Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Lessons From the Amish

I happened to be home in the afternoon a couple of weeks ago and turned on Oprah. She was describing her car trip with her best friend Gayle, which I guess you know plenty about it if you watch the show, but this was the first I had seen of it. One of their stops was an Amish community in Ohio and they talked with a young married couple about their life, especially in light of the recent shootings among the Amish in a Pennsylvania town.

It was a pretty interesting interview. Not only were Gayle and Oprah pretty surprised that they were well aware of who Oprah was and knew that 50 cent was more than just half a dollar, but they were visibly impressed with the emphasis that the Amish put on reading. They don't use many of the modern conveniences that many of us have as part of our daily lives, but they read a lot and that is how they learn about the outside world. The gentlemen said that it's not like they have something against progress and technology. They just think that the reliance on technology can distract from the importance of faith and family.

The guy pointed out that so many of these things that are so important to us and that are supposed to make our lives so much easier actually do just the opposite. He went on to say that their lives are very simple and relaxed and the people in the "real world" are the ones running around busy and stressed out. Think about it...are our lives really simpler than those 100 years ago? Of course, we probably smell better and medical advances help us to live longer, but I don't think anyone could argue that our lives are easier or that our families are fundamentally better off.

One of the reasons why the Amish have been so shocked by the shootings in Pennsylvania is because nothing like that ever really happens to them. I'm sure that this may vary from different parts of the country where they are located, but the couple that Oprah was talking with stated some pretty startling facts about their lifestyles. They said that divorce was non-existent among their people; that they knew of no one personally that had committed adultery; that most of them don't date until they turn 18 and, even then, physical interaction was limited until marriage.

This is what seemed to get Oprah and Gayle... that the people in their community actually wait until marriage to have sex! The absurdity of it! Gayle stated that a lot of people she knows would have a really difficult time having sex with only one person over the course of their life. The Amish lady responded that she couldn't imagine ever having sex with multiple people. Ole Gayle didn't have much of an answer for that.

Why is it that we mock and put down a group of people that virtually never sees divorce, has strong family ties and doesn't have many of the problems of broader society? Because they don't use computers or drive cars? Why do we look down upon them as simplistic and backward? To be fair, they do have their problems. Their separatist attitude doesn't seem to mesh with Jesus' instructions in Matthew 28, they do seem to have a works based salvation mentality and some do partake in worldly pleasures during rumspringa.

But if I'm honest with myself, I admire the lifestyle of the Amish. What would it be like to not have the clamor of traffic, the loud echoes from a T.V., or 70 e-mails waiting to be returned each day? Might I hear more from God if I didn't treat him like a microwave giving me my food in thirty seconds or less. I don't see the rush, rush, rush and busyness of our society slowing down anytime soon. Maybe we need to be intentional to step back, eliminate the distractions and return to a simpler lifestyle. I'd write more, but I've got to go check my e-mail...

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