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    The Art and Practice of Self-Denial

    July 20, 2006 by Brandy Vencel

    I love reading about the Amish {and traditional Mennonites as well}. I remember taking a trip during the summer after my junior year of college to visit a roommate of mine who lived in Missouri. We spent a day driving into the middle of nowhere in order to reach a secluded Mennonite community. Coming from California, I had never seen such a lifestyle in person. And I admired it…especially after tasting Mennonite-made rhubarb pie!

    This morning, I happened upon a posting over at Amy’s Humble Musings that I loved. Let me share a brief snippet, in which an Amishman responds to the question, “What does it mean to be Amish?”:


    The Amishman thought a bit and then he asked a question of his own. “How many of you have TV in your homes” Fifty-two hands went up. “Now, how many of you feel that perhaps you would be better off without TV in your homes?” Again, fifty-two hands went up. “All right. Now, how many of you are going to go home and get rid of your TV?” Not one hand went up!


    Talk about a total disconnect! This type of question could be about anything, really. How many of you have/do x? How many of you think it would be better if you didn’t have/do x? How many of you are going to eliminate x from your lives? There seems to be a great, vast chasm between belief and action in Christian culture, overall.

    There are cultures all over the world {though fewer than there used to be} that have some of the external disctinctions of the Amish. Maybe they do not use electricity. They are not industrialized, and tend to work with their hands. But usually these people groups are referred to as tribal cultures, and it is often assumed that they will assimilate into industrialized culture given enough time and exposure.

    The Amish/Mennonite cultures, however, {though I do not deny that they keep quite separate} are well aware of industrialized culture, but choose to do differently. I remember the first time I read that the Amish do not so much reject the automobile as they do the insurance which necessarily accompanies vehicle ownership. There are certain beliefs/principles within their culture {in this instance, that the community, and not a private third-party, should bear each other’s burdens}, that they choose to live by, regardless of the inconvenience the decision entails.

    The Amishman who questioned a group of tourists about their TVs concluded by writing,


    Now that is what it means to be Amish. As a church, if we see or experience something that is not good for us spiritually, we will discipline ourselves to do without. The world in general does not know what it is to do without!


    And how sad is this fact! I firmly believe that industrial society is unnecessarily complex and impersonal. I believe it has many more negatives than it does positives on the proverbial Pro/Con List. If this is the case, then doing without some or all of it becomes paradoxical. In having less of the stuff and the demands on time, life itself becomes richer and more peaceful.

    At the outset, sacrifice isn’t easy. But I think one can be emboldened by the fact that choosing what is best is just that: choosing what is best. What is best is necessarily above all other options in value and benefit. And so, even though one might approach sacrifice and self-denial with great trepidation, one can be assured that what will be attained in the end is worth all of the effort required by the process.


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  • Reply rebecca July 24, 2006 at 2:44 pm

    I’ve read several Beverly Lewis novels about the Amish. They are pretty light reading, but they are intereseting perspective of the Amish life.

  • Reply kris July 24, 2006 at 12:16 pm

    Well, I already run pretty slowly, so I’m not sure it matters! 🙂 The book is pretty good– definitely more on the “twinkie” side of things, but it’s keeping me interested (and distracted from running!). I actually have found that I enjoy listening to a book while exercising, even though I do tune in and out. I figure that I tune in and out when I read myself, so what difference does it make? The efficiency is the appeal for me– I LOVE getting two things accomplished at once! 🙂 It all started with listening to a book while painting my house last summer….

  • Reply Brandy July 21, 2006 at 8:57 pm

    You are a bit biased. But then again, ComedyKen really should be, too! 🙂

    So is it any good? And is it hard to get into a book while running? Does reading about a less complicated life make you jog more slowly? 🙂

  • Reply kristie July 21, 2006 at 8:13 pm

    Confession: I’m actually listening to the book on cd while I jog (which means it’s taking me forever to finish). It’s “The Covenant” by Beverly Lewis. I also have to confess that I chose it partly based on what was available on cd at the library. But, it’s an interesting little story and is giving me a little window into the Amish world.

  • Reply Si July 21, 2006 at 7:45 pm

    Perhaps it would be better off, ComedyKen. The world could use more Internet storage capacity for people like Brandy who write truth and wisdom.

  • Reply comedyken July 21, 2006 at 6:35 pm

    I wonder if the world would be better off with fewer bloggers. HMMM

  • Reply Brandy July 21, 2006 at 3:16 pm

    That is an interesting tidbit on their medical treatment preferences! I must ask…what is the “piece of Amish fiction” you are reading?

  • Reply kristie July 21, 2006 at 12:30 pm

    Yes, I find the Amish culture interesting as well. We live not 30 minutes from “Amish country” and are therefore reminded often of their existence.It even has prompted me to read a piece of Amish fiction. 🙂 A friend in our Sunday School class made an interesting observation the other day. She is a social worker at the local hospital and remarked that often Amish people will come to the hospital in their horse & buggy and request the most advanced technological treatment possible. Interesting….

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