Friday, June 17, 2005

From The Gutless Pacifist
Plain technology
On a fascinating and misunderstood group, the Amish: they don’t pretend to live in the early 1800s. If they decide that a form of technology doesn’t get in the way of their worshipping God or threaten to break up their community, they accept it:

...the Amish are so resilient in part because their society tempers discipline with flexibility. Within the decentralized leadership, each bishop allows experimentation before deciding whether an innovation will be sanctioned by the community's Ordnung--its oral body of customs and rules. For example, the bishops have generally permitted the use of electrical inverters in Amish shops so they can operate standard 110-volt AC machines like cash registers and typewriters with 12-volt batteries. The Amish receive modern medical care and encourage scientific study of their genetic diseases. Many of their famous black buggies are made of fiberglass.
The next to last sentence touches on something that non-Amish can and do criticize because it seems parasitic: they use our doctors and scientists but aren’t allowed to become doctors or scientists themselves. I’d agree that it points to a shortcoming of the Amish faith, showing that for all its good points it’s sectarian and not Catholic, literally, not universal. They agree with us that science including medicine isn’t sinful in itself; after all they use it. So if God became man to come to all, then aren’t doctors and scientists welcome as members of the community he founded? To be fair, I don’t think they believe that all born non-Amish are hellbound but the point remains.

The Amish do not all think alike. Many Amish farmers are enthusiastic users of pesticides, herbicides, and genetically modified seeds, which they regard as the God-given means of sustaining their farms and communities. Other Amish (Kraybill estimates 10 to 15 percent) are allied with the Green movement; the Yale University environmental historian Steven Stoll applauds organic Amish farmer David Kline, whose way of life Stoll calls postmodern: "traditional without being nostalgic, practical without nodding to technology."
TGP favourably mentions the high retention rate the Amish have — amazingly it’s even higher than in times past. Also, I understand that even those young adults who don’t choose to join the Amish church rarely apostasize from Christianity, which says a lot.

I understand that they speak three languages: at home and work they use archaic Palatinate/Swiss German that’s changed over 300 years in America (the group died out in Europe), for worship (sermons, etc.) they use standard German as printed in Luther’s Bible* (even they are ‘liturgical’ that way) and dealing with outsiders they speak English with a largely general American accent.

From Hallowed Ground
Jeff Culbreath on the reality of farming today for most people

*Funny that they accept it as he was far more Catholic than they are (they’re Anabaptists, the ‘Old Believer’ version of Mennonites) but it is a landmark of the German language (not the first German Bible though) so there you are.

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