After a year and a half of living in West Michigan, I still feel like an anthropologist. It came back again last night; some of the folks at church invited me to a hymn-sing event at a friend’s house. Not a normal way to spend a Friday night, I suppose, but I enjoy unfamiliar & interesting situations. I walked in to the house and felt I had stepped back a hundred years. The women all wore old-style dresses and head coverings, and most of the men had beards and suspenders. The singing was good and loud, unrefined and unpretentious.

My friends informed me that while these were a rather conservative group of people, they were not Amish. I had some good long discussions with some of them afterwards, and left at about ten o’clock. I am enough like these people to be quite comfortable in their company, but I still felt like an outsider. I am told that the majority of Americans live in the cities, as do I when I’m at home in Minnesota. But here I am seeing a side of America that not many people are aware of, even those from the country: the side where people with beards and head coverings, and whose children know to sit still when they are told, gather in someone’s house to play piano and sing hymns until late in the evening. You’ll never meet people with clearer faces and firmer handshakes. “Behold, an American in whom there is no guile!”

With my tongue in my proverbial cheek, I ask: Weren’t we told that Utopia was only to be found by casting off the shakles of religion?