It makes sense to forbid air travel, if one of the main reasons car ownership is off limits is to keep the community tight.
Some of the more New Order Amish do allow it, even for vacations, but the only time Old Orders really take to the sky is in an emergency.
I spoke with a Nappanee, Indiana Amishman, whose toddler son was run over by a buggy this summer.
The boy was airlifted to a hospital in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Thankfully, the boy survived and was doing fine.
Lacking insurance as Amish do, this father estimated the pricetag for the helicopter trip would come to around 10 grand.
He wasn’t excited.
One comfort–members of his church were to pitch in, as the Amish usually do for each other in cases like this.
As this example shows, the Amish have their rules, which make sense in the context of their system of values, yet they are pragmatic about it as well.
That’s why if you buy a previously English-owned home, some churches allow you to live in it for up to a year before having to cut off the power.
It’s also why some Amish travel to Tijuana for discount surgery, use battery-powered headband flashlights to see at night, hire taxis, and so on.
Being in the world but not ‘of’ it doesn’t mean you can’t adapt when practicality or emergency requires it.
The history of Amish society in America is a story of adaptation and negotiation. And when members haven’t seen eye-to-eye, it’s often been a story of church division as well.
But these examples also show why it can be funny to read the romantic version of Amish life served up to visitors at Amish meccas across the nation.
‘Living like they did 200 years ago’ sounds nice in the brochure, but does it really ring true?
For most Amish, life now is not even close to how they lived even a couple generations ago.