Are the Amish hypocrites?

“The Amish are hypocrites.” So this claim is hardly a new one. It’s something I’ve seen often enough over the years, both in comments here on the website and elsewhere. I just made a video about it, because I started to see it a lot in the YouTube comments on some videos, in particular one I did recently on how Amish keep food cool.

I address this question looking at what seems to be the main point of criticism: outsiders see Amish using technology in various ways, and they think this somehow is “cheating” or hypocrisy. The assumption of these folks seems to be that Amish take a moral position on technology and are “against” it.

In this calculation, creative Amish uses of technology are at best bending the rules. They shouldn’t be using technology at all, according to this view, assuming Amish take the position that technology is a bad thing. But the Amish don’t consider tech evil in and of itself (though they recognize that use of tech, like other tools, can lead to evil or be used for evil purposes, so they restrict its use in various ways).

Nor do they take a public position against others using technology. They don’t preach against it or critique us for using it – at least not officially and publicly; sure, some Amish may hold such opinions, but I’ve not much felt that Amish look down on non-Amish for their use of technology.

Quite the contrary in fact, as many Amish make use of the fruits of technology – motor vehicle transport, medical procedures, mass-produced goods, and so on. And I think they are aware of and appreciate the benefits they gain from their targeted use of technology. They just simply try to be more thoughtful about adopting everything under the sun, with no limitations or consideration of how it might affect their family and church community lives.

Creative use of technology often allows them to tap into those benefits, while limiting exposure to risk of negative effects of modern devices. An example is the phone shanty. The phone is useful, but Amish don’t want it ringing during dinner and drawing the children (and parents for that matter) away from face-to-face family time, multiple times a day.

But if they need to use it, they can make a 50-yard trip to the end of the lane, or further to a community-shared phone, to handle all their business (usually by leaving messages) and then come back home. Or, they have a set phone time when they’ll be by the line and can receive calls in a limited window. They tap the benefits while controlling the downside of this communication tool.

So I get into the question from that perspective. Of course, Amish individuals can be hypocritical, like any other individuals. But this video addresses the question from the broader perspective, which I see to be most often rooted in the use of technology issue.

Here’s the video, I hope you enjoy (Runtime: 7:29).

 

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    8 Comments

    1. Dolores

      Thank you!

      Ice spent several years working directly with Amish and have a great appreciation for their stance on technology. Yes, they do use limited technology, but, as said in the article, those uses are selective and restrained.
      Thank you for this explanation of the Amish use of technology…I find majority of those who criticize the Amish have never taken the time to get to know any Amish. They are good people and I would rather have 1 good Amish friend than 20 English friends any day. (Fortunately, I have plenty of both)

    2. Leana

      No.

      Many people oversimplify things and it’s something they don’t know anything about. The Amish have the right to pick and choose what technology they will use and what not, the extent of the use, and so on. To limit it is good. It is a neutral tool, but usually in the world used for evil. It is good that they preserved that way of life because those are the ways of prepping and survival that will come in handy and I wish I were set up as they are! The accusation of ‘hypocrite’ gets thrown around without caution often. I see a lot of people using it in the opposite way as its intended meaning. When you are a good Christian, they will accuse you of this, but it is the opposite. A hypocrite is one who claims to be something that they are not. A good Christian is being what he claims to be, the exact opposite of a hypocrite. A bad Christian would be a hypocrite because they are doing exactly the opposite from what they claim we should do. This has nothing to do with salvation by grace and not works, we are to live godly lives and to claim otherwise is claiming there is a license to sin, something condemned by the Bible. A similar accusation is that of being ‘self righteous.’ There is nothing ‘self’ righteous about living in a righteous way, something we are to do. Those who become proud and look down on others with glee, and it is a superficial goodness, that is self righteousness. Many are confused on these matters because they are jealous of those who have it right.
      Blessings.

    3. Joe

      Amish use of technology

      Interesting how some people think Amish shouldn’t use technology. Gee, do they think they live in the Stone Age? That to make fire they rub two sticks together? That they shouldn’t use wheels?

      Everybody decides where to draw the line on technology. Yes, I am using a smartphone to write this, but I don’t use Facebook, I don’t tweet, etc. Various Amish groups decide where to draw the line, and that is just fine. I have even run across Amish owning and vacationing in travel trailers! I even teased one fellow, asking him how many horses it took to drag the trailer to the campground (he had an English friend use his truck to bring the trailer to the campground). He did hook up to electricity, but only to charge the trailer batteries. So, yes, every Amish community draws the line about technology use where they see fit, and that is just fine.

    4. J.O.B.

      I think calling the Amish ‘hypocrites’ can be a strong word to use. However, it can be understandable when people using that term are confused.

      Yes. Some people are rude and mean. And that has to be noted. But sometimes some Amish do things that are hard to understand.

      I have seen a married/baptized Amish man not look at a computer when in a business meeting with a non-Amish salesperson.

      Yet, the same Amish man still has a facebook account(no pictures of himself and there are posts that are not work related) and has been seen watching a baseball game on the tv where he works.

      So when things like that happen, I understand how some may call them hypocrites. A strong word. Maybe people saying ‘confused’ by Amish rules would be a better wording.

      Also, some Amish could do a better job at explaining the discrepancy.

      They are human, after-all. So some might actually be hypocrites. Sorry.

    5. Georgianne

      Personal Story, sorry for the ramble

      32 years ago, my husband was an elite runner sponsored by shoe companies. At the time of the accident he was training for the Olympic marathon trials. He was running 100 miles a week and riding his bike 200 miles a week. He ran to work, rode home, rode to work, ran home. One day, while riding his bike to work a schoolbus made a left turn through a light and ran him over. He broke his back in 4 places and had all the muscles ripped off his spine on one side. He couldn’t feel his legs. Our daughters were 5 and 2 at the time. We were a pretty typical suburban family with too much stuff. Anyway, after months of physical therapy, he went down to the beach to try and run. It was Easter Sunday. The girls and I came home from church and were getting ready to go to Grandma’s house, when Rick walked in the door and said he’d had an epiphany. He said we’d gotten too far from what life was really about, we’d lost touch with the divine. On the hour drive to his mom’s house we decided to get rid of every electrical appliance except the refrigerator and the washing machine. We donated, sold or threw away everything and went back to doing it all by hand. I researched how the Amish do certain things. But, just as the Amish do, as the years have gone by we’ve weighed the pros and cons of allowing some tech back in. We decided to get an electric grain mill but still make the bread by hand. I have rheumatoid arthritis so the grain mill made sense for us. Hand grinding hurt. But kneading the bread is good for my hands. We got tired of burnt toast, and propane for the stove got expensive, so we got a toaster oven. We turned the lights back on and only take the oil lamps out if the power goes off. But we still do not have a tv, no clothes dryer, no microwave, no dishwasher, or many other things. We have a push lawn mower. Oops, I have a computer, but I’ve had one since 1983 because I worked as a layout editor for publications. And I’m not on any social media at all. So I absolutely cannot fault the Amish for rethinking and re-evaluating whether a technology is helpful or a distraction from God and life. I’m sure people look at us and say why do you have a toaster oven but not a clothes dryer. But I love my time hanging clothes outside. Yes, even in the winter. We do what we can to not get distracted by stuff. Simplicity. And leaving time, silence, and space to hear the Divine/God in everyday life. And now I’m off to read a book!

    6. Terry from Wisconsin

      Guten tag,

      After a heated debate with a friend, about going to church, her response was, “Why go to church and sit with all those hypocrites?” Well, I thought it’d be good to chat with our pastor on the issue. His comment to me was, “Tell her there’s always room for one more!”
      I rest my case…

    7. Joseph Donnermeyer

      another variation on the hypocrite stories

      One time when presenting to an audience of about 50 on who are the Amish and their religious and sociological foundations, a member vehemently and stubbornly commented that it is hypocritical for Amish businesses to make a profit. I redirected the topic by explaining that a profit supports the family — wife, children and possibly grandparents and other extended family members, plus contributions to the church, medical expenses, and even an occasional trip to a zoo or other venue for family entertainment. Quite a normal thing for members of any faith group!

    8. Paula

      Hypocrisy

      Those who damn the Amish…just might be hypocrites themselves.
      Eric…one of your best posts yet.
      I’m 67 & have been observing/studying antibaptist culture since I was 18. I am sometimes as confused as anyone, which is why I diligently follow your posts. I have been invited to be Amish many years ago & through research I accidentally discovered that I’m from a long line of conservative Mennonites from as far back as the 1700’s in Germany.
      I was raised Catholic even parochial school, & then in my early 20’s I joined the Southern Baptist Church in SC, where playing cards & wearing pants were verboten. So I have swung the swing of hypocrisy in organized religion. I have stories that would curl your hair.
      One time in Indiana we observed a young Amish man “hiding” in a CVS as he was looking at phone chargers. I chuckled to myself & nodded to him as if to say “I see you & it’s okay dude”. He looked relieved & grateful. It was not for me to judge why he was looking at phone chargers & for what use he needed it for. He’s still a person in need of trust & mercy…as we all are.
      I am as sure as you are that the Amish battle their choices in the world almost as much as we do. Sometimes what is verbotennis so much more attractive. A young Amish man named Levi wanted me to take him to a bar. He was on the precipice of going out into the world. He had made me an Amish instrument, & after my gushing he said “Miss Paula, why are you English so fascinated by us?” I replied “because as a whole you are the most content people on earth. And you have no need to go to a bar or anything else about US that fascinates YOU so much. You aren’t missing anything but heartache & headaches. And maybe we aren’t either, so you just stay right where you are & persevere.” He thought a minute as we stared into each other’s eyes. Finally he nodded. His mom was curious at our conversation. I said to her “Mattie…I WILL NOT be the one to take Levi to a bar”. We both laughed & hugged.
      Are they hypocrites…maybe there is that component to their lives, but we are all human & God puts this in front of every human on earth, no matter what their beliefs/ religion is. It’s part of the human experience. I cannot condemn them for being human. I can praise them for far more.