Learning from the Amish in the Wake of Pres. Obama’s Affirmation of Same-Sex Marriages

My old Xanga site is so ancient history, but it’s taken President Obama’s very public affirmation of same-sex marriages to get me off my blogger’s butt and start up here on WordPress.com.

Since you probably don’t know a thing about me, let me toss a few factoids at you, so you’ll at least know a bit about where I’m coming from on this and future issues.  I’m in my late fifties, am a 3Gen American with Chinese ancestors, and I’m the senior pastor of an American (as opposed to a Southern or Conservative) Baptist church in the sprawling suburban valley just east of downtown LA.

Ok, enough with the formalities. 

As most of the world knows, President Obama has now given his blessing to same-sex marriages, the first sitting POTUS to do so. If he manages to get re-elected now, even though he’s probably lost whatever chances he had of winning any of the Bible Belt states, then he probably won’t be the last POTUS to do this.  If he loses in November and if it’s clear that his affirmation was a major source of his downfall, then it might be years before a Presidential incumbent or candidate follows suit.

So I wonder how the Amish are taking his announcement?

While the progressive wing of Protestantism is celebrating, most of the conservatives are already reacting negatively.  Billy Graham’s son Franklin today declared that the President has just slapped God in the face and countless others from this side of the aisle are gnashing their teeth and draping themselves in sack cloth and ashes.  Surely, America is headed straight to hell in the fast lane.  “Come quickly, Lord Jesus, and rescue Your righteous few!”

Even assuming the American Amish Christians don’t use the internet, I’m guessing that these ‘backwards’ brethren of ours have learned of the President’s change of heart on this divisive issue.  If they’ve already rejected electricity, internal combustion engines, shopping for clothes at Macy’s and shaving their beards, I’m pretty sure that they must have immediately rejected same-sex marriages.  Even if there have always been gay or lesbian members of their communities, I seriously doubt that they were ever embraced in the past.  And just because the President and Vice-Prez have endorsed same-sex marriages, I don’t think the Amish will be performing any of those weddings.  Ever.

Throughout the centuries, even as the majority of Christians in America have learned to ‘go with the flow’ of our culture’s shifting tides, the Amish have gone on pursuing their lives in accordance with the strict Amish-Christian beliefs, values, and traditions.  Unlike many other American Protestants, I’m guessing that they have chosen not to tolerate divorce, remarriage, out-of-wedlock children, cohabitation outside of marriage, premarital sex, etc.  The entire world around them might turn inside out and upside down, but the Amish persevere in choosing to live the way they believe is most pleasing to God Almighty.

What a stark contrast they are to the rest of us American Protestants.  So many of us are sounding the klaxons today, freaked out to the core that the current resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (and his wife and daughters) believes that all Americans should be afforded the same protection under the Constitution.  “Is this the tipping point for us to commit civil disobedience?”  “How in God’s holy name are we going to be able to protect our churches and our children from being infected and affected by this unholy stand?”  “If there was ever a time to home-school all our children, this would be that time.”  “We clearly are living in the Last Days.”

So why are so many of us so bent out of shape over what the Prez and VP have just said?  It’s clear that many Christians vehemently disagree with their position on gay marriage, but what’s not as clear is the apparent presumption that is fueling much of the fear and outrage.  What is it?  My take is that too many American Christians–especially of the conservative variety–presume that American society as a whole is supposed to line up with a conservative Christian reading of the Bible and the value systems that arise from that.  The Amish, on the other hand, don’t appear to make that presumption at all.  In fact, historically, they seem to presume that the world around them is NOT going to match their Christian values and views.  Their attitude has always been to stay committed to what matters most to them, regardless of what the world is doing.  Even if they’re completing surrounded by that world.  No matter which way the world decides to go, the Amish are determined to make choices that are rooted in their Christian convictions.  So I seriously doubt that they feel threatened in the least by this latest development.

It’s not like, up until yesterday, America’s values and laws lined up almost perfectly with what most Christians deem to be God-pleasing ways to live.  Prostitution has been legal in some states for years.  Due to the internet, porn is more accessible today than ever before.  Cigarettes are sold everywhere, and so is alcohol.  And even though the gospel of Christ calls us to live at peace with everyone, America is still teeming with racists, sexists and bigots.  Some even think of themselves as serious Christ-followers, too.  My point is that America might have plenty of self-described “Christians” living here, but it was never meant to be a theocratic, Christian nation.  Somewhere along the way, many American Christians seem to have lost sight of the fact that Jesus has called us to be like strangers and aliens wherever we are.  To be in the world yet not of the world.  To be surrounded by a world that doesn’t reinforce most of what we believe, but we faithfully practice our beliefs anyway.

So even if the Amish are upset about the POTUS’ endorsement of same-sex marriages, they don’t for a second feel that their way of living as Christians in America is threatened at all.  If you’re Amish, nothing’s changed.


About pken1997

3rd gen American Born Chinese, originally from Sacramento, CA, but moved to LA in 1978 to finish seminary @ Fuller in Pasadena. Joined the staff of Evergreen Baptist Church of LA in 1981 and became senior pastor in 1997 after the church 'hived.' Re-imagined our church to be Faith Village, a picture and preview of what God is doing in and for all creation. I was a trustee for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Westmont College, and the Asian American Drug Abuse Program. I wrote one of the first books on the future of Asian American churches ("Pursuing the Pearl") and was the Bible expositor at Urbana 2000. I am a organizational transformation consultant with The Genysys Group and a North American delegate to the 3rd Lausanne Congress on Evangelism in Cape Town, South Africa (Oct '10). I've been married since 1981 and our daughter was born in 1999.
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4 Responses to Learning from the Amish in the Wake of Pres. Obama’s Affirmation of Same-Sex Marriages

  1. Pete says:

    Very good points there, Pastor Ken. While reading your blog post, I had that Beatles-inspired line in my head (“Nothing’s gonna change my world”). Well balanced. Thanks.

  2. Ron Byrnes says:

    “. . . it was never meant to be a theocratic, Christian nation.” That’s where many fundamentalist Christians would disagree with you. They believe we have a special status, a “light on the hill” if you will. A SoCal pastor friend recommended your post, but I have to admit, I’m left perplexed by the ambiguity. I have no idea whether or not you support gay equality/marriage. Maybe that was intentional.

    • Geoff says:

      “A SoCal pastor friend recommended your post, but I have to admit, I’m left perplexed by the ambiguity. I have no idea whether or not you support gay equality/marriage. Maybe that was intentional.”

      I have no intention of speaking for the pastor, but my experience is that religious types who speak with such ambiguity are trying to hide their unorthodox beliefs while appearing orthodox. He does make a valid point that we shouldn’t expect non-Christians to live like Christians.

  3. Art says:

    “So even if the Amish are upset about the POTUS’ endorsement of same-sex marriages, they don’t for a second feel that their way of living as Christians in America is threatened at all. If you’re Amish, nothing’s changed.”

    Ken, I think you left out one word in your last sentence: “Yet”. If people are upset with Obama’s same-sex affirmation, it is not necessarily because they were disillusioned that everyone had the same brand of Christianity they have. Perhaps they are looking down the road to where this all may lead – the very real possibility that your brand of Christianity (or that of the Amish) may be outlawed. Pete, in the above post writes, “Nothing’s gonna change my world.” I think Obama would tell Pete, “Yes, we can.”

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