The Old Order Amish and Mennonites have changed much in the 20 years since this column was created. In 1991, the Amish were still a largely insular, agrarian culture. Today, Amish men work in factories as much as fields.
The Internet, cell phones and automobiles have offered challenges to the church. The Amish, however, true to tradition, have responded in creative and innovative ways, embracing some technologies while finding novel ways to keep others at arm's length. The Amish have given their approval to solar and wind technologies, advances that allow them to "cherry pick" which technologies suit their lifestyle while still remaining "off the grid."
But technology isn't all about business. There is now actually a Mennonite online dating service called MennoMeet. And many Amish have embraced "voicemail" services for leaving one another messages without actually keeping a phone in the home. So the historically innovative Amish and Mennonites have been gradually adopting some changes, while keeping their core culture intact.
There are still limits, however. When the Amish newspaper The Budget decided to publish online last year, the negative outcry from Amish readers was so strong that the paper quickly reversed course.
Personally, I admire the incremental changes the Amish adopt without sacrificing their traditional values. Regular readers of this blog know that I have been close enough to anibaptists to see the trials and tribulations of their endeavors. This has challenged my own core beliefs. I've been blessed by my friendship with the sect. No matter my own flaws, their beliefs have helped to keep me grounded and growing.
The resiliency of the Amish people is amazing. For example: Did you know Yoder vs. Wisconsin was a landmark Supreme Court case in 1972 that allowed for Amish schools?
There are lots of things about them that makes them mysterious to non Amish. I have always been intriguied by them, especially their faith and what they choose to adopt in their daily lifestyle.
I know we all should live simpler lives and demonstrate greater faith. I try to do that. They really do that. They remind me of one of my favorite quotes from Zig Ziglar. He said if the church is full of hypocrits and they are keeping you from attending, they are one step closer to God than you are!
Many people think they are hypocrits but I don't see that at all. I just see a real hard working group of people who live the Bible as well as any people I know of.
I have a real advantage on all of you. We farmed like the Mennonites do and our faith is not that far apart. Maybe that explains my respect of their people.
I look forward to visiting with some this month.