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The Amish Fig. 1: Working the fields Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that ye may prove what is good and acceptable and the perfect will of God." (Romans 12:2) Be not conformed… The Amish society has little, if any, desire to participate in our modern world, doing so only when necessary. However, because of songs such “Amish Paradise,” movies such as “Witness,” and the huge Amish tourist industry, each Amish person accounts for $30,000 dollars per year in tourist revenue (Kraybill 327), most of us know some basic facts about the Amish. For example, we know that they are very religious people. We know that they dress in a particular way with clothes that look old-fashioned to us. The Amish refer to this mode of dress, and living, as “plain.” Fig. 2: Amish Youths We know they do not use electricity or drive cars. We know that they do not like to have their picture taken. Fig. 3: Amish, Intercourse Pennsylvania We know they tend to live in certain areas of the country, such as Pennsylvania and Ohio. And, we know that family plays an extremely important role in their culture. Fig. 4: Amish Family But beyond these basic facts, the Amish remain a mystery to most of us and questions still remain such as: Why can the children use roller blades but not bicycles? Why will the Amish ride in cars but not own nor drive them? Why can they use calculators but not computers? And, is it true that some of the Amish have adopted some items from our modern world, such as computers and televisions? Hopefully, by examining their history and culture in more depth, these questions may be answered and a greater understanding of the Amish gained. Historical Background of the Amish In 1517, Martin Luther led the Protestant Reformation and the breaking away from the Catholic Church. In 1525, several followers of a Swiss pastor, Ulrich Zwingli, grew impatient with the pace of reformation and started their own reformation within the Protestant church. The leaders of this group included Georg Blaurock, Conrad Grebel, and Felix Manz. In a secret ceremony, they illegally baptized each other and began what is often referred to as the Radical Reformation. Because everyone in the group had been baptized already as infants in the church, either Catholic or Protestant, they became know as the Anabaptists, which means “rebaptizers.” These men held beliefs that differed from the mainline Protestant doctrine. They believed that only adults willing to live a life of “radical obedience to the teachings of Jesus Christ” should be baptized (Kraybill 4). Consequently, their group refused to baptize infants. They also believed that government should not be involved with religion, that it had no authority within the church, and that the Bible was the only authority the church should obey. They also declared themselves to be pacifists. Other core beliefs included: The church as a covenant community Exclusion of errant members from communion Literal obedience to the teachings of Christ Refusal to swear oaths Rejection of violence Social separation from the evil world (Kraybill 6). Their beliefs brought them into direct conflict with civil and church authorities. They were viewed as a political threat as they questioned the historical interaction of civil government and the church. Their refusal to baptize infants defied government orders that all infants be baptized. This was done as a way to confer citizenship, maintain tax rolls, and provide a list of potential military recruits. Neither the church nor the government was going to allow this group to question their authority, and persecutions began almost immediately. Less than five months after they had rebaptized themselves, a member of the Anabaptists was executed for sedition against the government. Fig. 5: Anabaptist being burned at the stake Despite the persecutions, the movement grew and spread throughout Sweden, the Netherlands, and Germany. However, the persecutions also continued and increased. Over the next two centuries, thousands of Anabaptists would be killed for their religious beliefs. Special “hunters” would even be trained to seek them out, torture, and kill them (Kraybill 4). The persecutions continued in various forms and gradually subsided in the 18th century. By then, thousands of Anabaptists had sought refuge in other countries, including America. Today the stories of the early days of the Amish religion are contained in the Martyr‟s Mirror, originally printed in 1660. The Martyr‟s Mirror is one of the Amish‟s most beloved books from which they draw strength to continue in their faith and beliefs. Fig. 6: Compassion for the enemy Among the stories is one of an Anabaptist named Dirk Williams. He was being chased by a sheriff when the sheriff fell through the ice. Williams heard the man‟s cries for help, turned back and pulled him from the ice, thus saving his life. The sheriff promptly arrested Williams, and he was burnt at the stake in 1569. Another Anabaptist, Michael Sattler, was sentenced to “be delivered to the executioner, who shall cut out his tongue, then throw him upon a wagon, and tear his body twice with red-hot tongs; and after he has been brought without the gate, he shall be pinched five times in the same manner” (Igou 26). After the torture, Sattler was burned at the stake. In 1537, a former Catholic by the name of Menno Simons joined the Anabaptists. His followers would come to be known as Mennonites and some of them would later settle in the Alsace region of modern-day France. One of these men would be Jakob Amman, who, in the 1690s, began to have problems with Mennonite and Anabaptist doctrine. The church had drifted from many of its original ways, Amman declared, becoming too lenient in the process. He called for reform and renewal within the Mennonite and the Anabaptist church. Some of the problems he had with the church revolved around communion. Amman thought that communion should be held twice a year instead of the annual service that was then being held. He also contended that foot washing should be part of the communion service; something the Mennonites had drifted away from. He also disagreed with the manner of excommunication of those who disobeyed church doctrine. Amman argued that not only should they be cast out of the church, but they should also be shunned in social circles as well, with true believers breaking off all contact with them. Amman began to have open disagreements with the Swiss Anabaptist bishop, Hans Reist. These disagreements came to a head the day that Amman and his followers excommunicated Reist and other leaders of the church. Despite later efforts to heal this breach, the damage had been done and Amman‟s followers split from the Mennonite church in 1693. They would later come to be known as Amish, named after Jakob Amman. After the split, Amman followers adopted their own doctrine that included, among other things, prohibitions against trimming of beards, “fashionable” dress, and the use of buttons. Amman‟s followers would forgo the use of buttons, utilizing hook and eyes instead. They often referred to the Mennonite church they had left as the “button people.” The Amish Today: Day to Day Living Today, the Amish order their communities around three basic components: settlement, district, and affiliation. Fig. 7: Old Order Amish Couple circa 1940 The settlement consists of the Amish families who live within a geographical area. These settlements range in size from a few families to several thousand people. One such settlement is in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The settlement may have non-Amish, or “English” homes scattered amongst the Amish homes, but towards the center of the settlement, it will be almost exclusively Amish homes and farms. In some areas, the Amish may own up to 90% of the farmland within their settlement area. The district refers to the church district, the basic organizational unit within the Amish society. The district typically consists of approximately twenty-five to thirty-five families living in close proximately to each other. Church services are held in homes, so houses in the district need to be large enough to accommodate all families with the district. When the district becomes too large, a new district is formed. In Lancaster County, four or five new districts are formed every year. An affiliation is a cluster of Amish congregations in spiritual fellowship with each other. Congregations, or districts, within each affiliation will follow similar religious and social practices, cooperating with each other to survive. The Old Order Amish of Lancaster County is one such affiliation. However, there are also New Order Amish affiliations and the Beachy Amish affiliation, who are more progressive and thus, outside of the Old Order affiliation because of their views on religious and social issues. There are over 1, 300 districts scattered throughout America and Canada today, with a total population around 180,000. Of the 250 settlements, 70% were founded after 1960. The largest settlement is in Ohio and contains more than 150 districts. Old Order Amish It is the picture of the Old Order Amish with their plain clothes and buggies that comes to most people‟s mind when they think Amish. The Old Order Amish today have deviated little from the regulations established by Jakob Amman over 300 years Fig. 8: Old Order Amish at a horse auction ago. They still dress plain, do not use electricity, do not own or drive cars, do not have telephones in their homes, and forbid the use of most modern farm equipment, including air-filled tires. In an Old Order Amish home, all lighting is supplied by candle or oil and gas lamp. Bottle-gas appliances are acceptable under the Ordnung. The Ordnung, a verbal standard that the Amish live by, will be discussed in detail later. Fig. 9: Old Order Amish with farm equipment However, look inside an Old Order Amish cow barn and you will find a modern automated milking system with refrigerated tanks. Because the Amish must trade with the outside world to survive, they must conform to modern health and agriculture laws mandated by the various federal, state and local agencies. Thus, the modern equipment is necessary. However, it is all powered by gas generators, not electricity. Old Order Amish follow strict clothing regulations. Men wear black suits without lapels or buttons, white or blue shirts, black suspenders, black shoes or boots and broad- brimmed hats in black felt or natural straw. Old Order women wear a frock type dress of mid-calf to ankle length with black stockings, an apron, black shoes or boots, black cape, and either a white "prayer cap" (if baptized) or a black hood. Only solid colors are worn, with darker colors favored over lighter ones. The idea behind the dress code is not only that it sets them apart from the world, but that is also eliminates pride and envy. Men crop their hair, and wear beards, if married, but not mustaches as they are associated with the military. Women do not cut their hair but wear it tied in a bun on their head, which Fig. 10: Amish women is always covered once she is baptized. Fig. 11: Young Amish out for a ride The Old Order Amish make their own clothes, although they do purchase the fabric. Hats, suspenders, and shoes can be bought ready-made. The buggies they drive vary according to purpose. The “family” buggy will always be covered. Young people drive open buggies, such as the one in the photo above. Old Order Amish use High German for church services, and their Bibles are also printed in High German. All Amish can speak English, but they use a form of Low German amongst themselves in everyday activities. The name they give to those outside their order, the “English,” is not viewed by the Amish as derogatory, but simply refers to the language used most often by the world outside the order. New Order and Beachy Amish The important thing to remember when studying the Amish is that there are many variations within the culture. Some are more strict then others in matters of religion and society codes. Adherence varies from affiliation to affiliation: some allow one thing while banning another. For example, the New Order and Beachy Amish vary greatly from the Old Order in daily life, but not in religious practice. The New Order Amish are more progressive than the Old Order but still restrictive in the use of modern items. They use telephones in their homes, allow air operated equipment, electrical generators, bicycles, and gas pressurized lights. They also allow the use of rubber air-filled tires, milking machines and milk bulk tanks. However, horses are still mandated for field work and transportation. They do not own or drive cars. The Beachy Amish have telephones, more modern clothing, and utilize modern farm equipment. They are also are allowed to own and drive cars and meet for worship in meeting houses instead of private homes. All but six of the Beachy districts now use English in their worship instead of German. They refer to their churches as fellowships and maintain just enough centralization to maintain the sense of congregationalism that is so highly valued by all Amish. There are approximately 150 districts of Beachy Amish. They have fellowships in America, Latin America, Africa, Australia, and parts of Europe. They are considered by many in the Amish and Mennonite communities to be a combination of both groups The New Order Amish are found almost exclusively in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Both groups still hold to the Ordnung, like the Old Order, but in varying degrees. Both groups also differ from the Old Order in the issues of Meidung (avoidance), Streng-Meidung (strict banning): what we today refer to as shunning. The New Order and the Beachy Amish practice, for the most part, avoidance and not total shunning, like the Old Order. Day to Day Life: little known facts The Amish are exempt from paying Social Security taxes, however they do pay all other federal, state, and local taxes. They provide their own social security within their communities. Members are taken care of and provided for at all stages of life. Everyone is expected to contribute to a fund that is used to help members who need financial assistance. Musical instruments are not allowed among the Old Order Amish, as they believe it would lead to pride and the stirring up of emotions. Amish do not believe in having their picture taken; they consider photographs to be graven images and thus against God‟s law. However, many photos of the Amish are to be found. This is because while they will not pose for photos, they do not object to someone taking an unposed photo if permission is asked beforehand. Fig. 12: On the way to a wedding Families are a cornerstone of the Amish community, and as such, marriage is an important part of life. Nine out of every ten adult Amish are married. Marriages are traditionally held on a Tuesday or Thursday in November, after fall Communion Most couples meet at “singings,” which are similar to country dances. Both must be members of the church to marry. In October, the names of those seeking to be married are “published” by being read at Sunday service. The couple will not attend church that day, instead the woman will fix a special meal for her finance, which they eat at home alone. Amish wedding dresses are blue and have no lace or train. This same dress is usually used by the woman to wear to church, and she will more than likely be buried in it as well. The wedding service lasts for up to five hours, after which is a huge feast which continues long into the night. The marriage night is spent at the house of the bride‟s parents. The newlyweds will spend the rest of the winter visiting and spending time at various relatives‟ houses. It will be spring before they establish a home of their own. The Amish believe large families are a blessing from God, so contraception is not practiced. The typical Amish family has 8.5 children. By the age of forty-five, an Amish woman has probably given birth to seven children. Under the Ordnung, divorce is not allowed Children are usually born at home and attend school only through the eighth grade. Amish children walk to school, which are usually one room buildings. Fig. 13: An Amish classroom After the eighth grade, children are schooled at home, learning and working alongside their family until they marry and start a family of their own. In 1972, the Amish won an exemption from the U.S. Supreme Court, granting them exemption from Federal or state mandated school attendance. They had argued that their religious beliefs teach that a child should be schooled at home beyond the eighth grade, and to send their children to school beyond that would violate their religious teaching. The Amish also currently have a proposal before the government requesting exemption from Federal Labor Laws regulating teen- agers and certain heavy woodworking machinery. Over the last decade, federal inspectors have fined some Amish wood mills as much as $20,000 for illegally allowing teens to work in the same buildings as this equipment. Although the proposal does not “specifically mention the Amish, it would give them an unconstitutional exception simply because of their religious affiliation." The Amish wish their teen- agers to be able to be around the equipment in order to learn how to operate it. They are seeking exemption based on religious grounds, as they view these apprenticeships as a “cornerstone of their faith” (Jordan), In Amish society, woman are viewed as equal partners in the marriage, but it is the man who holds authority in the family and the church. Wives are expected to submit to their husbands. Women do help with all aspects of family chores, although the men seldom help with household type work. While women‟s rights is not an issue among the Amish, some women do wish for more equality and more modern conveniences to make their household job easier. While more Amish women today own their own businesses than in the past, their traditional role is still viewed as being in the house taking care of home and family. The Amish have no prohibition against using modern health services or medicines. They view these as ways of healing that are blessings from God. While the Amish do not celebrate some national holidays such as Memorial Day or the Fourth of July, they do observe Thanksgiving Day, Christmas, New Year‟s Day, and Easter, as well as other holidays that spring from their European roots, such as St. Michael's Day. The Amish barn rising is another aspect of their culture that most people know about. The barn is started in the morning and finished by that night. Fig. 14: Seven in the morning One day work/social events, like the barn raising, are called „frolics.” Hundreds of people may come together to build a school, help plant a field, or women may gather to help clean a house or make a quilt. Women also hold Sisters‟ Day, where all the sisters in a family gather one day a month to visit and chat. They will usually work on a quilt during that time, or clean a house. While the Old Order Amish can not own cars, they often pay someone to drive them to various places too far to drive their buggy. Amish also take vacations to such places as Europe. Although they are forbidden to fly, they can take a train or a boat to their destination. One popular vacation spot is an Amish community in Florida, which attracts hundreds of Amish on their vacations every year. Amish Gangs The Rumspringa is a time of life for Amish that typically begins at the age of sixteen and lasts until they are married. It loosely translates as “sowing wild oats.” During this time, a young person will join a “gang” with whom they run around with on the weekends. During this period of their lives, the youth are viewed as falling between the authority of their parents and the church because they are not yet baptized. In Lancaster County alone, there are over twenty six Amish youth gangs, with names such as the Bluebirds, Canaries, Pine Cones, Drifters, Shotguns, Rockys, and Quakers. Youth are free to join the gang of their choice. The gang will then become their primary social group until their marriage. Gangs vary in the intensity of their activities. While some gangs are reserved and do no more wild behavior than hold a dance on Saturday night or a volleyball game, others may hold parties where beer kegs will be present, modern music played by live bands with electric instruments, and all attendees dress in secular clothing. Some gangs place fancy reflective tape on their buggies, which may have a radio or CD player hidden inside. In 1998, two Amish men were arrested in Pennsylvania for buying cocaine, which they then sold to other members of their gang. This very public incident, coupled with an increase in alcohol abuse among the youth in the gangs, prompted members of the Amish community to rein in the gangs to some extent. Many events are now chaperoned by adults and a closer eye are kept on the youth during these years. Amish Religious Life Amish are Christians, with all traditional Christian beliefs in the Divinity of Christ, the Trinity, salvation, etc. The Ordnung, roughly translated it means order, is a set of oral laws that regulates all aspects of Amish society, from religion to family life. It is not something that is written down, instead all Amish “just know it, that‟s all” (Kraybill 112). The Ordnung is something that all Amish grow up with and learn by observing adults and their behavior. In some aspects of life, the Ordnung is very specific, such as in the case of how hair should be worn. Other areas, such as food issues, are more open to individual interpretation. New issues are constantly being addressed in the Ordnung as technology advances. It was recently decided that transplanting cow embryos was not to be allowed but that battery operated calculators could be used. However, unless a practice begins to cause problems within the community, or is something that would obviously be forbidden, it is usually either overlooked or not addressed within the Ordnung. Exemptions are made in some cases. A mental challenged child may be allowed to have a bicycle, for example, or a family with medical problems may be allowed to connect to electricity to run needed medical equipment. Examples of Practices Prescribed by the Ordnung: color and style of clothing hat styles for men order of the worship service kneeling for prayer in worship marriage within the church use of horses for fieldwork use of Pennsylvania German steel wheels on machinery Examples of things prohibited by the Ordnung air transportation central heating in homes electricity from public power lines entering military service jewelry, including wedding rings and wrist watches joining worldly (public) organizations owning computers, televisions, radios using tractors for fieldwork wall-to-wall carpeting (Kraybill 116) Amish are typically baptized around the age of nineteen to twenty two. Baptism is viewed as a vow that the person agrees to submit to the church, the community, and the Ordnung. Worship services are held every other Sunday in homes of members. The services traditionally last three hours, starting around 8:00am, lasting until 3:00pm with the meal that follows. Men and women enter the house through different doors and sit separately for worship and eating. Except in some New Order or Beach Amish districts, services are held in High German. The worship service usually consists of fellowship, followed by congregational singing, a sermon, prayer, reading of Scripture, another sermon, more prayer, and a benediction. A meal is served afterward. Who will preach is not decided until that morning: this precludes any feelings of pride. However, only ordained men are allowed to preach. There is no music, offering, cross, candles, or any other items likely to be found in a modern worship service. The Amish worship as they live: simply. Sunday is considered holy; a day when no work is to be done or money transacted. Even those few who smoke refrain from doing so on Sunday. Communion is held twice a year and only after any changes to the Ordung have been agreed upon and the pastors feel all have fully confessed of their sins. The Communion service will last all day, from 8:00am to 4:00pm, culminating in a foot washing ceremony in which all members ritually wash each other‟s feet. Ministers are chosen by lot from a list of men recommended by men in the community. A slip of paper with a Bible verse will be placed in a song book; each man nominated, who agrees to serve, will then take a book from the pile and open it. The one whose book has the slip of paper is the one who will be ordained. Amish ministers receive no pay, and they serve for life. A saying among the Amish is “only God can fire an Amish minister” (Kraybill 130). Ministers are then ordained in the church, after which their family will be expected to follow the Ordnung to the exacting letter. Within the Amish community, a term is often used to describe their life style. This word is Gelassenheit. It means, roughly translated, a yielding or submission, and it signifies the Amish life. Gelassenheit involves submission to the family, submission to the community, submission to tradition, submission to the Ordnung, submission to the church, and most important, submission to God. Amish and Technology The Amish have found it increasingly difficult to moderate their beliefs with technology. This has resulted in some unusual practices throughout the years. For example, phones are not allowed in homes, but the use of them is allowed, so you will see Amish using the phones of their non-Amish neighbors or the “community phone” that can be found outside stores or some houses. The use of cell phones is increasing among the Amish, as they are easily hid from inquiring neighbors‟ eyes. Electricity generated from batteries or gas powered generators is allowed under the Ordnung. These electricity may be used for things such as fence chargers, cow trainers, agitators for bulk milk tanks, calculators, adding machines, reading lights for the elderly, hand-held drills, small motors to operate equipment in shops, welders, the electrical tools needed by mobile construction crews, and to recharge batteries for a variety of uses. It can not be used for general lighting in houses or barns, computers, hair dryers, or other similar modern electrical appliances, among other things. If an Amish buys a house from an “English,” he has one year to tear out all electrical wiring in the house or face sanctions from the church. Owning a car is grounds for automatic expulsion from the order. A child may ride a scooter, but bicycles are forbidden. When asked why, one Amish replied, “I don‟t know, they just are” (Kraybill 12). Fig. 15: Boy and his scooter One young Amish woman joked that the “the men make the rules so that‟s why more modern things are permitted in the barn than in the house” (Kraybill 85). Conclusion There are three Biblical passages the Amish often quote to define who they are and why they live as they do. The first verse is Peter 2:9: "But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people.” The Amish feel this passage applies to them and that if it did not, then it is an indicator that something is wrong and must be corrected. The second verse is Matthew 5:16: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” This verse is viewed as being directed towards themselves. The Amish feel that their plain clothes, honesty, generosity, life style, piety, and obedience to God are ways the world may see their good works and they may glorify God. The third passage comes from 1 Corinthians 2:14: "But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” This third verse is seen by the Amish as explanation as to why the rest of the world does not follow their way of life and why their culture seems foolish to those outside their community. The Amish today face increasing pressure to conform to the world. Until now they have managed to meld modernity with their beliefs without much social upheaval. Only time will tell if they can continue to do so successfully. Works Cited Good, Merle and Phyllis. 20 Most Asked Questions about the Amish and Mennonites. Intercourse, Pennsylvania: Good Books, 1995. Igou, Brad. The Amish in Their Own Words: The Amish in Their Own Words : Amish Writings From 25 Years of Family Life Magazine. netlibrary. 9 October 2003. <http:/ /www.netlibrary.com/ebook_info.asp?product_id=27993>. Jordan, Lara, Jakes. “Amish Want Labor Laws for Teens Relaxed.” Newsday.com 8 October 2003. 10 October 2003. <http://www.newsday.com/news/politics/wire/sns-ap-amish- labor-laws,0,4218895.story?coll=sns-ap-politics-headlines>. Kraybill, Donald. The Riddle of Amish Culture. netlibrary. 9 October 2003. <http://emedia.netlibrary.com/ebook_info.asp?product_id=75718>. Image Credits Figure 1: Plowing the fields. How Stuff Works. 9 October 2003. <http:// www.howstuffworks.com/amish3.htm>. Figure 2: Graham, Ira. Amish Youth. Ira Graham Photography web site. 9 October 2003. <http://iragrahamphotography.com/photojournalism.htm>. Figure 3: Peled, Doran. Amish, Intercourse, Pennsylvania. 9 October 2003. <http://www.dcs.warwick.ac.uk/~doron/travel.html>. Fig. 4: Amish Family. Aaron and Jessica‟s Buggy Rides. 9 October 2003. <http://www.amishbuggyrides.com/html/questions.html>. Figure 5: Anabaptist being burnt at the stake. The Hutterian Brethren. 9 October 2003. <http://www.hutterites.org/histpic.htm>. Figure 6: “Compassion for the Enemy.” Mennonite Quarterly Review. 9 October 2003. <http://www.goshen.edu/mqr/Dirk_Willems.html>. Figure 7: Old Order Amish Couple. Library of Congress Photo Archives. 9 October 2003. <http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/catalog.html>. Figure 8: Old Order Amish at a horse auction. Pennsylvania Press Association. 9 October 2003. <http://www.pnpa.com/publications/press/sept01/amish.htm>. Figure 9: Mennonite Historical Society of Canada. 9 October 2003. <http://www.mhsc.ca/ index.asp?content=http://www.mhsc.ca/encyclopedia/contents/N4945ME.html>. Figure 10: R.C. Quilts. 9 October 2003. <http://www.quiltsandpatchwork.com/viajes.htm>. Figure 11: 9 October 2003. <http://www.mountainedgealpacas.com/Map.htm>. Figure 12: Mennonite Historical Society of Canada. 9 October 2003. <http://www.mhsc.ca/ index.asp?content=http://www.mhsc.ca/encyclopedia/contents/N4945ME.html>. Figure 13: Who are the Amish? 9 October 2003. <http://www.thepeoplesplace.com/ page2.htm>. Figure 14: Who are the Amish. 9 October 2003. <http://www.thepeoplesplace.com/ page2.htm>. Figure 15: Aaron and Jessica‟s Buggy Rides. 9 October 2003. <http://www.amishbuggyrides.com/html/questions.html>.
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