September 5, 2007
Hutterites Ambivalent About Cell Phones
Texting in the vegetable garden.
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 article shows us that technology is not necessarily morally neutral. While cell phones can be used for good business purposes, they are also a constant temptation. The Hutterites efforts to weigh the good and the bad and regulate harmful cell phone use is an helpful reminder that Christians who aren't living communally need to do the same. Incorporating technology into everyday life changes it. Sometimes it's unavoidable. Sometimes the technology should be adopted, sometimes not. But always it changes us.
P.S. The WSJ has postes some beautiful photos of the community.