Friday, July 27, 2007

“Rumspringa” - By Jason Sanford

By Jason Sanford
I began writing "Rumspringa" after a visit to Holmes County, Ohio,
 which contains the largest concentration of Amish settlements in the world
 and is only a short drive from where I live. While there, I realized
 how many misconceptions we English-what the Amish call outsiders to their
 order-have about Amish society. I also began wondering what Amish
 society would be like in the future. Hence the story.
There are a number of stereotypes and misconceptions about the Amish in
 the popular imagination. First, the Amish do not consider technology
 evil, as many people think. Instead, certain types of technology are
 seen as harming the Amish separation from the world, a separation the
 Amish base on Biblical teachings. Certain technology is also seen as
 promoting vanity and causing dissension within the Amish community. Anyone
 who has ever watched their children pick TV over playing outside on a
 beautiful summer day can easily appreciate the Amish worldview on all
There are also different groups of Amish, each with different beliefs
 about how much technology to accept into their lives. When most people
 think of the Amish, the picture in their mind is of the Old Order Amish.
 This group shuns most modern technology, wears the "traditional" Amish
 dress, drives the traditional horse-pulled buggies, and so on.
 However, other Amish groups exist, including the New Order Amish, the Beachy
 Amish, and others, all of whom follow different Ordnung or rules of
 living. For example, the New Order Amish allow the use of electricity and
 mechanical tractors. Some Amish groups are also receptive to solar power
 arrays and kerosene-powered refrigerators. The Mennonites, who are not
 Amish but are descended from the same Anabaptist tradition, follow a
 similar pattern. Their most conservative groups prohibit a vast amount
 of modern technology, while their more liberal groups have no special
 dress requirements and little or no restrictions on technology use.
An interesting fact about the Amish is that they are one of the
 fastest-growing ethnic groups in the United States (although most Amish would
 claim they are not an ethnic group, but a religious order). The Amish
 are known for settling new lands both within the United States and
 around the world-lands which are opening up as more and more English abandon
 farmlands for large cities and suburbs.
Many people today see the Amish as an antiquated group, doomed to
 disappear in the relentless pace of technological progress. I would argue
 that the exact opposite will happen. As technology pushes more and more
 of us English into lifestyles which are more and more removed from the
 land, groups like the Amish will fill that void. And like they have done
 in centuries past, the Amish will continue to adapt and thrive in the
 years to come.

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