Amish Letter of the Law


I live in southern Michigan, which by staggering coincidence in near northern Indiana, which just happens to be Amish country. It is very common to see Amish people shopping in Wal-Mart, working on farms, etc. But perhaps most likely you will see them driving their black horse drawn buggies on the country roads in rural areas.

This weekend we had a father and child camping activity at a local camp ground. There is a nice public lake that borders the campground where there is swimming, fishing, and public access for boats of various kinds. During the evening we saw a sight that was a bit unusual. We saw a horse drawn Amish buggy pulling a big, sparkling blue, speed boat with a huge motor on back. The type often used for bass fishing.

It seemed a little odd that a people who did not have electricity, or phones, or automobiles would be pulling such a boat. Now, to be fair, it may very well have not been their boat. Perhaps they were borrowing it. I am no expert of Amish beliefs or practices, but I believe that part of the ‘sin’ that they see in such things is in the vanity of ownership. And it seems obvious that they are fine with using phones, and riding in cars, and being where there is electricity. So perhaps using a boat such as the one I saw would technically be fine with some of them as well.

I wonder what other Amish folks would think of this boat being used by one of their own. Would this be a case of someone taking advantage of the letter of the law while ignoring the spirit of the law?

Is it perhaps inevitable that whenever a group of people set some boundaries for acceptable behavior that you will sometimes have those who will find loopholes in how the boundaries are expressed and go about doing whatever they want in certain areas? Do we not see all kinds of examples such as the Amish buggy pulling a speed boat in our own church? Evidence of people ignoring certain teachings or finding creative ways to mis-interpret these teachings to suit themselves. I believe we do. It may not always be as obvious as a flashy Amish horse drawn speed boat but I believe it happens.

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4 Responses to “Amish Letter of the Law”


  1. 1 Naiah Earhart June 13, 2006 at 7:19 am

    “Now there’s a buggy pulling a speedboat, if ever I saw one!”

    New mormon-speak idiom in the making. Really that image is *perfect*. Yeah, I often see things that make my brian go “sproing,” but I usually try to avoid judging or labling the person. I’m all to apt to toss around my own interpretations of what’s going on inside other people’s heads (even just in my private thoughts), and that’s just a dangerous passtime.

  2. 2 Ryan June 13, 2006 at 8:42 am

    Here’s an extension question to that… when are people finding loopholes and when are they just comfortable in their righteousness?

    Two examples:

    1. David O. McKay and his indifference to eating rum cake complete with the disclaimer “The word of wisdom doesn’t say you can’t ‘drink’ alcohol”

    2. My wife and I go to the frozen yogurt shop down the street pretty regularly and try a different flavor every time. Sometimes the Cafe Latte flavor is available and I have no qualms about ordering it. Even though the ingredients include…ACTUAL COFFEE FLAVORING FROM AN EXTRACT OF ACTUAL COFFEE BEANS!!!

    In both scenarios, I’m suggesting that maybe these aren’t cases of envelope-pushers trying to be as justifiably unrighteous as possible. Rather, it’s a situation where they are so confident in knowing their strengths, their weaknesses, and their standing with the Lord, that the technicalities and/or loopholes are really inconsequential.

    In the case of the coffee ice cream, I have never even been tempted by the word of wisdom. I’m just lucky in that way and I have lots of other vices to make up for it. I feel that the Lord is quite okay with me having coffee ice cream without me losing the spirit and falling off into apostasy.

    But hey.. maybe I’m already so apostate I can’t even see my own apostasy. I probably got that way wehn my wife and I decided to use… BIRTH CONTROL! AAAAHHH!!!!!

  3. 3 Eric Nielson June 13, 2006 at 8:57 am

    Naiah:

    Nice to ‘see’ you again :). I hope all is well.

    I was hoping not to sound to judgmental here. It just seemed so odd to see this buggy pulling a speedboat. I personally don’t care whether Amish ride in speedboats or not. It just seemed so obvious. Never seen anything quite like it.

  4. 4 Eric Nielson June 13, 2006 at 9:01 am

    Ryan:

    Thanks for your comments here.

    I think the WOW is an area pretty obvious in mormonism. It is a distinctive thing. An outward behavior that makes us different.

    I was wondering what ward members might think if one of us pulled into church with a speedboat on the back of the suburban. Wearing a life jacket with a white shirt and tie might be a dead giveaway.


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