The Amish's Complicated Relationship With Electricity Explained

The Amish live by their own carefully curated rules. While there are some variations on lifestyles depending on orders and affiliations of Amish groups, at the heart of their creed is their dedication to Christianity and their emphasis on the importance of community harmony. That's why they mindfully avoid what they see as distracting and negative influences from modern society. 

According to Amish America, even as the Amish refuse to be on the public power grid because that would make them too reliant on the modern world, they have found several ways to use electricity off the grid. Think camping. 

Similar to when modern Americans go camping, the Amish have ways to create and benefit from electrical power, including propane gas, generators, and batteries, per the technology website Make Use Of. But they also go bigger than that, with things like hydraulic pumps and even solar power in some cases. 

It's not that the Amish are opposed to lightbulbs, or that they don't appreciate having washing machines — they do have and use those things — but they also believe that you can't be all willy-nilly with electricity and technology. According to what co-author of "The Amish" and professor at Elizabethtown College, Donald Kraybill, told NPR, "They're more cautious — more suspicious — wondering is this going to be helpful or is it going to be detrimental? Is it going to bolster our life together, as a community, or is it going to somehow tear it down?"

The Amish benefit from electricity on their own terms

It's an interesting thought process in today's world, in which many not only embrace new technology, but chase it without much thought about how it may affect their lives in the long run. Technology is sold on a platform of being a positive thing that will enhance the lives of its users. But the Amish say, "woah, let's weigh the pros and cons against what our goals and principles are as a society and decide what will be best for the community." That's the sentiment anyway, per Amish America, and it's not lost on the Amish that many technologies are powered by electricity. 

So for the Amish, they've found that using electricity is beneficial for operating their businesses, running some home appliances, and for providing artificial light, including lighting their buggies at night when safety is crucial. Electric power tools both big and small are also utilized, but they are always crafty with the means they use to power their equipment so as to continue to stave off entanglement with the outside world. 

According to Amish America, the Amish are also mindful of how easy chores and work can be with the use of various tools and appliances, and since they value work in a different way than modern societies — viewing work as important to the social aspects of the communities and as a character builder for their children — they basically take what they can use and leave the rest.