Kraybill knows his topic. He's a prof. at Messiah College, a top-drawer evangelial school with Anabaptist/Brethren roots, located near PA Amish country. He has studied and written on the Amish since the mid-80s. He is also a clear communicator, able to summarize complicated material with ease.
He is clearly very sympathetic to most of the Amish distinctives, though he is able to maintain a critical stance.
To me the Amish are more than simply a curious cultural oddity. They offer some insights into ways for Christians to confront and stand apart from Modernity and materialism. Though Kraybill shows, they may be subtly Modernist in their very rejection of Modernity.
The Amish are also important as an example of an extreme Anabaptist tradition. The 16th century European Xianity can be divided into three groups: Roman Caholics, Reformation, and Anabaptist. Surely the latter, while smallest of the three in the 16th cent., has long been ascending in contemporary America. Anabaptist distinctives -- sectarianism, believer baptism, emphasis on piety over intellect, anticlerical, antisacramental, democratic in church polity, etc. -- are now dominant in American evangelicalism. How important then to understand the Amish, as a fairly well-preserved example of the early Anabaptist tradition.
Anyway, wonderful book. Worth repeated readings.
Very interesting. Well written and comprehensive.
Beautiful and interesting book. I was inspired to read this book after a 7 day bicycle trip in and around Lancaster, PA. Certainly any cultural group which resists the juggernaut and onslaught of American consumer culture bears study, and this book must be the definitive look at this group. How do you keep people interested in looking different, in downplaying their individuality in favor of the group's needs; in foregoing creature comforts like cars and electricity? And what is even more amazing is that there are many more Amish today than there were 50 years ago; unlike the Shakers, this sect is thriving. I recommend this book highly.