The Amish Reject Modern Technology: True or False?

True or False: The Amish Reject Modern Technology?


The Amish are very selective about the devices and innovations that members are allowed to possess, but they do not reject all modern technology outright. When a new technology becomes available within a district, church leaders will evaluate its potential for causing harm to Amish life and values and then make a decision accordingly. No technology, regardless of how labor-saving it may be, is permissible if the leaders determine that it will be spiritually detrimental to the community.

To the outsider, the Amish restrictions on technology are among the most confusing of their rules and often seem contradictory. Why do the Amish not own or drive cars, yet they will ride in vehicles driven by others? Why won’t they have a phone in the house but put one in the barn? To make sense of these questions and more, consider the Amish value system:

  • Humility: A lack of fancy electronic devices provides less opportunity for pride.
  • Submission: Following the technology rules of the order demonstrates obedience to God, to the group, and to history.
  • Community: Staying off the grid prevents dependence on the outside world.
  • Simplicity: Life without computers, email, or other forms of electronic interruption is more peaceful.
  • Thrift: A low-tech life prevents excessive phone bills, car insurance premiums, cable TV charges, internet costs, music download fees, and so on.
  • Family: Owning and driving one’s own car provides too many opportunities for temptation and allows one to roam too far from home.

Rules that seem contradictory usually relate to the overriding goal of being masters over technology rather than slaves to it. Anyone who has ever felt prisoner to a constantly ringing phone or a full email inbox can surely understand that concept!

Though the rules vary widely from district to district, many technological items are allowed in Amish homes and farms, including calculators, flashlights, manual typewriters, gas grills, chain saws, roller-blades, and more. Some districts allow manual lawnmowers only, though others permit gas-powered lawnmowers and even weed whackers.

Contrary to popular belief, the Amish do not think that technology itself is evil or wrong. They do believe, however, that if left unchecked, technology can destroy the Amish way of life by undermining its traditions, bringing inappropriate value systems into homes, and ultimately breaking communities and families apart.

This answer has been provided as an excerpt from the upcoming book, Plain Answers About the Amish Life by Mindy Starns Clark. Learn more below.

Plain Answers About the Amish Life

Plain Answers About the Amish Life
By Mindy Starns Clark
Available September 2013

For Amish fiction readers, young and old alike, Plain Answers About the Amish Life provides a glimpse into an obscure, fascinating world—what the Amish believe and how they live.
Learn more:

The Amish Are a Cult: True or False?


The Amish are Christians and do not fit the modern, generally accepted criteria for what constitutes a cult. They may be confused as one because they follow a very restrictive set of rules and face excommunication (shunning) for certain infractions of those rules.

However, unlike a cult, the Amish religion is not centered on a single human authority, they do not require their members to pool their finances, and the tenets of their faith are compatible with most major Protestant denominations. Thus, they are not a cult but simply an ultraconservative Christian faith culture.

The Amish adhere to these tenets of the Christian faith:

  • There is one God.
  • God is a trinity.
  • Jesus came to earth as God in the flesh, died, and rose again.
  • Salvation comes through grace by faith.
  • Scripture is the divinely inspired word of God.
  • The church is the body of Christ.

As foreign as many Amish practices are to most people, their faith culture is a Christian one. The Amish are not a cult, they do not try to earn grace by their lifestyle, and they do believe in salvation.

Feeling that it would be prideful to claim an assurance of that salvation, however, most Amish districts prefer that their members maintain what they call a “living hope” or a “continued effort” on the topic, trusting the ultimate fate of their soul to God’s providence rather than claiming it with certainty.

With no central religious authority, each Amish district must make decisions about what is and isn’t allowed for its members on matters both large and small. Consequently, what may be perfectly permissible in one Amish district can be utterly forbidden in another. Outsiders might consider all Amish to be conservative, but that conservatism covers a wide range.

This answer has been provided as an excerpt from the upcoming book, Plain Answers About the Amish Life by Mindy Starns Clark. Learn more below.

Plain Answers About the Amish Life

Plain Answers About the Amish Life
By Mindy Starns Clark
Available September 2013

For Amish fiction readers, young and old alike, Plain Answers About the Amish Life provides a glimpse into an obscure, fascinating world—what the Amish believe and how they live.
Learn more:


More on ACFW Conference

I wanted to chime in on Mindy Starns Clark’s post about the ACFW conference in September. I am very excited to not only attend my first ACFW, but also to be the hostess who’ll introduce Mindy’s workshop “Amish 101.”  Although I’ve been to other writers’ conferences in the past, this is the Cadillac of all conventions. It’s a great chance to meet other writers, editors and agents.  If you’d been debating whether or not to attend, trust me, the surrounding positive energy will sustain you until the manuscript of your dreams is finished. If you write…or would like to write Amish fiction, please register for Mindy’s course.

I’ll be waiting at the door with a warm Midwest welcome! Mary Ellis

American Christian Fiction Writers Conference

I know you love to read or you wouldn’t be here at Amish Reader.  But if you also love to write, have I got a suggestion for you:  Get yourself to this fall’s American Christian Fiction Writers Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana!  ACFW is an organization geared toward meeting the needs of new and seasoned authors alike, as well as offering a venue for readers to learn more about their favorite authors and discover the vast array of choices available from the Christian Fiction market.  Each year, ACFW hosts an amazing conference with classes taught by many of your favorite authors. The conference also offers opportunities to meet editors and agents, fellowship with other writers (aspiring and published), and celebrate the best in Christian fiction.

The reason I’m talking about the conference here on this blog is because one of the sessions I’ll be teaching focuses on Amish fiction.  Called “Amish 101”, the class includes an overview of the genre and the current state of the market, followed by an A-Z rundown of Amish life, practices, and beliefs.  As the Amish fiction genre expands and more and more authors consider trying their hand at writing it, I thought it would be helpful to provide a full understanding of the “big picture”—i.e., why the Amish live the way they do and why their world is such an interesting place for Christian writers to explore.

For more information, check out the ACFW website, where you’ll see that the conference is shaping up to be awesome, as always.  I can’t wait to go.  Hope to see you there too!

Total Immersion

A Pocket Guide to Amish Life

All Amish all the time…that’s what my life has felt like over the last few months. It started with a brand new book project, a small nonfiction that I was able to squeeze in between finishing one mystery novel and starting another.  Nonfiction uses a different part of my brain than fiction does, and it makes for a nice change when that brain has been working overtime on mystery, murder, and mayhem–all under pressure of a deadline.  Thus, needing a break from my usual plotting and characterization and intrigue, I took on a nonfiction project for the summer and ended up immersing myself in all things Amish. What’s the book?  A Pocket Guide to Amish Life, which will be released in January 2010. 

Yes, it’s true, I am the same person who once said, after finishing Shadows of Lancaster County, that “I may never write another Amish book again.”  That novel was difficult for me, the research among the hardest I have ever done.  Believe it or not, I found getting the inside scoop on Amish life far tougher than, say, learning how to build a pipe bomb (for Blind Dates Can Be Murder) or securing access to a real sapphire mine (A Dime a Dozen).  I even wrote an article about my struggle in researching the Amish, which I posted here

But I should have known that one book wouldn’t be the end of it.  Like the mountain climber who had to give up short of the summit, I found myself wanting to return and try again.  The Amish elements in Shadows were correct, but only because my plot allowed me to avoid many facets of Amish life entirely.  I learned enough to write that one, but beyond the story I told I wasn’t confident in my Amish knowledge overall.

Thus, when my publisher brought up the concept of a guidebook about the Amish, I found the idea strangely intriguing.  Could I really do it?  Could I, who had struggled through all 326 pages of a story set in Amish country, actually put my researcher’s hat back on and this time ferret out the whole truth about the Amish, enough to fill an entire Pocket Guide?  Enough to get it completely right?

Well, yes, and then some, I’m happy to report.  In the end, I had so much to say about Amish life that I found myself wishing that little book could be twice as big.  (Stay tuned, because in the coming weeks, I’ll reveal on this blog the exciting ways we’re going to make all of that “overflow” information accessible.) It wasn’t easy, but after a summer of intense reading and study, interviews, personal tours, exploration, and lots of face time with Amish scholars, experts, and some new Amish friends, I found myself finally reaching the summit that had so eluded me before. 

This morning, I got a phone call from one of my readers, a kind Amish fellow who had agreed to review my manuscript and flag errors and questions.  He had already given me the green light on the finished product a few weeks ago, but today he was following up to let me know that he appreciated what I was trying to accomplish.

“There’s so much bad information out there,” he said, “I was thinking about it and wanted you to know to that I’m awful glad your book will help set things straight.”  He went on to thank me for presenting such a balanced, clear picture of Amish life—me, the girl who had struggled so hard the first time to get it right, the writer who said she may never return to that subject matter again.  I guess that old adage is true: Never say never.

Once our phone call was over, I returned to my work with a big grin on my face.  I’m already deep into my next novel, Secrets of Harmony Grove, and this time around I’m able to focus on other areas of research, feeling confident that I’ve finally got the Amish side of things covered. Of course there’s always more to learn, but overall I’m able to write this new novel with far more confidence and authority on a subject that had previously eluded me.

All Amish all the time?  Doing two Amish-related books back to back, it sure seems that way.

And I’m as surprised as anyone to say that I’m loving every minute of it.





Write What You Know?

The old adage “write what you know” has always bugged me. How much do most of us really “know”? In the past eight years, I have written about murder, the NSA, cryptology, espionage, money laundering, art theft, Napoleonic history, the INS, explosives, poisons, and much more. Given that I’m neither incarcerated nor under an FBI watch, you can safely assume that I’m not living a dangerous double life.

Instead, like most writers, I depend on diligent research—not to mention a good bit of imagination—to write about topics far outside my own realm of experience. Despite a lack of firsthand knowledge, curiosity and a relentless search for answers can result in realistic and compelling storytelling. Write what you know, yes, but also what you want to know and are willing to learn.

An Interview with Mindy Starns Clark

Have you visited Lancaster County?

Actually, I live near there, so it’s a familiar place and has always been one of our favorite mini-vacation spots.

What drew you to the world of the Amish?

Our two daughters were always fascinated by the Amish lifestyle, so over the years we’ve learned a lot about them. The spark for Shadows of Lancaster County came from a book we were reading that focused on the medical peculiarities of the Amish—a situation known as the “Founder Effect.” Because most Amish marry from within the community, they can trace their roots back to the same small set of ancestors. As a result of this, they have a very high incidence of birth defects, unusual blood types, and rare disorders. On the positive side, they are of great interest to DNA researchers, because studying the genes of Founder Effect societies is the best way to locate the genes that cause disorders that also affect society at large—disorders such as diabetes, cystic fibrosis, and Parkinson’s disease. Understanding this, the Amish have been extremely cooperative with researchers, allowing blood draws and DNA sampling in the hopes that their efforts will allow doctors to unlock the secrets of the human genome to better care for others.

Once I learned all of this, the little plotting engine in my brain went to work on a medical Amish/DNA mystery, one that simply begged to be told. This ended up being one of the most difficult books I have taken on, simply because of the extensive research I had to do, but it was also one of the most fulfilling.

Whispers of the Bayou is quickly becoming a fan favorite! Why did you want to write a Gothic novel?

The first grown-up novel I ever read was the gothic mystery Touch Not the Cat by Mary Stewart, which I read when I was about 16. From there, I began to devour the novels of all of the gothic mystery writers, especially those of Mary Stewart and Phyllis A. Whitney. As a teenager, I loved nothing more than to curl up with one of these books and escape to a world that was exotic, creepy, and completely captivating.

My goal was to capture that feeling with my own fiction. Of course, I had to “modernize” the genre a bit. (For example, those old books used to begin with pages and pages of the heroine sitting on a train or bus simply thinking about her situation, whereas modern readers want to jump right into the action.) But even though some changes were necessary, as I wrote I found that I was able to retain the tone and feeling of those old novels that I loved so much. Given the success of Whispers, I think it’s safe to say that I’m not the only one who loves this particular genre.

Currently, I’m also in the plotting phase of my next book, another gothic mystery set in Louisiana called Under the Cajun Moon. This time, I focus on New Orleans and the surrounding Cajun bayou country. My main character is the daughter of a famous French Quarter chef, and when he suddenly takes ill she has to step in and save the day, solving a mystery even as she runs for her life. It’s very fun!

What interests you in “Cajun country,” as it’s called?

I was born and raised in Louisiana. Even though I no longer live there, whenever I write a story in that setting it’s kind of like going home—in my imagination, at least.

Growing up, I was always fascinated with Cajun music, culture, cuisine, and history, so it was a natural leap for me to learn more about all of those things and put them into a story.
Writing Under the Cajun Moon has also brought me back to that world, and I’m loving every minute of it.

Whispers of the Bayou is set after Hurricane Katrina, which figures into the plotline. How did you learn about the effect Katrina had on the area?

For most of the world, Katrina came and went, but if you go down there and take a look around, it’s obvious that the effects were far-reaching and long-lasting. So many lives have been changed forever! Our family members who lived north of New Orleans were able to patch things up and move on. But for those who lived in the city itself, their lives were completely changed by that storm. They have now scattered to Texas and California, with no plans to return home to New Orleans. Last year, we visited relatives who resettled in Houston, and though they love their new hometown, their sense of loss over New Orleans is palpable.

The saddest part of the whole thing, of course, is that it had been known for years that this was eventually going to happen, yet steps were never taken to minimize the potential damage. There are so many actions that could have been taken, so many changes and fixes that would have kept the city dry and the people safe, but those changes cost money, so they were never implemented.

I still get letters from readers who recently discovered my fifth book, The Buck Stops Here. The book was published two years before Hurricane Katrina, and yet the potential for massive flooding in the city of New Orleans is an important part of the plot. The letters I get say, “How did you know that before it ever happened?” My answer is always the same: “Everyone knew it; they just didn’t do anything about it.” Very sad.

What other kinds of research did you do? How did what you uncovered help you develop the plotline?

It’s hard to talk about the plotline in Whispers, because the story takes several shocking turns, and I never want to give away too much to anyone who hasn’t read it yet. I’ll just say that my research for that book focused primarily on Cajun history, some medically-related conundrums, and antebellum architecture. In the story, that translated into long-buried secrets, a mysterious death, and some creepy plantation hiding places.

Let’s talk about The House That Cleans Itself. Did you ever think you would be writing a housekeeping guide?

Oh good grief, no! I’m a terrible housekeeper and have been my whole life. It wasn’t until I began writing the Smart Chick Mystery series that I finally started to understand why. My protagonist in that series, Jo Tulip, is a household hints expert, and in researching her character I ended up reading about 40 books on housekeeping and organization. As I read, I soon came to realize that all of those books were written by people who were just naturally gifted at housekeeping. Their advice sounded fine on paper, but for someone like me who seemed to lack all housekeeping talent, their advice simply didn’t work. I was trying to follow the “rules” for a clean home, but my house was still always a mess because those rules didn’t work for people like me.

Finally, I made a radical decision: I would throw out all of the conventional wisdom on the matter and instead find solutions that would work for my home, my habits, and my family. I approached the messy-house problem creatively, by looking at each mess, evaluating its components, and then problem-solving a way to keep it from happening again. It took a while, but eventually I problem-solved my way through the entire house. One day, I remarked to my husband that the house was staying so consistently clean that it was almost like the house was cleaning itself. That’s when the idea for the book was born, when I realized that my system actually worked, and that it could work for others as well.

What’s your best piece of advice for the “housekeeping impaired”?

Make it just as easy to do the clean thing as it is to do the messy thing. In other words, engineer cleaning convenience throughout your home, not by changing your own habits but by making changes to the house itself. Even little changes—like having a trash can in every room (so trash gets thrown away immediately rather than sitting around until “later”) or placing mats inside and outside of every exterior door (to stop dirt before it even gets inside)—can go a long way toward eliminating mess in your home, even if you have no housekeeping ability whatsoever.

You’ve taken an interesting path toward becoming a novelist. What else have you written?

Plays, musicals, computer software manuals, comedy routines, short stories, articles, speeches, catalog descriptions, marketing and public relations copy, advertising, corporate and copywriting—everything except the back of a cereal box. Once I got a flyer in my credit card bill and realized I had written it!

At what point did you finally consider yourself a writer?
About 15 years ago, one of my plays was taken on the road by a church theater troupe. I was invited to ride along to a performance, and as they ran their lines, I realized that there were 20 people on that bus and every single word was something that I had written. I understood then that I was a writer.

Have you pursued any other creative endeavors?

Years ago, I was hired to lay down the vocal tracks for a line of karaoke music. If you recorded a karaoke song, chances are the voice you were singing along with was mine! One of my favorite writing jobs was as a contributing editor to a regional bridal magazine. I reviewed restaurants, hotels, and wedding-reception facilities—which meant lots of dining and dancing, all for free. I also worked as a stand-up comedian but didn’t like the late-night hours. So, I combined comedy with singing and created a “Senior Entertainment” business. During the day when my kids were in school, I performed at senior clubs, nursing homes, and retirement communities. It was a lot of fun.

What do you like to do just for fun?

I love to travel, so when time and budget permit, my family and I head off to somewhere new. This past summer we visited Spain, Italy, and France, with a fascinating side trip to Malta.

I’ve also been to 46 states—including Alaska and Hawaii. With just four to go, I’m determined to get to all 50 soon. Then I’ll start working on the seven continents. So far, my husband and I have three down and four to go.

A little more about Mindy…

Personal info: I live near Valley Forge, PA, with my husband, two daughters, and one dog.

Author of: Shadows of Lancaster County; Whispers of the Bayou; The House That Cleans Itself; Elementary, My Dear Watkins; Blind Dates Can Be Murder; The Trouble with Tulip; The Buck Stops Here; A Quarter for a Kiss; A Dime a Dozen; Don’t Take Any Wooden Nickels; A Penny for Your Thoughts

Favorite Scripture: Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
Favorite quote: “Your worship of Him is more important than your ministry for Him.” I’m not sure who said it, but I heard it from a writer friend, printed it out, and hung it up over my computer!