The Hutterites & Technology

How does Hutterite technology use compare to the Amish? What tech-related challenges do they face? Which two issues concern them about their children’s use of technology?

Linda Maendel, member of a Manitoba Hutterite colony, adresses those questions today (if you’re new to the Hutterites, an Anabaptist people related to the Amish, you can catch up at these posts: Hutterite OverviewLife on the Colony | Language | Clothing | Education).

Linda also has a book giveaway going on at her blog for her just-released Hutterite Diaries: Wisdom From My Prairie Community (congrats, Linda!), so head on over there and jump in.

Technology on the Colony

Technology is here to stay and for the most part Hutterites embrace it. I know Hutterites are often mistaken for the Amish, but we’re totally different; we drive modern vehicles, have electricity in our homes and our community kitchen and laundry have state-of-the-art equipment.

farm-equipment-hutterite-colonyBarns, shops, tractors, vehicles…are all computerized. People use smart phones, tablets, e-readers… If we’re using all these things, there’s no way around it; we’re impacted by them. I have to wonder though, if in some cases we ought to pause and reflect before embracing every new invention that comes along.

While Hutterites enjoy the benefits of technology daily, there’s no doubt that it will be one of our biggest challenges. The future of the Hutterite people will depend on our ability to use technology in harmony with our vision as a Christian community.

To face these challenges, it’s imperative that parents and teachers are in sync with this vision and are united and committed in raising children who will become future pillars of their church community. Children and young people need to be surrounded by positive role models who practice using technology wisely.

Recently a Hutterite minister was asked about his views on the impact technology will have on Hutterites. His response left no doubt about how big of a challenge this is: “We’ve survived hundreds of years of severe persecution, but I don’t think we’ll survive this.”

Two of the issues we are wrestling with are the type of movies our children and young people watch and the amount of time they spend with electronic games.

Cell phones are also concerning, as they too tend to keep people from person-to-person communications. How often do we see a group of people, each engrossed in their own little world of a hand held device, instead of interacting with the humans around them?

No doubt, all these things have negative influences on our children and also our communal way of life. It begs the question, are Hutterite parents, teachers, and other caregivers even aware of the influences? What happened to board games and jigsaw puzzles?

I have many happy memories of sitting around the table with games like Sorry and Probe. Activities like these encourage healthy interaction with others, and stimulate intellectual development; by contrast, electronic devices encourage people to block out everybody by staring at a screen for hours on end.

It’s true, technology can be a blessing, and I believe we can all agree that it can and does get abused – to our detriment. I know Hutterites are not alone with these struggles and concerns. I also know we don’t have all the answers, but it’s a step in the right direction if we’re wary.

If we hope to instill in our children the importance of human interactions, it’s imperative for adults to lead by example.

Linda Maendel is a church member and schoolteacher in a Mannitoba Hutterite colony, and author of Hutterite Diaries: Wisdom From My Prairie Community (now available), part of the Plainspoken series.

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    1. Mark - Holmes Co.

      Very interesting article and good points, Linda!

    2. Amy

      I had no idea. Technology is an amazing and terrible thing.

    3. Ed from NY

      1. Hasn’t technology always been an issue? Did Hutterites have conflicts over earlier technologies, such as television, grid electricity, phones, etc?

      2. Do individual colonies ever agree collectively to not use a particular technology, like television or cell phones?

      3. On a rural colony, more or less closed to outsiders, with kids educated on the colony itself, isn’t it rather easy to keep electronic games and cell phones out of the hands of kids? How does this become an issue?

      Is it the adults using cell phones, etc, and the kids picking them up and getting engrossed in them that way?

    4. Yes, one can say technology has always been an issue, for some colonies more so than others. Living on a colony doesn’t mean we don’t have access to cell phones, games and such. Children can get them any number of ways, gifts…and yes, also being introduced to them by the adults in their lives. No matter how it happens, we need to be vigilant.