July 2008 Book Reviews


Plain Diversity: Amish Cultures and Identities. By Steven M. Nolt and Thomas J. Meyers. Baltimore, Md.: The Johns Hopkins University Press. 2007. Pp. 244. $48.

Plain Diversity provides a new approach to the study of the Old Order Amish. While many books and articles mention diversity, they still primarily focus on a single homogeneous group or a single geographic area. Plain Diversity examines the Amish as a community that is varied. The goal of Nolt and Meyers is to identify and explain the differences that exist between the many Amish communities throughout the state of Indiana, and then to explain why these different groups still consider themselves, and each other, to be Amish. The authors observe that in recent years, there has been an increased sophistication in scholarship about the Amish. They could also have mentioned that there has been a significant upsurge in the total number of articles and books written about them. Concentrating on a single community clearly has advantages but tends to reinforce a reader’s preconceptions that the Amish are a homogeneous society whose members are virtually indistinguishable from one another. Plain Diversity refutes this myth, clearly showing that the Amish are heterogeneous.

Nolt and Meyers spent four years traveling around the state of Indiana, visiting and revisiting each Amish community. From the beginning they were aware that these communities were dissimilar. Their goal, however, was not simply to identify and describe the diversity, but to explain clearly how these differences emerged and stabilized. As the authors note, the Amish are a congregational church, so each church district is independent. Those church districts whose practices and lifestyle are either the same or at least very similar are referred to in the literature as an affiliation. When church districts are in affiliation or fellowship with each other, their lay members may attend and ordained members may participate in each other’s services. Those groups not in fellowship with each other may not worship together, which is a clear mark of fragmentation. Ultimately, Nolt and Meyers ask two very different questions. First, what causes Amish groups to diverge? Second, how, despite the diversity, do Amish still recognize each other as Amish?

In part I, ?Patterns of Peoplehood,? the authors explore three causes for diversity: migration, Ordnung and ethnicity. Migration occurs for a variety of reasons, and the impact on diversity depends on when and why the migration occurred. Originally, the Amish left Europe because they were being persecuted for their religious beliefs. Since they settled in North America, they have moved for different reasons, such as to find affordable land in order to continue farming, to escape a community embroiled in controversy over practice, or to find a church whose practices are compatible with their own beliefs. While the Amish left Europe to escape religious persecution, they did not all leave at the same time. There were two distinct waves. The first occurred in the early to mid-1700s, the second in the early to mid-1800s. As a result, there were almost 100 years of independent development, the results of which can be seen even today between these two groups. The first Amish to migrate to and settle in northern Indiana were descendants of the first wave. They moved from eastern United States to explore the opening frontier. Some of the second wave of Amish migrants from Europe settled directly in Indiana and today are known as Swiss Amish. Recently, more traditional Swartzentrubers from New York, Ohio and Michigan, as well as more progressive families from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, have settled in Indiana. Both the Swartzentrubers and the Lancaster County families have maintained close ties with their parent communities, suggesting that they migrated primarily for farmland. Finally, some families relocated from the original settlements in Indiana and elsewhere with hopes of returning to a more traditional way of life.

A second source of diversity is found in the Ordnung, the set of rules agreed upon by a church district which prescribes and proscribes Amish practice and behavior. Each church district establishes its own Ordnung, and when the set of rules in different districts is similar enough, these groups may view themselves as in fellowship. When the rules diverge, church districts cease to be in fellowship. For example, some Amish allow the growing and use of tobacco, while others disapprove. Some allow certain technological innovations for farmers so they can afford to continue practicing agriculture. Others reject the same technology even if it forces families off the land. Some churches allow men to work in factories; others reject factory work, accepting home businesses only. Some allow families to own their own phone, although it may not be in the home. Others will only allow a community phone booth.

The final source of diversity explored in this book is ethnicity. There are clear differences between the Amish whose ancestors arrived with the first wave from Europe and who speak Pennsylvania German, and the second wave, who speak a Swiss dialect of German.

Part II, ?Comparative Communities,? describes four Indiana settlements both historically and ethnographically. First is the largest and oldest settlement, Elkhart-LaGrange and Nappanee. Second are the Swiss settlements located in eastern Indiana. Third are the daughter settlements from Lancaster County that settled in Wayne and Parke Counties. And fourth is the complex settlement of Paoli-Salem, which includes migrants from Elkhart-LaGrange and Nappanee who desired to live under a stricter Ordnung than was practiced in their home districts, a New Order church, a Swiss community and some traditional Swartzentrubers.

In the final two chapters, Nolt and Meyers ask an intriguing question: How is it that members of different Amish affiliations, who are unwilling to worship together, nonetheless recognize and accept each other as legitimately Amish? Clearly, when two communities are not in fellowship with each other, they have strong disagreements about practice and lifestyle. Still, all communities who call themselves Amish accept the eighteen articles of the Dordrecht Confession as the statement of belief. All accept that they must be separate from the world, and despite many differences, one common symbol is their continued use of horse and buggy. All believe that church districts are independent and separate. The authors, however, note that Lancaster County has given their bishops more influence through their twice-yearly Dienerversammlungen, where bishops and ministers, rather than congregations, determine the Ordnung for each church district. In the end, however, a church district could reject these rules.

Plain Diversity is a vital and valuable contribution to our understanding of the Old Order Amish. Clearly, those who are engaged in research about the Amish are well aware of their diversity, but Nolt and Meyers identified a gap in the literature and spent four years collecting the data contained in this book. Their descriptions of the various communities are clear and informative, and the three forces of migration, Ordnung, and ethnicity, while not the only forces behind diversity, help us understand why the Amish are not homogeneous. In the last two chapters, the authors show us, among the differences, the fundamental elements, easily documented, that encourage these plain people to see themselves and each other as Amish.



Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy. By Donald B. Kraybill, Steven M. Nolt and David L. Weaver-Zercher. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 2007. Pp. 237. $24.95, U.S.; $29.99, Can.

Forgiveness: A Legacy of the West Nickel Mines Amish School. By John L. Ruth. Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press. 2007. Pp. 151. $9.99, U.S.; $12.49, Can.

How is it possible for parents to forgive, almost immediately, a man who mercilessly shot their young children? This question haunted many who heard of the response of the Amish community to the shooting of children in their one-room school near Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, on October 2, 2006. That morning a local non-Amish man, Charles Carl Roberts IV, entered the school and shot ten girls. Five died that day. Four of the girls have recovered physically; the last remains seriously disabled. Though this violent explosion in a community thought to be isolated from the world shocked everyone, the authors of Amish Grace note that the ?biggest surprise at Nickel Mines was not the intrusion of evil but the Amish response. The biggest surprise was Amish grace'(xi).

Within a few hours of the tragedy, some Amish were visiting Roberts’s relatives to express their sorrow and indicate they did not hold anything against his family members. The parents of several of the girls invited members of the Roberts family to attend their daughters? funerals. At Roberts’s burial at a local Methodist cemetery, more than half of those present were Amish. And several weeks after the shooting, there was a special meeting between members of Roberts’s extended family and the Amish families who lost children, a ?profound time of grief and healing, according to some present? (Amish Grace, 46).

Financial gifts also expressed forgiveness. The Amish received nearly $4 million in gifts from around the world. The Amish committee responsible for overseeing the funds decided soon after the tragedy to designate some of its funds for the killer’s widow. Many other Amish people donated to the Roberts Family Fund.

Two recent books by Mennonite writers seek to interpret this unusually gracious response for those unfamiliar with Amish faith and life. Both Forgiveness and Amish Grace emphasize that the quickness of the Amish to forgive cannot be understood apart from the Amish faith and practice developed over centuries in close Christian community. Of the two books, however, Amish Grace, even though somewhat longer, is easier to read and provides a more orderly, richer set of reflections on the readiness to forgive of the Nickel Mines Amish. Written by a sociologist and two historians familiar with Amish life’and in consultation with colleagues who have carefully considered the ethics of forgiveness’this book is a valuable resource for scholars and church members alike. Forgiveness is more of a personal meditation, and the writing would have benefited from heavier editing.

Amish Grace helpfully distinguishes the concepts of grace (?loving and compassionate responses to others’), forgiveness (?when a victim forgoes the right to revenge and commits to overcoming bitter feelings toward the wrongdoer’), pardon (which ?releases an offender from punishment altogether’) and reconciliation (the ?restoration of a relationship or the creation of a new one, between the victim and offender’) (xiii-xiv). These distinctions permit the authors to speak of the lavish character of Amish grace, of their immediate will and intention to forgive, of their withholding of pardon from someone who is clearly a danger to others and their need to discern when reconciliation is desirable and possible. Since Roberts killed himself after shooting the girls, the Amish did not have to face the questions of pardon and reconciliation.

Neither of the two books dodges the hard questions that reporters and Christian friends raised about Amish attitudes after the tragedy. Do the Amish lack appropriate emotion or ignore the reality of evil? Did they forgive too quickly? Should they forgive someone who is unrepentant? Why should the Amish talk about forgiving the killer’s family? Can Christians extend forgiveness on behalf of others? When does self-renunciation become emotionally damaging to the forgiving person? Amish Grace addresses these questions more thoroughly and systematically, but both books agree that answering them requires a patient understanding of Amish theology and life.

Foundational to Amish willingness to forgive offenders (not necessarily to pardon them) is a theological orientation and ritual practice that encourages it. The Lord’s Prayer articulates a strong relationship between human forgiving and the reception of God’s grace: ?Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.? The authors of Amish Grace, who interviewed more than three dozen Amish people as part of their research, report that this prayer is usually repeated at least twice a day and sometimes more often in Amish life. Both books give examples of how forgiveness is woven into the Ausbund, the Amish hymnal that embodies their singing tradition. In addition, the solemn practices of communion and foot washing, although much less frequent, include a ?season of self-examination and reconciliation that precedes them? and ?serve to remind the Amish of the importance of forgiving others and asking to be forgiven.? They ?make forgiveness not simply an option but an enduring expectation? (Amish Grace, 122).

Forgiveness, therefore, is not a strategy or skill but the fruit of radical reorientation to Christ (Forgiveness, 75). That commitment shapes Amish character and community particularly through a spirit of Geslassenheit, the yieldedness to God and God’s word interpreted through the authority of the church. The spirit of Gelassenheit encourages self-denial, obedience, acceptance and humility and rejects self-defense and revenge, as Jesus taught and modeled. Ruth writes, ?How much plainer, the Amish must wonder, could the New Testament Scripture be? . . .What is hard to explain is why Christians, seeing forgiveness extended, can call it ?foreign’?(63).

Both books indicate that the Amish felt anger and knew well that the process of forgiveness is hard work; it involves ?absorbing the pain, extending empathy to the offender, and purging bitterness’even after a decision to forgive has been made'(Amish Grace, 140). However, the authors of Amish Grace remind us, ?An Amish person has a head start on forgiveness long before an offense ever occurs, because spiritual forebears have pitched in along the way. Like a barn raising, the hard work of forgiveness is easier when everyone lends a hand? (140). In addition to the heritage of faith on which they draw, the Amish have a collectivist approach to forgiveness. Forgiveness was not something that the suffering children or parents needed to do alone. The entire community was wounded and joined together in the process of forgiveness (Amish Grace, 133).

One way the Amish community made sense of the children’s tragic situation was to call them ?martyrs,? drawing upon their Anabaptist Christian tradition, in which many were killed for their convictions, including refusal to baptize infants or to carry a sword. The martyr language was especially used to describe the oldest girl in the Amish school, who reportedly said, ?Shoot me first,? apparently hoping to delay or prevent the deaths of the other girls. This statement, understood as an act of love for her neighbor, could be considered in some measure as expressing the willingness to die for her faith in Christ. However, Amish Grace reports that in the minds of many Amish the children were martyrs: ?They were willing to die, and that makes them martyrs,? according to one Amish mother (28). The authors could have been more critical in evaluating this language: the children were foremost victims of a disturbed and violent man rather than martyrs in any classical sense.

Amish Grace, overall clear-eyed in its assessment of Amish theology and culture, indicates that the high value placed on Gelassenheit also has its shadow side. The submission and self-surrender that is required of Amish individuals, since the larger good of the community is such a strong value, leaves them open to the abuse of power (Amish Grace, 150). However, the discipline of Amish life also provides purpose and hope, as well as a deep sense of identity and belonging that many in American society lack.

The authors of Amish Grace conclude that the Amish community has something to teach the rest of us. Because Amish forgiveness is embedded in a way of life, a truly countercultural system, such forgiveness ?can’t be strip-mined from southern Lancaster County and transported wholesale to other settings.? Lessons of grace ?must be extracted with care and applied to other circumstances with humility? (179). But the Amish way of handling grief’taking more time and steps than most others do’is instructive. Their acts of hope can teach us, acts such as naming a new baby ?Naomi Rose? after one of the girls who died in the school, and razing the old schoolhouse and building a new one named ?New Hope.? And, as Amish Grace summarizes, ?one message rings clear: religion was used not to justify rage and revenge but to inspire goodness, forgiveness, and grace. And that is the big lesson for the rest of us regardless of our faith or nationality? (183).

Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary GAYLE GERBER KOONTZ


Train Up a Child: Old Order Amish and Mennonite Schools. By Karen M. Johnson-Weiner. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. 2007. Pp. 289. $49.95.

In Train Up a Child: Old Order Amish and Mennonite Schools, Karen Wiener-Johnson offers an in-depth ethnographic study of Old Order schools, highlighting ?the diversity of Old Order life and the myriad ways in which Old Order schools reinforce community boundaries and Old Order values? (xi). Wiener-Johnson finds schooling to be a particularly revealing window into how Old Order communities confront modernity and negotiate its relevance to their lives. She compares and contrasts in great detail how several different Old Order communities define and conserve their boundaries and identities through their schools.

Though a relatively recent development, Old Order schools have become increasingly important institutions for ?tightening the boundaries between the church-community and the dominant society? (4). According to Wiener-Johnson, many Old Order groups regard the school to be as important as the home for maintaining community identity. Old Order schools do not see their purpose as preparing students for ?upward mobility in the modern industrial complex? but rather ?as preparing children for a life of service to God and the church-community,? characterized by humility, simplicity and resignation to God (232, 19).

Prior to 1940, Old Order communities were generally content to send their children to local one-room public schools with non-Old Order neighbors. With the rise of school consolidation and modernization, Old Order communities, however, began to find public schools unacceptable. Specifically, they reacted against the lengthening of the school year, the increased number of years of mandatory schooling, the need for their children to be bussed further away to larger schools, and an expansion of the curriculum that included an emphasis on technology, evolutionary science and health.

In short, these changes threatened the Old Order way of life which, inspired by the Gospel, calls for nonconformity and separation from the world. More important, these changes greatly impinged upon what Old Order communities regarded as the parents? right and duty to ?train up the child? (xi). As a result, the number of Old Order Amish and Mennonite Schools began to mushroom starting in 1940. Prior to that there were just four Old Order schools; by 1970 there were close to four hundred and by 2010 there will be approximately two thousand.

In chapters 3-7, Wiener-Johnson focuses on nine Old Order communities, examining how the Old Order schools within each community embody the Ordnung or ?code of conduct? of that particular community. The communities she selects reflect the diversity of Old Order life, with a range of Ordnung from ?low? to high,? with ?low? referring to the most conservative communities that have the strictest Ordnung (Swartzentruber Amish in New York and Ohio ) and ?high? referring to communities with a more relaxed Ordnung (the Centreville, Michigan and Elkhart-LaGrange, Indiana communities). The differences in schools are manifest in curriculum content, physical school design, pedagogy and school governance.

One salient point Wiener-Johnson makes throughout is that, in addition to religious differences, economic and geographical differences among Old Order communities influence the Ordnung they establish. In communities where Old Order members, because of economic reasons, find employment in non-Old Order settings, the Ordnung tends to be more lax or accepting of modern amenities, which in turn corresponds to more modern curriculum and pedagogical practices in these groups? schools. In conservative communities that prohibit working in non-Old Order settings, the Ordnung tends to be stricter, with schools offering a more traditional curriculum and pedagogical approach.

In her final chapter, Wiener-Johnson considers the strengths and limitations of Old Order education. She assesses the critique of Old Order education as a form of indoctrination that sacrifices the ?cherished ideal of autonomy,? a sacrifice which, according to one critic she cites, may permanently block the possibility of acquiring a ?minimalist autonomy? or the ability to ?examine and evaluate their underlying commitments, values, desires, motivations, and beliefs? (234). This charge Wiener-Johnson rightly dismisses as based on an ignorant and false depiction of Old Order communities as isolated from the non-Old Order world. Rather, as Weiner-Johnson carefully demonstrates, Old Order communities are in constant negotiation with the dominant society, with members having ?to make conscious choices about their place in the world? from childhood onward (235).

This negotiation involves resisting entanglement ?with things that are not edifying? (23), and this focus on edification prompts the question of how a new technology or modern practice might inhibit or build up spiritual and moral character in the context of one’s particular community. This is an important question that Old Order communities continually ask and carefully answer. For the dominant culture, this question is rarely asked, as new technologies shape all aspects of life. Modern schools are especially subject to technological fads. Wiener-Johnson rightly implies that non-Old Order students may in fact be the ones who suffer indoctrination, as they are not confronted with a choice among viable alternative ways of life because they have been indoctrinated to accept their modern way of life as the only viable option.

Wiener-Johnson contends that Old Order schools reflect the practical wisdom of maintaining small schools with strong parental support, and that wisdom is a valuable thing to offer their public school counterparts. The benefits of small schools include greater sensitivity to the needs of individual learners, greater learning, better behavior and a lower drop out rate. This insight, as Wiener-Johnson notes, is taking hold, as districts are once again opting for smaller schools and seeking ways to encourage greater parental involvement. In Train Up a Child, educators and policy makers can find valuable evidence for the benefits of small schools with local controls.

While the author achieves her goal of documenting how Old Order schools reflect the values and commitments of their particular communities, her depictions of Old Order communities are somewhat austere. Wiener-Johnson carefully notes the symbolic markers (mode of dress, use of technology, curriculum choices and extent of interaction with the dominant culture) that define Old Order communities relative to each other and the dominant society, but she offers limited reflection on what those markers are intended to preserve and cultivate, most notably the virtues of humility, simplicity and resignation to God (the aims of Older Order education). An outsider can observe simplicity and humility in these external choices, but certainly there is a deeper interiority and sensibility that informs and is shaped by the Ordnung. Qualitatively, what does the interiority of resignation to God look like?

This critique is well stated by an Old Order Mennonite educator who, after reading a draft of Wiener-Johnson’s manuscript, noted that it gets all the facts straight about where Old Order communities come from and why they do what they do ?but misses certain aspects of the spiritual understanding'(xi). Admittedly, capturing this qualitative spiritual understanding is difficult, but more should be said on this topic, exploring what kind of person is fashioned by Old Order living, perhaps comparing that person with the kind of person that is produced by modern ways of living. This would potentially reveal additional practical wisdom that Old Order schools embody and can offer modern schools.

This concern aside, Train Up a Child makes a valuable contribution in illustrating how Old Order education, in myriad ways, reflects and conserves the values and commitments of Old Order communities. It makes an equally valuable contribution in what it implicitly says about the current state of secular education.

Goshen College KEVIN H. GARY


Die Hutterer zwischen Tirol und Amerika: Eine Reise durch die Jahrhunderte. By Astrid von Schlachta. Innsbruck: Universitsverlag Wagner. 2006. Pp. 240. ? 23.

Astrid von Schlachta is a scholar and teacher at the University of Innsbruck, Austria, who has specialized in the area of early modern religious thought and practice in southeastern Europe, with particular interest in the Hutterites. Die Hutterer is her second single-authored publication on this community of faith and could well be the best brief historical overview available. Although not clearly so designated in the otherwise uniform table of contents (Inhaltsverzeichnis), the book can be easily divided into three sections: a concise yet thorough historical overview of the Hutterian movement from its beginnings to the twenty-first century, a picturesque panorama of contemporary Hutterian society, and a collection of testimonials, from both those born in the community and some who joined the group in their adult years, on why they find the Hutterian way of life meaningful.

The author skillfully narrates through the Odyssean travels and travails of the Hutterian movement from its rather abrupt coalescence in Moravia’with significant contributions from Tirol’to its current resting place in Midwestern United States and Canada. Of particular importance is the attention she has given to the years in which the movement all but disappeared under the eighteenth-century recatholicization of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, only seemingly to miraculously reemerge, finding temporary resurgence in Russia before emigrating to the United States in the 1870s.

Considerably helpful additions to the text are the many thoughtfully selected maps, drawings, pictures, charts and graphs that provide insightful detail. (Typical for publications from the German-speaking world is the economical use of space, as evident in placement of maps on the inside front and back covers.) For the historical section, there are many interesting pictures of buildings constructed by the Hutterites more than 350 years ago, giving graphic evidence of their effectiveness as builders. For example, a nineteenth-century drawing depicts the unique fire-proof roof construction, reflecting the well-deserved reputation of the Hutterian building ingenuity.

In regard to the contemporary era, it is important to the author to dispel the widely held and persistent impression that, since the Hutterites practice community of goods and have maintained such an intense level of conformity, there would be little room for expressions of individuality. Her research and especially her intimate personal contact with the community have demonstrated to her that individual expression of faith is surprisingly diverse both personally and among the more than 300 active colonies, themselves divided along three fault lines of differences that only the well informed are able to discern (Lehrerleut, Schmiedeleut and Dariusleut).

On the other hand, there remains a distinctive uniformity that is easily apparent in her portrayal of present-day Hutterian society. She provides a lively overview through a glossary of important terms and practices, supplemented with text and pictures. This includes not only explanations of the organizational structure of the church, farm management and daily routine procedures, but also the common colony building placement. In a way, the glossary forms a ?pictorial atlas? of the life and land of the Hutterites’covering everything from dress to cooking to schooling’which is particularly helpful for anyone who has never visited a colony.

Testimonials conclude the book, focusing especially on the compelling reasons why current members remain committed to the Hutterian way of life. These reasons include: a sense of calling to maintain the faith won over the centuries by forebears who suffered imprisonment, exile and execution; a commitment to a life of love best expressed through the community of goods; and a desire to be a church that is distinctly separated from the world through a unique expression of true discipleship. One may reasonably expect such testimonials from ?insiders,? but the addition of an ?outsider? (Patrick Murphy), who joined the community as an adult, widens the level of persuasion.

?Quo Vadis im 21. Jahrhundert? (Where are you going in the twenty-first century’) is the title of the author’s assessment of what the Hutterian church may face in the years to come. The tapestry of deeply held traditions spread over half a millennial of practice would seem on the surface to bode well for a future of consistency and stability. The church has many times faced and overcome obstacles that at the time threatened its very existence’each time emerging with its fundamental faith largely intact, though not without occasional adaptations. Nonetheless, von Schlachta notes three areas that are and will provide formidable challenges, perhaps more daunting than ever before because of the modern dimensions of globalization (through largely electronic avenues and travel convenience, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to avoid being touched by the ?outside? world). First, ?new sermons? (Lehren) that are in some ways replacing the old sermons. Traditionally, preachers simply read from the large selection of sermons that were written some 300 to 400 years earlier. Today, many preachers write their sermons, adapting them to a different situation’an effect that may eventually have far-reaching theological consequences. Second, while the liturgical and common language of the Hutterites is a Tirolean German, the socioeconomic connection with outsiders is English, and, the more economically successful the colonies become, the greater the role of English, to the detriment of the traditional German. It may be that German will become more limited to a liturgical language, reducing as well some closely associated religio-cultural customs. Third, wider cultural traditions associated intimately with practices of the community of goods are being challenged by new ideas that may not reject these practices outright but adapt them in different ways’ways that generally the older ones in the community find unacceptable. As the author notes, none of these challenges is in itself new, but modern society may greatly intensify them.

Von Schlachta has done a marvelous job in giving a concise yet thorough portrait of the Hutterites in both historical perspective and contemporary portrayal. Her history is accurate and her assessment is insightful. However, throughout her work she cites Hutterite authors almost exclusively, giving her work a decidedly authentic, but perhaps somewhat overly internal perspective. The extensive bibliography includes many sources that might have been used effectively to enrich her analysis.

Ohio Valley University WES HARRISON



Amish Education in the United States and Canada. By Mark W. Dewalt. Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield Education. 2006. Pp. 224. $60, cloth; $32.95, paper.

Mark Dewalt, a professor of education at Winthrop University, visited Old Order Amish schools in forty-three settlements in fifteen states and Ontario, and interviewed teachers, parents and non-Amish community observers. His book draws on these observations and interviews, as well as on studies by other scholars, to provide an overview of Amish school history, pedagogy and rationale. Chapters describe topics such as curriculum and textbooks, teacher preparation, teaching strategies and parental expectations. One chapter is devoted to special education classrooms in Amish schools, a subject on which there is otherwise relatively little published material available. In three regionally-organized chapters, Dewalt briefly describes Amish schools in each state, and in some cases notes distinctive features of their programs. A concluding chapter argues that Amish schools promote broad literacy, build Amish community and encourage personal responsibility.


Plain Secrets: An Outsider Among the Amish. By Joe Mackall. Boston: Beacon Press. 2007. Pp. 208. $24.95.

Joe Mackall, a professor of English and journalism at Ashland (Ohio) University, lived for more than sixteen years among Ashland County’s so-called Swartzentruber Amish, perhaps the most culturally conservative of Amish subgroups. In twelve chapters, Mackall describes his friendship with a family he calls the Shetlers, especially its patriarch, Samuel. ?I have tried to write not about all Amish people, but about a few, real honest-to-God human beings, as separate and unique as the rest of us like to believe ourselves to be,? Mackall writes (xxx). Mackall and Shetler discuss farming, their children and the degree to which they accept what happens as God’s will. Mackall includes observations and reflections on Amish courtship, funerals, education and reading habits, gender roles and attitudes toward health and medicine. About a third of the book details the story of Shetler’s nephew, who decides to leave the church and join the ?English? world. The young man’s tortured struggle in some ways mirrors Mackall’s ambivalence toward aspects of Swartzentruber tradition, though Mackall remains deeply committed to his friend, Samuel Shetler.


Powwowing Among the Pennsylvania Dutch: A Traditional Medical Practice in the Modern World. By David W. Kriebel. University Park, Pa.: Penn State University Press. 2007. Pp. 295. $30.

Anthropologist David Kriebel explores the history, current practice and supporting religious worldview of the folk-healing practice known as powwow or Braucherei (Pennsylvania German). Kriebel defines powwow as ?an unofficial traditional magico-religious practice’originating with and chiefly practiced by the Pennsylvania Dutch and emphasizing healing of humans and animals, but with other goals as well’that uses words, charms, amulets, and physical manifestations to achieve its objectives? (16). After a celebrated 1929 trial in York County, Pennsylvania, in which a powwower and two accomplices were convicted of murdering another powwower, the practice fell into disrepute. That publicity, along with the rising prestige of professional biomedical therapy, pushed powwow underground but hardly ended it. In addition to presenting sample cases and common ritual performance, Kriebel includes interviews with contemporary powwowers, including an Amish woman healer in Lancaster County (176-85, 201-204). Discussion of Mennonites and powwowing includes noted preacher Jacob Mensch’s request for a powwow cure from Samuel Musselman in 1895 and more recent evangelical Mennonites? reevaluation of powwow as demonic.

The Mennonite Quarterly Review
Book Reviews
MQR 82 (July 2008)