction without any of the stereotypical characteristics so often used to categorized all Gay people.
Someone who understands their own same gender attraction, is not automatically akin to all the foul and vile abuses and actions recorded in scripture as perpetrated by fornicators, adulterers and the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Just because someone is Gay does not mean they are overtly sexual, sexually abusive, a pedophile, sexual predator or prone to using illegal substances.
  Being Gay does not automatically consign one’s heart and feelings to be non-existent or stifle any spiritual cognition concerning God or the Bible.In fact, many Gay people are desirous to be included and accepted by the Church, in spite of the rejection they all too often receive.

In summary, I would like to reiterate and remark that having same gender attraction is as natural to an individual as liking a particular flavor of ice cream.  A young boy does not choose to grow up and be attracted to girls, he just does.  A young girl does not choose to grow up and like boys, she just does.
Usually.
 There just happens to exist a small percentage of people in this world, who actually grow up liking someone of the same gender. 
They are not unnatural, or alien. 
They are not cursed of God.
They are not flawed and marred by sin for their attraction.
They can and do exist in every culture across the planet.

Being submissive to the Order of the Church and the Conservative standard of ‘Righteousness’ is totally possible for someone of same gender attraction, but it sure would be easier and healthier for them to live honestly and openly as God created them, if their same gender attraction was appreciated.

Written with Care and Love for all,

Joseph

13 February 2012

Being Gay and Amish

Being Gay and Amish


Though the Old Order Amish church has historically maintained a strict difference between its cultural religious society and the rest of the world, it members are created human beings with all the same inherent traits of humans living in the larger society.
Social desires for love and companionship and familial bonds are just as evident amongst Amish people as they are in existence among Non-Amish people. Human character traits and capacities for thought, work, learning, and achievement all exist along with common human vices like greed, malice, ignorance and procrastination.

In North America, there is a created sense of wonder and nostalgic euphoria regarding the Amish because of their dress and manner of living connected with common ideals of family and home life. This sense of wonder attracts outsiders to embrace the idea that the Amish are somehow free of the maladies and distresses that have openly been expressed by wars and economic failures in our larger society. The family farming together, living close to the land, and operating on a slower speed of travel within a local area, are all socially attractive ingredients which contribute to this sense of wonder. Since the World Wars and the Great Depression effectively changed many things in the larger culture, pushing women into the workforce and causing mass migrations of people off farms and into the city, the Amish are often seen as the last remnants of better days. Some even would say that because of their austerity, they also have maintained a purity from the ‘societal evils’ evident in our modern lifestyles.  The music liberation and equality movements of the Sixties and Seventies basically left the Amish untouched and therefore ‘untainted.’

It is true that due to the many conservative and traditional standards of living upheld by the Amish, their society has been able to persevere and continue largely unchanged from the late 18th Century to the present.  Agriculturally and economically, the Amish have benefited from advancements in technology that they gradually embraced, but they have certainly been selective and careful.  Likewise, societal norms concerning lifestyles, education, healthcare, insurance and occupations have also been carefully adjusted to the times.  Fewer and fewer Amish men are able to maintain a living directly from farming, many children attend public or private schooling and church districts and regions pool finances for aiding members with large medical and insurance bills.

Relationship to members within one’s local community is still the highest priority amongst members of Old Order Amish congregations.  Obeying the order or Ordnung is simply the most obvious outward sign of that inner submission to the will of the group. Individualism expressed openly in contradiction to this Order is still cause for separation and seclusion.

Personal lifestyles are traditionally formed along the ‘man meets girl, they get baptized, then married and have children’ concept.  For a young man to have inward feelings contrary to this notion is totally unacceptable in the eyes of the local congregation because it simply goes against the traditional order.  Biblical defense of the order against same gender attraction is an evangelically influenced recent reaction.
In the past, men or women with same gender attraction simply married and bore with their ‘temptations’ buried inside them personally rather than individually stand out.

Today, in the larger society of ‘worldly English’ this coming ‘OUT’ individually from the traditional understanding has been increasingly evident.  Same gender attraction is not something new or the product of a perverse society converting people.  People are coming out individually demonstrating their honest same gender identity because society has encouraged individual liberty of conscience.

As the Old Order Amish continue to adapt their lives to influences surrounding them, they will hopefully also be able to embrace enough liberty of conscience to allow for same gender attraction amongst them.

That day has yet to come and is not now, so for any and all Amish people with same gender attraction, they have two choices.
1. Recognize their natural and personal attraction to same gender people and choose not to join the church with its prescribed heterosexual order of marriage.
2. Join the church, remaining closeted about their honest self and either remain unmarried or marry with themselves deeply buried inside their person, outwardly submitting to the Order.

Due to the predominantly segregated manner of living amongst Amish people, men usually participate socially with other men, and women with other women.  The traditional taboos concerning sexuality for anything other than procreation cause this segregation in almost all areas of life.  Sitting at a dinner table, sitting in worship, standing in line at a potluck, working together, playing Croquet together, singing together and socializing casually are all done in very segregated ways compared to most of these activities as done in the larger society.  This is particularly enabling for someone of same gender attraction because they are mostly with who they are comfortable with.  Due to this fact, I believe it is certainly possible for a same gender attracted person or ‘Gay Amish’ to grow up and remain fairly comfortable until the age of marriage.

Unfortunately, due to the continued insistence upon strictly man and woman marriage, Old Order Amish members are not at liberty to proclaim or live out a same gender attraction openly.  To say that there are no ‘Gay Amish’ would certainly be an error due to proven statistics concerning human characteristics.  For Amish parents who become aware of their child’s sexual orientation, the best thing they could do for them is to support and encourage them to deal honestly and openly before God and make the appropriate choice for their life before committing to marriage and the Order of the Church.

God doesn’t make any junk and our sexual attraction is an inherent characteristic of our individual person as a gift from God.  No one tells another who they love or don’t love, it just is in you to love whom you love.  Men do not learn to be attracted to women, they just are or they’re not.  Women do not become attracted to men, they just are or they are not.  People can learn and be told whom they marry, but years of evidence prove what becomes of those type of relationships.  God is Love and when we are truly open to his leading in our life, then we can truly love another person as we should.  Who are we to judge another persons capacity for love?

Being Amish and Gay also requires a certain dealing with and coming to grips with terminology.  So many people, especially conservative Christians automatically connect being ‘Gay’ with being ‘promiscuous, unruly, effeminate and sexually divergent’ people. It is important to understand that these characteristics are specifically personified onto the ‘Gay’ label by prejudiced haters of same gender attracted people.  Truly, there are many people who live and commit acts which fit this description, but those acts do not make them ‘Gay’ for doing them, because many ‘straight, heterosexually identified’ people commit such things regularly.  The term ‘Gay’ originally meant ‘happy and free’.
Today, it is broadly applied to those members of society with same gender attraction who may express their identity ‘happily and freely’.  When a couple of young girls publicly kiss one another in the company of their school friends, they are labeled as ‘Gay’.  When two men walk hand in hand down the boardwalk along a public beach, they are labeled ‘Gay’.

Amongst same gender attracted people, being ‘Gay’ simply refers to one having same gender attraction, but does not specifically judge or classify that person to any specific list of actions, dress, occupations, clothing, hairstyles, colors or musical tastes.  These stereotypical associations are based on generalizations that are certainly not all encompassing of everyone who has same gender attraction.  Certainly amongst Amish conservative and traditionalist society, many of the common ‘Gay’ things are not even known or participated in.  An Amishman with same gender attraction will most probably look and act just like his fellow ‘straight’ Amishmen. Being Gay and Amish is not defined by whether a man is more feminine or a woman more masculine.  It is not defined by whether a man shows the ‘typical’ signs of being ‘Gay’ like what is often stereotypical in the larger society.
A person is Gay if they have same gender attraction, regardless of what religious or social connections they have been brought up living in.

Another area of challenge for someone who is Gay and Amish, is the issue of religious belief and fellowship.  Unfortunately, due to the strong prejudice amongst conservative Church people, being openly gay bars one from continued fellowship with them.  Finding an affirming church that recognizes a same gender attracted person as being legitimately Christian still, is very hard to find amongst Conservative Christian fellowships.  Many liberal Christians have seen through the prejudice against Gay peoples and have embraced them openly, but for an Amishman to find comfortable worship there, he must participate in many unfamiliar worship practices. Many modern and liberal Christians would automatically assume that if a person is gay and desiring to be in church, then they must obviously be in harmony with liturgical worship concepts, women in ministry and having uncovered heads, multiple bible versions, instrumental music, casual dress and modesty standards, higher education, differing occupations and entertainments, ornamented living, and alcoholic consumption.  These departures from traditional Christian principles are not necessarily automatic with being openly gay.  For someone Gay and Amish, these issues of faith and practice must individually be deciphered.  In a real sense, departing from the Old Order community of faith to live an openly gay life and yet still maintain a Christian consciousness will require many spiritual and religious practices to be individually interpreted. If an Amishman or Amishwoman who is gay, determines to live a celibate life, it may be possible to remain single and continue within the Order of the Church.  This is a personal sacrifice one must truly be convinced of doing.

Ironically, there have been many openly Gay people from the larger society, who for various reasons, have been attracted to and attempted to live within the confines of Old Order society.  Many times these efforts have been successful for periods of time, but those individuals often continue to struggle with understanding how to balance their honest and personal identity within the controlling aspect of community order.
In recent years, some plain dressing Conservative Friends (Quakers) have become more welcoming to openly gay people who share a conservative Christian faith and desire to live accordingly.

Overall, for someone to be Gay and Amish, they must simply recognize their personal and individual value as someone created by God, given the ability to love, naturally knowing that their attraction to the same gender is how they were born.  Then, they must choose to either embrace these facts through living and sharing their love with another, or continue to refrain from acknowledging something which differs from the community Ordnung and consciousness.  It is our hope that any and all who desire to deal with this issue of being Gay and Amish in their lives would find the grace and strength to be honest with themselves before God and choose to live healthily and happily.