Amish Bishops Ask County For Help…Because Younger Amish “Think they’re invincible”

Charlotte County, Virginia

There’s a detail in this report on Amish buggy safety in Virginia that may be easy to overlook. At first glance, by the title (“Safety concerns continue for Amish, with state decision needed”) it sounds like just another meeting about buggy safety issues, and what to do about them. But in the text we learn this:

Witt added that elders in the Amish community wanted the county to mandate the use of flashers on all buggies. Witt said that elders have told him “young people think they’re invincible” and are not following guidance to install them.

That’s Charlotte County Administrator Dan Witt reporting on the internal differences within this Amish settlement. Charlotte County is home to one of the state’s largest Amish settlements, with numerous car-buggy crashes in the past five years.

Progressive leaders & conservative youth?

That’s not something you see every day. Usually these stories are about the more conservative Amish resisting mandated buggy safety enhancements.

But here we have an example where a community is in some sense divided about the addition of flashing lights to buggies: “Witt noted that the Amish community is split on the issue and must come together to determine the direction this needs to go.”

Typically (though not always) in Amish communities, church leaders tend to lean to the more conservative side, all things considered.

Pennsylvania buggy with flashing light.

So it’s interesting that the “elders”, as the Farmville Herald describes them, are the ones here that could be seen as progressive (in Amish terms), in wanting the flashers.

The younger people, as they tell it, take the more conservative position of no-flashers-needed. The elders described here frame that as them feeling “invincible”.

It’s funny to think about things in this way. In non-Amish society, rejecting safety enhancements and restrictions could be seen as the more “liberal” (in the classic sense of “free” or “unrestricted”) position, while requiring them would reflect a sort of conservatism. Though to tell the truth, it’s a bit hard to keep track of what these terms mean anymore.

Charlotte County’s Amish resemble those in Lancaster County at first glance (they can trace their roots there by way of St. Mary’s County, MD), though are probably a notch, or several notches, more conservative.

Amish buggy in the Charlotte County, VA settlement.

In contrast, in other examples, most recently the Ohio Swartzentruber flashing light controversy, we were getting quotes and letters from younger members of the community wishing for the buggy safety enhancements – while the church leaders were the ones against them.

For example, two younger Amish men were pulled over in Ohio for not displaying the state-mandated flashing lights. One had this to say: “We heard about it. I would put it on but my bishop is not allowing me.”

Virginia’s Amish mix continues to grow

Elsewhere in Virginia, other Amish reject the idea of a flasher mandate:

“The idea of mandating flashers at the state level met with opposition by strict Amish in Brookneal who do not want such regulation, he said. He contends that the community needs to see that everyone is using flashers. “The Amish need to self-monitor this,” he said.

It’s no surprise to find differences of opinions across Amish communities in the Old Dominion State now. A decade or so ago, with just a handful of settlements, that would have been less likely. Today, at a dozen communities and counting, you’re seeing the diversity of Amish, and their range of views on things, only increase.

Get the Amish in your inbox

Join 15,000 email subscribers. No spam. 100% free

    Join the Amish America Patreon for bonus videos & more!

    Similar Posts

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    2 Comments

    1. Joe Zygala

      Conservatism vs. Liberalism

      Erik, you wrote:

      “ It’s funny to think about things in this way. In non-Amish society, rejecting safety enhancements and restrictions could be seen as the more “liberal” (in the classic sense of “free” or “unrestricted”) position, while requiring them would reflect a sort of conservatism. Though to tell the truth, it’s a bit hard to keep track of what these terms mean anymore.”

      I kinda disagree with you on this. Conservatism, at least to me, means being reluctant to change, wanting things to stay the same, as that has worked for us. Liberalism means generally being open to change if it makes life better. Just my 2 cents.

      1. Erik Wesner

        Yes that’s a fair two cents, and that’s also kind of the bigger point I was getting at. The terms can be viewed and interpreted in different ways.

        What I mean here is conservative could also mean being “conservative”, as in not wasting resources, or in this case, lives. Accepting flashing lights as a safety measure could thus be seen as conservative in that lens.

        It seems to be increasingly hard (at least for me) to use these terms in both Amish and non-Amish contexts!