The Amish are on to something.
A few weeks ago, Becca and I visited Lancaster, PA for a quick weekend away in celebration of our 7th wedding anniversary. During that weekend, we spent a lot of time around the Amish– and we found ourselves joking “So when do you want to join???” In fact, we found ourselves joking about it so much that it became apparent that there was actually some level of truth behind our jokes.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a negative kajillion percent chance of us becoming Amish. I really love doing my work in technology ministry with the YouVersion Bible App. What we were really processing is that their way of life doesn’t seem so crazy at all.
Simplicity with the Amish
As a couple who has been trying to emphasize simplicity and minimalism rooted in Jesus in our lives, we want to have a lot more in common with the Amish than we currently do.
I appreciate the lifestyle they have intentionally cultivated for themselves built around shared beliefs and focusing on the things that matter most: God, family. simplicity, and community.
All these things are awesome and I love what the Amish have created there.
You know what else I love? Air conditioning. Seriously ya’ll, I’m just hot. All the time.
All of this got me thinking, though… what can we learn from the Amish? What can we learn from a group who has intentionally turned their backs on modernity in order to cultivate a sense of communal closeness?
A decade ago, I probably would have found myself not finding much value in the anything Amish, other than some dope Pennsylvania Dutch food. These days though? I find myself wanting what they have because our use of technology has gone batty.
The Dangers of Technology
That may sound weird from a guy works in technology ministry to make sure the Bible is available to everyone in the world in their own language. Social Media has transformed the innermost workings of our society, and though we are more connected to each other than ever before, we feel more lonely, isolated and alone than ever before. The ability to create content and distribute it ourselves without any gatekeepers has completely changed the world.
For instance, I now have the ability to write this blog article and have people read it without getting a newspaper editor to approve me. On the flip side, ANYBODY can create content– and I don’t know if you’ve noticed this– but the Internet is a hot mess. Just go on YouTube or any news site and take a look at the comments section to see what a hot bed of racism, bigotry and all the rest of the ways we sin against God on display for all to see.
When we go online, we have to be on constant guard against manipulation, and it’s getting exhausting. Online advertisers track what we’re doing across the entire Internet in order to try and influence us to buy things we don’t need. Social media sites play with algorithms and show us certain types of post in order to experiment with our emotions. The smart phones that offered unparalleled connectivity have become points of addiction.
The Amish and Technology
And the Amish foresaw all of this. Not the specifics of course, but the fact that rapid technological adoption is more complicated than we could possibly imagine. I love our modern conveniences, but we’re fooling ourselves if we don’t admit life has gotten worse in many ways because of them. There’s an opportunity cost that has to be paid, and I think more and more people are starting to feel like the cost we’re paying for our rapid technology gains is too high.
Simply put: our use of technology is destroying trust in everything, which is eroding the very fabric of our society.
I offer no easy answers. I have no plan to fix the world. Pandora’s box is open and I don’t know how to close it without revolution. What I do know is that the Amish aren’t crazy to want nothing to do with what technology has become.
God has been stirring something in the hearts of our family around the idea of building intentional community as Christians. What if the early church was actually onto something BIG? What if small communities of people, rooted in love of God and love of neighbor and anchored in simplicity and minimalism were more of a thing?
I’m no fortune-teller, but I think there’s a good chance that this vision of community is what the Christian church will look like in a few decades from now– intentional communities centered around faith, simplicity, and the things that matter most.