Tuesday, January 09, 2018

How to Change the World

When Matt was home for Christmas, we talked about running for President, since a number of people have told him he should.

He has a gift for seeing all sides of an issue and for explaining complicated concepts in understandable terms to normal people.  This is the sort of skill I want in a President, but--says Matt--few Americans have the patience to listen to explanation and nuance and details. They want sound bites and easily-repeatable slogans.

I asked him, skeptically, what he could actually accomplish if he were President. He said that a President's biggest accomplishments happen behind closed doors, and no one ever knows about them. For example, a President and his staff might decide not to invade Iraq after all, but the rest of the country and the world would never know what had been averted.

While he isn't that fond of either party or of politics in general, he likes the idea of changing the course of history in this way.

Meanwhile, I wrote a blog post about the winds of change that have blown through the Mennonite church in my lifetime. My friend David Miller asked, "While I appreciate and enjoy this article, I noticed it is from the perspective of a follower or spectator of new movements. But what if you happen to be an influential person in the new movement? That person cannot wait 20 years to see what will become of it. . . . How can a healthy, positive "wind of change" happen if someone isn't willing to cause a few ripples?"

I said, "Good questions. Short answer: I don't know. Long answer: I've seen a lot of positive change in the church such as better teaching on child training, more honesty about sexual sins, as I mentioned a much more caring atmosphere at my home church in MN, and even switching to veils at Brownsville. All of those happened over a long period of time with a lot of deliberate thought and discussion. I know God also works in sudden ways, with a sweeping wind. In my own life, those changes were marked by repentance and joy."

That conversation reminded me that some of us are called to effect change like the apostles' preaching that roused and rankled whole cities, and some of us are called to work quietly behind the scenes, making tents and quietly explaining the way of God more perfectly, like Aquila and Priscilla.

I prefer the latter, which ought to inform my choices and service but should not make me skeptical of the people called to the former.

However we go about it, it is a happy day when we know that we actually changed something for the better.

So, you may at times have heard me go off about Amish novels written by non-Amish authors. We can add to this Amish TV shows and Amish click-bait articles on BuzzFeed.

Despite all my ranting, it is supremely clear that people like these materials very much, so I have not reduced the flood of such media at all.

But the other day I did my own little part as the Lord gave me opportunity, and it was only a cupful dipped from the swirling frothy sea, but I was proud of that little cup.

A man wrote to me via Facebook message thus: 
Hello, Dorcas. I am working on a blog about Amish rules. Would you be willing to share with me some rules that Amish mothers must follow?

A shiver went down my spine. I replied:
"I need to ask a few questions first--what is your connection to the Amish? Who is your audience? And why would you have a blog about Amish rules? Just curious..

Is it a single post or an entire blog?"

I added the "just curious" so I would sound a little less hostile.

He answered:

An entire blog called 15 messed up rules Amish moms must follow seen by the general public
I am not trying to offend anyone so I am very understanding if you cannot help
I have amish friends in Pa but cannot name people

I began frothing at the mouth and madly typing. Meanwhile he got a bit nervous and wrote:

I probobly shouldn't have asked I apologize I was looking up Amish rules somehow I came across your name and thought I would ask someone who know the truth.
Thank you anyways I will search elsewhere.

By that time I had finished my reply which was:

It's fine that you asked. However, I don't think it works for non-Amish people to try to write about the Amish. Kind of like if I would try to write about life for the elderly in inner-city Chicago or truck drivers in Mexico.
Instead, I think you should write a blog about 15 messed up rules American women must follow.
1. You aren't considered beautiful unless you're skinny.
2. You have to wear makeup.
3. You have to be employed.
4. You're considered irresponsible if you have more than 3 children.
5. You get praised in the workplace for masculine traits like aggression, logic, and leadership instead of feminine traits such as intuition, nurture, sensitivity, and emotion.
...and so on.
Your best writing will come from writing what you know and observe personally.
Good luck!

Well, we all know that a simple No would have sufficed, but I just had to yell at him.

Now, the big question: would he listen to me? Really, what were the chances I got through to a guy surfing the Net trying to cobble a clickbait article together?  Maybe zero.

But lo, this lovely message came back:

Well put, I am going to change my subject thank you.


We are all called to do what we can to effect change, make a difference, and bring God's Kingdom to Earth.

Some of us will do this by rousing a crowd to action, and some of us will work behind the scenes in small ways that slowly accumulate into something significant.

The important thing is to do what you know you should.

Story/Quote of the Day:

About 23 years ago I was a stressed-out young mom with lots of issues and naughty children who wouldn't listen to me. One day I exploded, "Maybe I should just QUIT and let somebody else be your mom!"
They were supposed to say: "Oh, we're sorry, please forgive us, we'll be good."
Instead, there was a long pause and then little Emily said cheerfully, "OK!! I want Aunt Bonnie to be my mom!"
Today Emily was substitute teaching a bunch of third and fourth graders. She told the kids she's subbing today. And little Elijah piped up, "Hey, we should get Bonnie to sub sometime!"
I laughed harder than necessary, I think, but oh the sweet taste of life coming full circle at last.


  1. In my opinion you did not yell at him. You responded to him in a calm, easy-to-understand appeal that made sense to him. And it worked. Congratulations! May your tribe increase. LRM

  2. Maybe because my approach is sometimes less quiet than yours, I probably couldn't have resisted pointing out to your correspondent that all the things he is probably very familiar with are precisely the things that Amish women are often free from. From your correspondence alone, he could have written a post on Five Common Rules Flouted by Amish Women. Also, I just may have been tempted to send him a corrected version of his own writing. If he blogs the way he wrote to you, I can't imagine that he actually connects with many readers.

  3. Verna Stoltzfus1/10/2018 5:34 AM

    Your last 3 sentences....YESSS! Put a grin on my face. Jumping up and down inside.

  4. Dorcas, I believe you handled the situation quite well. Maybe I'm dull or something but when I see an article online about the Amish that screams "click here" I ignore it. Years ago when that awful TV show Breaking Amish first debuted I watched it the first night. It didn't take long for me to realize that the people were not Amish. If those people are Amish then I'm Chinese.(I'm African-American by the way)

    And you are right about messed up rules American women feel they must follow and sadly Christian women have fallen into that trap. Thanks for your post today Dorcas. Have a great rest of the week.

  5. Martin Luther once said, "What will you do in the mundane days of faithfulness?" I think that someday the faithful will look back & realize, suddenly, that they have made a difference.

  6. I enjoyed this post, but I would like to take issue with one of your five points... "#5.) You get praised in the workplace for masculine traits like aggression, logic and leadership..." With the possible exception of aggression, these are not necessarily "masculine" traits. And in my experience, women don't get praised in the workplace for displaying them. Rather, they get called many foul names and demeaned, sabotaged and "disciplined" by those who WANT to claim these as exclusively "masculine" traits.

  7. Great article!

  8. "I've seen a lot of positive change in the church.......even switching to veils at the Brownsville church.". Veils are a positive change?? Please explain.

    1. So each Mennonite congregation sets its own parameters for media and clothing and head coverings and other details for their members, and for years, the only head covering our church allowed was a white cap. Then that changed. I thought it was a positive change.

    2. I prefer the cap. I am glad the veil idea has not made inroads here.

    3. I prefer the cap and so do all my girls. We think the veils look like nuns.

  9. Great read over my morning coffee.

  10. Dorcas thank you for explaining about your church allowing veils though I don't understand why veils would be a problem. I guess with me not coming from a Mennonite background, I have a lot to learn. I wear a veil and the only one in my church who believes and obeys 1 Corinthians 11. I wonder sometimes though if our leaders started teaching that women should wear a covering if there would be a mass exodus.

  11. My favorite "fact about the Amish" that I read in one of those crazy posts was that Amish grow celery for weddings because they use it instead of flowers. What a hysterical picture that is! My family still jokes about that one!

    1. Actually, that one is absolutely true.

    2. At least it was true in Iowa in 1979 at my cousin's wedding!

  12. Awesome. You go, Dorcas!

  13. My favorite line? It's in the QOTD
    " I laughed a little harder than necessary "
    Lol.... proof that what goes around , comes around!