If religion has all too often been a cause of
contention, even violence, it is refreshing to see how much it can be an
instrument of peace and forgiveness. The shame is that such forgiveness sometimes has to be demonstrated in
tragedies like the recent shooting of ten Amish schoolgirls in
The Amish are an offshoot of the Anabaptist or Mennonite
movement begun in
Not that they have been without their own internal conflicts, some of which have led to there being at least four distinct groups of Amish. These are mostly distinguishable by the different degrees of strictness in keeping their general policy of trying to live the simple life, uncontaminated by most modern conveniences, like electricity, automobiles, and the assorted junk that is the price of telecommunications of all sorts. Famous for their cooperative "barn-raisings", most groups worship at home rather than in church buildings. Although most Amish are born into Amish families—there are very few converts, as most Amish refrain from proselytizing—continued membership is strictly voluntary.
Every young person is expected, after period of being allowed to consider doing otherwise, to decide for himself or herself whether to continue in the Amish way of life. Long experience has taught the Amish that however carefully controlled their children's upbringing, that nothing can replace the challenge of making a personal commitment at the threshold of adulthood. It is claimed that 80% to 90% decide to follow their parents' footsteps. (Others claim, however, that the attrition rate is much higher than that.) But only after such a commitment is made are they baptized and allowed marry within the group. Few other Christians in today's world would ever think about living in this way—even among those who are otherwise serious about their faith.
Certainly it is debatable that living as if we were still in the 18th. Century can make us automatically any holier, despite the lack of worldly distractions. But what a different world this would be if all Christians were expected to take their faith as seriously and to follow the Amish example of non-violence and forgiveness!
Amish.doc 476 words 06-10-10.html