Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Amish

Over the past few months I've been reading some books by former Amish members. Every few years I get the bug to read and study things about the Amish. About five summers ago I studied several public library books with encyclopedic information about the group, and every now and then have read/looked at other things. The influx of Amish fiction, which for some reason has a huge grip on Christian female reading, keeps the topic in the forefront, although I have no interest in reading any of those books.

For one thing, it has become very apparent from reading these recent nonfiction works (two on Kindle) that the lives of the Amish have been hugely romanticized, and that people who have grown up in the Amish life have other, less positive, things to say about it. While Amish attempts to encourage family ties and to be separate from the world have some merit, they are no different from any other people, and they have sin natures just like everyone else. And they place so, so much faith in following their "Ordnung" (rules) that if there is any salvation by grace preached, it appears it is very thinly done so.

Furthermore, just in considering the practicality of their lifestyle, it's easy to forget that one of the main reasons electricity and motors became so widespread so quickly among the general public is because they helped greatly to reduce the amount of backbreaking work, particularly on farms. An author can put a soft edge on the Amish lifestyle all she wants, but the fact is that these people have to put far, far more effort than those who espouse modern conveniences, into just accomplishing basic life jobs.

Also, the more a person looks at the world of the Amish, the more it is revealed that it is not easily defined. Just in the past few days I have read about Old Order Amish, Old Order Mennonites, Beachy Amish, Swartzentruber Amish, Hutterites (many groups of them as well), many other named groups, and just an unbelievable number of different varieties of what is generally called "Amish." I was also surprised to see just how widespread all these groups are dispersed. There are a lot more of these groups out there, in many states, than is generally known.

I found several websites such as Amish America that are just loaded with information.

I've also seen that these groups that stem from the Anabaptist history, although there are many that are completely modern and are nothing like Amish (including Mennonites other than Old Order, and others that include my own heritage), there are also some similarities that run throughout any group that has the Anabaptist history.

In another post I will review the books read recently and have more commentary.

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