Monday, November 28, 2011

Hair Estranged, Part V

On a trip this summer, I happened to be on an airport shuttle with an Amish couple. Probably, they are New Order Amish, as air travel is permissible in New Order beliefs. These young Amish were stand-outs, not only for their garb, but for the man's hair cut, a "bowl cut," common to the Amish, but startlingly blunt and severe to my eye. At the time, I did not know enough about Amish hair beliefs to realize other signals of the Amish faith. This man is newly married. One can tell not only from the baby in his lap, but because of his beard: Before marriage, Amish men are required to keep their faces unshaven. After marriage, they must let their beards grow, and this fellow shows only a trace of hair on his jawline. (On the other hand, he must still shave his upper lip. Amish communities do not allow mustaches, as they are considered a sign of militarism.)

Note that the female has her head covered, in keeping with New Testament mandates (I Corinthians 11:4-10). No doubt she has never cut her hair. The male's hair instructions date back even farther, to the Old Testament verse: "You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard." (Leviticus 19:27) This stuff is deeply engrained in the separatist Amish faith. Therefore, recent news reports of violent hair-cutting attacks on Amish men and women around Steubenville, Ohio, are especially disturbing.

These hate crimes appear to be due to a family feud. Instigated by an Amish bishop named Sam Mullet (yes, really, mullet), zealous followers of Mullet from within the Bergholz community forcibly held down Amish men and women of Holmes County to shear off their beards and hair. At least some of the perpetrators were Mullet's sons, and allegedly, the first female victim was Mullet's sister and her husband, hence, their aunt and uncle. The fact that the report has surfaced at all is noteworthy, as the Amish normally mete out their own methods of justice amongst themselves.

What is Mullet's motivation? According to this October article in the New York Times, the bishop is "a prickly 66-year-old man who had become bitterly estranged from mainstream Amish communities." The day before Thanksgiving, seven alleged hair-cutting perpetrators were arrested. (CBS News)

For more, I refer you to the blog: "Sects and Violence in the Ancient World" by Steve Wiggins.