How do the Amish thrive in a hypermodern society? What life lessons has Donald Kraybill learned from them?

Yesterday, Kraybill addressed these and other questions in his last major address before retirement.


Photo by Suzette Wenger, Lancaster Online

The talk, the keynote speech for Elizabethtown College’s “Scholarship and Creative Arts Days” (described here), was about “unpacking” Amish riddles both large and small.

Lancaster Online’s Tim Stuhldreher was in attendance. Below are five points he picked up from the talk (you can read his report in full here):

  1. They’re not “technologically impaired” – this references a famous line in Weird Al Yankovic’s 1990s parody song “Amish Paradise.” Rather, Amish adapt and select technology to fit specific needs.
  2. Amish lack hierarchy – Over 2,200 Amish churches in 30 states & Canada, but no elaborate hierarchy over everything. Yet it still somehow works.
  3. We’re not all Amish…and that’s good – We’d be missing many things of great value from the worlds of science and art.
  4. Yet Amish life is highly attractive – Outsiders admire the importance of family, stability, and pace of life. Too much choice creates anxiety.
  5. Lessons for life –  Kraybill described things he personally had gained from studying the Amish. These include greater caution over technology, and “a genuine sense of humility.”

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