Friday, September 07, 2007

Hutterites Ambivalent About Cell Phones | Liveblog | Christianity Today

Hutterites Ambivalent About Cell Phones | Liveblog | Christianity Today:
"The front page of The Wall Street Journal yesterday explored an interesting facet of Hutterite life. Like the Amish, they're anabaptist, live communally, separate from the rest of society, and often reject modern conveniences. Unlike the typical Amish, Hutterites allow technological advances when it benefits their agricultural work or otherwise helps their communities, though they reject technology when it's deemed harmful.

Cellphones offer an interesting glimpse into deciding whether a technology is beneficial or harmful. They're indespensible to business. But some find the temptations of a cell phone too compelling.

In Martinsdale, [Montana] cellphones are dividing families. Ms. [Elsie] Wipf says that she sent more than 150 text messages in the first two days after she got her phone -- much to the consternation of her father. His opinion matters greatly: He is the head preacher of the colony. 'It's against our rules,' Ms. Wipf explains. ...

The array of available devices with different accessories goes against the communal colony dynamic. Features such as cameras and Internet access -- which are banned or severely restricted in nearly all colonies -- open up a tantalizing window to the outside world. The community owns six phones for colony business. Use of those phones is regulated. But from the outside, phones are easily obtained. Relatives and friends who have left the colony often offer to pay the monthly expense for those back home. They keep in touch regularly, even though the colony elders worry that constant texting will cut into the farm's productivity."
The Hutterites, like such other Anabaptist groups as the Amish and Mennonites, typically adopt a "plain" lifestyle. Historically modern conveniences have been discouraged, although in recent years this has moderated.

Not surprisingly, the younger members seem to be leading this new challenge to tradition, but it remains to be seen whether it will take hold. From what I have heard about such communities, it is not uncommon for young people to leave the community for a while, experiencing the world, and then ultimately returning to take their place in community.

On the other hand, it seems like a good way for members to maintain their ties, even if they end up living outside the community.

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