How the Amish conquered the evangelical romance market
Ann Neumann writes: Peering out from a wire rack in a grocery store was a religious vision of sorts: a paperback romance novel that neatly summed up classic yearning, confining cultural norms, and the hazards of defiled purity. At the center of all this familiar masscult longing and inner turmoil was an unlikely heroine: a young Amish woman, barefoot, clutching a suitcase, her white-bonneted head turned away from a mysterious man in the foreground. Here, plopped down in a hormonally charged set piece, was a figure straight out of the homey folk tradition known as Amish country pastoral. Though this pious woman couldn’t seem more out of place, the book is called Found ; it is the third entry in a series called The Secrets of Crittenden County. There were other books, too, in the rack—The Quilter’s Daughter, Leaving Lancaster—clearly meant to evoke the remote corner of central Pennsylvania where we were standing.
My sister and I grew up in the heart of Amish country, in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. We came across these curious specimens on a routine shopping trip to a rural grocery store. Like people growing up anywhere, we share a complicated relationship with the customs of our homeland, but seeing them serve as the backdrop of a faith-based fiction franchise was a blow to our hard-won sense of place. It was a bit like what many rent-strapped single women writers in New York must have felt when they first encountered long-lunching, fashion-obsessed Carrie Bradshaw of Sex and the City fame, or how Appalachian teens might dissect descriptions of District 12 in the Hunger Games franchise.
My family isn’t Amish, but we’re probably the closest thing—we hail from nearly three hundred years of colonial American Mennonite stock: cussed true believers who moved from Germany to flourish in the free-thinking heart of William Penn’s settlement in the New World. Like the Amish, Mennonites are Anabaptists—adult-baptizing practitioners of an ardent brand of European Protestant pietism that often overlapped with Old World peasant political uprisings, but served in the American setting as a forcing bed for the Amish separatist quest for purity and the Mennonite traditions of pacifism and communal self-help. As the heirs to an easily misunderstood spiritual legacy, we feel protective of our Anabaptist background when it becomes a product label.
The commercialization of the Amish brand is, of course, nothing new. My sister and I have a long familiarity with kitschy Amish books: guidebooks to Pennsylvania Dutch country, Amish “wisdom” books, “Plain” cookbooks. But the strange cover of Found represented something new in this faintly comical face-off between the self-segregated communities of faith we knew and a cultural mainstream incorrigibly curious about what it’s done to offend pious Anabaptist sensibilities. For a tortured Amish conscience to be front and center on a mass-market paperback meant that the bonnet-clad and buttonless Amish were merging, however awkwardly, with more commercially tried-and-true narratives of tested devotion and romantic longing.
At a minimum, the novel was suggesting that the Amish represent something more than an exotic, out-of-the-way religious curiosity in the early decades of the twenty-first century. Shelley Shepard Gray, the author of the Crittenden County series, who sees her writing as a way to promulgate her more conventional brand of evangelical faith (she’s a Lutheran), seemed to be signaling that the Amish experience, long the object of prurient curiosity from an intensely modern (if only intermittently secular) American mainstream, was ready for prime time. The woman on the cover of Found could be an inspirational symbol of female spiritual self-discipline, or a cleaned-up lady on the make of the sort featured in endless Danielle Steel contributions to the bodice-ripper genre. My sister and I each purchased a copy of Found , agreeing that we would read it and report back.
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The jurors who convicted Holmes took more time than expected to decide whether prosecutors passed the first legal test for a death sentence.
CENTENNIAL, Colo. — Jury in the James Holmes Colorado theater shooting trial reached a verdict in the first phase of sentencing on Thursday. Jurors unanimously decided the death penalty can be considered for Holmes and will move on to the next phase of sentencing.
“Prosecutors said they proved several of the required “aggravating factors” in these murders beyond a reasonable doubt: That Holmes harmed an outsized number of victims when he opened fire at the midnight Batman movie premiere; that he killed a child, and that the attack was particularly heinous.”
They said capital punishment is justified because Holmes murdered a large number of victims; caused a grave risk of death to others; committed murder in a heinous, cruel or depraved manner; and laid in wait or ambush.
One factor jurors said prosecutors did not prove was that Holmes intentionally killed a child, but the other “aggravating factors” ensure that jurors will continue to consider whether he should die for his crimes.
The jury only had to find one of those aggravating factors valid in order to make Holmes eligible for the death penalty.
Prosecutors still must clear two more hurdles before Holmes can be sentenced to die.
Jurors began weighing on Wednesday whether Colorado theater shooter James Holmes, who killed 12 people and injured 70 others in a movie theater three years ago, deserved to die.
The jury rejected his claim that he was legally insane when committed the crime, but also had to consider the extent of his mental illness against the enduring pain and heartache that he caused.
The jurors who convicted Holmes took more time than expected to decide whether prosecutors passed the first legal test for a death sentence. Read the rest of this entry »
A Ridgewood gym teacher has been sentenced to 10 months probation for pleading guilty to having sex with two underage male students, though she will have to complete a year’s worth of therapy in order to avoid jail time.
Joy Morsi, 40, was arrested in June when a student at the Grover Cleveland High School, where she taught since 1999, accused her of having a year-long sexual relationship with him when he was only 16. A second 16-year-old boy later came forth to accuse her as well, and she pleaded guilty on Friday to rape and criminal sexual act charges.
In addition to sentencing her to a year-long out-patient program for a diagnosed depressive disorder, a Queens Supreme Court judge also ordered that she give up her teaching license and register as a sex offender…(read more)
The New York Post reports:
A Queens gym teacher pleaded guilty to having sexual relations with two of her students and was sentenced to a year of outpatient psychiatric counseling Friday, officials said.
If she completes the therapy, Joy Morsi, 40, will be sentenced to 10 years’ probation, a Queens Supreme Court judge ordered. Morsi must also give up her teaching license and register as a sex offender.
The Ridgewood teacher admitted to having sex with a 16-year-old Grover Cleveland High School student and exposing herself and performing a sex act on a second 16-year-old student, officials said. Her attorney said she had a diagnosed “depressive disorder.” (read more)
[VIDEO] Carnivoire Extraordinaire: Nebraska Mom Eats 2 4½-Pound Steaks in Record Time at The Big Texan Steak Ranch in AmarilloPosted: May 28, 2014
WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS AN UNCENSORED, UNCUT VIDEO OF A WOMAN EATING 9 POUNDS OF BEEF
A Nebraska woman celebrated breaking a Texas steakhouse’s speed record for eating a 4½-pound slab of beef by polishing off another one. The Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo picks up the tab for anyone who can eat one of the steaks, a baked potato, shrimp, a salad and bread roll in under an hour, so Molly Schuyler ate those side dishes as well.
[Molly’s no amateur! This champion ate 363 chicken wings in 30 minutes in Philadelphia]
The Amarillo Globe-News and the Big Texan Steak Ranch‘s Twitter page say that competitive eater Molly Schuyler finished her first steak in 4 minutes and 58 seconds. The previous record was 8 minutes and 52 seconds. The 5-foot-7, 125-pound mother from Bellevue, Nebraska, ate her second 4½-pound steak in 9 minutes and 59 seconds.
— The Big Texan (@TheBigTexan) May 26, 2014
WARNING: UNCENSORED, UNCUT VIDEO
Last Friday afternoon, the time when officials make announcements they hope no one will notice, the State Department declared that it is putting off a decision on Keystone XL indefinitely — or at least, it seems, well past November’s midterm elections. This time, the excuse is litigation in Nebraska over the proposed route, because that might lead to a change in the project that various federal agencies will want to consider. The State Department might even decide to substantially restart the environmental review process . This is yet another laughable reason to delay a project that the federal government has been scrutinizing for more than five years.
At this point, there is little doubt about the big picture. After two thorough environmental analyses, State Department experts determined that the pipeline’s impact probably would be minimal, even on climate change-inducing carbon dioxide emissions. The economic rewards of extracting Canadian oil are too attractive and the options for getting it out of the country are too numerous. We would rather see Canadian crude traveling a well-built, well-regulated pipeline in the United States than on the rail cars, barges and ocean tankers that will move it until cheaper options inevitably come online. Read the rest of this entry »
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is extending indefinitely the amount of time federal agencies have to review the Keystone XL pipeline, the State Department said Friday, likely punting the decision over the controversial oil pipeline past the midterm elections.
“This decision is irresponsible, unnecessary and unacceptable.”
— Sen. Mary Landrieu (D)
The State Department didn’t say how much longer agencies will have to weigh in but cited a recent decision by a Nebraska judge overturning a state law that allowed the pipeline’s path through the state, prompting uncertainty and an ongoing legal battle. Nebraska’s Supreme Court isn’t expected to rule for another several months, and there could be more legal maneuvering after that. The delay potentially frees President Barack Obama to avoid making a final call on the pipeline until after the November election.
In an ironic show of bipartisanship, prominent Democrats from energy-dependent states joined Republicans in blasting the Obama administration for delaying the decision once again.
“The agency consultation process is not starting over. The process is ongoing, and the department and relevant agencies are actively continuing their work in assessing the permit application,” the State Department said in a statement.
Republicans were quick to blast the latest delay in a review process that has dragged on for more than five years. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., accused Obama of kowtowing to “radical activists” from the environmental community, while House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called the decision “shameful” and said there were no credible reasons for further delay. Read the rest of this entry »
EXCLUSIVE: Feds, Shocked by Sales of Captive Children in Vending Machines, Investigate Criminal Child Trafficking RingPosted: April 16, 2014
An undercover investigation reveals a lucrative child trafficking operation in the American heartland. Hotel chains, bowling alleys, shopping malls, and bingo parlors, all appearing as legitimate businesses, all found to be involved in this alarming new trend: illegally dispensing captive toddlers from vending machines, for profit.
According to the FBI report, leaked to punditfromanotherplanet’s news tip line, agents learned that healthy young white male toddlers are highly prized, with vending machine locations targeted to affluent childless couples in middle America.
“We assigned undercover agents to purchase toddlers from vending machines in several states, before we closed in, and made arrests. The scale of the operation is unprecedented, we were shocked by what we found.”
— Special Agent Daniel McGuffin
Sales of white female toddlers, too, racked up record profits for the criminal trafficking ring, while profits from the sales of minority children showed disappointing growth in three consecutive quarters, attributed to low consumer demand.
“We’ve been trying to have a baby for years, but couldn’t. When we won little Jason, and two stuffed bears, from the machine, we were so happy, it felt like we were in Vegas.”
— Bowling alley customer Susan Sebastian, in a statement to local police
The report reveals details of kidnappers holding captured toddlers in vans, then loading them into vending machines, paying fees to the business owner, and employing hundreds of child-snatchers, operating in cells. Read the rest of this entry »