At a talk I gave in Holmes County, at one point one of the Amish entrepreneurs on the 5-man panel expressed concerns over technology. Paraphrasing, he spoke of worries over “kids having the PSP and the Game Boy and half of the boys having cars”. Having been to a few Amish homes, I can say this is not far off in some communities, where both handheld games and automobiles among other worldly implements are not uncommon among young people.
In the recent CNNMoney article, entrepreneur Myron Miller shares the following:
“The smarter you get, and the more technology you use for your business, the more impact it has on families,” he says. “For instance, there was a time the farmer would be in the parlor milking cows, and everyone was there, singing songs, and it was work, but it was also family time. Now, an Amish farmer is likely to be milking forty cows, and the children are at school. That’s practical living, and you’ve got to keep up. But at the same time, it takes away from that balance, and you have to ask yourself, ‘How far do you let technology affect your business?'”
Another Ohio businessperson recently shared with me that technology is a top concern of “90% of local bishops”.
Clearly you find the issue of technology is a big one. One basis of concern is that too much technology will be allowed, leading to too-rapid change and drift. Amish today deal with a significantly greater amount of technology than their grandparents and even parents did, and the issue of how to put the brakes on, how hard to brake, and furthermore how to balance restricting technology with the demands of business and to a lesser degree, farming, are all important issues.
“Too much”, for that matter is a description with latitude of interpretation and you will find Amish of one affiliation or church having a markedly different view of “too much” than those of another.
Technology is addressed in an impressive new book on the Amish of Holmes County, An Amish Paradox: Diversity and Change in the World’s Largest Amish Community, by Charles E. Hurst and David L. McConnell. This book is overdue in the sense that there really hasn’t been a solid book-length academic treatment of this community, the largest in the world.
I’m not quite halfway through An Amish Paradox but it is a compelling read and I’m much enjoying it. The authors examine the issue of diversity in impressive depth. On technology they have much to say as well. They also examine adolescent “running around”, aka Rumspringa, and address differences between the four major affiliations in Holmes County–the Old Order, New Order, Andy Weaver, and Swartzentruber Amish. They even delve into the smaller affiliations which have sprung from these groups, such as the New Order Christian Fellowship or the Mose Miller Swartzentruber group.
This weekend I will be in Holmes County. On Saturday from 9am til 1pm I will be doing a book signing for Success Made Simple at the Gospel Book Store in the German Village Market in Berlin. I will have the honor of being paired with Professors Hurst and McConnell, who will be doing a simultaneous signing of An Amish Paradox. I am looking forward to meeting them in person, and if you happen to be in the area I hope you’ll drop by to say hello!