Amish Life: to Feel Isolated and Separated in a Society

The Amish are members of an Anabaptist Christian denomination. Amish are also sometimes known as Amish Mennonites, they are known for their separation from society, for living in isolated Amish communities, for the rejection of most modern technology and for the way they dress. In the United States, Amish communities are mostly found in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana.

There are several denominations that are developed out of the Radical Reformation in the 16th century Europe, Amish are one of them. Therefore the Anabaptists are the radical reformers came to be called, different from the mainstream Protestants in their rejection of all church authority. They believe that only adults can be baptized not infants, we do this the opposite way than the Amish do. They believe that infants cannot make the decision on what they would like to believe in as they would when they are adults.

In 1693, the Amish emerged from the schism and among the Swiss Mennonites. Jakob Amman was the leader, his followers applied the Mennonite practice of shunning and were very strict about it, also condemned other Mennonites for not doing so. The Amish communities went high in Switzerland, Alsace, Germany, Russia and Holland. As of today there are no Amish remaining in Europe. In the 19th and 20th century many of the Amish moved away to North America and the ones that stayed slowly adapted with the Mennonite groups. Although in the 18th century that is when the first Amish actually moved to North America, after the years went by that is when the rest went. They first settled in eastern Pennsylvania, where still today a large group of Amish still remains there.

There was a split between the traditional Old Order Amish and the New Order Amish in 1850. The New Order Amish accept the changes in social and technology innovation, still they so continue to use most of the Amish practices. As of today, there are now around 200,000 Old Order Amish living in more than 200 in the United States and Canada that are settled. The largest communities for the Amish are in Pennsylvania and Ohio along with seven other states. The Amish are world- famed agriculturalists.

Amish people believe in the significance of an individual Bible study and obey by living free of sin after adult baptism. The Amish are separated from the world and are high of importance on the values of humility, family and the community. There are two concepts to understand the Amish practices, which are their strong feelings of Hochmut and the high value they place on Demut and Gelassenheit. Hochmut means pride, arrogance and haughtiness. Demut is humility and then Gelassenheit, which are calmness, composure and placidity. The willingness to commit to the will of god, as expressed through group achievements/ behavioral, is at odds with the individualism that is central to general American culture.

The Amish do have religious services. They celebrate the Holy Communion twice a year and also practice foot washing. Each district has a bishop, two to four preachers, and an elder and is very independent; there are no Amish general conferences or cooperative agencies. When an Amish person is between the ages of 17-20 they have to choose to be baptized or not. When they are, they are officially a member of the church. Amish religious services are spoken in German. This is very strange because they speak Pennsylvania Dutch when at home or in daily activities.

Religious services are held at different Amish homes each time. Amish use their homes for their services and not a church. Each home has walls that move especially for these occasions. Large wagons that are filled with benches, dishes and food for the meal would be pulled to the home that the service is being held. Amish people do not use musical instruments in a church service or at any time, it is considered useless and arrogant. Singing, however, is very important to the Amish life. They sing at work, playing at home or in church, usually they sing the Amish hymnal.

Amish are a strong believer in education for the children. The children only attend school up to the eighth grade, after they are trained in work as expected for the Amish community. Amish children attend school in a single room, there are no different schools or classrooms they have to attend like non- Amish people do. They teach the children in English while in school and focus on the main basics in reading, writing and math along with Amish history, farming and homemaking skills. Teachers from their community are the ones that teach them in school, a teacher from the outside world does not teach them.

Amish avoid using electricity; they believe that it is a prime connection to the world. Amish believe that it will lead to temptations that would lead to a sin; this would ruin the communities and families of the Amish. Also they see as technology of using family time and creating competition among other Amish people. Amish do not have television, tractors or automobiles. There are some exceptions to banning electricity, for example they added electric flashers to their buggies when required to drive legally and also certain types of the farming things such as milking equipment and electric fences so that they cattle will not get out.

To have appliances they will use bottled gas. Amish uses grills and gas pressured lanterns for inside lighting, we would normally use them outside unless we lost power. It is very interesting to see how other cultures uses things that we would use in totally different way. The buggies may also have heaters, windshield wipers and upholstered seats. Although now the New Order Amish permitted the use of electricity, owning cars and having telephones in the homes as well.

Amish have their own dress codes and are known for their self- made clothing which is of the 17th century European peasants. The distinctive attire reflects the Amish resistance to change, respect for tradition and interpretation of biblical instructions against conforming to the ways of the world (e.g., Romans 12:2). The plainness of their dressings gives big importance of the humility in the Amish communities. The men and young boys wear broad-brimmed black hats with dark colored suits; straights cut coats without the collars or lapels. Their pants are broad fall pants with suspenders with solid-colored shirts along with black socks and shoes. The men’s shirts may be fastened with buttons but the coats and vest have to have hooks and eyes.

Belts and ties are not allowed along with gloves being worn. A man before he is married must be cleaned shaved but as soon as they get married they must grow out their beard, no mustaches they are forbidden. Amish woman and young girls wear long full dresses with capes over their shoulders, shawls and black shoes and stockings. The capes and aprons are connected with straight pins or snaps. The women are not allowed to cut their hair and it must be worn in a bun or a braid with a black or white bonnet on top. Women are not allowed to wear makeup or any sort of jewelry.

Amish do not really live in complete isolation like we think they do. They make trips to the grocery store on regular basis. The do not use a car or anything, they have buggies. Buggies are a box-like, usually black but some may be white, gray or even yellow. Many Amish groups can be noticed by their chosen color of their buggy. The Amish may also travel on some occasions but prefer to take the bus.

Amish do not allow picture of themselves to be taken because they believe that its graven images are in violation of the second commandment. It is also considered way to close to unreal to allow a person’s picture to be taken. This is for the same reason why the dolls of the young Amish girls do not have a face. You would have never guessed that even the dolls would have no face. This is truly amazing to me and very surprising. I’ve never looked at life like that like the Amish do. They take religion very honest and serious.

Amish are really good farmers and most of them are self-supporting but some have to sell produce and crafts to outsiders in order to make an actual living. Products that the Amish make are in high value because of the good craftsmanship and quality. Even though the Amish would want to be cut off from the non- Amish world for good, they really cannot. The Amish do have a need to trade and only prefer to handle trades and deals with the few trusted people. The stores they call “Mom and pop” are the ones they most likely use rather than the other sort of stores. Mom and pop stores are general stores with buggies out front are usually hot spots for tourists. A lot of the times the stores usually deals with more tourists than Amish.

The business person may sometimes set up road blocks for the Amish with a small hang written sign or word it with using words to get the Amish what they need. The tourists’ usually will not stop but thankfully the Amish do find the business man. This here show how much the Amish does not want non-Amish around or associated with them. If an Amish had to sell he could always go to the middleman for the cash and then the middleman can sell their goods at his store.

Amish marriages really start when they are young and they are expected to remain married. It is limited on who to marry because a lot of women choose to leave the Amish life since than male gets the family farm. With that being said a lot of times the young people do not usually marry their close relatives. From what I am getting at since young women leave there are more men than women so sometimes the men might have to marry their first cousin. This is also caused because of the intermarriages that had happened within another part of the genetically isolated group.

The wedding is celebrated that is benefited for the whole community and always expect them to start having children as soon as possible. Amish family usually has up to seven children. Other Amish give gifts and the parents help by giving some livestock, furniture and other things to help the new married couple get started. Amish do not believe in divorce, yet it has happened but not like our divorce rate in non-Amish. The weddings usually takes place after the fall harvest, November is the most likable month because the winter has not come yet. At the age 16 is when the courtship begins, but most cases the couple will marry when they are 20 or older and both of them must be a church member.

After being wedded, the new couple spends the first night at the bride’s parents and lives with them until spring time when they get their own home. For the honey moon, they have a weekend visiting numerous relatives. For non- Amish this is totally different. I mean non-Amish spend money up the high mountain for a honey mood place, but for the Amish it is all about family. This shows the commitment they have for their beliefs.

Amish working is divided by gender. As the men are usually working on the farm taking care of the land, the women are in charge of doing the house hold chores which is the cooking, cleaning and washing. The men are in charge of the money. Along with gender roles the younger Amish boys usually with the father and the younger Amish girls are with the mother inside doing chores.

Since the Amish choose to rely on themselves and other members of their local Amish community, they do not draw social security. Also Amish do not accept any help from the government for assistance. Amish avoid violence, so they do not serve in the military either along with any law enforcement.

Amish homes do have weapons inside. A lot of the farmers keep some guns at home in order to shoot any animals that are not supposed to be in the home. Many of the Amish are hunters and have gun collections. They are allowed to take the weapons to go on hunting trips. They may also go hunting on land that is owned for hunting located outside of a settlement but in some cases are allowed to be out of state. The Amish do not see any harm in hunting like some people do outside an Amish community. This allows them to enjoy the life in nature and allows them to be able to feed their family. However, some of the Amish have disapproved to the practice of buying hunting equipment that is a lot of money.

As you can see the Amish try very hard to not have to communicate with non-Amish people. They have their own ways of doing things and different ways they live. They are strong believers in religion and follow every rule they have. Not many people can understand why they live this way and I personally do not think any non- Amish will understand. Amish people probably look at us as we are not responsible. Amish have different ways of marriages, church services, clothing and basically responsibility than we do.

REFERENCES

Hempton, D. (2011) B. Tauris History of the Christian Church: Church in the Long Eighteenth Century. Church History-18th Century: I.B Tauris Kraybill, D (2011) Riddle of Amish Culture (Revised Edition). Johns Hopkins University Press David, M. (2000) Bur Oak Book: Sarah’s Seasons: An Amish Diary and Conversation. University of Iowa Press Wiseman, B. (2013) [Amish fun facts] Retrieved from https://bethwiseman.com/amish-life/amish-fun-facts/facts Wesner, E. (2010) [Amish America] Retrieved from http://amishamerica.com/why-dont-amish-serve-in-the-military Wise, S. (1998-2013) [How the Amish Work] Retrieved from http://people.howstuffworks.com/amish3.htm Bose, D. (2000, 2012, 2013) [Amish people Facts] Retrieved from http://www.buzzle.com/articles/amish-people-facts.html Sheftel, B. (no date) [Confessions of an Amish Women] Retrieved from http://beawriter.tripod.com/amishwomen.html