Batteries and the Amish

Today is National Battery Day, of all things, but here in Ohio's Amish Country batteries play a huge role in local Amish life. From powering sewing machines and tools to tails lights on their buggies the use of batteries allow many Amish families a taste of the luxury of electricity.

It is a widely misunderstood idea that the Amish community rejects the use of all technology. In reality, the Amish often use more types of technology than most people outside of the community realize, they are however, incredibly selective about what technology they use and in what doses they allow, especially within the home, where their may be less accountability from others in the church.

While the vast majority of Amish churches here in Ohio's Amish Country do not allow the use of electricity in the home, many, do allow the use of batteries and generators to power small household machines or tools. There are still  some extremely conservative orders (also called "low" orders or "old" orders) of Amish that still do not allow the use of batteries either in the home or as safety lights on buggies. The vast majority of Amish in Northeast Ohio, however, use car or marine batteries mounted to the under side of their buggies to power everything from break lights, headlights, turn signals and even small heaters in the buggies they drive as their primary mode of transportation.

Many people outside the  community, especially many of the over 4 million tourist that visit Ohio's Amish Country each year, struggle with the seeming hypocrisy of the idea that electric lines running to a local farm are not acceptable but that somehow gas-powered generators used to charge batteries are.

At this point, I often like to remind people that being Amish is a lifestyle choice, and more importantly, although it is what they are most often known for today, none of the Amish originally "set out" to specifically shun electricity. With the early Amish settlers in Holmes County dating back more that 200 years, the question of "Is is okay to use electricity?" was not something that anyone of that time, Amish or not, had to answer.

As history marched on, and new inventions were discovered and marketed, lines had to be drawn as to what was, and what was not acceptable within the Amish church. The acceptance of electricity within the home was one of these lines. By the 1920's most Amish churches had agreed on a ban for Amish church members being allowed to connect to the electrical grid.  Sensitive issues like these and similar struggles are something that the Amish community continues to deal with even today.

Today, most Amish churches forbid the use of public electricity because it is seen as a "connection to the world" but batteries allow many Amish families and businesses a limited connection to power and the ability to run such items as calculators, alarm clocks, cash registers, drills, electric fences, and even cell phones without discipline form their local Bishop.

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