Amish torn on whether computers are a bane or a boon

Posted: Friday, August 04, 2000

LEWISTOWN, Pa. (AP) -- Moses B. Smucker got into the computer business by accident.

He began using computers at his harness shop for bookkeeping when his partner, who was not Amish, brought them in.

His partner left, but Smucker kept seven computers and he plans to start a computer-leasing business.

The Amish have typically shunned technology. But in the last 20 years, many have had to move from farming to business to stay afloat. There are about 1,500 Old Order Amish businesses in Lancaster County, 60 percent of which have been started since 1980, according to Donald Kraybill, a Messiah College professor.

Many of those business owners see computers as an inevitable way to keep up with the world, but some Old Order leaders see computers as blasphemous.

They have even asked Smucker to get rid of his computers, but he won't.

Differences among the Amish concerning technology have sometimes led to splits in the group.

Paul D. Stolzfus' parents left the Old Order after it was discovered his father used a battery-operated light bulb at his butchering business. Stolzfus joined the more liberal Beachy Amish, who allow him to drive a car, have electricity in his house and sell computers.

''The biggest thing we have to work through is fear,'' Stolzfus said. ''The Amish are going to go to computer stores.''

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