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A Concise Introduction
There seems to be no end to our fascination with the Amish, a religious minority that has both placed itself outside the mainstream of American culture and flourished within it. Yet most people know very little about the nuanced relationship the Amish have with society or their own communities.
Drawing on more than twenty years of fieldwork and collaborative research, Steven M. Nolt’s The Amish: A Concise Introduction is a compact but richly detailed portrait of Amish life. In fewer than 150 pages, readers will come away with a clear understanding of the complexities of these simple people. Writing in engaging and accessible language, Nolt explains how the Amish at once operate within modern America and stand very much apart from the world. Arguing that Amish life is shaped equally by internal and external social, political, and economic contexts, Nolt explores Amish identity as emerging from a complex cultural negotiation with modernity. He takes on much-hyped topics such as Rumspringa and reveals the distinctive Amish approach to technology. He also explains how Amish principles stand in contrast to contemporary American values, including rational efficiency, large-scale organization, and Western notions of individuality.
Authoritative, informative, and illustrated, this guide provides a vivid introduction to a way of life many find fascinating but few truly understand.
Diversity and Change in the World's Largest Amish Community
Holmes County, Ohio, is home to the largest and most diverse Amish community in the world. Yet, surprisingly, it remains relatively unknown compared to its famous cousin in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Charles E. Hurst and David L. McConnell conducted seven years of fieldwork, including interviews with over 200 residents, to understand the dynamism that drives social change and schism within the settlement, where Amish enterprises and nonfarming employment have prospered. The authors contend that the Holmes County Amish are experiencing an unprecedented and complex process of change as their increasing entanglement with the non-Amish market causes them to rethink their religious convictions, family practices, educational choices, occupational shifts, and health care options. The authors challenge the popular image of the Amish as a homogeneous, static, insulated society, showing how the Amish balance tensions between individual needs and community values. They find that self-made millionaires work alongside struggling dairy farmers; successful female entrepreneurs live next door to stay-at-home mothers; and teenagers both embrace and reject the coming-of-age ritual, rumspringa. An Amish Paradox captures the complexity and creativity of the Holmes County Amish, dispelling the image of the Amish as a vestige of a bygone era and showing how they reinterpret tradition as modernity encroaches on their distinct way of life.
What are the most significant points at issue between the Reformed and Mennonite communions–Baptism, peace and church-state relations? Is there a way forward? In the hope that there may be, the contributors to this book attempt to clear the way to closer relations between Reformed and Mennonites by careful scholarly discussion of the traditionally disputed questions.
The papers gathered here were presented at the second phase of the international dialogue between the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (Presbyterian and Congregational) and the Mennonite World Conference. There are Reformed and Mennonite studies of the topics, together with the responses of a philosopher of religions, a sociologist, a systematic theologian and a church historian. In the Introduction the dialogue is set in its historical and contemporary ecumenical context, and the Conclusion, drafted by the dialogue participants, has been forwarded to the two world bodies for their consideration and action. This important work will be relevant to all future scholarly research into the growing debate between Reformed and Mennonite communions.
Books about Mennonites have centered primarily on the East Coast and the Midwest, where the majority of Mennonite communities in the United States are located. But these narratives neglect the unique history of the multitude of Mennonites living on the West Coast. In California Mennonites, Brian Froese relies on archival church records to examine the Mennonite experience in the Golden State, from the nineteenth-century migrants who came in search of sunshine and fertile soil to the traditionally agrarian community that struggled with issues of urbanization, race, gender, education, and labor in the twentieth century to the evangelically oriented, partially assimilated Mennonites of today. Froese places Mennonite experiences against a backdrop of major historical events, including World War II and Vietnam, and social issues, from labor disputes to the evolution of mental health care. California Mennonites include people who embrace a range of ideologies: many are historically rooted in the sixteenth-century Reformation ideals of the early Anabaptists (pacifism, congregationalism, discipleship); some embrace twentieth-century American evangelicalism (missions, Billy Graham); and others are committed to a type of social justice that involves forging practical ties to secular government programs while maintaining a quiet connection to religion. Through their experiences of religious diversity, changing demographics, and war, California Mennonites have wrestled with complicated questions of what it means to be American, Mennonite, and modern. This book—the first of its kind—will appeal to historians and religious studies scholars alike.
More than 450 years after their birth in the Anabaptist movement, 125 years after their secession from Russian Mennonitism, and 60 years after their immigration to Canada, the Mennonite Brethren exhibit specific and measurable signs of sectarian viability and religious vitality. To explain the persistence of the sect, Hamm analyses the process of sacralization within the Canadian Mennonite Brethren Church — which “safeguards identity, a system of meaning, or a definition of reality” — and the process of secularization — which “erodes boundaries, dislodges stable structures, and destroys identity.” It is an oversimplification, the author argues, to insist that the factors of continuity — ethical and cognitive norms, family solidarity, ethnicity, worship, evangelism, community and church structures, and service agencies — are solely integrative and that the factors of change — urbanization, education, occupational change, and economic affluence — are solely disruptive. Instead, a complex dialectic between the two processes is at work that prevents restrictive rigidity within the sect and excessive accommodation to the host society.
According to the author, “this analysis of the Canadian Mennonite Brethren becomes a case study to test the utility of an identity theory of religion, which hinges on the integration/differentiation dialectic. It is, at the same time, a serious self-study in religious sociology, by which the author seeks to gain a better understanding of the processes of growth and decline, of continuity and change, and of the ongoing tension resulting from the religious movement’s confrontation with society.”
The Civil Rights Movement in Mennonite Homes and Sanctuaries
The Mennonites, with their long tradition of peaceful protest and commitment to equality, were castigated by the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. for not showing up on the streets to support the civil rights movement. Daily Demonstrators shows how the civil rights movement played out in Mennonite homes and churches from the 1940s through the 1960s. In the first book to bring together Mennonite religious history and civil rights movement history, Tobin Miller Shearer discusses how the civil rights movement challenged Mennonites to explore whether they, within their own church, were truly as committed to racial tolerance and equality as they might like to believe. Shearer shows the surprising role of children in overcoming the racial stereotypes of white adults. Reflecting the transformation taking place in the nation as a whole, Mennonites had to go through their own civil rights struggle before they came to accept interracial marriages and integrated congregations. Based on oral history interviews, photographs, letters, minutes, diaries, and journals of white and African-American Mennonites, this fascinating book further illuminates the role of race in modern American religion.
The Rumspringa Years
On the surface, it appears that little has changed for Amish youth in the past decade: children learn to work hard early in life, they complete school by age fourteen or fifteen, and a year or two later they begin Rumspringa—that brief period during which they are free to date and explore the outside world before choosing whether to embrace a lifetime of Amish faith and culture. But the Internet and social media may be having a profound influence on significant numbers of the Youngie, according to Richard A. Stevick, exposing Amish teenagers to a world that did not exist for them only a few years ago. Once hidden in physical mailboxes, announcements of weekend parties are now posted on Facebook. Today, thousands of Youngie in large Amish settlements are dedicated smartphone and Internet users, forcing them to navigate carefully between technology and religion. Updated photographs throughout the book include a screenshot from an Amish teenager's Facebook page. In the second edition of Growing Up Amish, Stevick draws on decades of experience working with and studying Amish adolescents across the United States to produce this well-rounded, definitive, and realistic view of contemporary Amish youth. Besides discussing the impact of smartphones and social media usage, he carefully examines work and leisure, rites of passage, the rise of supervised youth groups, courtship rituals, weddings, and the remarkable Amish retention rate. Finally, Stevick contemplates the potential impact of electronic media to significantly alter traditional Amish practices, culture, and its future staying power.
One of the longest-lived communal societies in North America, the Hutterites have developed multifaceted communitarian perspectives on everything from conflict resolution and decision-making practices to standards of living and care for the elderly. This compellingly written book offers a glimpse into the complex and varied lives of the nearly 500 North American Hutterite communities. North American Hutterites today number around 50,000 and have common roots with and beliefs akin to the Amish and other Old Order Christians. This historical analysis and anthropological investigation draws on existing research, primary sources, and over 25 years of the authors' interaction with Hutterite communities to recount the group's physical and spiritual journey from its 16th-century founding in Eastern Europe and its near disappearance in Transylvania in the 1760s to its late 19th-century transplantation to North America and into the modern era. It explains how the Hutterites found creative ways to manage social and economic changes over more than five centuries while holding to the principles and cultural values embedded in their faith. Religious scholars, anthropologists, and historians of America and the Anabaptist faiths will find this objective-yet-appreciative account of the Hutterites' distinct North American culture to be a valuable and fascinating study both of the religion and of a viable alternative to modern-day capitalism.
Civil Rights, Faith, and Evangelical Culture
Felipe Hinojosa's parents first encountered Mennonite families as migrant workers in the tomato fields of northwestern Ohio. What started as mutual admiration quickly evolved into a relationship that strengthened over the years and eventually led to his parents founding a Mennonite Church in South Texas. Throughout his upbringing as a Mexican American evangélico, Hinojosa was faced with questions not only about his own religious identity but also about broader issues of Latino evangelicalism, identity, and civil rights politics. Latino Mennonites offers the first historical analysis of the changing relationship between religion and ethnicity among Latino Mennonites. Drawing heavily on primary sources in Spanish, such as newspapers and oral history interviews, Hinojosa traces the rise of the Latino presence within the Mennonite Church from the origins of Mennonite missions in Latino communities in Chicago, South Texas, Puerto Rico, and New York City, to the conflicted relationship between the Mennonite Church and the California farmworker movements, and finally to the rise of Latino evangelical politics. He also analyzes how the politics of the Chicano, Puerto Rican, and black freedom struggles of the 1960s and 1970s civil rights movements captured the imagination of Mennonite leaders who belonged to a church known more for rural and peaceful agrarian life than for social protest. Whether in terms of religious faith and identity, race, immigrant rights, or sexuality, the politics of belonging has historically presented both challenges and possibilities for Latino evangelicals in the religious landscapes of twentieth-century America. In Latino Mennonites, Hinojosa has interwoven church history with social history to explore dimensions of identity in Latino Mennonite communities that points to a new way to think about the history of American evangelicalism.
A Social History
Approximately 2,500 Anabaptists were martyred in sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century Europe. Their surviving brethren compiled stories of those who suffered and died for the faith into martyr books. The most historically and culturally significant of these, The Bloody Theater—more commonly known as Martyrs Mirror—was assembled by the Dutch Mennonite minister Thieleman van Braght and published in 1660. Today, next to the Bible, it is the single most important text to Anabaptists—Amish, Mennonites, and Hutterites. In some Anabaptist communities, it is passed to new generations as a wedding or graduation gift.
David L. Weaver-Zercher combines the fascinating history of Martyrs Mirror with a detailed analysis of Anabaptist life, religion, and martyrdom. He traces the publication, use, and dissemination of this key martyrology across nearly four centuries and explains why it holds sacred status in contemporary Amish and Mennonite households. Even today, the words and deeds of these martyred Christians are referenced in sermons, Sunday school lessons, and history books.
Weaver-Zercher argues that Martyrs Mirror was designed to teach believers how to live a proper Christian life. In van Braght’s view, accounts of the martyrs helped to remind readers of the things that mattered, thus inspiring them to greater faithfulness. Martyrs Mirror remains a tool of revival, offering new life to the communities and people who read it by revitalizing Anabaptist ideals and values. Meticulously researched and illustrated with sketches from early publications of Martyrs Mirror, Weaver-Zercher’s ambitious history weaves together the existing scholarship on this iconic text in an accessible and engaging way.