The Amish magazine (Cosmopolitan or Good Housekeeping it's not) Family Life poses an interesting question in this month's edition in the "problem corner" section where readers can send in theological questions or cultural conundrums. Here's the question:
What should be our stand on Amish-owned businesses that advertise themselves as such, apparently to gain an advantage over their competitors? When the name "Amish" is used to imply that a product is of superior quality or better craftsmanship, is this not a form of pride? Are we exalting ourselves over others? Are we commercializing our heritage when we do this?
Does it cheapen what our faith really stands for when we exploit "being Amish" for material gain? What about symbols such as hats, buggies, etc. and phrases that contain the words "integrity, honesty, heritage, tradition, old-fashioned"?
Our heritage should be our spiritual faith. If we have that faith, dare we profit from it in a material way without offending the God we serve?
-Concerned in Indiana
This is a fascinating question and I look forward to seeing the answer in next month's edition. I think this is a great conversation for Amish people to have among themselves. Obviously, I make my career in Amish-related endeavors. I've been doing it for over 20 years and there are a lot of new people at the party, but I can't shy away from the topic that that is what I do. But so do a lot of other people including the Amish themselves. Is this good? Bad? Does it even matter? This was the sort of kitschy scene I met when I was outside the visitors bureau in Lancaster County recently. Interestingly, Lancaster tourism officials have tried to back away from the Amish emphasis in recent years, trying to market the area as a more holistic tourism destination.
This question dove-tails nicely with a new book out by Susan Trollinger called "Selling the Amish." (geez, this writer is REALLY selling the Amish, the book is $43 on Amazon...holy cow). Well, if you don't want to part with $43, you can read a bit more about the book here.
Tourism is a real divisive issue among the Amish. In some areas livelihoods are earned from tourism, in smaller more conservative Amish settlements tourism is not a major factor. So, what do you think? Is tourism a bad thing for the Amish? Good? Does it matter?
What a fascinating question! And I would dare say folk of any faith tradition could and should ask the same question. After all, isn't there an assumption on some people's part that if a business advertizes itself as being "Christian," one is bound to get a fair deal, etc.?
On the other side of the conversation: I live in an area in Upstate NY with many Mennonite families. Most of the Mennonites have vegetable, fruit, and flower stands - but there are no signs advertising them. You just have to know where to look and whom to ask.
I'm not coming down on either side of the argument. But I find it absolutely fascinating - and perhaps more than coincidental - that the ad immediately following the story is for the Churchtown Inn B&B - with the "hook" that it's "surrounded by Amish and Mennonite farmland." That, to me, is an example of non-Amish/Mennonite trying to cash in on the well deserved good name/reputation of those communities!
A very thought provoking question and I'm glad you asked it. In our home we have many things made by the Amish, we wanted them because of that fact. To know where to find these things the Amish have to do some advertising one would assume.
They also need to be able to provide for their families and if being talented at making products that others can use helps do this, I can't see that it is taking away from their faith. Tourism is just another industry, as we all know here in Florida! Another way to earn much needed income. Most people really do appreciate and respect another persons faith and learning more about it never hurts.
To Debbies point in her first paragraph about advertising as a Christian, I think she is right on.
Like the others commenting on this article, I also find it interesting. I have to agree with " Concerned in Indiana." The main point of being Amish is not how sturdy their workmanship is but how steadfast is their faith. That they are honest, and diligent in their pursuits is the result of 400 years of service to Christ. Although they do not evangelize in the way most Americans are used to, the Amish by their devotion and by their integrity are witnesses to Christ daily. I think promoting their products by using the label, "Amish made", cheapens that integrity as it is just another marketing tool. It is aimed at the consumer who is attracted to the uniqueness of the Amish and not necessarily to their faith. For some reason, the Amish are more prone than Old Order Mennonites to have that faith compromised- I am thinking of the recent news stories of drunken Amish teens.I have read in recent years that many Amish districts are reevaluating how they are being perceived as they seem to need reminders that it is their Christian presence in the world that is vital-all else is secondary.
Well, I'm not personally acquainted with any Amish.. but have lived in Indiana all my life. I personally was offended by the 'fake Amish' selling electric heaters... we've all seen the ads in newspapers & magazines.. But I suspect many other people don't know that the Amish don't use electricity in their homes nor do they have their photos taken.. I prefer to purchase items made locally... I would think that the local Amish communities would be just as well off to sell their 'local' rather than 'Amish'. I doubt that 'tourists' in the Amish community would be able to act in an appropriate manner that wouldn't be offensive to the Amish. People have become so rude or uncivil in their behavior in public.. Hello, if I wanted an update on your social life - I would have asked.. you don't have to shout it into your cell phone for every one else to hear.
I kbelieve that Amish Acres [tourist site & restaurant] is still functioning in Napannee, IN.. but I don't know if it's 'Amish run' and how the local Amish view it.
Amish Acres is still running.
In my experience, having traveled around the world. My wife's parents were of the Amish/Minn. community, and we still attend annual get to-gethers, why not use the trade "True Amish Product". Even here in the USA, have been Amish stores/buildings and when I ask can I speak to one of the Amish?, have been told that none are here today. If you have one piece of Amish product, chair, jar of jam etc, a non-amish item sold as Amish would stand out very clearly. Why not go for it. The Christian part of it should be acceptable because they can hold their product before the Lord and the world and say, this is True quality-nothing but the best. don
Maybe things have changed now, but it used to be that if the name of the store contained the word "Amish", it wasn't. I can understand pointing out that furniture is Amish made but I draw the line at "Amish chickens" and such. That's just stupid.
Amish Store, in Oklahoma. I looked around at the merchandise, some of it had MSG & HFCS as ingredients. I suspect the Amish don't cook with such..... Stores should be shut down for false advertising, implying it to be Amish, considering the store name has Amish in it. If you want to sell home made food, goods from locals, or even truly hand crafted products from Amish crafters do so on it's own merits of quality. Do not trick people into thinking it's an Amish Store, owned/operated by such. I'd love to know how many people, like myself who detoured off the highway to visit a Amish store and were disappointed. A lot of the products are merely purchased from troyercheese.com , anyone could buy from there and open a store. A friend of mine who is of Amish culture, (Awesome Cook) stopped in one such store in Texas. She just shook her head, noticing most of the food came from Ben E.Keith. This has to STOP in my opinion........