Americans' impressions of the Amish tend to run hard and fast to stereotypes: wholesome horse-and-buggy barn-raisers or holier-than-thou cult of the past that cheats with chainsaws when you're not looking.
The beards and bonnets and old-fashioned ways are endlessly alluring, and confusing. Is this the simple life that would save the planet if we all suited up? A culture of repression and illusion behind a pastoral front?
Writer Joe Mackall has lived long with Ohio's Swartzentruber Amish, the world's most conservative, and brings us the real story.
This hour On Point: an outsider among the Amish.
Joe Mackall, author of "Plain Secrets: An Outsider Among the Amish," director of the creative writing program at Ashland University in Ohio, and a former staff writer for the Washington Post.
This program aired on August 23, 2007.