29 October 2011


Electricity is seen as a connection with the outside world and violates the Amish principle of separation from society. Electricity also promotes the use of household items, such as the television, that allow the outside, "English," values of sloth, luxury, and vanity to infiltrate the household. Clearly they need to get some photovoltaics and batteries and run some lights. Automobiles are not often used because they degrade the Gelassenheit principle of a small, close-knit community. The Amish fear, with good reason, that these modern transportation technologies will cause them to spread apart, much like most modern American families. Also, the Amish fear that the automobile will promote competition among themselves. They worry that the car will become a status symbol and promote vanity, which is in direct violation of the Gelassenheit value of modesty. The telephone is banned from the household because, much like the automobile, it promotes a separation of community. Instead of taking a carriage or walking to a friend's house, the Amish feel that they would be tempted to simply stay home and speak on the phone. In order to uphold Gelassenheit, many modern technologies have been banned from regular use. ... Just as children in mainstream society learn that breaking the law of a particular state is wrong, Amish children learn that breaking the law of the Ordnung is wrong. The Ordnung is not considered the law of God; instead, it is interpreted as a set of guidelines for living a Godly and pious life. ..... The Amish Church concluded that electricity could be used in very specific situations, but it had to be produced without access to outside power lines and the current [SIC] was limited to twelve volts or less. Batteries were acceptable as long as they provided a twelve-volt current [SIC]. Electric generators could only be used for welding, recharging batteries, and powering milk stirs. ... The reasoning behind the twelve volt system is that it limits what an individual can do with the electricity and acts as a preventative measure against potential abuses. Most worldly modern appliances, such as televisions, light bulbs, and hair dryers use 110 volt electricity, which will not operate under twelve volt current. Therefore, the Amish are "safe" from most modern amenities. The Amish lifestyle and tradition has changed very little as a result of the electricity allowances. (FAIL) ... According to my late father, Amish leaders decided, when electricity became commonplace before the middle of the 20th Century, that linking with electrical wire truly would constitute a counter-to-the-Bible, seamless connection, to be "yoked" with the "world" and "non-believers." They were convinced that this would violate the Bible's instruction not to be "conformed to the world." That decision, has of course, protected the Amish community from outside influences such as those brought into non-Amish homes via television, the internet, microwave ovens, etc. as well as from many other modern appliances and devices that Electrical appliances are conspicuously absent in all Old Order Amish homes. There are, of course, many appliances that the "world" operates via electricity that can be, and are, converted to run efficiently on natural gas by some Amish church groups. So far as the Amish are concerned, the word here is "natural" in that it is not man-made. However, most Old Order Amish families with whom the writer is acquainted still use coal or wood burning heating and cooking stoves and an "icebox" instead of a refrigerator. The Old Order Amish have become highly skilled at using natural methods of producing ice during winter and then storing it in straw and specially built sheds to make home made ice cream, a real favorite among the Amish, and for use in iceboxes during the long hot summers. Winter ice cutting "frolics" are a major social event among the Old Order Amish. I personally visited an Amish "ice shed" this past September which contained much more stored ice than would be needed to last until the coming winter freezes! In addition, most Amish families have windmills on their farms to generate wind power to pump water, run blacksmith tools, furniture making tools, etc. Many also creatively dam up creeks to generate water power for use in operating specific machinery. Again, wind and water power are acceptable to the Old Order because they are a natural, Godly source of power and not connected to man made power lines which generate "worldly" electricity. And, whether it is generating power or for whatever purpose, the Amish will always work with God's natural way, with nature, never against it! To them, generating power in this natural manner is "different" from the way the "world" generates its power and is thus not "conforming" to the ways of the "world!