January 14, 2013

In her Jan. 5 On Faith column, “What ‘Amish Mafia’ says about the rest of us,” Lisa Miller correctly pinpointed the stereotypical view of the Amish as pure until debauched. My year living on an Amish farm in the 1980s taught me that such a perspective reveals more about our national psyche than this intriguing culture.

As a nonexpert, I was confronted with inconsistencies. When moving into my modern cottage, I discovered the refrigerator was stuffed with my hosts’ perishables, and every Sunday, my car was full of Amish ladies ready to shop.

While such actions were accepted, others were forbidden. One person surreptitiously read newspapers to find coupons. A young mother took birth control pills after having six children. That year, the biggest community ruckus was drunken-driving arrests.

Soon I stopped puzzling and started admiring. But my initial bewilderment had taught me a lot about modern America. We are a culture of rules in which everyone is likely to someday fail. A more healthy perspective would be a recognition that we are all imperfect and that the Amish, as Ms. Miller states, are just like everybody else.

Robin Elizabeth Herr, Copenhagen