Sometimes when I see Amish people, dressed in their plain, old-world clothing and hats and bonnets, I have to remind myself that they are not playing dress-up. This is real life for them, every moment of every day. It’s a life they have chosen to preserve even as the rest of society evolves and embraces every whim of modernity.
An educational video at the Amish Interpretive Center explained that the Amish abstain from modern life not because it is evil; rather, the abstention keeps them from being distracted in pursuing loving relationships.
Two conveniences in particular—cars and phones—show how modern living can be less than ideal for supporting the close-knit family structure the Amish value.
Our modern neighborhoods keep us far away from daily activities and daily needs; in this structure, transportation is a necessity. But with the convenience of a car, our world also expands with opportunities. The result? Our social circles have enlarged to unmanageable proportions.
Foregoing the convenience of a car keeps the Amish focused on a manageable number of relationships: those in family and within their small community. Having access to a car broadens our circle and often takes us away from family and friends.
More Than a Verbal Exchange
Like other modern conveniences and distractions—cars, machines, Internet, Facebook—telephones can keep us more connected. We can call a loved one to chat and catch up when a visit is impossible due to physical or location constraints, and that is a huge blessing. More commonly, it is the pace of life and the size of our social circle that prevents in-person visits. Instead, we can quickly call to catch up (and multitasking while chatting doubles our investment).
Foregoing the convenience of ready phone access pushes the Amish to engage with each other face-to-face, in person, which they believe builds true intimacy. Somewhere I read that intimacy is really into-me-see; phones do not allow this sort of deep, seeing heart and soul sharing.
The Amish fascinate me, but I have no intention of converting. But I do agree that a simple lifestyle will free me from things so I can care for people. I also agree that relationships are strengthened by face-to-face, in-person interactions.
One thing I will not do, however, is close myself off to the outside world. In Acts 1:8, Jesus tells His followers that “you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” As an ambassador for Christ, I am called to make a difference in my hometown (my “Jerusalem”), my state (my “Judea and Samaria”), and the world (“the remotest part of the earth”).
This ever-widening witness requires me to engage in the world around me—a world full of people both modern and old world, advanced and primitive. No matter the lifestyle or culture, all need to know the wonderful news that they can be reconciled unto God through the Lord Jesus Christ.