One manner of thinking views Amish society as highly restrictive and devoid of most freedoms.  By this view, Amish people are trapped in a harsh system which regulates nearly every aspect of their lives, leading to despair and misery.

Amishman Aaron Miller previously discussed a pair of issues related to the idea of freedom–the Ordnung and Rumspringa.  Today, Aaron shares his take on choice and individuality as an Amish person.  As you’ll see, Aaron views the issue as not so clear-cut:

And now we turn to choices and self.  The idea that the Amish give up all choices is not accurate. Granted, choice is perceived a little differently between the two cultures. Personal desire is not the sole and supreme criteria when Amish make decisions while other Americans seem to jealously guard their choices.

And yet choice is ultimately the domain of the individual. The idea that Amish give up the freedom of choice and let the community make them all is a myth. In fact that is impossible. Even if you do decide to let others decide that in itself is a choice.

The human being believes what he wants to believe. The person chooses his own values and beliefs. The only thing the community can do is reject or affirm what the individual chooses. The individual’s mind cannot be changed unless the individual chooses to do so.

Granted Amish life has a strong communal dimension that is also ecclesial.

That I know is a different dimension than what a lot of Americans are acquainted with. This doesn’t mean individuality necessarily withers away for the Amish person.

All it means is that the Amish person has another source of social strength and collective wisdom to help make choices for the betterment of all and ultimately for good of self.

And really all Americans do the same. We all have traffic laws and tax laws, criminal justice systems, and other laws of the land. And I am sure that in college there are things that are expected and things that are not to done for the same reason of betterment of all and the ultimate good of the self.

In the workplace I have found that the equivalent of Ordnung there is much stricter than anything else I have ever experienced. And in corporate America things are not nearly always for the betterment of the individual but instead it is for the sake of profits that go to the company.

And now finally I will say that although personal desire is not the sole or supreme criteria used when an Amish person makes a decision, personal preference still plays a role.

To be continued...

Part 2


You might also like:

Get the Amish in your inbox

    Question on the Amish? Get answers to 300+ questions in 41 categories at the Amish FAQ.