Monday, October 22, 2012

The Amish Way: Patient faith in a perilous world

The Amish Way: Patient faith in a perilous world
By Donald B. Kraybill, Steven M. Nolt, and David L. Weaver-Zercher

Book review by Richard L. Weaver II

The authors (each with a Ph.D. and professors at various colleges) are great writers and researchers and have a deep understanding and appreciation of Amish life and ways.  There are 14 pages of notes and 6 pages of references.

I found several things appealing in this book.  The first thing, the authors talk about in the preface: “We talked with a host of Amish people in the course of writing this book, and we quote many of them in the following pages” (p. xv). These quotations offer in-depth insights, revealing windows into Amish feelings and experiences, and an amazing reading experience.

The second thing I found appealing is how the authors emphasized throughout the book how Amish spirituality gives all members of their community “a framework for making decisions about marriage, family, work, and play—indeed, a framework that helps them face all the pleasures and uncertainties that human life entails” (p. xiii).  I find the power of their spirituality fascinating.

The third thing is the influence/domination of community.  A good example of community is explained on page 33: “A mother knows that if she is hospitalized, her congregation will help pay the bills, care for her children, and do the household chores until she recovers.  The local church swings into action with meals and moral support after any sort of misfortune, from a catastrophic barn fire to a broken arm” (p. 33).

Perhaps one of the most astounding ideas is how they reject anything that smacks of activism.  Not only do the Amish not concern themselves with world affairs, they do nothing (ever!) to try to change the world.  It is not the Amish way.  (Some might appreciate this approach and this simplicity.  I do not.)  

There is a great deal of information packed into this 192 pages of text material.  There are three appendices, and in addition to the notes and references, there is a complete18-page index.  With a tight organization plan, the book reads easily—especially because there are so many examples, and the sections within each chapter are short, vivid, revealing, and to the point.

Having directed a master’s thesis on the Amish in Ohio, I already had a good background of and interest in this topic; however, that being said, I found a great deal of new information in this book.  Of all the books on the Amish I have read, this is by far the best of the bunch.

Whether you have an interest in the Amish or not, this book offers wonderful insights into one of America’s most interesting co-cultures and a truly American phenomenon.  If you are simply looking for a great book that is entertaining, informative, and engaging, this is a fabulous choice.  Five stars!

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