Telephones and What is Good for Us

David Kline is an Amish man. He insists that Amish people are not understood. Amish people are maligned for being against all forms of modern technology. That is not true, he says. Rather, the Amish use only those technologies that, in their best judgment, do not harm their community life.

For example, lanterns are not allowed on their farm field equipment. With lanterns they would be tempted to work into the night hours. And working in the fields past sunset would weaken their family life and would overwork their horses.

Several years ago the question came up about whether David Kline’s community would use telephones. Everyone in the church—the community—met and discussed it a number of times. It took all summer for them to decide whether they would have phones. They finally decided against it. And they had two reasons.

First, they knew that if they began to use telephones, they would carry out conversations less and less in a face to face manner. Second, if they had telephones, they feared that their children would begin talking more and more exclusively to one another. The decision about telephones was made in light of what was good for the community and for the human word. Some people believe we live under a “technological imperative.’ If we can invent it or use it, we do so with little foresight as to the repercussions down the road.

Look at what television has done to family and community life. And people now speak of the “virtual community” of the Internet. Imagine being a part of a church where major decisions of your life are brought to the congregation for discernment.

Imagine being a part of a community where everyone agrees to say “yes” to those things that strengthen the community and “no” to those that weaken it. And don’t dismiss the Amish too quickly.

By and large, theirs is the only agricultural community in the entire country that has maintained relative health in the past 30 years. They have something to teach us.

(Originally posted Friday, January 11, 2008)

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