As we visited the Creation Museum seven times to write our book, we encountered a number of surprising sights. The now famous life-size diorama in the Main Hall that features two children happily playing at the edge of a pond while two small T-Rex stand nearby is just one. But there are more, and we talk about many of them in our book.
One surprising sight we did not mention in the book was the number of Amish people we saw there. Each time we visited the museum, we encountered at least one group of Amish people. Judging from their clothes, men’s beards, and women’s coverings, most appeared to be Old Order Amish from Ohio or Indiana.
Why are the Amish visiting the Creation Museum?
To be sure, the Amish have always taken the Bible seriously and, therefore, have believed that God created the heavens and the Earth as Genesis 1-3 describes. But they have never been big on insisting on two other tenets of young earth creationism — namely, that God created the earth in six twenty-four-hour days, or that the Earth was created in its present form less than 10,000 years ago.
Unlike fundamentalists, the Amish do not put a premium on arguing that they have the most literal, and therefore most true, interpretation of the Bible. While they certainly think the Old Testament is important, they have always emphasized the New Testament, especially the teachings of Jesus. For the Amish, following Jesus in one’s daily life is more important than establishing one’s credentials as a biblical literalist.
Moreover, they don’t put a lot of stock in science. The Amish are Christians as a matter of faith and confession. Neither faith nor confession need be grounded in scientific method or fact.
As Old Order Amish have moved off the farm and into other kinds of work in factories, tourism, cottage industries, and the like, many have come to enjoy more free time, disposable income, and wealth. They now travel for leisure in ways they did not do in the past. They are looking for interesting destinations, and the Creation Museum appears to be on their short list of places to visit.
When we interviewed Amish community leaders in Indiana and Ohio, we learned that they knew lots of Amish who have gone to the Creation Museum. One person we spoke with reported that neither he nor his wife could think of any Amish people who had not been to the Creation Museum, and that they knew many Amish people who had gone multiple times.
The Amish are a humble people who seek to follow Jesus. They have never been big on right doctrine, proselytizing, or apologetics. Instead, they have focused on how they might witness — through their dress, hard work, and pacifism — to the Kingdom of God on Earth.
The Amish have largely succeeded in resisting, or outright rejecting, modern ideologies that favor individualism, competition, and redemptive violence. They have also been deft at negotiating modern technologies so that their family and community lives have not disintegrated due to increased speed and fragmentation.
But can the Amish resist fundamentalism, also a modern discourse, with all of its trappings of right doctrine, judgmentalism, and violence? We pose this question in our upcoming paper, “Dinosaurs in Eden: Fundamentalism and the Plain People,” which we will give at Elizabethtown College’s conference Continuity and Change: 50 Years of Amish Society, June 9-11, 2016.
Note: Portions of this blog entry are based in Sue’s previous book, Selling the Amish: The Tourism of Nostalgia (JHUP, 2012).