Monday, March 5, 2007

Taking the Best Seats

After my recent post about the Amish and sectarian divisions within Christianity, I've continued my reading in Hostetler's sociological study of their culture. They're a fascinating community.

As I was working my way through the book, one passage in particular struck me. I've posted a fair amount recently on the doctrine of salvation, and found that the position of the Amish on their "savedness" is surprisingly different from what I had anticipated. Here you have a sect that has separated itself from the world, and engages in practices that establish intense difference between themselves and the rest of the world. If the Amish followed the same logic as a cult, their separation would be considered evidence of their "savedness."

But Amish community is radically opposed to anything that is prideful. "Hochmut," or pride, is one of the greatest sins an Amish person can commit. Instead, the ideal is living a life governed by "Demut," or humility. The idea of publicly proclaiming one's own salvation is taboo, as it would violate the essential Amish principles of humility, self-denial, and obedience. As Hostetler describes it:

"A knowledge of salvation is complete only after the individual hears the welcome words at the last judgment, 'Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world' assert that 'I know that I am saved' would be obnoxious because it smacks of pride and boasting." (Amish Society, pp. 76-77)

The beard notwithstanding, I'd make an absolutely lousy Amishman, but I do resonate strongly with that approach. I only wish there was a bit more Demut in the rest of big, bold, and brassy contemporary McChristianity.