Saloma Miller Furlong, who grew up Amish in Ohio and left it, spoke to a receptive audience at Eastern Mennonite University’s “Writers’ Read” recently. The subtle message that I received both from Furlong’s comments and the video clips she presented, was that the Amish are brainwashed (it was never stated as such). Their whole process of socialization makes it difficult for them to think for themselves; they have to submit their individual wills to the will of the group. This was considered a negative thing.
I also recently spoke to a friend who had left the Amish church because of his “personal salvation” experience, something which he said was not encouraged by his community. I asked him, if looking back, he felt the individual salvation and buying into the individualist culture of main stream USA was worth it. We were talking about the uncertainties of health insurance, long-term care insurance; our culture’s thinking that we need to do everything for ourselves, not to be dependent on anyone.
“I value my personal conversion experience highly,” he stated as tears welled up in his eyes, “but I never felt more secure in my life than while I was in the Amish community.” He quickly added, “I know many saints from the Amish who I will meet in heaven.”
My question is, who is more brainwashed? The culture that makes everyone conform to group think, or the culture that makes everyone conform to individual think? Individual think has led us to one of the most egotistical, narcissistic, and secular cultures in the world. Unfortunately, it has also led us to one of the loneliest cultures in the world. Is this God’s intention for us? Could we use a little Amish group think?