Hutterites are no longer able to insulate themselves from the outside world. Thanks to the internet, the outside world has come to them… in living color.
Rarely has there been anything so invasive with such scope for good and evil in one fell swoop. It’s changing the way Hutterites think, live and do business.
Recently I attended the Dariusleut German School Conference at Eagle Creek Colony. There were over 1,200 Hutterites in the audience. Featured speakers spoke on issues facing Hutterites such as alcoholism, returning to our spiritual roots, the importance of preserving the German language etc. It was extremely well organized and informative, but clearly the elephant in the room was the internet and its offspring such as cell and smart phones, Facebook and Twitter.
In his closing remarks Bishop Joe Wurz voiced his profound concern with the pervasive use of computers and smart phones on colonies today and the damaging effects it is having on Hutterite culture today. He is, of course, absolutely correct.
Bishop Wurz or Joe Vetter as he is known, is greatly respected by grassroots Hutterites and clearly he, like many parents in the outside world would love for computers and smart phones to just go away reasoning that the pitfalls far outweigh the advantages.
During the course of the 2 day conference attendees were able to put anonymous questions in a box for the Bishop and senior Elders to read and answer.
“Yesterday I came here with a light heart full of hope,” the Bishop said in his closing remarks, “but today when I read our young people’s questions my heart fell into my shoe,” he added soberly
Most of the questions were from the younger generation. “Why is social media wrong,” they wanted to know? Many middle-managers at the conference quietly advocated for sensible and responsible guidelines to be put in place and for restricted use of computers and smart phones to be enforced rather than an outright ban. To them, banning computers is like trying to unspill milk. “The computer age is like a tsunami,” one of them said to me. It’s as impossible to turn back as it is to turn back time. We absolutely need computers and cell phones to stay competitive and whether we like it or not, we’re going to have to deal with it.”
“We can’t put our heads in the sand and pretend it’s not happening,” agreed his friend. “We need to teach and monitor our children or they will fall prey to the internet because they will only use it in secret.”
What we think about, listen to, write about, respond to, tell the world what we value and who we are. Consequently, the internet and social media have the potential to be our greatest folly or our greatest opportunity to define ourselves spiritually and as a culture.
After years of resistance I too have recently joined social media. This is my first blog and I hope over time to contribute something of meaning and value to the ever evolving Hutterite conversation.