I never realized the torment and torture a person lives with who leaves the Amish, believing they will go straight to hell until I read “Growing Up Amish” A Memoir By Ira Wagler. I always thought Ira was born and raised in a good Amish home and I still think he was, at least to a certain degree. Ira was born and raised in Aylmer Ontario, the best of Amish communities, as Ira stated on page 10-11; “The Aylmer community considered itself an example for the lesser elements, the perfect church. The shining city on a hill, from which would come noble directives about how people should live.” Ira was born and raised in this setting until his early teenage years. He had the best of what the Amish had to offer. He moved from Aylmer with his family in late 1976, whereas I moved to Aylmer in May of 1977, and so both of us lived in the same community but not at the same time.
A few years after moving to Aylmer I was hearing the bad, rebellious stuff he was in and doing. All the things we were hearing was relished, taken apart, gossiped about, judged and condemned. I don’t remember taking part in the gossip and judgment but I clearly remember approving of it.
I apologize for liking and approving the judgment and condemnation Ira received. I never knew until reading his book that he never belonged. He really never was one of them and not by any choice he made. This is just the way it was. Back then I thought all such youth are rebels and they still are but there is a reason.
Ira’s life as he wrote it represents the over-all mindset of being born and raised Amish. You are not supposed to think for yourself, nor ask any questions, just listen, obey and do as your leaders tell you to do. If you are a child, then obey your parents, if you are a parent then obey the preachers. The most common tool of teaching that is used is: “If you ever leave the Amish, you will burn in hell. There is no chance or way you will get to heaven.” Living with this fear of hell fire and brimstone is what keeps most Amish people Amish.
We cannot “just decide to do what is right” or “just straighten up and settle down”. These two phrases are never ever mentioned in the Gospels as part of God’s salvation. But I was one that just decided to do what is right because of the fear of hell fire and brimstone. I was never, even going to leave the Amish. I was one of the best Amish people. I never deliberately did anything wrong. I never chose to break Amish church rules. For thirty years I was trusting in the Amish way to save me. But God refused to save me until I renounced the Plain Peoples’ Lifestyle.
The only difference between Ira leaving the Amish and me leaving is, I knew before I left that lifestyle and culture is just lifestyle & culture, nothing more and nothing less, whereas Ira didn’t know that truth. So he lived many years in fear and trembling of hell fire, in deception, in being swayed to and fro. Finally after years of struggles God reached down and showed both of us the truth about salvation.
Ira's book can be purchased from Amazon.