The Helpful and The Hopeful
A Feature Review of
Almost Amish: One Woman’s Quest for a Slower, Simpler, More Sustainable Life
Reviewed by Paul Chaplin
Wealth of literature on a given topic, as anyone involved in “Emergence” churches will report, is not necessarily a true measure of actual realised change. However, it can indicate that a growing number of people are taking certain ideas seriously (at least they’re buying the books!), and so it is encouraging to see, in Almost Amish, a new addition to the broad category of Christian contemporary writing on issues like simplicity, local economies, stability, and consumerism.
The story of author Nancy Sleeth (who also wrote Go Green, Save Green), husband Matthew (author of Serve God, Save the Planet and The Gospel According to the Earth), daughter Emma (author, at age 16, of It’s Easy Being Green) and son Clark, is one which begins with a self-described family-wide “spiritual and environmental conversion experience.” I list all these book titles since they tell a story all by themselves. The Sleeths are a family of Christian environmental activists, and it was the increasing comparisons people made between Nancy Sleeth’s lifestyle and that of the Amish (drying clothes on a line, simplifying wardrobes) that led to this book. Sleeth points to the Amish as a people group more than any other in 21st century America which are counter-cultural, committed to air drying clothes, enjoying intact families and healthy communities, who enjoy gardens, home cooked meals, uncluttered homes, almost nonexistent debt and strong local economies, and who restrain their use of technology. Therefore, perhaps we should take a look at Amish life and see what we can’t learn.