Living in a closed society means that little is known about the Amish, but most know that they live traditionally. However, despite what many people believe, the Amish use several forms of modern technology, including the phone.
However, technology is seen as a threat, and Amish leaders regulate its use using a set of guidelines known as the Ordnung. These regulations touch on every aspect of their life and must be complied with. Otherwise, they are ousted from the community. Nevertheless, what can we learn about technology from the Amish?
Origins of the Amish
Today the Amish are a group of conservative Christians living in North America and known as the Old Order of the Amish Mennonite Church. The religious order first appeared in Europe in the late 17th century as followers of the Mennonite elder Jakob Ammann. After moving to the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries and integrating with other Mennonite groups in Europe, no more Amish people live in Europe today.
Known for their reluctance to use technology, the Amish use careful evaluation before any are adopted. Amish furniture is reproduced using methods of old, resulting in stunning pieces.
Some technologies are seen as a distraction, breaking down the need for relying on each other as a community. These include television, radio, the internet, and vehicles. Many labor-saving technologies are also not embraced because they break down the values of learning about hard work.
Vehicles provide easy mobility
The Amish carefully consider what positive things each new technology can introduce to the community. For example, with vehicles, the ease of mobility is believed to affect family ties because people who use them can go further away, leaving their families for extended periods. Additionally, easy transportation means more accessible access to cities where sin and temptation abound.
In some situations, the Amish acknowledge that vehicles offer benefits when used for hospital trips, shopping, visiting family in distant communities, and attending to business. Community members can hire a taxi in such situations but can’t personally operate a car.
Compromise on telephones
Telephone use is allowed, but because these devices are considered intrusive to families’ privacy, and time, they are not kept in Amish homes. The compromise is a type of phone booth that is far from homes to discourage unnecessary use. Besides a phone, the kiosk includes a log for incoming and outgoing calls, which individuals pay for.
Like the cell phone, some technologies are challenging to control because they have become accessible and smaller. Not only do they have internet access, but they are easy to sneak into the community.
Embracing other technologies
The Amish are more mindful of embracing some technologies, ensuring they don’t harm their way of life or the community. Conveniences they use include calculators, flashlights, and even small home appliances using battery power.
Of course, Amish working in non-Amish places may use electricity, power tools, and even the internet. They use pneumatic or hydraulic systems for powering the appliances and equipment they use.
Different sects of Amish are more open to using technology than others, meaning that it’s OK to use electricity for their cattle fencing for some. In some communities, their horse-drawn buggies may even have battery-powered headlights.
Mindfulness and technology
The guidelines of the Ordnung were laid down over 500 years ago. Since the 17th century, the Amish started considering which technology is acceptable and which to reject, requiring changes to the Ordnung and always undertaken with caution to protect their way of life.
If the Ordnung does not explicitly forbid something, it is not unusual to see it used in some Amish communities, such as disposable diapers and gas barbecues. Also, there is an increasing number of small businesses in their communities, raising the demand for specific technologies, including the internet and cell phones.
The simple fact is, it is becoming increasingly difficult for anyone to believe that they can live without technology and are completely separated from society, even for the Amish. However, if technology is used mindfully, it can help preserve the simple and serene life of these close-knit communities, preferring to own technology as it is needed rather than letting technology have a hold on them.