The Amish Beard-cutting Fiasco: A Time to be Silent & A Time to Speak

Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7b-8a

A Time for Everything

   There is a time …  and a season for every activity under the heavens:
   … a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate

The time for silence is past, and the time to speak has arrived. I’ve done well, these past nine months, or so, since the Amish beard-cutting scandal hit the news, and I heard of it. In spite of the fact that it reeked of all kinds of corruption, and in a plain culture, from which I come, I didn’t write a word about it, and barely said a peep to anyone. Until tonight.

Photo Credits

And I wasn’t silent because I don’t have thoughts or opinions on the matter. I have thoughts and opinions on just about everything that I am at all educated on, and I had followed this story closely, reading everything I saw on it.

I kept silent because the story is negative in every way, and I don’t like to feed negative energy. And I didn’t want to give the story any more power or attention than it’s already getting. If the man (Samuel Mullet Sr) was already on a power trip, and as corrupt as they come, before he made the news, I don’t see bad publicity being any good for him. He’s probably tallying up brownie points somewhere for having so effectively, and publicly, shamed a community. But that’s not really what made me decide to write now, and it’s not what I will focus on.

Tonight, when my friend and fellow blogger, Katie Troyer posted a link to a news article on the story on Facebook, I read again about all the people Mullet victimized, and I was angry. For the first time I felt compelled to speak. The beard cutting is bad enough, but it’s the sexual victimization, coercion, manipulation, seduction and fear-mongering that enrages me as much as anything.

I know well, from my own past, the power of religious leaders and the spiritual abuse and control they can impose on people. I know how the truth can be twisted into a lie, and a lie into the truth, through brainwashing, by power-hungry, evil men. (Which they are not all, though there are more than enough.) I’ve walked that road. But Mullet took that corruption to a whole new level of evil, compared to anything I experienced, or saw previously.

When I read the stories of the women he victimized, I was repulsed and angry. Repulsed that any man claiming to represent God would violate the vulnerable so completely, and angry that religion is used to accomplish such evil ends.

To be honest, I was cranky before I ever read the article, and my mood didn’t help. Lately it seems the devil is having way to much fun, wrecking lives. It seems that, where God is doing good, the devil is working overtime at a discounted rate, to undo any good that’s been done.

Last night that got the better of me. It made me angry. Not the ‘external, yell at people, and do some damage’ kind of anger, but that inner anger at watching lives disrupted, relationships damaged and hearts crushed or broken. Especially when there are religious entanglements, and inappropriate religious controls–often based on a stand-alone Bible verse or two, pulled randomly out of context. That kind of thing sets people up to struggle in their faith and become completely disillusioned.

For example, preaching ‘children obey your parents’ and ‘honour your father and mother’ to an adult in their twenties, or thirties-old or older, for choices that don’t comply with a parent’s wishes, while disregarding, ‘Fathers provoke not your children to wrath’, brings incredible imbalance to interpretation of scripture. It makes a mockery out of God’s word and His intended message, when people use random verses to support personal agenda. Granted, often with a good heart, but wrong none-the-less.

Having witnessed the damage of that type of thing yesterday, and then reading this article today, I realized just how far wrong religious control can go, if left unchecked.

It is as a good friend said today, “It seems, sometimes, that the ‘whiter the robe’ (religious pretentiousness) the darker the sin.”

And that is just what I thought when I looked at the picture of Samuel Mullet Sr. and saw that boldly religious exterior, while reading somewhat of a horror story of who the man was, or is, and the crimes he committed against the women in his church, never mind his own daughters-in-law.

Photo Credits (Samuel Mullet Sr)

Surely he must have read the verses in Leviticus that say a man is not to be sexually involved with his daughter-in-law…  And if not that, at least the ten commandments instructing us not to commit adultery. He must have known better. And then there’s always that simple bit about common sense and moral standards that would tell a leader that engaging in sexual interaction, on any level, with those under leadership is grossly inappropriate.

Oddly, while neglecting these most basic common-sense Christian principles, he has the audacity to enforce a host of man-made rules, that have nothing whatsoever to do with faith, salvation, or Christianity in general. They do, however, fully support his agenda, control and oppression. And falling back on fear-mongering and religious abuse to manipulate young women into submitting to sexual abuse that they would otherwise never give in to, is the ultimate violation of God’s heart, and their trust.

I find this story appalling, and given the opportunity I would go out of my way to help these victims recover, though that’s not too likely. (Unless of course, if by divine providence they show up at the Faith Girls Unleashed Conference in Canton Ohio, God willing, October 12 & 13. Though, what are the odds?… still, it can’t hurt to dream of helping.)

The one bit of good news in the entire article was found in the final paragraph, immediately following a rather pathetic statement:

“The defendants say the government shouldn’t intrude on what they call internal church disciplinary matters not involving anti-Amish bias. They’ve denied the charges and rejected plea bargain offers carrying sentences of two to three years in prison instead of possible sentences of 20 years or more.”

For any religious, or other, group to insist they are above the law, especially on issues that are clearly evil, isn’t terribly noble. It’s arrogant as it gets. And, besides, everyone seems to think that Amish are ‘cute’ and ‘quaint’ and peaceful. And most of the Amish I have met have been very kind and wonderful people, who, I am certain, are terribly embarrassed by Samuel Mullet’s behaviour. I don’t see a lot of anti-Amish bias going on, though there’s definitely anti-abuse and violence going on.

When it’s all said and done, it is good news that they are not falling for the plea-bargain offers. I feel much better knowing there’s a chance they will be locked up for twenty years. Two or three years, in my opinion, does not cut it–no pun intended–for the ongoing, deliberate, unrepentant abuse.

A dose of reality, including a twenty year prison sentence seems appropriate. And maybe, while there, they will be introduced to the true gospel of Jesus Christ and have a genuine encounter with Him. That would be, in my mind, the best case scenario.

Pure religion, on God’s terms, is a beautiful thing. But religion that is used for any other thing than to lift Jesus high, and draw humanity to Him, has a level of corruption and evil one cannot even put to words. It is the natural progression of things when religion and religious controls become our focus, rather than faith in Jesus Christ. It can’t produce any good. And where that line is crossed, who can know for sure?

© Trudy Metzger

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