From Publishers Weekly
Kraybill and Bowman, professors of sociology at Messiah College and Bridgewater College, respectively, take a typically sociological approach to Old Order Anabaptists. The authors attempt to explain how these groups, which are opposed to modern culture in so many ways, have been able not only to survive, but even to thrive. The Old Orders stress community, obedience and self-denial over individualism; they eschew "consumer consumption" (a rather unforgivably tautological phrase); and they question the value of formal education beyond a certain point, usually the eighth grade. The authors deal cursorily with the history and demographics of the Hutterites, Mennonites, Amish and Brethren, devoting a chapter to each. These chapters include numerous graphs and charts and contain copious data, but they make for rather dry reading. The concluding chapters are the most interesting as the authors focus on the similarities, differences, structures and prospects of the traditions. Readers might be surprised to learn that the groups are actually quite diverse in terms of their acceptance and use of technology and in their relationships with the outside world. The authors are thorough in their analysis and offer cogent, if somewhat obvious, reasons for the continuing success of the Old Order traditions. Their approach is clearly sociological, so readers seeking a more historical perspective will want to look elsewhere. The book will be useful to libraries, undergraduates studying sociology of religion and general readers.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Kraybill (sociology and Anabaptist studies, Messiah Coll.; The Riddle of Amish Culture) and Bowman (sociology, Bridgewater Coll.; Brethren Society: The Cultural Transformation of a Peculiar People) examine the four major branches of "Old Order" religions in America and discuss their relationship with the larger culture. They present Hutterites, Mennonites, Amish, and Brethren in separate chapters, giving their history, present practices, and future prospects. The common features and differences of these related sects are clearly explained. An intriguing final chapter considers how these groups may fare in the increasingly postmodern world, which shares their skepticism with science and progress but repudiates all possibility of absolute truth. The authors give the general reader an excellent basic understanding of the beliefs and practices shared by all of these separatists while making the uniqueness of each group clear. One of the best single-volume works on this subject; highly recommended for academic and public libraries. C. Robert Nixon, M.L.S., Lafayette, IN
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.