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Amish Potty

There have been several stories of note in the news regarding the Anabaptists while I have been away and maybe we can discuss them in the coming days.  This story, however, appeared today in the Johnstown, Pennsylvania Tribune-Democrat.  The ultra-conservative Swartzentruber Amish sect are raising eyebrows by improperly (according to local officials) disposing of outhouse sewage.  I don't usually side with the government in their often busy-body attempts to regulate religion, but this kind of grosses me out.....if the Amish are just dumping raw sewage into good....Still, I'm sure the government is probably going at this with an overly-aggressive tone that is antagonizing the Amish and making the problem worse.  I'm sure there is probably a compromise of some sort that can be reached.  What do you think? Does this gross any of you out also, or is "raw sewage" just sort of a natural thing and it's no big deal?  Click here to read the story.

Amish Turned Mennonite Girls Basketball Coach on a Roll....

As some of you know, I've been spending a little time in Pinecraft, Florida this week, the Sunshine State's only Amish community.  I'll have a lot more to say about this place when I get back, which will be later today.  In the meantime, this story sort of illustrates the "Anabaptist melting" pot that Pinecraft has become.  Check out this story and I'll have lots more to post beginning tomorrow!



Call it the great Amish car conumdrum. The Amish have tradtionally been "horse and buggy" people, and they continue to cling to an auto-free world (SIGH, wouldn't it be nice to never have to worry about getting a speeding ticket??).  But the realities of our 21st century society requires the need - even for the Amish - to get some places more quickly than others.  Enter the "Amish taxi" or - I had never heard this term until now - the "jitney."  This article from a Pennsylvania newspaper explains quite well how locals make a small business of transporting the Amish.  Now the state wants a piece of the action. Read more here.

Amana Colonies Anyone?

Sometimes I'm asked by people about the "Amana Colonies" in Iowa and how they are connected to the Amish.  The short answer: they're not.  From what little I know, the Amana Colonies were a communal society that had/has its roots in the Pietist movement.  The Amish-Mennonite-Hutterite religions have their roots in Anabaptism (adult baptismal).  Both movements were reactions against the reformation when Martin Luther split from Catholicism, but the pietist movement - while sharing similarites to the Anabaptists - was decidedly different.   Anyway, back to the Amana Colonies: The Amana Corp. recently hired a new CEO to oversee their the vast economic empire.  The Amana Colonies were a pietist, communal society up until the 1930s, but my understanding is that they then formed the Amana Corporation to oversee the colony's holidings and diversify economically.  The CEO oversees it just like a regular company.  Today, the Amana Colonies comprise a diverse economic base and are much different from their original agrarian, communal roots.  Have any of our readers been to the Amana Colonies?  What is it like?  Are there actually people still living communally there or is it pretty much all tourism/re-creation?

Buggy Collides with Semi Truck

This tragic story out of rural Pennsylvania is odd for several reasons.  First of all, any time the occupants of a buggy that crashes into a semi survive, that is a cause to count one's blessings.   Very unusual...let's direct some prayers towards the buggy occupants. The second thing about this accident that is unusual is that the horse-drawn buggy was out around midnight.  While there certainly aren't rules for how late Amish people can stay up, that is a bit late.  The occupants were younger,  an 18 year old male, and a 25 year old female....the article doesn't say how the two knew one another, and I'd rather not speculate until I have more information.  But to read a preliminary report on the accident, click here. 


More On The Hutterite Photography Project.....

The Hutterites belong to the same Anabaptist faith that includes the Mennonites and the Amish.  They are a fascinating culture, taking many of the same tenants of Amish faith but in a different direction.  Like the Amish, the Hutterites are pacifists, resist many modern technologies, and speak a dialect of German.  The Hutterites, however, are a bit more liberal when it comes to accepting technology like computers and cell phones.  And, most significantly, the Hutterites are communal.  Hutterites live in what they call "colonies" where everything is shared.  Worldly possessions are frowned up and the colony's wealth is divided evenly among members.  Of course, any closed society is going to have it's detractors and will breed very real negative experiences (abuse, alcoholism, etc).  Still, as a whole, I find the Hutterites to be a very intriguing and wholesome group.  I posted a link to an article last week about an exhibit of Hutterite photographs taken by colony children which capture life in the settlements which are scattered mainly in Montana, the Dakotas, and Canada. Both of these articles are better, though, and give great insight into Hutterite life. Click here to read the first article, and here to read the second.

I Smell A

In my years among the Amish I've noticed that they tend to be very ripe pickin's for hucksters, scheme-sters, and other people with dubious motives. Other sales schemes which aren't illegal - Tupperware, Stanley, etc - also find fertile ground in Amish communities.  I think part of this is "trust."  The Amish are a very trusting people.  Interestingly, this is a bit at odds with the reputation of the Amish being a "suspiscious" people.  I actually think they are both.  They are suspiscious at first of many outsiders, but a a slick salesman that can somehow penetrate the outer-shell can often find a willing customer.  Usually the slick salesman overcomes the suspiscion by throwing around grandiose visions of potential wealth, which appeals to the natural entrepreneurial streak of most Amish.  That's my long preface to this bizarre story about Pigeon King, a pigeon-breeding business (with no apparent market for the feathered friends) that is catching on among Amish farmers.  Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm skeptical about this business....sounds like a classic pyramid-type scheme that is roping in plenty of Amish.

Oh, and what the heck, while we're on an animal theme today. Check out what happened when a hog escaped from a butcher shop and headed straight for a nearby Mennonite school.

Buggy Stuff

We are such an automobile-dominated culture that it is always fun to see lawmakers wrestle with horse-and-buggie issues. It's like, they couldn't possibly not legislate every aspect of human life, right? So let's go after the horse and buggies!  That's the cynical side of me speaking. The more rationale side of me sees, perhaps, room for some basic "rules of the road" when it comes to horse-drawn behavior.  The city of Massillon, Ohio, in the heart of the Buckeye Amish country, is debating whether to dictate where buggies park when they come into town.  A central shelter might be built with water troughs and hitching posts.  Not a terrible idea, I guess.  Read about it here.

Meanwhile, a Kentucky TV station is exploring whether Amish-owned buggies should be required to have more visible reflector requirements.  Read their story here.  What really caught my eye about the piece, though, is the reporter's use of the word "ordinance" to describe Amish church rules.  I have not heard the term ordinance used in a formal way to describe local Amish church doctrine. What I THINK he or she meant to say was ORDNUNG, the much more commonly used word referring to the day-to-day "rules" Amish people are supposed to follow in their church.  I think my "caution flag" is up right now on local TV news.  I was watching a report the other night on WHIO-TV in Dayton, Ohio about environmentally-friendly cars.  One of the autos featured was the well-known Toyota hybrid, the Prius.  The reporter repeatedly called in the PRIBUS.   An environmentally-friendly hybrid bus is a good idea, but we aren't quite there yet......

Bizarre Amish Custody Case Gets More Bizarre

Okay, this is just strange....but the case will establish new legal ground in the process, I am sure.  Custody cases among the Amish are rare enough. Regular readers of this site are aware of a case in Ohio we're following, but that is between two estranged Amish parents. This custody case is the result of an affair between an Amish woman and a NON-AMISH businessman in Oelwein, Iowa.  Click here to read about the case.  Not that I need lurid details about the affair, but I would like more information about how this case came about. Interactions between Amish women and men are rare enough, but affairs - almost unheard of.  Fortunately, the daily newspaper in Oelwein carries The Amish Cook. So I will be reaching out to the editors there to supply us with more info in the coming days. So stay tuned....

And, anytime you can be in a buggy and get hit by a pick-up truck and escape alive you can count your blessings.  Still sounds like a bad accident, click here to read.

Amish Schools & Fire Safety

Ohio's countryside is dotted with quaint school-houses near Amish settlements.  Children, in a blur of bonnets and hats, play stick-ball on dusty diamonds during recess.  On cold winter afternoons, chimneys will belch out smoke from a coal-stove inside.  If there is no plumbing in the school - and there is not in most - a tiny outhouse will sit on the property's edge.  I'll write more about Amish schools another time, but today's news item focuses on the more mundane, but no less important, issue of "fire safety."  Amish schools have traditionally been exempt from the rigorous rules and regulations that govern public institutions.  Still, there are safety issues that Ohio's Fire Marshal would like to see addressed in Amish schools so a quiet campaign is under way to reach out to local bishops for permission to conduct inspections.  It seems to me that the campaign has been pretty low-key and even-handed, which is a good thing.  Ohio also has a lot of German Baptist/Dunker schools in the plain tradition and I'm sure efforts are underway to reach church leaders in these districts as well.  Click here to read more about Amish school inspections.