Why Do Amish Shun Modern Inventions?
One of the things that make Amish people so unique in today’s culture is the fact that they shun most modern inventions. I’m referring to things such as cars, electricity, tractors, telephones, airplanes, and computers. Is this because they think these things are sinful? No, the Amish don’t view most modern inventions and conveniences as sinful. Rather, they reject many modern conveniences because of the impact it will have on their lives.
Donald Kraybill, an authority on Amish culture explains, “Amish communities are organized around church districts that encompass a small geographical area, often only a mile or so in diameter. The community is woven together by face to face interactions and frequent socialization. The circles of social networks overlap so that neighbors who work together also worship and play together. Horse and buggy transportation holds the local community together by restricting travel to distant places and increasing visiting in the immediate locale.” (The Puzzle of the Amish, p. 53)
The Amish Way of Life
What Amish people are seeking is to preserve a way of life that they have maintained for over 400 years. In the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries in Europe, the Amish were forced to seek refuge from cruel persecution by moving to remote, rural mountainous areas of Switzerland. Eventually, seclusion and aloofness from the world became their way of life. In the collective memory of the Amish, the world has always been something that has persecuted them. So they want to maintain a distinct separation from the world to this very day.
Furthermore, Amish people look with disapproval on the modern, hurried manner of life. People rush here and there. Families often see little of each other. Both mom and dad are away from home most of the day. In the evenings, parents are often catching up on things from having been gone from home all day. Their children frequently have to rush out after supper to participate in some school activity. This is a type of life Amish people don’t want. So by rejecting many modern conveniences – such as cars – the Amish are able to purposefully slow down their pace of life.
Amish People See Children as a Blessing
Another reason Amish people reject many modern conveniences is that they want a way of life where children are appreciated as a blessing – rather than being seen as a burden. In the modern American lifestyle, children are treasured, but they are also expensive. For that reason, most American parents limit the number of children they have to one or two. In modern society, children contribute little or none to the family income. Instead, they are a financial burden – particularly if their parents put them through college.
However, in the agrarian society of the Amish, children are an asset, not a burden. From a very young age, Amish children help in the family business or family farm. This enables Amish people to maintain farms and family businesses that would otherwise be unfeasible. It’s the old way of life that served our grandparents and great-grandparents so well. Much has been gained in modern society, but much has been lost as well. Amish people observe the two different ways of life – modern and traditional – and they’ve concluded that the traditional way of life is better.
For further reading, we recommend the following books:
- The Puzzles of Amish Life by Donald Kraybill
- A Quiet and Peaceable Life by John L. Ruth
- 20 Most Asked Questions About Amish and Mennonites by the Goods
- Living Without Electricity
Another helpful website about the Amish that you might want to check out is http://www.scrollpublishing.com/store/amishbooks.html. © 2012