Tales Of Amish Passion

Raised in a “large Amish-Mennonite family, at the dead end of a dirt road in eastern Ohio,” Rachel Yoder is disappointed by Amish Romance novels these days – tales of “a young Amish widow whose simple life is thrown into turmoil one stormy night when a wounded riverboat captain shows up at her door.” In her youth, Yoder preferred Martyr’s Mirror: The Stories of Seventeen Centuries of Christian Martyrdom from The Time of Christ to A.D. 1660:

For my already straying ten-year-old self, Martyr’s Mirror contained within its pages a confusing and provocative convergence of religious passion, sacrificial love, and ecstatic agony. Most excellently, it also contained archaic illustrations, and these were what fascinated me the most. Anneken Heyndricks, bound to a ladder, cast her eyes heavenward in sublime abandon as flames licked her body. George Wanger, a tailor, wasted away in a dungeon, bound with lusty chains. In the most famous etching, Anabaptist hero Dirk Willems rescues a guard who’s pursuing him from the deathly clutches of an icy moat, only to be captured and burned at the stake. …

If the Mennonite and Amish have anything to offer about romance, it’s this: a heavy book of death and torture, a love letter to all their pursuers, their captors and executioners. Consider the love language of these people something similar to a moaning, choking agony addressed at the universe. Call it holy desperation. Call it devotion. Call it belief in inherent dignity. This is real Amish romance, as real as it gets, a three-hundred-year love affair with life, with the sacredness of life.