As the year draws to a close, I have a question to pose to my readers. This is something I've been pondering for a while, and have discussed with my friend, Monica (the Mennobrarian). She and I could only ponder the question, for we don't have the answer.
The question stems from knowing that the fascination for the Amish is perhaps at an all-time high in mainstream America. Amish novels that romanticize the Amish culture are immensely popular, and accounts of people taking trips through Amish country abound.
Many times, the people looking in from the outside long to become part of this model of a good society that the Amish have become. On the Amish Heartland website, Esther Leggett states that she gets hundreds of inquiries about how people might be able to join the Amish. She goes on to convey her discussion with Atlee Miller from Walnut Creek, Ohio, about the six steps involved in joining a New Order Amish church. One of the steps is learning the language… no small feat… and the rest are equally arduous. She also quotes an Amish man's advice, as published in Small Farm Journal:
If you admire our faith, strengthen yours. If you admire our sense of commitment, deepen yours. If you admire our community spirit, build your own. If you admire the simple life, cut back. If you admire deep character and enduring values, live them yourself.
So, needless to say, it is not easy to join the Amish and they are not clamoring for people to join them. Some "Englishers" who had joined have subsequently left — often the reason is that they just never felt like they were part of the culture, because they weren't born into it. Or else they became disillusioned because Amish life didn't match their image of it. So, even of those who make the commitment to go through the arduous process of "becoming" Amish, many do not stay.
Enter the Mennonites, who are quite open to having people join their culture and community. They share much of the same history and many of the same values as the Amish. One major difference is that they believe in converting people into their faith, so they actually seek "joiners." Many Mennonite communities no longer speak the Pennsylvania Dutch language, so in most cases there is no language barrier. In short, it is so much easier to become Mennonite than it is to become Amish. Why, then, are "Englishers" so eager to join the Amish, without even noticing the open arms of the Mennonites?
Can anyone help me with this question? It has me truly puzzled.
Thank you in advance for any help you can give me to solve this riddle.