The Amish in Space
I learned this morning that the Amish population is this country has doubled over the last 16 years. That will make for a lot of Shoe Fly Pie, something you will be happy to hear if you have ever hung around Lancaster, Pa.. Now that there are almost a quarter of a million Amish in the country, intense pressure has been put upon the farmlands in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana, traditional homes for the Amish. Rather than move to areas where there is more available land, like say, North Dakota, the Amish are moving out of farming and into small businesses in towns.
I believe that what will amount to an urbanization of the Amish will wreak havoc on the religion. How you gonna keep them down on the farm now that they’ve seen French Lick, Indiana ? The Amish will have to change or die out. Maybe. What the Amish have going for them, apparently, is a high birth rate. I doubt that the doubling of the Amish population in this country came about through conversion. There are not that many people in the country willing to wear all black, drive horse and buggy and make quality furniture by hand all day, only to go home to an unelectrified farm house and hit the hay when the sun goes down .Which is probably the real answer as to why the Amish population is booming. Another reason might be that Amish only go to school through the eighth grade and they have a lot of teens with time on their hands.
The Amish are at least avoiding the mistakes of their predecessor furniture making religion, the Shakers. The Shakers were a force back in the 19th century. They were a well known singing and dancing communal faith which made the mistake of incorporating celibacy into the creed. Celibacy is a non-starter for a lot of folks when it comes to choosing a denomination. It also aged the Shaker religion pretty fast since no new Shakers were being born. Twenty years ago the country was down to about three Shakers, all women over the age of 85. However, the Shakers had large land holdings and, I understand that the faith has made a comeback in recent years. Actually, it was a pretty good bet to join the Shakers. Just wait until the old ladies die, grab the farms and change the rules ! Suddenly we have Shaker Towers condos going up on the old farm land. Perhaps this has already happened. Now that the Amish presumably control their inventory with computers like the rest of us, anything is possible, even a pregnant Shaker.
All in all, this is probably bad for the country. The Old Order of the Amish will probably, at some point, start to blend in with the rest of us, go to high school, buy cars, watch T.V.. You won’t be able to tell them from your run of the mill, garden variety Methodist. There is a lot to be said for keeping unique traditions alive. Of course, it is a lot easier to root for the Amish not to change when you, yourself have an air conditioned home.