The Rant 

Clip-clop, snip. Clip-clop, buzz. What is this? The sound of an Amish drive-by hair and beard shaving. Is anyone, anyone, out there as fascinated as I am by what happened recently when a group of Amish men in Ohio raided the homes of some other Amish men and women and shaved their heads and cut off their beards? Well, obviously, the beards were on the men.

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The men accused of the September attacks are being held in jail without bond and might be charged with hate crimes, which carry a maximum sentence of life in prison. What in the hell is going on?

I know the mainstream media have their hands full with Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain's dipstick, and missing white women in Florida, but really. Why has this not received mass coverage? And, again, what the hell is going on? Has the last bastion of peace-loving people gone insane? The big-cheese Amish ringleader is named, ironically and hilariously, Lester Mullet. He ran an Amish church or community or whatever it is they run, and he was kind of megalomaniac about things always being done his way. While news sources have revealed little or no detail about what his ways were, they have reported that if members of his clan defied him, he would impose extreme penalties on them, including forcing them to sleep in a chicken coop for 12 days, allowing members of his clan to beat the dissenters, and punishing married women who disobeyed him by cleansing them of the devil with sexual intimacy at his home.

Whew. And I always thought the Amish were a pacifist breed of simple folk. What makes it even more complicated is that because there are so few Amish families still around and they have to marry within the faith or face excommunication, a lot of them have the same last names. One of the women who got attacked and got her head shaved by the Mullet side of the community, Barbara Miller, said she and her husband were attacked by close family members, but it wasn't real clear whether it was members of her own family or just another whole family by the same last name.

I know it sounds like I am making fun of the Amish and maybe I am, a little bit, but I just think this is fascinating and, well, disturbing. Organized religion serves a great role in herd control and keeping people from running amuck in the streets killing each other, and some of my favorite people in Memphis are preachers and rabbis, but just what kind of signal about "the church" does this send? The Amish, of all people, using religion for the purpose of wielding power over others and resorting to violence? It makes New Salem Baptist Church here in Memphis look tame.

If you haven't heard about that one, buckle your seat belts. A couple of weeks ago, according to news reports, witnesses, and police reports, a verbal argument ensued between some women during a Wednesday-night Bible study. It was about somebody sleeping with somebody who shouldn't have been sleeping with somebody. And then in church the following Sunday, the women encountered each other near the choir in the middle of the service and a big brawl broke out between two families and some of their friends. Somebody got hit in the face with an umbrella. Somebody got her hair snatched and was thrown to the ground. Punches and slaps were going around like a flash mob gone bad. Police and paramedics had to be called. People were scratched and cut and bruised, and now charges may be filed.

This makes getting your beard cut off not seem so violent. Big ol' catfight up in church on Sunday morning! I sure wish New Salem were one of those churches that streams its services live on the Internet, because I'm truly sorry I missed that. I would have paid — well, tithed — to have seen it. Hopefully, someone had the sense to pull out an iPhone and film it. Talk about a YouTube sensation. That might get us listed on the Forbes magazine list of five most dangerous cities in which to go to church. We'd be up there with Mesopotamia, Ohio, where Mr. Mullet cut off everyone's hair.

I went to New Salem's website just to check it out and in the "visitor" section there is the question: "What type of church is New Salem?" Their answer: "New Salem is a Bible-based, Christ-centered, Purpose-driven, and Holy Spirit-led church that is making a positive impact in individuals, families, and the city of Memphis, Tennessee. We believe, as Missionary Baptists, that mission work is vital. Our theme is 'God is Good All the Time.' What is appropriate to wear to church?"

While the attire question seems totally out of place and there is no answer, I would say, maybe, I don't know, body armor and a football helmet?

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