My People, The Amish: The True Story Of An Amish Father And Son, by Joe Keim
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Aneko Press. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
This book is a striking example of how a book can answer a question on a seemingly entirely unrelated subject. In reading this book, for example, I was intrigued by how often the author made reference to a classic Anabaptist book of martyrs that I happen to have in my Florida library . Likewise, I was deeply struck by the relevance of the author’s experience with his own hardworking but strict and emotionally distant father and my own troubled experience with my own . Indeed, the theme of fatherhood and the elusive balance between discipline and love is a thread that runs deeply through this book and through its humorous appendices about the rules for dating the author’s daughter when she was a teenager, something I found highly entertaining to read, despite the potential awkwardness of the subject matter. Indeed, a great deal of this work straddled the line between the candid and the awkward, and between the sound and the unsound.
In terms of the book’s structure and contents, this book serves as both a personal memoir of the author’s own personal background and as a call for the reader to support his efforts to evangelize among the Amish, bringing them to Christ, as it were. One might think that the Amish, being very serious Anabaptists, were already Christians, but the author seems to imply if not directly state that he does not view them as such, which gives a bit of an edge to his efforts to educate the Amish on the Bible that are discussed towards the end of the book. Throughout the 200 pages of this book the author discusses his own upbringing in a particularly severe Amish group with strict manmade standards about how life was to be–the dimensions of one’s buggy, the choice of leaders by lot, the colors of one’s drapery and so on, his rebellious teenage years, marriage to a similarly rebellious young woman, and his break from the Amish and his family and professional and spiritual life afterward. Whether or not one agrees with the author–and I found much to disagree with personally–there is also much to empathize with for those of us who grew up in strict circumstances in somewhat marginal subcultures that left us unable to fully get along with outsiders.
How one feels about this book will depend on many factors. For one, I saw the author’s view of the Amish world as a mission field for spreading discontent more than a little bit unsettling, the same way I would view someone who saw the Church of God community as a mission field for the author’s Antinomian views, which would be particularly unwelcome. Naturally, my own hostility to the author’s approach to evangelism certainly colored my view of his supposed conversion narrative which I viewed less than entirely praiseworthy. The author’s discussion of his thawed relationship with his father after some decades could also be viewed as an act of moral corruption in which the author seeks to pit love against law, grace against works, in the manner of contemporary degeneracy within our larger culture concerning personal sins. Even so, despite the fact that I did not view the author’s own spiritual views or behavior within Amish society all that highly, I thought the author did a good job at explaining his own life, even if his justifications rang more than a little bit hollow for myself personally. Whether or not you get a lot out of this book will depend, more than usually, on what you bring to the table from your own experience, and your own view of our culture’s complicated view of the Amish as being backwards and repressive but also as an example of a moral culture that has survived despite our contemporary decadence .
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