The Amish Way: 10-book giveaway & interview with Donald Kraybill, Steven Nolt, and David Weaver-Zercher

Are Amish “born again”?  Are cars immoral?  When describing church, why do Amish use the term “Gmay” instead of “Kirche”?  And who actually decides the rules that guide Amish life?

The Amish Way: Patient Faith in a Perilous World is the first book to explore Amish spirituality and religious practices in-depth, addressing these and many other questions along the way.

amish way windmill

Authors Donald Kraybill, Steven Nolt, and David Weaver-Zercher (who previously collaborated on Amish Grace) dissect the many ways religious beliefs shape daily lives of the Amish.

I had a chance to read an advance copy this summer, and thoroughly enjoyed it.  It’s the kind of book that is easy to pick up and digest, with many vignettes and contributions from Amish themselves making it a very engaging and lively read.

The authors do a great job of fleshing out the tenets of Amish Christianity, and the many Amish voices give it a high degree of credibility and realism.  You come away with a deeper understanding of why Amish live the way they do, a clearer conception of what they believe and what holds Amish communities together.

Coinciding with the release of the book this week, the authors have kindly answered some interview questions for the blog today.  We are also giving away 10 copies of The Amish Way in this month’s book giveaway contest.

The Amish Way 10-book giveaway contest

amish way bookThere are 3 ways to enter this contest (please read carefully because rules have changed slightly since the New York Amish book contest):

1) leave a comment on this post= 1 entry

2) mention this contest on Facebook=3 entries

3) mention this contest on your blog=5 entries

…for a possible total of 8 9 entries (whoops, 1+3+5 actually equals 9 😉 and I may need to sign up for remedial math!).

This time around, you’ll see sharing on your blog and/or Facebook packs more of a punch, but even a quick comment on this post gets you a chance to win.  And by doing all 3 of these, that’s not a bad chance to win one of the 10 books!

(If you mention the contest on your blog or Facebook, just drop a quick email to amishamerica@gmail.com letting me know you did so I can include your extra entries)

The 10 winners will be drawn and announced Wednesday, October 12.

Donald Kraybill, Steven Nolt, and David Weaver-Zercher on The Amish Way: Part 1

Amish America: Generally speaking, in what ways does Amish spirituality differ from that of mainstream Christians?

Donald Kraybill, Steven Nolt, David Weaver-Zercher: Like other forms of Christian spirituality, Amish spirituality aims to help people align their wills with God’s will. What makes the Amish way distinctive is that in the Amish case, God’s will is discerned through the local Amish church community. In other words, their spirituality is community-oriented, not self-oriented.

This communal orientation is striking and shows up at many turns. One example would be in the skepticism Amish people show toward people who say that God spoke to them individually. For the Amish, God speaks through the community, and individuals are best guided by submitting themselves to the wisdom of the Amish community, past and present.

Another distinctive aspect is how Amish spirituality directly touches a broad range of issues from dressing to occupations, from technology to household furnishings.

AA: Barn-raisings are well-known examples of the mutual aid Amish practice, though they occur relatively rarely.  Can you share other examples of ways tenets of Amish spirituality are manifested in daily living?

amish plain clothing
Plain clothing is a visible sign of Amish religious belief

Kraybill, Nolt, Weaver-Zercher: Family prayer times—before and after each meal, and often before going to bed—are perhaps the most obvious example. But Amish people demonstrate their spiritual orientation in numerous less obvious ways—sometimes in ways that outsiders wouldn’t characterize as spiritual.

For instance, the Amish commitment to plain, uniform dress is rooted in their view that God wants people to demonstrate modesty, humility, and submission to the church. Their reticence to adopt new technologies demonstrates their commitment to communal tradition and also a commitment to rhythms of time that refuse to conform to the world.

They realize that many new technologies—cars that take people far and wide, and video technologies that link people to the larger world—can undermine one’s commitment to the local, Christian community.

AA: In The Amish Way, you describe the Amish as a “community of accountability”.   Shunning, you point out, is often negatively perceived by the public, but that “holding members accountable is the flip side of the community barn raising that outsiders celebrate.” Can you explain this relationship between mutual aid and church discipline?

Kraybill, Nolt, Weaver-Zercher: One way to put it is this: the Amish believe that one reason the church exists is to help individual church members when they are in trouble. Troubles take many forms, of course.

amish way barn raising
The barn raising is a form of mutual aid, a key Christian principle for the Amish community

For instance, if a family member is ill or incapacitated, the Amish believe that the church exists to assist the affected family financially or in other ways; they believe that the church is shirking its duty if it doesn’t help that family.

In the same way, the Amish believe the church is shirking its duty if it doesn’t help a wayward person return to the church’s ways. This happens through church discipline, when church leaders talk to, plead with, and sometimes punish a person who has chosen to forsake the ways of the church.

AA: There exists a negative stereotype of the heavy-handed Amish bishop.  How does ministerial authority function?  To what degree do bishops actually set the course for a congregation?

Kraybill, Nolt, Weaver-Zercher: The bishop in a local congregation is the team leader among the ordained men (typically a deacon and two ministers).   The bishop does not have complete independent authority to make decisions.  When the rules and regulations are reviewed twice a year, members of the congregation must agree/approve them in a formal vote. Likewise if a bishop proposes to excommunicate someone, that decision is also ratified by the congregation.

Furthermore, a bishop may consult or at least take into account the views of nearby bishops as well. All of these factors provide a check on his power.

amish way church
Members of the Amish congregation approve church rules at a special service held twice yearly

If an issue is brewing in the congregation, before a bishop will propose an action to the membership, he will want to have the support of the other ministers and also expect that the congregation will endorse the proposal.

The bishop does have considerable authority (as a gatekeeper of sorts) in that he can determine which proposals he will bring to a members meeting and which ones he will table.  The bishop is also the key interpreter of the mean and practical implications of the rules and discipline ratified by the congregation.

Nevertheless, the personality and leadership style of bishops vary greatly and determine the extent to which he is viewed as a heavy- or light-handed servant of the congregation.

AA: In The Amish Way, one of your informants, Bishop Eli, expresses his disapproval of a “two-track system of salvation”.  What is meant by the idea of a two track system?  How do Amish view salvation?

Kraybill, Nolt, Weaver-Zercher: Bishop Eli’s complaint was focused on Christians who separate theological belief from obedience to a certain lifestyle, that is, Christians who say that a “personal faith” can exist separate from practical matters of daily living.

For the Amish, reducing the Christian faith to a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ” is inadequate in two ways: it shortchanges God’s demand for holy living, and it discounts the importance of a Christian community to help individuals understand and meet that demand.


Part 2 of the interview with the authors of The Amish Way.

About the Authors Donald B. Kraybill, Ph.D., is senior fellow at the Young Center of Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania. Steven M. Nolt, Ph.D., is professor of history at Goshen College in Goshen, Indiana. David L. Weaver-Zercher, Ph.D., is professor of American religious history at Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania.

Windmill, barn raising, and Amish church photo: Cindy Seigle

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    1. I would love a chance to read this book. Please enter me in the contest.


    2. Heide

      Another informative and enjoyable book by the experts. It would be wonderful to win — and read — it!

    3. Brooke Mackie-Ketcham

      My parents moved to New Holland Pa a few years ago and if I was given the opportunity, I would give them a book on the Amish Spiritual community. They would read it with sincerity. The Amish and Mennonite are their neighbors now. Thank you.

    4. Brooke Mackie-Ketcham

      the note is on my FB now, to share with others.

    5. Csarina

      Me please, my thirst for information about these wonderful people never wanes. I will put a mention on my blog and I have you on my facebook page.

    6. I’m enjoying reading all your nice and thoughtful comments!

    7. I would like to be entered. I also posted a link to my Facebook page.

    8. Erika

      I’d be very interested in this.

    9. Renee G

      I would love to be entered.

    10. Deb

      Growing up going to an Amish community to shop now and then I’ve always been interested in them and their ways. I like to live simply myself…although while I could if I had to, I don’t live as simply as they do. I would love to know more about their beliefs, so would love a chance to win the book! 🙂

    11. I would love to win this book.

    12. Stephanie

      Thank you for the chance to win, I linked over from A Joyful Chaos.

    13. Molly@BookReviewsbyMolly

      I absolutely love reading anything and everything I can about the Amish…would love to win this! Thanks!

      Mollydedwards AT yahoo DOT com

    14. Janet Thompson

      I have always been in awe of the Amish. If we could all have that much faith and not be sidetracked by lifes amenities.

    15. Donna Scott

      would love to win this! I have always had an interest in the Amish way of life. I posted on my facebook and am now going to post on my blog. Thanks for this opportunity.

    16. Please enter me in this giveaway!


    17. Victoria Zumbrum

      I love to read this book. Please enter me. Tore923@aol.com

    18. Virginia Rush

      would love to read the Amish Way…love the Amish Ways…and will post on FB thanks

    19. Elisabeth

      Thanks for this opportunity!

    20. Marlayne Giron

      I love the Amish too and would love to win this for my friend.

    21. Marlayne Giron

      I would love to win this book for my friend.

    22. I’ve been fascinated with the Amish since I was a youngster and first encountered them in Lancaster, PA.
      I will also share this on Facebook. Thanks!

    23. Maureen Timerman

      There are several who have moved into our area and bought farms in the past year. We used to take vacations to Bird-In-Hand PA. Please include me in this giveaway.



      I’ve sent an email that I posted this on my FaceBook page!

    24. Kristy

      I would love to win this! Will share on my blog, thanks for the opportunity.

    25. Carolyn Johnson

      Please enter me into the contest to win this book.

      Thank you!

    26. Anne

      Thanks for the chance! Sounds like a great book!

    27. Granny Sandy

      I have held a fascination for the Amish for many years. I love the simplicity of their lives and how worldly things are not a part of their ways. Having been brought up with electricity and modern conveniences I have always wondered what it would be like to live like the amish for a month. Would I cope? Thank you for the opportunity to enter this giveaway.

    28. Granny Sandy

      I have long had a fascination with the Amish and their simplicity of life. Having brought up with electricity and modern conveniences and I wondered what it would be like to live as the Amish do for a month. I wonder if I would cope? Thank you for the opporunity to enter into this giveaway.

    29. This book sounds fascinating! I’d love the opportunity to enter the giveaway. Thanks so much!

    30. Pingback: Blog Sense | Doorkeeper
    31. Judy Duer-Waloski

      Once again, I loved reading your posts. I’m looking forward to reading the book, I love anything written by Donald Kraybill & I too would love to win the book and if I don’t I’ll be asking for it for Christmas. I will make a post on FB also. Thanks

    32. Pingback: Part 2 of The Amish Way interview and 10-book giveaway | Amish America
    33. Anne Payne

      Very interesting interview. I’d like to read the book. Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy.

    34. Matthew Bieniek

      Great interview. I am looking forward to the rest. I especially find the insights on communal spirituality interesting.

    35. Jitka Grossová

      I am very interested in the amish and would love to win this book.

    36. Anne Martinsen

      Looks like a great read. I have been interested in considering feminism and the Amish approach.

    37. Snowflakes2Hotcakes

      I would love to win a book from your giveaway! Thanks!

    38. Linda Kish

      Count me in, please.
      Thanks for the chance to win.

      lkish77123 at gmail dot com

    39. Rosalie Bullard

      I read all the Amish Books I can. I thoroughly enjoy the books. Recently a friend and I had a meal at an Amish Farm in /around Sullivan, IL. Mr. Herschberger had a sense of humor and made people feel at ease around him.

    40. Iza

      It would be nice to have this book on my shelf!

    41. Marjorie

      This book sounds just amazing, I have Amish Proverbs and I read it everyday.
      I would like to win this super book.

    42. Barbara Beers

      I would love to read this book from Donald Kraybill. I would especially love to read it for free!! I have read a couple of his other titles and enjoyed them. We now live in Virginia, but for 12 years prior to the move, we lived 7 miles from the Lancaster County line. They were wonderful years for us.

      I posted the link on my facebook page.

    43. Thanks everyone for your comments! Will be drawing the winners tomorrow (but you can still enter until then)

    44. Oh what a wonderful gift it would be to win this giveaway. I hope I’m not too late. Please include me in the drawing and thank you for the chance to win this book. I hope I do!!

      Sharing Christ’s Love,
      Barb Shelton
      barbjan10 at tx dot rr dot com

    45. +3 I have posted this giveaway on Facebook.
      +5 I have posted this giveaway on my blog. barbjan10blog


      =9 chances for the giveaway.

      Barb Shelton
      barbjan10 at tx dot rr dot com

    46. Jennifer Schwindt

      Please enter me in the giveaway! It sounds like a really interesting book.

      jmschwindt (at) cox (dot) net

    47. Nancye Davis

      +1 I would love to be the winner! Thanks for the chance!

      +3 Facebook Post

      Total= 4

      nancyecdavis AT bellsouth DOT net

    48. Oh, I’d love to be entered in the drawing for this book. thanks

      ABreading4fun [at] gmail [dot] com

    49. Pingback: The Amish Way: 10 contest winners and book excerpt | Amish America
    50. Contest results are up! Thanks everyone for participating. Find the winners here: https://amishamerica.com/the-amish-way-10-contest-winners-and-book-excerpt/