The Amish, Plain and Simple

As we move into Fall, our attention often turns to farms and their bounty. In Northwest Indiana and other rural communities, this can mean Amish farms. Of course, not all the Amish are farmers, and their numbers have grown exponentially in the past century, making them more visible. While there are plenty of novels featuring the Amish, I'd like to deal with what their lives are really like.  

Donald B. Kraybill has written many books about the Plain People, but let's start with The Amish. This is the seminal text on the Amish and how they have adapted to the technology of the modern world. Not a bad place to start if you're curious about this sect.

In Ira Wagler's memoir, Growing up Amish, the author traces his journey from Old Order Amish to the secular world. At times a wrenching tale, this is the story of a spiritual awakening.

Of course, very seldom, things go the other way. Marlene C. Miller writes of her conversion to Old Order in Called to Be Amish. One gets a good feel for the lifestyle of the Amish, particularly the women, in this deeply personal account.

One of the Amish traditions that outsiders may be at least slightly familiar with is their adolescent experimentation with the English world, called Rumspringa. In Tom Shactman's book by the same name, he examines how the Amish manage to retain their faith and traditions despite and because of their participation in the outside world.

Of course, sometimes bad things happen, even horrible things. When a man fatally shot five Amish school girls and then himself in rural Pennsylvania in 2006, the Plain community quickly forgave the shooter and not only attended his funeral, but contributed to a fund for his family. In Donald B. Kraybill's Amish Grace, the author looks at this case specifically and at the spiritual tenets of forgiveness in Amish life that lead to this phenomenon of grace.

Have you read other good books about the Amish? Tell us about it in the comments. 

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