Listening to Mennonites Contest the Modern World
In both North and South America, many ultra-traditional Mennonites rejected the modern world, especially its icon the automobile. They became known as “horse-and-buggy” people. Historian Royden Loewen, the grandson of Mennonite immigrants, lived with traditional “Old Colony” Mennonites in rural communities across the Americas. His book records their different strategies for living in the midst of the modern world and their philosophy that life is best when it is kept simple.
“Horse and Buggy Mennonites are a group of antimodern agrarian Mennonites that, like the Amish, have shunned much of modern technology in favour of plain dress and community living. By separating themselves from the world, these antimodern Mennonites are often used as pawns in wider political and theological agendas. For some, they represent the essence of moral, community-minded, environmentally sustainable, and peaceful living. For others, they represent a socially regressive, patriarchal society at odds with the progress made in the modern world. Loewen is neither ignorant nor dismissive of these tensions; rather than viewing these Mennonites through the lens of a particular agenda, he creates space for the voices of these communities to speak on their terms about how they view their approach to life. The result is an account of Horse and Buggy Mennonites that neither romanticizes nor dismisses their way of life. This is the genius of Loewen’s book. ”- Daniel Leonard
“Royden Loewen’s new book examines how Old Colony and Old Order Mennonites try to maintain religious and cultural changelessness in a world that celebrates change. But Horse-and-Buggy Genius also provides a lens for all of us to examine our own worldly assimilation. ”- Rich Preheim
“Royden Loewen’s Horse-and-Buggy Genius cuts against the grain by treating plain Mennonite groups as historical communities, each with their own usable past that shapes decisions and perspectives in the ongoing struggle of Mennonites with the challenges of modernity. ”- Gerald J. Mast
“There is much here to consider in this well-written and enjoyable book. ”- Brian Froese
“Offers seldom heard perspectives on traversing boundaries, both geographic and societal, while pushing readers to examine more deeply their own navigation of cultural norms. ”- Rachel Waltner Goossen
“This volume offers a valuable opportunity for students of religion to hear rare Old Order voices and perspectives on religion. Highly recommended. ”- S.D. Reschly