Josh Hostetler is a fairly new friend. We met this week in an “experiment” put on by Jon Acuff. We’ve spent some time talking and getting to know each other and I knew pretty quickly that I had to feature him on the blog for you guys; Josh has a pretty cool story and I’m really excited to share it! Be sure to connect with him through his social media accounts provided at the end of this interview.
Tell my readers a little bit about yourself.
Hey! My name is Josh Hostetler, and I am the man behind the Amish Hipster. I live in Austin, Texas, but I am not allergic to gluten. Before I moved to Austin, I grew up in Sarasota, Fl, graduated from the University of Florida, and lived in Mexico and Guatemala.
Before we begin this interview, I think some definitions would be helpful. I found these at http://religionstylebook.com/entries/category/christianity/amishmennonite
Anabaptist: A Christian movement rooted in the Protestant Reformation. Anabaptists believe in baptism for adults only, nonresistance, the separation of church and state, and simplicity. Early Anabaptists believed they should live separated from the world around them. The best-known Anabaptist churches in the United States are the Amish and Mennonite. In the 1600s, many Swiss Anabaptists fled religious persecution from Germany and Switzerland to the United States.
Amish: The Amish, descendants of the Swiss Anabaptists, are known for their distinctive, plain clothes as well as their commitment to rejecting modern technology, including in some cases cars and electricity. They base their morals and way of life on the Bible, which they interpret literally, and on unwritten rules known as the Ordnung.
Mennonite: Mennonites trace their origins to the Swiss Anabaptist movement of the 16th century. Today, there are several kinds of Mennonite communities in North America. Old Order Mennonites are quite similar to the Amish in dress and rejection of modern conveniences, but many other Mennonites wear contemporary clothing, live in urban communities and are distinguished chiefly by a commitment to social justice and the peace movement. One Mennonite church can be very different from another Mennonite church, just as two Baptist churches can be very different from each other.
Your mom and dad were raised Amish and Mennonite respectively. Both in the same county in Ohio. But never met until they both happened to move to Sarasota, Florida. First of all, that’s crazy! Did they leave that “lifestyle” behind, or find something similar there?
To be exact, my mother grew up in an Amish household, and my dad grew up in a conservative Mennonite household. Prior to moving to Florida, my mom left the Amish lifestyle*. However, my mom and dad both joined a Mennonite church in Sarasota, Fl. It is very common for Amish people to join a Mennonite church after leaving the Amish. The theology is similar, but Mennonites can use cars, electricity, etc. So it was similar, but definitely different.
*Many people ask if my mom was “shunned” by her family. My grandparents were a part of New Order Amish who do not shun family members that leave, and I have many great memories of spending summers on grandma and grandpa’s farm. I’m blessed to be a part of the Kaufman and Hostetler families.
What did that mean for your social upbringing? Were you raised fully in that culture?
I grew up in Bethel Mennonite church in Sarasota, Florida. Bethel is part of the Conservative Mennonite conference, but my church experience is probably very similar to others who grew up in a church. I went to Sunday School, I got grass stains on my pants playing football after church, and we drove to church in cars. Some differences were many of the women wore head coverings, our worship team didn’t have a drummer for most of my childhood, and my family’s Sunday dinner was probably better than everyone else’s. That last part is definitely true.
I’m also not an incredible dancer, and I would like to blame this on growing up in a culture that does not promote dancing.
Your twitter bio boasted at one point of “leaving the buggies behind”. Is that real, or a joke, or both…?
I’ve always lived in the land of gas-powered vehicles. There aren’t any buggies that I know of in Sarasota, Fl.
How much of the Amish/Mennonite/“conservative” background is still a part of your life today?
Amish/Mennonite is similar to Judaism in the following aspect. Judaism has an ethnic identity and a faith identity.
First, Anabaptists have an ethnic identity. Some names you might find in a Mennonite church directory are Beachy, Hostetler, Miller, Swartzentruber, Schlabach, Yoder, etc. Whenever I meet someone who has an Anabaptist background, we often play the Mennonite game: trying to figure out which friends or family we have in common. I once dated a Mennonite girl and I made her check to see if we were related. She was an acceptable 8th cousin. These are the problems we face.
On a personal spiritual level, I identify myself first as a sinner saved by the grace of God, and as someone who aims to reflect Christ’s love to the people I interact with. I am very proud of my Mennonite heritage, and it’s theology influences me strongly in certain areas, specifically non-resistance. However, I do like to attempt this thing people call dancing and I do love Shiner beers. I don’t think anything’s wrong with dancing or drinking, nor do I judge those that do. Those are just my personal beliefs.
So, after college you taught in Mexico for a year. What led to that decision?
I worked with my dad’s construction crew every summer after 7th grade. Many of dad’s workers were Hispanic, and they treated me like a little brother. They’d pass chile pepper sandwiches at lunch time, and make me eat them because “American men aren’t very macho because they don’t eat chile peppers.” As a result of these chile pepper sandwiches, I became a self-described macho man and developed a strong love for the Spanish language and the people of Central America. I double majored in Spanish at the University of Florida, and decided I would live in a Central American country after college.
What was it like?
I taught English in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico. The people of Los Mochis are super hospitable. My church practically adopted me as one of their sons. They would invite me to their homes for dinner after lessons. Oh, and the food of Los Mochis is delicious. Every night I would eat an amazing meal for less than $5. It was a great nine months, and I’m fortunate to still stay in contact with them through Facebook. I have yet to find a good carne asada in Austin that can compare with Los Mochis.
And now you’ve been in Austin for a few years. That’s three pretty different cultures…what’s the adjustment, or culture shock, process been like?
I love Austin. I couldn’t imagine myself anywhere else. Except for the occasional head twist when the thong guy rides his bike past me, there’s been relatively little culture shock.
What’s been the easiest part?
I live in a city where creativity is encouraged. There is no race “to finish life first”. Back home, most of my friends are married or are already set on a career track that they will probably follow for the rest of their lives. Many of my Austin friends have left secure jobs in order to pursue their dreams. I find that inspiring and contagious.
The hardest part?
I’m one of four siblings, the four J’s as we call ourselves. They all live in Florida, as do my parents, and I do wish I lived much closer to them. I really do. I might move back one day to be closer to my family.
The church you go to now in Austin, Vox Veniae, I would imagine is a little different than the church you grew up in. What drew you to it?
The first time I went to Vox, I went with a girl I was dating to hear her housemate speak. I immediately felt I had entered a church that really valued community. It’s on the east side of Austin, a traditionally rougher side of the city, and Vox strives to be a light in the community. Many of our members live on the East side, as we feel it’s important to live in the community we serve. Vox also has a culture that encourages questioning, yet we believe in truths. That’s huge to me. There’s a significant amount of diversity in our church, as we were founded by the Austin Chinese immigrant church, but have attracted many forlorn white hipsters. It’s an interesting mix to say the least.
How do those differences work out in your personal faith life?
I’ve seen a lot of different types of churches. I grew up in a Mennonite church, worked with Church of Christ churches in Honduras, attended a Presbytarian church in college, a non-denominational church in Mexico, a reformed church in Austin, and now Vox Veniea. God has shown me that he is present in many different churches, despite our differences. From personal experience, I would rather pay attention to the people inside as opposed to the name outside the church.
Your twitter handle is @amishhipster, do you consider yourself a hipster? Has the Austin culture given you a bent towards that?
I’m totally not a hipster but many of my friends would disagree. I still eat bread and meat.
Ok, so…tell me about the Amish Hipster. There’s a twitter, there’s going to be a blog. What’s he about?
AmishHipster.com is a humor blog, written through the eyes of Abe Beachy, a pretentious Amishman. Just as hipsters are pretentious, Abe Beachy is a very pretentious Amishman. He was the first one to think of growing a beard. He doesn’t understand the point of hitting a home run if you can’t make your own bat. When he went through a goth phase in middle school, he wore black hats every day. In this blog, Abe Beachy has moved from Holmes County, Ohio to Austin, Texas to escape all his Amish brethren and discover the hipster lifestyle in Austin. He’s disgusted to find that the Austin hipsters seem to be copying his style as well. The blog will be where he writes his discoveries. On the blog, you’ll encounter journal entries, answers to letters back home, and other written stories, all written by “Abe Beachy”. Ya’ll will love him, he’s hilarious. He won’t really care if you read the blog though.
There’s a show called “Breaking Amish”, and another called “Amish Mafia”. In those shows and in other media outlets are the Amish people given a fair portrayal?
When I dream big about amishhipster.com, I often dream of changing the national conversation about the Amish. These reality TV shows take young Amish and test their faith in front of a public audience. Can you imagine a “Breaking Christian”, “Breaking Judaism”, or a “Breaking Muslim” being approved for national TV? I can’t either. Imagine Muslim youth being tempted with pork in front of a national audience. We wouldn’t stand for it; we shouldn’t stand for “Breaking Amish” either. I have so much respect for them and their faith. They are taken advantage of as a community because, well, they aren’t connected to the world like most other minority groups are. But you know what TLC? They’ve been boycotting your shows the entire time. As well as the rest of television.
How well do they respect the Amish folks they’re interacting with, or the Amish community at large?
To be honest, I have only watched “Amish in the City”, and I just watched one episode. I refuse to support the companies that produce their shows. In general, they treat the Amish like animals at the zoo. They seem to care very little about the Amish culture. Many of these reality TV people have left the Amish church a long time ago or are portraying completely false characters. I’m looking at you Amish Mafia.
In 2013 with all of the technology and Social Media that is such a huge part of so many first world cultures how viable is the Amish way of life?
It’s viable but you do have to make some sacrifices. For example, I have an Amish uncle who is an accountant. While he uses a computer at the workplace, he doesn’t use technology at home. Some Amish follow this practice. By not using as much technology, the Amish are great stewards of their money.
This is just my curiosity at work here…is that something you can…”get into”? Or do you have to be born into that community or way of life?
I know Amish missionaries that are in Haiti. They believe in spreading the gospel; they would love for people to join them. However, the Amish are a very unique community so it could seem difficult for an “outsider’ to “fit in” immediately.
Are there principles or ideals from the Amish and Mennonite communities that we can begin to work into our lives to…slow down a bit?
Pick one day each week and make it an “Amish sabbath”. Just rest and relax with your loved ones, and forget Facebook for the day. Have you ever tried shutting your phone off for a couple days? It’s a great feeling.
By living in communities and forsaking technology, the Amish entertain themselves by visiting with neighbors and loved ones. I have never seen a homeless Amish person. If one of their neighbors is struggling, the whole community knows and helps them get back on their feet. It is very difficult to grow up Amish and not feel a part of a community. We could definitely learn from this.
Anything else you want to share?
Look out for the launch of AmishHipster.com next week, hopefully by Friday. I want to have a lot of posts done in advance so I can see where the story of the Amish Hipster is going.
Also, thanks! This was fun.
Where can folks connect with you online?