An unusual sound emanated from one of the Amish houses I passed on my morning walk.
Normally, these homesteads are very quiet. One may hear an occasional “neigh” or “moo”, or the sounds of metal buggy wheels rolling over a graveled drive. But this sound was different.
The distinct chug of a gas-powered small engine echoed through the trees. As I drew near the house, I saw the engine anchored to a small metal plate which had been welded to a pole driven in the ground beside the house. The engine’s crankshaft had been extended through the metal siding and into the open “utility area” of the home. It powered some type of tool or appliance located inside.
Which is highly unusual.
The Amish in our area are known for their conservative stance when it comes to the use of gas-powered engines. These sources of power may be used on hay balers and other farm implements. Occasionally, they may be utilized in the form of a chainsaw or other tool necessary for accomplishing a task on a jobsite. But until recently, gas-powered engines were considered taboo for any type of tool used for chores around the home; they could not be used for mowing the yard, generating electricity for milking a cow, powering a clothes washer, or anything else.
Apparently, changes are being made in our community’s Amish order. Now, occasionally, one will see a man mowing his yard using an old-fashioned gas- powered push lawnmower. Some things that once were considered worldly are now being considered amoral. Some things that once were shunned due to the possibility that they could contribute to worldly temptations, are now being utilized in moderation.
Which brings to mind some questions which are regularly thrown out around many a table in our area.
“Why do the Amish have such an aversion to modernization? If there truly is something worldly or sinful about it, why will they eventually change their practices?
Why are some “orders” so conservative, while others located just a few miles away so liberal; for instance, one order may not allow any use of a phone, another order may allow the use of a community or pay phone, and still another order will allow the use of cell phones, providing they are used for business purposes? Why can the members of one order only utilize horse drawn implements with metal wheels, while the members of other orders are allowed to use equipment which rolls on rubber tires, and still the members of other orders are even allowed to drive tractors or automobiles?
Why do some advocates of the Amish faith continually relocate as they search for a community which will allow them to work and live the way they want to work and live; for instance when a man desires to operate a commercial dairy but his current community will not allow him to use an electrically powered milking machine, why will he move his family many miles away into a community which will allow him to do what he wants?”
All these questions have been pondered and discussed by some very religious individuals who question the reasoning, motives, and standards of this “unusual” or “odd” sect which dwells among us.
But are the Amish that much different than most of the religious world? Do not many within “Christendom” think and act the same way?
In every “faith” are there not “conservative” and “liberal” congregations? Haven’t the core members of every church in existence at some point considered some things taboo, but later consider those same issues or practices acceptable? Doesn’t every faith have members who continually relocate from congregation to congregation, or even from “faith” to “faith” until they find a group that will allow them to live the way they want to live and to do the things they want to do?
People are people no matter where they are located, or how modernized or civilized they become. Perhaps we more readily notice the changes in the Amish community because they are more visibly identifiable. Perhaps we openly discuss these changes because more times than not, there are no Amish present during the conversation. Perhaps we sometimes can’t understand their reasoning because it resembles the same logic we use for arriving at our own religious beliefs; and we can neither understand nor willingly admit our use of such unreasonable logic.
“Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man–you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself–that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality.” (Romans 2:1-11) ESV
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