Last month, I was part of Amish fiction author Beverly Lewis’s entourage for book signings and library talks across the gently rolling hills of Pennsylvania. On our day off, we stayed at a charming little place called the Amish View Inn.
What constitutes an Amish view, you might ask? Well, this.
So, you know…basically what I could see all the time in my hometown. Or near the college I went to.
But for big city people, I’m sure that corn looked really green and provincial and quaint. So did the very faint scent of manure you could sniff outside if you breathed really deeply, as if someone had sprayed a light oderizer to give the place a more authentic feel.
As soon as I stepped inside the hotel room, though, I started laughing.
There were prints of farm scenes on the wall…framing a giant flatscreen TV. There was a lovely view of a barn…outside huge windows with thick gold drapes. There was a claw-foot bathtub…in a shiny bathroom that also contained a walk-in shower and a smaller TV for those who couldn’t pull themselves from technology long enough to use the bathroom.
Amish View, huh?
The next morning, I went exploring. This involves going barefoot, balancing along bridges, playing on a swingset, climbing a tree, and generally enjoying the fact that I was finally in a place where you can see the stars at night.
It also involved a fair amount of snickering as tourists took pictures of themselves by a wooden pump, oohed and ahhed over the “farm” that was basically a petting zoo, and listened to buggy-ride narration of the sights of the area amplified through loudspeakers.
This, for me, summed up the Amish View Inn:
Everything was an ironic caricature—some parts exaggerated, other parts downplayed—for tourists who liked the idea of a simple life, but not everything that went with it.
It’s amusing…but less amusing when you realize that a lot of us treat our faith the same way.
In the first draft of this post, this part was where I launched into Curmudgeon Mode…basically a rant against American Christianity for containing so much prosperity-focused, theologically anemic, feel-good, wishy-washy nonsense.
Except most of you are already annoyed with halfhearted faith, repetitive worship songs, and people who insist that following Jesus will make your life perfect and your smile pearly white. You don’t need me to tell you those things are not okay, that they are picking and choosing what they like best about the gospel and hiding the inconvenient bits.
What I want you to think about instead is this: what sin do you try to brush off as being not all that bad? What commands in the Bible do you take as “more like guidelines”*? What aspect of the character of God do you rarely think about?
Where do you believe an Amish View gospel?
Because I thought about it, and it was humbling enough to make me edit out that original rant against all of those other people out there who are not me.
I realized there are place where I make Christianity into a caricature. Where I decide I believe something, then look to the Bible for back-up. Where I speak the truth, but not in love…or speak in love, but compromise the truth. Where I make Jesus into a person very much like me. So much like me that anyone not like me is doing something wrong.
God is not mine to make into my own image. The Bible is not a book of justification for stuff I want to hear. The Holy Spirit might not fit into my box, discipleship may be hard, the truth may make me uncomfortable. And I have to be okay with that.
The gospel is what matters—and we aren’t the ones who choose what the view looks like.
*Stuffy Theological Footnote for the Dedicated Reader: Keep in mind that sound principles of Biblical interpretation come into play here so you don’t answer this question as “we should greet each other with a holy kiss” or “no one should eat bacon.”