Throughout the centuries, Hutterites and other Anabaptists suffered intense persecution, including martyrdom, but have managed to survive to the present day. However, the types of challenges faced by Hutterites today are very different from those of their forefathers. Some of these challenges include separation from the world, internet access, legalism, loss of members and religious indifference.
Separation from the World
A Hutterite minister once claimed that for Hutterites to survive, they must, at all costs remain totally separate from the world in all ways possible. He was lamenting the growing influence that off-colony visits to local towns and cities, amusement parks and other pursuits were having on his colony’s members. Other Hutterite leaders claim that while uninterrupted interaction with the world may not be desirable, it is impossible to totally isolate members, and attempting to do so may act as a magnet for them to leave. They espouse a strategy of convincing members that living in a Hutterite colony is the best way to serve God and to follow Christ’s newest commandment to love one’s neighbour. Both of these views enjoy a substantial following by various colony members throughout North America. Which of the two methods will end up producing a more solid Christian community remains to be seen.
Since the late 90s Hutterites have had to deal with a new problem: the internet and mobile phones. Whereas in times past, it was fairly easy to limit the influence that the world had on members, with ubiquitous internet access due to the availability of mobile devices, limiting access is becoming more of a challenge. Because many Hutterite leaders fear the internet as a corrupting force, wholesale bans on its use have been attempted with varying results. Others feel that trying to totally ban internet access would be futile so they allow limited, filtered internet use, with a heavy emphasis on the individual’s conscience to act as the filter. Further, the internet provides a direct link for “The World” to enter the community. No longer do members have to leave the colony to experience the world, rather the internet can bring the world into the colony. Movies, music, social media are all becoming commonly accessible to some Hutterites. The world wide web is still in it’s infancy having only been around for about about 20 years; therefore, leaders struggle to manage it in such a way that it can be a useful tool instead of a destructive force.
Hutterites have always faced challenges and will continue to work out problems and areas of concern. Clearly some of the challenges facing Hutterites today are very different from the ones they faced in the past, but with attention to the issues and with God’s leading, they will likely find a way.