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Amish Insights on: Technology

 

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This Month’s Question:

The balance between the blessings and pit-falls of modern-day technology can be hard to find. How do we balance using technology with staying connected to our community?

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Ivan: “How do we balance using technology with staying connected to our community?” This is a more complex question than can be answered in a short column, but we will focus on a few key areas where technology is challenging us as a society. How do we view technology? What is technology? Webster’s Dictionary defines technology as “the totality of the means employed to provide objects necessary for human sustenance and comfort.” Imagine the mode of transportation since the beginning of time: humans and animals were designed to walk. If we wanted to move from one location to the next, we moved our legs and walked. Animals were hitched to sleds or other objects as they dragged them over the ground to move them, and then they added wheels to make it easier to pull. They could now carry more weight and pull it greater distances. This increased the comfort level for its users.

For thousands of years, man relied on animal power to pull their wagons with goods and people until the 1800s when the steam engine was attached to this wheel-driven technology that had been developed centuries prior. Technology has continued to improve our mode of transportation over the last 250 years. We can now travel across the globe in less than a day.

When Henry Ford started producing cars for the masses in the 1920s, our Amish forefathers were concerned that it would harm our family unit and be a hindrance to our communities. They chose to stay with horse and buggy transportation. This has kept us closer together and limits the ability to come and go with ease. As family members moved to other communities and employment started to move away from the farm, it also brought some challenges. Today we have a network of taxi drivers that provide transportation in times of need when horse and buggy does not suffice. We can still see the benefit of horse and buggy travel to keep us together as a community, but we have recognized the need for occasional motor vehicle transportation. In his book What the Amish Teach Us, Donald Kraybill states the following:

Controlled access to motor vehicles keeps faith with tradition while giving just enough freedom to maneuver in the larger society. It allows the use of modern technology without being enslaved by it or allowing it to fray the social fabric. 

In this same way, we are being challenged with electronic technology, from the phone to the computer to the internet, which seems to connect everything in today’s world. Some churches have opted to say “no” to all means of electronic technology, while others have chosen to use some of it, but with limitations…

 

Sketch of an Amish buggy in the country with speeding vehicles in the distance

 

 

Jerry: Unless the Lord builds the house, those who labor build it in vain. (Psalm 127:1a)  Jesus taught us in the Sermon on the Mount, “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33) 

So you ask, how do we balance using technology and community? Maybe for starters, we have to recognize that not all technology is wrong. I, for one, am thankful for the technology that brought us toilet paper, as I have no desire to go back to the Sears and Roebuck days. As a person from the Plain community, we have the tendency to view something new as dangerous, and rightly so. Still, the Bible does not necessarily teach that new things are wrong or sinful in themselves, but it says the lust of the flesh­­—the lust of the eye and the pride of life—is what’s sinful. (1 John 2:15–16) If I continually want my own thing in my own way, I know that leads to death. The Biblical view naturally leads us to a life of counterculture and nonconformity to the old, sick society. We are called to build a culture that heals instead of destroys. This is an exciting process of liberation…

 

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Ivan, Emma, and their four children live on a 12-acre homestead where they strive to raise as much of their own food as possible. Each year they have a large garden, harvest from their orchard, use raw milk from their own cow, and process chicken, turkey, beef, and pigs for their freezers. Ivan is a minister in the local Amish community. He builds tiny homes and animal shelters for a living. His models can be seen on tinyhomeliving.com or by calling 330-852-8800.

Jerry and Gloria Miller, along with their six children, operate Gloria’s home farm, a 173-acre organic dairy. They milk between 60 and 70 cows with a few small cottage industries supplementing the farm income. Jerry is a deacon in his local Amish church.

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