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Religion > Christianity > Anabaptist and Mennonite Studies

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Results 11-17 of 17

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Plain Diversity Cover

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Plain Diversity

Amish Cultures and Identities

Steven M. Nolt and Thomas J. Meyers

Plain and simple. American popular culture has embraced a singular image of Amish culture that is immune to the complexities of the modern world: one-room school houses, horses and buggies, sound and simple morals, and unfaltering faith. But these stereotypes dangerously oversimplify a rich and diverse culture. In fact, contemporary Amish settlements represent a mosaic of practice and conviction. In the first book to describe the complexity of Amish cultural identity, Steven M. Nolt and Thomas J. Meyers explore the interaction of migration history, church discipline, and ethnicity in the community life of nineteen Amish settlements in Indiana. Their extensive field research reveals the factors that influence the distinct and differing Amish identities found in each settlement and how those factors relate to the broad spectrum of Amish settlements throughout North America. Nolt and Meyers find Amish children who attend public schools, Amish household heads who work at luxury mobile home factories, and Amish women who prefer a Wal-Mart shopping cart to a quilting frame. Challenging the plain and simple view of Amish identity, this study raises the intriguing question of how such a diverse people successfully share a common identity in the absence of uniformity.

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Sarah's Seasons

An Amish Diary and Conversation

“Have you ever kept a diary?” With that question author Martha Davis sets out on her journey into the quietly remarkable life of an Old Order Amish woman know to us as Sarah Fisher. Sarah not only kept a diary but welcomed Martha to read it and to view the world through her eyes. The even, peaceful tenor of Sarah's diary entries and the closeness to nature of her life and work will make readers question the pace and values of their own lives, and the degree of social interconnectedness in Sarah's world will offer a model for many of us outside it.

Sarah's brief daily notations, recorded on a calendar throughout 1976 and 1977, reveal an ongoing account of her seasonal routine. In many ways the straightforward simplicity of her writing is a reflection of her life near rural Kalona, Iowa, a life filled with what Martha Davis calls look-easy tasks undertaken without the conveniences of electricity, phones, or automobiles. For Sarah, diaries are a record. “A diary can settle a question, a disagreement,” she tells Martha. “You look back and see what took place. That's history.”

Through their conversations, Martha soon discovered she had more in common with Sarah than diary writing. Though Davis lived in the mainstream culture, an “English” person as the Amish say, like Sarah she grew up on a farm in rural Iowa during the 1950s and 1960s. Like Martha, Sarah had spent several years as a teacher.

In Sarah's Seasons Martha Davis shares their common experiences and common interests—gardening, quilting, and cooking. Alongside Sarah's diary, Martha presents their shared recipes and conversations as well as reflections on her own more modern existence. Because of her friendship with Sarah, the author found a new sense of belonging to and purpose in the mainstream world. In the end, Sarah's diary becomes for Martha a meditation on time and community.

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Scattering Point

The World in a Mennonite Eye

Part memoir, part family history, part meditation on history and the present, this work of creative nonfiction allows Jeff Gundy to ask what it should mean to “live in the world but not of it,” as the traditional Mennonite saying recommends. As Scattering Point moves through time and space, it repeatedly questions how a modern, assimilated Mennonite poet and professor might live with some kind of fidelity to his tradition and to the promises and griefs of contemporary life. Scattering Point takes its title from Scattering Point Creek, which has its source on the author’s family farm in Illinois. This book explores that place while also ranging widely from it and the Amish and Mennonites who have been associated with the area for nearly the last century. It traverses the Illinois prairie to churches and caves in Europe and incorporates family stories, soil geology, the architecture of cathedrals and churches, reflections on depression, and Mennonite martyrdoms and schisms. Scattering Point speaks of the great questions of history and religion, the quiet lives of Amish and Mennonite men and women whose histories are almost forgotten, and of our lives today. Readers of all backgrounds will see something of themselves in Jeff Gundy who writes, “I must admit it: I do love this world and, many, though not all, of the things in it,” and whose quest is always for understanding that will allow us to “go back into the world more able to undertake the difficult work of loving it as we should.”

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Selling the Amish

The Tourism of Nostalgia

Susan L. Trollinger

More than 19 million tourists flock to Amish Country each year, drawn by the opportunity to glimpse "a better time" and the quaint beauty of picturesque farmland and handcrafted quilts. What they may find, however, are elaborately themed town centers, outlet malls, or even a water park. Susan L. Trollinger explores this puzzling incongruity, showing that Amish tourism is anything but plain and simple. Selling the Amish takes readers on a virtual tour of three such tourist destinations in Ohio’s Amish Country, the world’s largest Amish settlement. Trollinger examines the visual rhetoric of these uniquely themed places—their architecture, interior decor, even their merchandise and souvenirs—and explains how these features create a setting and a story that brings tourists back year after year. This compelling story is, Trollinger argues, in part legitimized by the Amish themselves. To Americans faced with anxieties about modern life, being near the Amish way of life is comforting. The Amish seem to have escaped the rush of contemporary life, the confusion of gender relations, and the loss of ethnic heritage. While the Amish way supports the idealized experience of these tourist destinations, it also raises powerful questions. Tourists may want a life uncomplicated by technology, but would they be willing to drive around in horse-drawn buggies in order to achieve it? Trollinger's answers to important questions in her fascinating study of Amish Country tourism are sure to challenge readers’ understanding of this surprising cultural phenomenon.

Train Up a Child Cover

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Train Up a Child

Old Order Amish and Mennonite Schools

Karen M. Johnson-Weiner

Train Up a Child explores how private schools in Old Order Amish communities reflect and perpetuate church-community values and identity. Here, Karen M. Johnson-Weiner asserts that the reinforcement of those values among children is imperative to the survival of these communities in the modern world. Surveying settlements in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York, Johnson-Weiner finds that, although Old Order communities have certain similarities in their codes of conduct, there is no standard Old Order school. She examines the choices each community makes—about pedagogy, curriculum, textbooks, even school design—to strengthen religious ideology, preserve the social and linguistic markers of Old Order identity, and protect their own community's beliefs and values from the influence of the dominant society. In the most comprehensive study of Old Order schools to date, Johnson-Weiner provides valuable insight into how variables such as community size and relationship with other Old Order groups affect the role of these schools in maintaining behavioral norms and in shaping the Old Order's response to modernity.

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Visits with the Amish

Impressions of the Plain Life

Who are the “plain people,” the men and women who till their fields with horse and plow, travel by horse and buggy, live without electricity and telephones, and practice “help thy neighbor” in daily life? Linda Egenes visited with her Old Order Amish neighbors in southeast Iowa for thirteen years before writing this informative and companionable introduction to their lifeways.

Drawn to their slower pace of life and their resistance to the lures of a consumer society, Egenes found a warm welcome among the Amish, and in return she has given us an equally warm perspective on Amish family life as she experienced it. The Amish value harmony in family life above all, and Egenes found an abundance of harmony as she savored homemade ice cream in a kitchen where the refrigerator ran on kerosene, learned to milk a two-bucket cow, helped cook dinner for nine in a summer kitchen, spent the day in a one-room schoolhouse, and sang “The Hymn of Praise” in its original German at Sunday service.

Whether quilting at a weekly sewing circle above the Stringtown Grocery, playing Dutch Blitz and Dare Base with schoolchildren, learning the intricacies of harness making, or mulching strawberries in a huge garden, Egenes was treated with the kindness, respect, and dignity that exemplify the strong community ties of the Amish. Her engaging account of her visits with the Amish, beautifully illustrated with woodcuts by Caldecott Medal winner Mary Azarian, reveals the serene and peaceful ways of a plain people whose lives are anything but plain.

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Why I Left the Amish

A Memoir

Saloma Miller Furlong

There are two ways to leave the Amish — one is through life and the other through death. When Saloma Miller Furlong’s father dies during her first semester at Smith College, she returns to the Amish community she had left twenty four years earlier to attend his funeral. Her journey home prompts a flood of memories. Now a mother with grown children of her own, Furlong recalls her painful childhood in a family defined by her father’s mental illness, her brother’s brutality, her mother’s frustration, and the austere traditions of the Amish — traditions Furlong struggled to accept for years before making the difficult decision to leave the community. In this personal and moving memoir, Furlong traces the genesis of her desire for freedom and education and chronicles her conflicted quest for independence. Eloquently told, Why I Left the Amish is a revealing portrait of life within — and without — this frequently misunderstood community.

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