Why I like the Amish

Last evening I watched a three hour documentary on the Amish on Public Television. For the most part it was excellent, although it felt a little like voyeurism. The Amish don’t like to be photographed and they obviously were being filmed–often from a great distance. (Some apparently didn’t mind appearing on camera. They’re not all alike in what they allow.)

When I watch something like that I always look for the theological aspects and how well they are represented in the documentary. Too often those aspects are distorted or misrepresented because the film makers didn’t both to interview real experts. This was different in that several experts on the Amish lifestyle and beliefs were interviewed throughout it. One was Donald Kraybill, author of The Upside Down Kingdom–one of my favorite books about the Kingdom of God.

Of course, the film focused exclusively on the old order Amish. There is an Amish church not far from where I live where the members drive cars and trucks. In most other ways they’re like the old order Amish of Lancaster County, PA. (The church near my home is “Beachy Amish”–a particular order that is less strict than some others.)

One thing that struck me was the view of salvation expressed by some Amish people. They talked about hoping to be worthy of salvation by living the Amish lifestyle. That is, of course, not good Anabaptist theology even though most Anabaptists do believe “amendment of life” is a necessary part of salvation. But the latter does not mean earning or being worthy of salvation. Good Anabaptist theology (going back to the 16th century radical reformers) always bases salvation on grace alone. I wonder to what extent contemporary Amish have forgotten some of their own theology because of lack of formal theological training.

Before explaining why I like the Amish (by which I mean I’m glad they exist and hope they flourish) I’d like to say why I understand them better than most people in the mainstream of American society do. I grew up in a church I call “urban Amish.” We were old fashioned Pentecostals. My youth pastor talked about how he was a conscientious objector (non-combatant) in the Korean War. Before WW2 most Pentecostals were pacifists. We drove cars, but eschewed luxury. Money spent on a Cadillac could have been better given to missions.

We didn’t go to movies or dances or even bowling alleys that served beer. (I didn’t darken the door of a movie theater until I was almost 20. Even then I didn’t tell my parents!) The men shaved and the women (sometimes) cut their hair, but flashy clothes bought at expensive department stores were anathema. The women didn’t wear make up or jewelry (except wedding rings). Clothes were expected to be modest.

We had television off and on. For years we didn’t have one. Then I got sick and spent a summer in bed (rheumatic fever which I contracted because my parents didn’t believe in taking medicine so they didn’t fill the prescription for penicillin the doctor gave them for me when I had strep throat). My parents relented and rented a small black and white television so that I would have something to do besides read. (I read the Bible cover to cover that summer–and many other Christian and “almost Christian” books that filled our house’s book cabinets.) My brother and I were not allowed to own or read comic books (“Archie”). Even the Sunday newspaper “color” comics were put away until after church. We were not allowed to participate in dancing during gym classes at school.  I had to bring a note from my father, who was also our church’s pastor, to be excused from that unit. (Many of my male friends asked me if they could get notes from my dad! Many of them wished they didn’t have to dance either.)

We had a radio, but it was always tuned only to the local “gospel station.” I bought a tiny transistor radio when I was 15 and listened to 1960s “rock” music (the Mommas and the Pappas), but I kept it hidden and only listened to it at night, held close to my ear. My parents would have taken it away from me.

The only records we owned were Christian and classical. “Playing cards” were strictly forbidden, but my parents played Rook–a card game invented by a game company especially for Mennonites! Evenings were spent reading or playing games (“Careers” and “Authors”). My brother and I spent many Saturdays walking around the neighborhood “passing out tracts.” My parents didn’t let us wear cut off jeans (to say nothing of real shorts!).

At summer camp the boys and girls couldn’t swim at the same time. Girls had to wear one piece swimming suits; most of the boys wore cut off jeans that weren’t allowed except for swimming. Holding hands was forbidden (to say nothing of kissing!).

When I was a teenager, dating non-Christians was simply unthinkable. In fact, we were clearly socialized to date and marry only fellow Pentecostals. (When my great uncle married a Catholic my great grandmother disowned him and, so far as I know, they never spoke again.)

Well, you get the picture. We were “urban Amish” in many ways. But so were many other Christians of many different denominations back then. Some of my cousins were Christian Reformed and their lifestyle was very similar to ours. Nazarenes and many, not all, Evangelical Free and Covenant Christians lived the same way. Back then (1950s and before), being “evangelical” meant more than doctrine and revivalism; it also meant living lives different from “unsaved” people.

We were probably more extreme than most other evangelicals. But we were just a little behind the rest in terms of accommodating to secular culture.

But the main thing we had in common with the Amish was not legalism; it was the fact that the church was our family. Our whole life revolved around church. And, growing up, I hardly knew or cared to whom we were related “by blood” and to whom we were related by church affiliation. My stepmother had pictures of all our denomination’s missionaries on a bulletin board just off the kitchen and we prayed for one or more of them every evening at supper. When they came home on “furlough,” they stayed at our house. Some of my favorite memories are listening to their stories. To me, to us, they were family. (Some of them were “blood relatives,” but many were not and when I was very young I didn’t know which was which!)

Certainly I chafed at many of the rules that governed our lives–especially as I entered my teen years. But there was something wonderfully warm and comforting about that lifestyle. And I was protected from many of the terrible things that many of my schoolmates fell into-sex and drugs at the top of that list. I did marry a girl in my church youth group and I’m glad; we’ve been married almost 40 years and I’ve never regretted not straying outside the family of faith to date and marry.

To be sure there were extremes involved in that lifestyle. An example is my grandmother disowning her own son just because married a Catholic! And not being able to own or read “Archie” comic books. (We read “Classics Illustrated,” though, which was much better for us anyway.)

But, again, what I admire about the Amish is their sense of Christian community. One point some of them made in the documentary was the family ethos of the church. And I admire their determination not to be changed by the secular culture around them. We didn’t hold to that determination and so many Pentecostals and other evangelicals are barely distinguishable IF AT ALL from their “unsaved” neighbors. I don’t think you have to go to the extremes the Amish go to in order to retain Christian distinctives and boundaries, but I can understand why they think it’s necessary.

One thing the documentary mentioned was the fact that the Amish don’t vote or pledge allegiance to the flag or celebrate Independence Day. I think one of the “wedges” of secular accommodation in our Pentecostal churches, mine included, was that we did those things. The boundary between church and country became blurred. From there more accommodation was inevitable. I remember as a child being extremely afraid of communism. (One of the first “secular books” I read was None Dare Call It Treason. Our home and church contained many anti-communist books and pamphlets. Does anyone remember Billy James Hargis?)

I was so frightened of communism as a child that I assumed anything America did was automatically right. In my little black-and-white world, it was either America or communism. Being Christian and being pro-American and anti-communist became almost synonymous, certainly inseparable. I now look back at that and realize it was one way in which accommodation to secularity began to creep into our otherwise “separated” Christian lifestyle. When the Vietnam War came, we were all in favor of t because we were prepared to believe the “domino theory.” If Vietnam fell to communism, the communists would be on our doorstep next.

I’m not against voting or saluting the flag, but I do think mixing nationalism with Christianity is always a bad thing–much worse than rejecting patriotism. That we did mix them was a major cause of our further accommodation to secular lifestyles.

I admire the Amish even if I could never join them. Sure, there are things about their lifestyle I think are unnecessary (for Christian living) and even dumb (e.g., the men growing beards when they marry). But they are a testimony to the rest of us; their distinctive lifestyle centered around Christian community and holiness of life stands as a judgment on the rest of us who tend to go with every flow of culture.


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  • Sam

    I lived just a few blocks from Billy James Hargis’s “empire”, such as it was.

    • rogereolson

      Whatever happened to him and his empire?

  • My sister and brother-in-law lived in an Amish community as English trying to get “adopted” or become fully accepted converts. Their children went to the one-room stove-heated gas-lighted Amish school house. They dressed in Amish garb. They ran a dairy. They attended Amish church services (in homes) on Sundays. They began to learn Deutsch dialect. Etc. Both my sister and brother-in-law were raised in legalistic fundamentalist churches. They both adhere to patriarchal complementarian beliefs about gender roles. So it fit them. For about ten years.

    Then they began to be puzzled about the Ordnung for their community, the rationality of some of the regulations. You had to use horses to pull the hay baler in the field, and use horses to haul the loaded wagons to the road, but you could use tractors to haul the wagons to the barn. Men could have diesel generators to run power equipment in their work- and cabinet-shops, but women couldn’t use them to operate a wash machine. You had to use a horse to pull your fishing boat and trailer, but you could have an outboard motor on the boat. It began to make fundamentalists rules appear not so bad: don’t play cards, don’t dance (why they were opposed to pre-marital sex: it might lead to dancing), don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t chew, and don’t go to the theatre with women who do.

    What led to the decisive break was when my brother-in-law wanted to watch a high school football state playoff game which included the team where he had grown up. He asked a neighbor if he’d milk his cows that night. His neighbor asked why he’d be gone, and when he responded that he wanted to watch the high school playoff football game, the neighbor refused. He asked why, the response being that the community disapproved of football. When asked why, he didn’t know, but that was the rule.

    My sister and brother-in-law realized that as goofy and irrational some of the legalism of the fundamentalists was, it appeared the same or worse with the Amish. So they returned, about ten years ago, to their fundamentalist roots. And it has only been about three years now that my sister has appeared in public without a head covering. My eight year old niece is still not permitted to wear jeans or slacks (and asks my wife why she wears jeans). My niece is very confused when she comes to our house and sees me preparing the meal.

  • Tim Reisdorf

    I like the Amish. Theirs is a simple life – the kind of simple life that is described about the hobbits by Tolkien. Such a life is appealing and I must say that I’m more drawn to it than I ever was. By choice, we don’t have TV nor newspapers nor magazines. We do have Netflix and frequent the library, however. We homeschool our 2 kids. We very much miss a more intimate life with a church, however. We go to the sister-Church of the massive Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, MN.

    You were right to believe in the evils of Communism when you were young. You simply were not properly skeptical of everyone else and their own evils. But it healthy for all freedom-loving people to shun Communism as they have a dismal record for kindness.

    • rogereolson

      Well, I certainly didn’t say or imply that we were wrong to be against communism. But it became an obsession with evangelical Christians in the 1950s and 1960s to the point that we came to believe whatever America did was right because we (America) were the only bulwark against world takeover by communists. And we were neglectful of the dangers of militarism and imperialism by non-communists (e.g., in Latin America). I remember well when a fascist-like military junta took power in Brazil we were ecstatic. Now I’m not sure it was better than the socialist regime it overthrew. My point was that our anti-communism led us toward the state many evangelicals now are in–a kind of idolatrous belief in American exceptionalism that identifies American nationalism with Christianity.

      • Tim Reisdorf

        “we (America) were the only bulwark against world takeover by communists.” There is much to be proud about in that.

        It is unfortunate that a blind allegiance to a government would worm its way into someone’s Christian beliefs. Rather, it is fortunate that people who love God would choose to get involved and direct the government in a way that is more good than bad. Part of that good was opposing Communism in most every part of the world.

        I’m more favorable towards the American government (as opposed to, say, Saudi Arabia’s government) because the American government in its founding documents acknowledges that rights emanate from “The Creator” – which is true. It also limited the government to be caretakers of those rights. And the warning of the American Revolution was a warning to our own future government about going beyond its mandate. While I don’t think it is a Christian government in the least, I think this is the best framework for a government. I hope this does not seem idolatrous in your eyes.

        • rogereolson

          Not at all. My objection was to the all too common belief that whatever America does is automatically right because we are God’s chosen and blessed nation. I didn’t mention it in my post, but we also had (in our home when I was growing up) literature about Congress’s Unamerican Activities Committee and Joe McCarthy was a hero to my parents and most of the people we associated with. Sure, he was harsh and made some mistakes, but they were all justifiable because of the overall good of fighting communism. Almost anything was okay if it contributed to that cause.

  • Joe Canner

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane. I grew up in a Plymouth Brethren assembly that had some things in common with the “urban Amish” you describe. (I even played Rook!)

    There is perhaps one downside to the detachment from politics. I regularly drive through an area in Pennsylvania (Rt 15) that has a high concentration of Amish. I am always struck by the equally high concentration of adult bookstores and garish billboards promoting them. I wonder if this because the Amish choose not to fight the zoning laws that allows these stores to exist and advertise as they do. I do agree with you, though, about blurring the lines between church and country.

    • rogereolson

      I suspect the Amish, like the church I grew up in, just view themselves like Christians in the Roman Empire before Constantine. The outside world is totally corrupt and nothing surprises them about it. The difference is that we (Pentecostals and other evangelicals) began trying to clean up our neighborhoods and cities and eventually fell into a triumphalist attitude that we should criminalize everything we don’t like.

      • Joe Canner

        Indeed, there is a fine line between trying to work for a pleasant community and infringing on the rights of others.

    • I was surprised six years ago visiting Lancaster County, PA to see the large number of tobacco crops grown by Amish as a cash crop. I wasn’t and still am not quite sure what to think of that. But certainly my initial reaction was surprise, sort of like if I found out Amish had a shop producing parts for military weapons.

  • Scott Gay

    We live in the fourth largest Old Order Amish community in the world in northeast Ohio. I’m going to share a story that happened to us. Last winter, with the roads actually frozen, my son came over a knoll doing 50mph(the limit). An Amish boy of 11 was walking toward his home on the opposite side of the road holding his father’s hand. But he broke away, to run across the road for his driveway. My son hit him, he came over the hood into the windshield, the car skidding on the berm for a great distance, landing in a 5 foot ditch with a thud. The boy was laying in the snow in front of the car. He was motionless. My son thought he was dead. There was a tremendous fear of moving him being risky because of internal or spinal injury. At the hospital it was determined the extent of the injuries was shock and a broken fibula.
    Long story after that , short.
    We received a letter from his mother, expressing to us that they understood that this was unsettling for all, and that they were including us in their prayers., and we should not let this affect our “dreams or thoughts”, and thanking us for our show of concern throughout.

  • traveller

    Your posting is quite timely as there is a great article about an Amish/Mennonite community in Ohio in this past Sunday’s New York Times. The story concerns one of the members who essentially had a Ponzi scheme like Bernard Madoff that lost his fellow community members large sums of money. The individual, Mr. Beachy, filed bankruptcy as his losses were about to become public. His fellow community members petitioned the bankruptcy court to allow them to deal with the issue instead of using the bankruptcy laws to allocate the remaining funds. Here is a quote from the article to provide a flavor:

    “It became the forum for a rare bankruptcy court battle over religious freedom, with Mr. Beachy’s Amish and Mennonite creditors insisting that the court’s way of dealing with his downfall could not be squared with their faith or with his.

    “Monroe Beachy in his time of distress breached the trust of his fellow Amish and Mennonites” by entering an “environment of coercion and self-protection in the bankruptcy court,” a group of church elders told the judge, urging him to put the case into the hands of the church where it belonged.

    That would accomplish three worthy goals, they said. It would allow a less expensive, more advantageous financial workout “based on Christian principles of love and care for the poor and needy.” It would create a setting in which “Biblical forgiveness and restoration can be found between Monroe Beachy” and those he is accused of betraying. And it would repair “the tarnished testimony and integrity of the Plain Community.”

    And this quote:

    “A hundred years from now, what will be the difference about how much money we had here?” asked Emery E. Miller, a village resident and a proponent of the alternative plan, at the first creditors meeting. “But a hundred years from now, there will be a difference in how we responded to this from our moral being, from a moral level — the choices we made to forgive or not to forgive.”

    I will not provide the response of the bankruptcy court to this petition but highly recommend the article which dealt in a sensitive and sympathetic way with the Amish/Mennonites. It struck me how more of us who follow Christ should demonstrate it as these people did instead of our normal mode of using secular ways of responding. It also reminded me of the forgiving response of the Amish community when one of their members killed the children in the school house. These examples are the best evangelism for the transforming power of the Spirit. These actions speak far more clearly and loudly than any words. While they may not have everything correct, they do are willing to take the transformation of how life should be lived seriously.

    The story can be found here:


  • Roger,
    I found this a fascination post in many ways. As I read your description of your upbringing, I found much of it to be attractive. I know you have posted in the past about some things you found objectionable, but, overall I would say you were blessed by such an upbringing (except for the obvious legalism, even though that had a keeping power of its own for a youth).

    Your point about community is especially enjoyable and is a big lack in today’s Christian “big tent.” Thanks for the post.

  • DanO

    I have a different faith trek than you but do agree with your assessment of the Amish.

    Back home in Wisconsin the Amish started showing up in the 1980s. My folks got into bartering with them. These Amish were/are very generous to an old widow. Some folks don’t like their horses leaving *deposits* on main street. One council member seriously argued for horse diapers.

    I also have been watching the *Preppers* on the National Geographic channel. I think after society collapses the Amish will inherit the earth. Except I think they’re pacifist and that might pose a challenge.

    I watched some of the same documentary and found it really interesting. It is too bad the hard work cannot/will not be put into properly understanding their beliefs. Any ideas for a good text about the Amish?

    • rogereolson

      Go to Donald Kraybill’s Amish Studies web site. You should find good reading recommendations there.

  • DRT

    Roger, as a Catholic during those times I have many similar experiences (though I believe you are at least several years older than me 🙂 ). Dad was a high level executive but we did not have A/C in our house of 1400 square feet that they live in to this day (man am I going to get an inheritance 😉 .

    I felt that the communists were actually evil. And our enemies were, well, enemies. Wow I was so messed up.

  • AT

    I enjoyed this post. Last year I enjoyed a great documentary about some Amish people coming out from the purist life as they became convinced that some of the ‘rules’ where legalistic. They were forming a new church that was kinda ‘Evangelical Amish’. I found it interesting which ‘boudaries’ individuals kept and which boundaries they left behind as legalistic. Driving a car was ok but going to the fairground was seen as sinful.

    I really enjoyed the tension of leaving behind the legalism but sincerely trying to seek God’s heart and purity.

  • Scott Gay

    When the Viet-nam war came I understood in my heart that it was a mistake. I was actually a conscientious objector without a community. I preached my beliefs to my parents, their friends, my contemporaries. It upset my family. My father and grandfather were WWII, WWI respectively. My father was actively anti-communist. I was drafted and the ensuing internal struggle provoked a hideous pattern of injustice to me. At a definite, on the highway crossroads, I decided to submit. In the Army’s reception center, I was tested with the other inductees. On a test for candidates for helicopter pilot, I had a particularly high score, so was asked if I wanted to apply. Not wanting to be infantry, I agreed, and subsequently jumped through all the hoops to being an Air ambulance pilot commander in Viet-nam. The day I left Viet-nam was my last in the military. I threw up for an hour on the freedom flight jet back home to the east coast from the west coast, still in my uniform. Getting off the plane I was jeered at by people on my way to the parking lot. Alot had changed in peoples attitudes about the war in the four years I had been in the military.
    I now look back on it and realize that in this Lutheran soul( at that time), the desire for absolute independence existed side by side with willingness to subordinate itself absolutely. Ever since I have been a non-conformist at heart.

  • Scott Gay

    I don’t wonder to what extent some of the Amish have forgotten some of their own theolgy-because which sect(RC, EO, Mainline, Evangelical, Free, Pentecostal) hasn’t. The interpreters of Luther/Calvin, in the very next generation started to look into the Bible for Luther and Calvin. What a shame. There is enough undecovered truth in the Bible until it explodes in us and we let it loose. That is a reformation.

  • Steve Rogers

    This post stirred up many memories of the interface between your childhood and mine. To be truthful I do not look back on it with such nostalgia. A defining moment for me came when my pastor father took a position with our denominational HQ. When he was the pastor in a church 120 miles to the north, going to movies was strictly forbidden. Suddenly, because the children of the national officers in the big city were permitted to go to movies, it was now okay for my siblings and me to do so. What a difference 120 miles made! I’ve spent a lifetime “detoxing” from that legalistic, artificial holiness. It is not what produces strong families and communities. Just because a group of people reject modernity and value simplicity does not mean they are less prone to carnality and hypocrisy, as I’m sure you know.

  • John Inglis

    I remember going to my grandparents Mennonite church, where families sat in the middle, and single women and men on opposite sides. One sermon was in
    German, and one in English, by lay preachers. Hymns (German or English) were both posted on the church wall and also chosen by old men who just stood up and announced a song. My grandmother used to make soap to send overseas. I remember when my grandparents got indoor plumbing on their farm. However, though they were quite restrictive culturally (no make-up, no piercings, no dancing, no cards, no hair curling or perms, etc.) they did have tractors and (when my grandfather was in his 60s) a TV at the insistence of their youngest son who lived with them.

    Their are pluses and minuses with that lifestyle. Sunday was Faspah (some Low German word), when there was no cooking and lots of visiting between families (and of course no work). On the other hand, many found it stifling to have everyone know so much about their lives. And there was lots of gossiping, and secretly listening on party lines. Some people find that intrusiveness comforting; it makes others go nuts.

    Though most of their kids stayed in some sort of Mennonite or evangelical or Baptist church, not all did, so it doesn’t seem to me the religious training and indoctrination and discipleship was any better than any other community.

    My mom became a city girl, but then returned to the church. And her background greatly influenced our childhood–among other things, there were no toy guns, not even water pistols. On the other hand, I was shooting pests (out alone with a rifle by the time I was 13 or 14), and helping butcher by the time I was 12. I’ve maintained the no toy guns policy in my house, and no shoot ’em up video games. And I’ve become more curious about my mother’s culture as I grew up, and more informed about their history and beliefs. Mennonites are an important voice in the church today.



  • David

    Interesting post: I too grew up in a legalistic Pentecostal tradition, in a pastor’s home. Everything and more that you say, I went through. I’m still Pentecostal, serving as a pastor and having served in denominational leadership for years. Today we are very different from those early legalistic days. And your point is so true: we have lost our “family” closeness. Our churches are now a “bunch of people” sitting in apathy and reflecting our culture in values and attitudes.

    We don’t want those old ways of legalism again: they were wrong. We don’t want to be as we are today: it is spiritual death. The big question is: how do we avoid the two extremes and get into being the church: filled with love yet walking in the “law” of perfect love? How do we get back our family closeness and unity, without using a high handed method of rules and regulations?

    • rogereolson

      I know I’m going to sound old fashioned, but I think dropping all church services except Sunday morning has been a huge cause of the loss of feeling church as family.

      • Tony Pounders

        I agree completely! A couple hours on Sunday morning just won’t cut it. We lose depth, closeness, vision, passion, etc. As a pastor, I always choose to offer Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and mid-week worship. The people who choose to attend those worship times are the strongest in commitment to Christ and to one another. Those who choose not to attend gravitate to the fringe and remain loosely attached and some disappear altogether.

        • David

          You’re absolutely right! My current pastorate had a full slate of services six years ago. Not by my choice but because of people’s lack of willingness, Sunday nights and mid-week has all gone! Our locale is a resort area, so everyone wants to enjoy the nice weather, go for Sunday boat rides, etc. Services stopped because so few would come. Nothing could get them out. But, the church has dramatically changed in six years and it’s not positive.

  • Jeremy

    I like a lot of what comes out of Anabaptism. I think more than any other Reformation group they had the right thing going on, despite the issues they had. Too bad it’s often hard to find a place to live it out in the church today. I really like the idea of a community like the Amish, but without the technology hang-ups and legalism.

    I think they’re right on with rejecting the pledge of allegiance. I think it’s odd that Christians often accept that kind of thing uncritically.

  • Phil Miller

    As far as liking the Amish, I guess I never thought of it that much. My wife is from Lancaster County in Pennsylvania, and the commercialism and tourism that has grown up around the culture there turns the lifestyle into something of a freak show. Also, if you’ve ever driven down a rural road in a “traffic jam” caused by a buggy, your appreciation for them begins o dwindle!

    I grew up in the AoG, and I can relate to much of what you wrote about your childhood. I’m in my 30s now, so my upbringing was not nearly as strict as yours was, but it was very different than most of the people I went to school with. For example, I didn’t see a movie in a movie until I was 18. One thing I remember about elementary school was that I could never go to any of the roller skating parties on Wednesday evening because we had church (Royal Rangers, in my case). We had church Sunday mornings and evenings and Wednesday nights, and for a time my family actually lived in a “parsonage” (although it techically wasn’t one) attached to the church building. So I was literally at the church all the time from the time I was 5 until 17. My brothers and I cleaned the building, mowed the lawn, pulled weeds, etc. I was in public school, but the majority of my friends were from church. Most of the kids in my church were from a different school district because of the way the geography of the area was laid out. Anyway, I’m sure we were considered somewhat weird by people when I was growing up.

    I don’t have any regrets about my childhood, and I can’t complain about the way I was raised, really. The only negative thing I can say is that for most of childhood, I had a very sharp delineation of who was saved and who wasn’t. In my mind, even people who didn’t go to an AoG church were suspect. They might be saved, but they were probably mistaken about a lot of stuff! I ended up going to a large secular school for college, and I have to say that was probably the best thing I could have done. I ended up meeting Christians from so many different traditions that I was forced to change my worldview. So I guess while I am thankful for my upbringing, I just don’t know if I can say it is a model that needs to be emulated. So often I think we focus on the external things in raising children, that the heart is neglected. Certainly many of the people I grew up with did their various problems. We can only shelter children for so long.

  • René

    Professor Olson, this is my first comment here. I’ve been reading through your archives and have been so encouraged by your blog. (And Can It Be is one of my favourite hymns too!) Thank you so much for what you write.

    My mom’s background is Mennonite Bretheren, and her childhood sounds much like yours, though stricter. Some older relatives have told me that there have been some recent efforts at evangelism by Mennonite believers amongst the (much stricter) Hutterites here in Canada, some of whom may be like the Amish you describe – attributing salvation to adherence to their culture.

    In 2003 Wycliffe also published a Bible in Plautdietsch (Low German), which has been a tool for evangelism and renewal amongst the Mennonite communities in Bolivia, according to this article:

    “While outsiders might think Bolivia’s Mennonite leaders would celebrate the arrival of God’s Word in their language, the opposite is true. In the colonies, Scripture is read aloud in High German, even though few colonists understand that language well. It’s a deliberate choice, based on traditional beliefs that too much knowledge may lead to pride and worldliness.”

    Word Alive, summer 2006

    (I really love that article.)

  • DNK

    Interesting post and a great walk down memory lane – I was raised in a moderately conservative Mennonite Church in Lancaster County and my upbringing involved quite a few games of Rook and Authors as well! Still do enjoy a fun game of Rook with my family or friends from time to time.

  • I was reliving my own upbringing with this…especially the note to be excused from dance class! There was a lot of good in that distinctive sub-culture. When so many evangelicals went all legislative, they left me but I probably wouldn’t have learned devotion to Christ without what I experienced in my childhood and youth.

    My wife is absolutely in love with Amish movies. She too was raised in the same environment and we’ll be celebrating 30 years of great marriage this year. 🙂

  • Eric Miller

    I find that the things I admire most about the Amish (simplicity, modesty,”conservative” values) can be found in certain fundamentalist and conservative denominations, without rejection of evangelism. I find the legalism and lack of proselytization among the Amish quite troubling, but like with most groups I think there are important emphasises that we can learn from the Amish.