Recently (October 7, 2007) the CBS drama Cold Case aired an episode investigating the (fictional) death of an Amish teenaged girl in Philadelphia during her "Rumspringa." The episode, in my opinion, was formulaic in its treatment of the Amish. Popular media portrayal of the Amish generally goes along the lines of "They're really odd at first glance, but when you get to know them, there's a lot in Amish life to respect or even envy" (with some exceptions). Contrast this with the usual media treatment of Southern Baptists or other evangelical groups. The same tension of surface perception vs. fuller understanding prevails, but in the opposite direction. At first glance, the evangelical appears to be respectable (even holier-than-thou), but deeper investigation always reveals a drug-using pedophile whose anger-management issues have led him to murder somebody to keep his secrets buried. So I'm wondering not so much why groups like Southern Baptists get such rough treatment, but why the Amish generally get such a free pass. The Amish are Anabaptists, our close theological cousins. They share with Baptists a belief that only the regenerate will go to Heaven. Their moral codes are stricter than ours. Just for good measure, they stir in an eccentric aversion to all things modern. They are the epitome of the "obscurantism" that the nineteenth- and twentieth-century liberals warned would lead to the demise of Christianity. Certainly Amish belief and practice is no friendlier to modern American life than is evangelicalism—quite the contrary. Maybe the "quite the contrary" is the answer to my question. I think that our culture, when it looks at most of Evangelicalism, sees people desperate to be accepted by the culture as cool. When the culture confronts something like the Amish, it encounters something truly interesting—a group of people (seemingly) entirely satisfied apart from any of the things that Americans think we need to have to find satisfaction. Thus the irony: I think that the desperation among some Evangelicals to "reach" the culture may be precisely the thing that provokes revulsion in some influential segments of the culture. It smacks of Madison Avenue dishonesty. Of course, the Amish are no example for us to follow evangelistically. They are so isolationist as to make very little substantial effort to present the gospel outside their environs. They are not "of" the culture, but neither are they "in" it. What Southern Baptists need is to learn from the Amish a biblical antidote to materialism without succumbing to their technophobia. We need to learn a confidence in the virtues of a Christian subculture (which isn't perfect, but which is better than non-Christian culture) without mimicking the Amish communalism that prevents them from significant interaction with people lost in secular culture. Perhaps Roger Williams is a good example for us to consider. No obscurantist, he nonetheless asserted that there ought to be a strong "hedge of separation" between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world (a phrase often misinterpreted to refer exclusively to church-state relations). Although he was quite strict—even persnickety—in his ecclesiology, Williams was nonetheless a powerful political figure and a thinker prepared to engage every facet of his contemporary culture. I plan to keep my iPhone, my pilot's license, and my t-shirts, but I think that the Amish have some things to teach us.