Over the course of American history, several
religious sects and utopian societies have flowered, only to fade away. But out in the country in 28 U.S. states, a
group that is deliberately living in a 19th-century time warp is
prospering. The Amish drive horse-drawn
buggies, plow with draft horses rather than motorized tractors, and speak a
form of German among themselves. They
allow no electricity into their homes or workplaces, not because it represents
modernity but because it would tie them to the outside world that the Amish
wish to avoid.
Amishmen wear beards and straw hats.
Women wrap their hair tightly into buns beneath prayer coverings. Amish work – farming, weaving, furniture-making
– is long and hard.
typically have five or more children. They build more and more wings onto their
farmhouses to accommodate new generations and aging adults. Given a free and open chance to leave the
sect, four of five Amish young adults elect to stay.
of which helps explain the following:
to researchers at Elizabethtown College in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania – a
region where gawking at the Amish has become a popular tourist activity – there
are more than 225,000 Amish nationwide – almost twice as many as there were in
1992. In that time, Amish have moved
into 16 new states as far west as Colorado.
Amish, who came to America from the Alsace region of France in the early 1700s
in search of religious tolerance, do not live in communes. Their handsome farms are spread among their
non-Amish neighbors. There are no Amish
churches or religious icons other than the Christian Bible, and no special
creed other than Christ's example of living simply and humbly and helping
Amish made headlines two years ago by forgiving and embracing the widow of a
homicidal milkman who killed five Pennsylvania Amish girls.
without telephones or computers, or even electricity, the Amish happily allow
the Information Age to pass them by.
Questioned about their apparent backward ways, they ask their neighbors,
Where has progress gotten you? Are you
happier? More fulfilled? More loved?