As I reflect on my visit to the Amish house, I think about how little the Amish -- especially the more conservative Amish, such as those who live here -- are likely to be ruffled by the current financial meltdown. They don't buy health insurance, so they don't have to worry about losing it. Their jobs, mainly in farming, will continue. They don't go into debt. You can't imagine an Amish person having signed a subprime mortgage. They haven't participated in the frenzy of overconsumption that has seized mainstream America, so are not going to be convulsed by having to cut back on designer clothes and expensive meals out. They will go on spending much as they have. They are not likely to contribute to the breakdown of the American economy by suddenly putting the brakes on consumption. I can envision their lives continuing placidly, much as they always have, connected to the Eternal. Those who earn their living through tourism and more interaction with the outer world may face some contraction, but I wonder how severe it will be.
I tried to research the Amish and the Great Depression on the Web to see how they fared during that period, but came away with very little: One site claimed the Amish were unaffected by the economic turmoil of the 1930s, while another site said that some Amish were forced to take jobs outside the confines of their community to survive the Depression, with some even driving trucks. That was what I could discover.
As for now, I am glad they are growing in numbers at much faster pace than the population as a whole. If there was ever a time we needed an example of simple living and community self-help, this is it.
I was a bit stunned to read in the New York Times today the that the $700 billion bailout is a mere "pebble" flung into an ocean of crisis. Wasn't the bailout supposed to be what was needed, immediately, to solve this financial situation? Now, we learn, it will take at least a month to set up the framework for the bailout and that the bailout will not solve the current problem of the seized-up credit markets. So if the frozen credit markets are the current pressing problem, and the bailout is a more long-term solution, what IS the answer to the current crisis? All I have heard is that Fed needs to lower interest rates. I hope the Fed will do that, if it's important, but is that it? Is that the short-term answer? Is the Great Recession (since was are assured it will NOT be the Great Depression) inevitably here in all it's unmitigated force? Was there really nothing to be done? Could all the banks decide to take a big, gulping breath and start lending money to each other again? Isn't commerce supposed to be about risk? (Since I wrote this, I read the Fed is moving to buy up short term loans.)
As I contemplated all this economic turmoil, not without some worry, it struck me that I was putting my faith in money to solve this problem ... and all future problems, such as my retirement and that of my friends and neighbors. And, of course, the real underlying issue is spiritual. We need to get our spiritual house in order. This really is about greed and lack of trust. We could truly transcend the crisis if we could work together out of religious conviction to build a nation for the good of all.
The answer is not 700 billion dollars but 700 billion fervent prayers.