The Amish History Beliefs Conflicts and Problems
History • During the Reformation in 16th Century Europe, Luther and Calvin promoted the concepts of individual freedom and the priesthood of all believers. • In what has been called "the radical reformation", some religious reformers took these beliefs to a logical conclusion; they preached that the believer should separate themselves from all secular activities. • One of the largest groups, the Anabaptists promoted: • baptism during adulthood after confession of faith, instead of during infancy • the total separation of religion from and state • worship services in the home rather than at church
“Free Churches” • The religious movements that they founded are called "free churches" as contrasted to the state churches which were normal for the time. • Their groups were simple associations of adult Christians. • Most groups were wiped out in wars or programs of genocide which were organized by various governments, and both the main-line Protestant and Roman Catholic churches.
Mennonites and Amish • The Mennonites are named after Menno Simons (1496-1561), a Dutch Anabaptist leader. • They were severely persecuted and fled to Switzerland and other more remote areas of Europe. • The Amish began as a split-off sect of the Swiss Mennonites during the late 17th century. • Their founder was Jacob Amman, who based his beliefs and practices on the writings of Simons and on the 1632 Mennonite Dordrecht Confession of Faith.
Amish in the Americas • Some Amish migrated to the United States, started in the early 18th century. As a result of William Penn's "holy experiment" in religious tolerance, many Amish started settling in Lancaster County, PA during the 1720's. • Other groups settled in or moved to New York, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri and Ohio, etc. • They have attempted to preserve the elements of late 17th century European rural culture. • They reject most of the developments of the modern society. • During the 1860's, a series of conferences were held in Wayne County OH to deal with modern pressures. Partly as a result of these conferences, the Amish split into a number of divisions, including the conservative Old Order Amish and various more liberal groups.
Membership • Membership in the main Amish church, the Old Order Amish Mennonite Church is not reported. • The other Amish groups are relatively small. Probably the total of all Amish groups would be on the order of 100,000 in 22 states, including about 45,000 in Ohio and smaller numbers in Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, New York, etc. • There are about 1,500 in Ontario, Canada. Almost all members are descendants of Amish parents. Converts are believed to constitute less than 10% of the total membership.
Beliefs • The Amish are a very conservative Christian faith group. Many of their beliefs are identical to those of Fundamentalist and other Evangelical churches, including baptism, a literal interpretation of the Bible, etc. • Differences include: • Their belief in remaining separate from the rest of the world. Their rejection of involvement with the military or warfare. • Each district is autonomous; there is no centralized Amish organization. • They have traditionally avoided attempts to seek converts. • Recently, some Amish groups have become active in evangelization. the Ordnung is an oral tradition which regulates the Amish way of life. • Specific details of the Ordnung differ among various church districts.
Practices • Practices of the Old Order Amish are listed below. • Some smaller Amish groups have adopted more progressive practices. • Members usually speak a German dialect called Pennsylvania Dutch (Deutsch). • High German is used during worship. • They learn English at school. Schools are one-room buildings run by the Amish. Formal education beyond Grade 8 is discouraged, although many youth are given further instruction in their homes after graduation. • Members do not own or use automobiles. • They do not use electricity, or have radios or TV sets.
Marriage • Marriages outside the faith are not allowed. • Couples who plan to marry are "published" in late October. • They are married in one of their homes during November or early December. • Men follow the laws of the Hebrew Scriptures with regards to beards. They do not grow mustaches, because of the long association of mustaches with the military. • Men usually dress in a plain, dark colored suit. • Women usually wear a plain colored dress with long sleeves, bonnet and apron. Women wear a white prayer covering if married; black if single. At death, a woman is usually buried in her bridal dress, which is often blue or purple.
Religious Observations • They celebrate the traditional Christian holy days. • They also observe a Fast Day on October 11. • Religious services are held in the homes of members biweekly on Sunday. They meet in a different home each week. • Funerals are conducted in the home without a eulogy, flower decorations, or other display. The casket is plain, without adornment. A simple tombstone is erected later.
Beliefs • While the Amish subscribe to basic Christian beliefs, such as the belief in a divine Christ, heaven and hell, receiving inspiration from scripture, and the church as the body of Christ, the Amish tradition differs from many other modern religions, in that their faith is combined in their entire culture. • The Amish culture is based on ideals which are in direct contrast with the ideals of modern American culture. • In today's society, emphasis is placed on the individual and their ability to achieve personal success and fulfillment. • However, in the Amish culture all emphasis is on the community. The basic concepts of Amish culture can best be described by the German word Gelassenheit . • Gelassenheit is a concept which encompasses many aspects of Amish life. It can be broken down into five units which include: personality, symbols, structure, ritual, and values
Gelassenheit • Gelassenheit teaches Amish to be reserved, modest, calm, and quiet. It is a way of thinking about one's relationship with God and to become completely submissive to God's authority. • It also has a great emphasis on serving and respecting others in the community. • It includes the ideas of a modest way of acting, talking, dressing, and walking. • And it is also a way of stucturing social life so that communities remain small and simple
Beliefs and Shunning • Some of the most important beliefs held by the Amish are: separation from the outside world, vow of obedience, and closeness to nature. • There are other regulations over societal customs such as dress, use of inventions and no formal education beyond elementary school. • The fear of being shunned and excommunicated keeps the Amish from being tempted by the outside world. • The moral beliefs of the Amish Church are based on the Bible and most of their views stem from literal translations of the teachings of the Bible. • The Amish do not try to recruit members from the outside world because that would be seen as consorting with those that are shunned.
Prohibitions • They do not collect social security/Canada Pension Plan benefits, unemployment insurance or welfare. • They maintain mutual aid funds for members who need help with medical costs, dental bills, etc. • They do not take photographs. This is based on the prohibition in Exodus 20:4, the second of the Ten Commandments: • "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that...is in the earth..."
Conflicts and problems • Education: • The Amish's insistence on terminating formal schooling after the 8th grade conflicted with many state's laws which require children to remain in school until their mid-teens. • Some Amish migrated from Pennsylvania to other states, like Missouri, which had more relaxed laws. A ruling by the US Supreme Court in 1972 recognized their right to limit education of their children. • Accidents: • Highway accidents between motor vehicles and Amish black horse and buggies are a concern to many. • Polio: • There was an outbreak of polio in 1979 among Amish in Pennsylvania, Iowa, Wisconsin Missouri and Canada. The North American population of Amish was essentially unvaccinated against polio at the time. • The spread of the disease was halted by an emergency vaccination campaign. This was the last significant outbreak of the disease in the U.S.
Buggies • Horse-drawn transportation has been maintained as a matter of Christian discipleship by the most conservative elements in the Anabaptist family. • The Old Order Amish, and over half of those identified as Old Order Mennonites and Old Colony Mennonites, forbid ownership and driving of automobiles. • Small groups of Old Order River Brethren and Old Order German Baptista have the same rule.
Buggies • The Old Order people see the automobile as a disintegrating force affecting the family, church, and community. • They feel that cars are an object of pride, not conducive to self-denial. The Old Orders also avoid involvement with the evil of insurance by using buggies rather than cars. • The Old Orders do not feel the car is evil in itself. • By forbidding ownership of cars, it is felt mobility is limited and thus many temptations are avoided. • Old Orders will make use of public transportation (as they did in the pre-automobile age) and permit hiring cars and vans for special needs. • In many communities, mobility is also limited by insisting on steel wheels on tractors (so they cannot be used for transportation on the road) and by forbidding bicycles.
Amish Buggies http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/mennocon.html#amish
Buggy Signs http://members.tripod.com/amishbuggy/miscpics.htm
Genetic diseases • Some Amish groups have a limited gene pool. For example, the Amish in Lancaster County, PA, are descendents of about 200 Swiss citizens who emigrated in the mid 1700s. • Because they do not marry outsiders and because few outsiders have joined the order, the • "community has been essentially a closed genetic population for more than 12 generations. Thus, intermarriage has brought to the fore certain genetic mutations that were present in the initial genetic pool (as they are in any population), making the Amish host to several inherited disorders." • These include dwarfism, mental retardation and a large group of metabolic disorders. • One in 200 have glutaric aciduria type I; they are born healthy, but can experience permanent neurological damage when a mild illness strikes.
Daily Life • Men get up about five a.m., go to the barn and feed the animals, milk the cows and process the milk to the cans for truck delivery to the local dairy. • He would then join the family for prayer and breakfast. Depending on the season, he would work in the fields, preparing the fields for planting (late winter), planting the crops in the Spring or harvesting the crops in late Summer or Fall. • He usually works from sunup to sunset in the fields for planting and harvesting with a break for lunch. In the evening, the cows would need to be milked again. • Women also get up about five a.m., help with the milking, prepare breakfast, and if laundry day (usually on Monday) get the gasoline motor started on her wringer washing machine do the laundry, hanging them out on the line to dry. • She would work in the kitchen garden, preparing it for planting (with help from her husband), or harvesting vegetables for meals. • If there are children, she would also get them ready for school, including packing lunch boxes, etc. • Daytime household duties would be done, i.e., ironing, washing dishes by hand, baking, and cooking lunch and dinner. Depending on the season, she would can fruit and vegetables, making jams and jellies, etc. She will also sew clothes for herself, her husband and their children. • Sundays are for church.
Farm with Milk Ready for Pick up http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/mennocon.html#amish
AMISH ROMANCE AND WEDDINGS • The Amish court in the summer. They meet each other at youth sings which are held usually on a Sunday night. • Some Amish boys will court with a wagon called appropriately a courting wagon. • Others will walk with their sweethearts. They'll sing bible songs, laugh, and maybe even hold hands. • In the fall weddings are announced. These are held in November and December after the harvest. • There will be a lot of food preparation to feed all the guests. There is no music at the wedding. There is singing, like chanting. • When the last guests leave the couple can retire to their bedroom in the bride's mother's home. The next day the couple help with the cleanup. • Then they are free for their honeymoon which is spent traveling from family to family to thank them for the wedding gifts. If they travel a distance, they will stay at the family's home for the weekend or overnight. It takes a year for the couple to visit all the relatives who have come to their wedding. • The bride doesn't wear white either. She wears her traditional somber colors but is allowed this once in her life to wear a white organdy apron. The next time she'll wear it will be at her funeral.
Current Controversies • The attitude of the Amish towards the government has changed very little from those of the early Anabaptist forefathers. • They see the necessity of the government, and any form of rebellion against it is considered "un-Christian". • However, while the Amish do see meaning in the functions of government, they also give limitations to the authority of the state. • Several issues and controversies have come up between the Amish and the state during the 20th century. • Some of the most controversial include; the consolidation of small elementary schools, the requirement of high school attendance, compulsory welfare systems, and conscription.
The Amish: In their Own Words • Chapters 1-4
Internet Sources • http://www.religioustolerance.org/amish.htm • http://www.angelfire.com/ct/beawriter/amish.html