In an age where technology and modernity fuel our every move, it’s a bit surprising to know that there is still a group of people who get by without the help of modern technology. And that group of people are the Amish. The Amish are an interesting religious minority group that is traditionalist Christians with Swiss German Anabaptist origins. They are best known for their choices of simple living, plain clothing, peculiar beard lengths, and avoidance of technology. But these things only cover the top layer of what turns out to be a profound and rooted culture of the Amish community.
Amish roots go way back to the time of the Protestant Reformation in 16th-century Europe. Their religious ancestors were called Anabaptists because they were rebaptized adults who have already been baptized by the Catholic or Protestant church when they were young. For several decades, Anabaptists were abhorred by the Catholics and Protestants until 160 years later, a man named Jakob Amman stepped up to be the leader of Swiss Anabaptism and pushed for its reform, thus giving birth to his followers eventually known as the Amish.
Education ends at 8th Grade
An Amish child’s life is pre-determined since the day they were born—if you are a boy, then you will go into farming, carpentry, or other woodworks and if you are a girl, you will grow up to be a housewife so you will need to learn the skills of homemaking like sewing, cooking, and gardening. With their future trades cut and dried, the Amish don’t see the need for further higher education. So, they stop learning at 8th grade, only learning the basics and most fundamental knowledge needed to get by. Unlike the rest of the world, schools in the Amish community do not aim to produce scientists, engineers, musicians, artists, or presidents, instead, they aim to teach their children the worth of hardwork, ethical living, and the values needed to be a good member of the Amish community.
According to the 2018 statistics, the typical American family consists of only 3 members in average, meaning they only have one or two children, the Amish families on the other hand, typically consists of six to seven children—triple the size of an average American family! The Amish don’t believe in the use of contraceptives so married couples make love to mainly reproduce more children. Having a large family is not a big deal for them though, because having more people means more manpower for the farms and the community.
As Amish couples make love to procreate and not just to satisfy their needs, they tend to reproduce a large number of children. So to help with their urges and avoid too much physical intimacy, they usually use beds with a board divider in the middle. This kind of bed is also used in the early stages of Amish dating.
The Amish courting process is quick and straight to the point. First, the couple meet and the boy asks the girl if he could take her home then they usually spend one night together in bed…not to make love but to do other things that are intimate like talking for hours until the wee hours in the morning, sharing personal thoughts and feelings and subtle physical touches. After that, they’d continue to spend time together for a couple of days and then decide whether or not they’d like to continue with their relationship. Pretty cute, right? But apparently, not everything in the Amish community is all good and light…
The Amish are a predominantly patriarchal society. They believe that a woman is created below men because it said so in the Bible. Women are not given the same opportunities as men as they are only born and raised to be housewives and homemakers. The Amish don’t see anything wrong with this structure, though because they have always adhered to this kind of societal structure. They also don’t view being a housewife as a degradation of any sort because men are grateful for their homely skills and capabilities.
Frequent cases of incest and abuse
Just like any other race or religious group, the Amish also have their imperfections and shortcomings and some of them involve cases of sexual abuse and even incest. As the Amish are a closely-knit community, it is not uncommon for them to marry into someone within their family and as a result, a number of their children suffer from genetic disorders. Even more shocking than incest is the widespread acts of sexual abuse towards the Amish women. In some cases, the women aren’t aware that what they are going through is wrong and unlawful because they have been brought up in that kind of situation all their lives. An Amish escapee opened up to the media about suffering from sexual abuse herself and witnessing other women in their area get regularly abused by men in their family and no one ever did anything about it.
One of the many things that the Amish follow strictly are the avoidance of photographs, or more specifically, getting their pictures taken. For them, taking pictures of oneself promotes vanity and vanity is not needed and disrupts the peace in the Amish community. Ever since the beginning, they did not take any photos, so new generation never knew what their great godparents or ancestors looked like. Although they don’t like taking photos of themselves, they don’t mind getting photographed by people. As long as they don’t seem to be posing because posing is also a sign of vanity and as long as people don’t treat them like zoo animals, watching them and taking photos of their every move. They allow people from the outside and tourists to look at them and take photos of their places and appearances, knowing that they are a unique and interesting group of people.
No motor vehicles
The Amish don’t employ the use of motor vehicles, instead, they still use horses and horse-drawn carriages called “buggy” up till today. It might be puzzling for outsiders but the Amish actually have good reasons for not using motor vehicles. First, as they believe in living a simple and plain life, they believe that using the old system of transportation adheres to this belief. Second, they also believe that using buggies slow down the pace of life, which the Amish aim for in their community, mostly spending their days farming, gardening, spending time with their family, and going to church. Another is the horse-and-buggy acts as a symbol of Amishness, much like the beards and the clothes. It should be known though, that they still use motor vehicles in cases like traveling to visit their relatives in different states, large shopping trips for businesses, deliveries for businesses, and emergencies as long as a non-Amish will be driving the vehicle.
One of the first things outsiders notice about the Amish is the way they dress. The Amish dress code is simple—plain, simple, not eye-catching, and doesn’t make you stand out from the crowd. This is in relation to their main goal of living a down-to-earth and modest life and also to set them apart from the rest of the world. Amish men usually wear a dark vest or coat, dark trousers with suspenders, and a hat appropriate for the season. They don’t use buttons, zippers, or belt buckles because those seem too flashy for them. The women, on the other hand, only wear dresses made from plain fabrics with only one color. Amish women also never cut their hair so they often put it in a braid or cover it with a white bonnet that is changed to black when they get married. Their dresses also come with aprons which are suitable for them as they’re always doing different chores.
Source of pollution
Although the Amish live simply and away from the hustle and bustle of the city, it doesn’t mean that they don’t contribute to the country’s pollution. In fact, they cause so much water and land pollution that it’s becoming a problem. Amish communities normally have barns and farms in their communities, but they have so much livestock that they can’t control how much waste they release into the outside world. In fact, in Pennsylvania, where one of America’s largest Amish communities are, release an alarming amount of fertilizers into the Chesapeake Bay causing water pollution. Sadly, this isn’t the only thing that the Amish do against nature…
Unlike other people who see animals as pets or valuable creatures, the Amish only see them as servants or a source of food. So it’s no surprise that they treat their animals with violence. Cows, horses, and other farm animals are reportedly overworked and are beaten when they misbehave or don’t perform as well. An Amish man was charged with animal cruelty before as witnesses saw him beating the life out of his buggy horse. Moreover, Amish communities own 20% of the USA’s puppy mills. They breed a gazillion puppies in their communities and sell them to third parties. The bad thing is that they don’t care much about the well-being of the pups, they are sheltered in overpopulated cages and given so little food, that results in a lot of them dying out of poor health conditions.
No technology, no electricity
Amish people believe that technology is a form of evil because it provides easy contact with worldly ideas and values. They also believe that technology that makes life easier takes away the value of hardwork and diligence from their children, causing them to just rely on modernity. So because of this, Amish people live using ancient tools and equipment. Most Amish communities also don’t employ the use of electricity, so they create their own electricity from solar power or other energy sources as they don’t want to be part of the same line that distributes electricity to the rest of the world.
Amish men are most renowned for their unique, long, full beards. Why is it unique? Because for the rest of the men in the world, growing a beard also comes with growing a mustache, but Amish men only grow their beards. As the Amish are a closed Christian sect, they follow the Bible strictly and in the Bible, only the beards and not the mustaches were featured and sported by the ancient people. Beards are also an indicator of the current marital status of Amish men, if they are still unmarried, they can keep their beards clean and shaven, but once they get married, they can’t ever cut their beards again. This rule is to be obeyed at all costs at any circumstances and if broken, they would have to face serious consequences. And speaking of consequences, the Amish have the ultimate and most serious consequence of all…
Shunning is one of the most ancient forms of punishments and as you know by now, the Amish are not ones to follow change and modernity so it comes as no big surprise to know that they still practice this form of punishment. Shunning or Meidung, as they call it in their dialect, occurs when a person violates the Ordnung or their fundamental rules. It’s a form of social avoidance. When you get shunned, you get excommunicated from the Amish Church and banned from talking or communicating in any way with your family and friends. Basically you are thrown out of the Amish community entirely. But shunning is only employed in the most severe cases of Ordnung violations and serves only as a last resort.
Since time immemorial, baptism has always been an important and vital part of an Amish person’s life. They believe that joining the faith and the community should be done and decided with a sound mind and heart. This is to ensure that they fully understand the Ordnung and everything that the Amish life entails. Baptisms usually occur between ages 16-22. They make their conscious choice to get baptized in the Amish Church after being given the chance to experience and have a look at what the outside world has to offer.
Amish teens are given the rite of passage called Rumspringa which can be loosely translated to English as “running around”. This is the time when Amish teens are given a few weeks to go out to the world to travel, explore, and experience things they haven’t experienced before. Although most of the mass media’s portrayals of the rumspringa always depicted the Amish youth participating in wild and illegal activities during this time, it’s not always the case. Some Amish youth don’t even move out to the city and still stay home at their parents’ houses and just go out from time to time. Some engage in more wholesome activities like acquiring a driver’s license and experience driving, going to concerts, and going on dates.
If you think that once they experience the worldly things the outside has to offer, they wouldn’t want to go back to their plain and simple living, you’re totally wrong because 90% of the youth still go back and get officially baptized into the Amish Church.
American Amish generally speak English and Pennsylvania German or Dutch, a dialect of the German language. There are some similarities with the German language spoken in Europe today but the difference is in Pennsylvania German or Dutch, a lot of English words have already been mixed with the old existing German ones. Some who live in different areas also speak Swiss Amish a type of Swiss dialect. Although their dialect is Pennsylvania German or Dutch, Amish Churches use High German in sermons because the Bible also uses High German.
Much like their time here on earth, the Amish also practice simple, plain, and practical funeral services. Like most common people, they embalm their deceased and prepare them for viewing at their home or at church. The pastor then gives a sermon and the casket is taken to its final place, the Amish cemetery. The caskets are made of plain materials with no ornaments whatsoever and the tomb heads are often left without marks or identity. Just like normal people with emotions, the Amish also grieve but they tend not to dwell on the unfortunate side of the situation but accept death as a will of God.
Despite the seemingly peaceful and secluded life of the Amish, some people still choose to pack their bags and leave behind their life of being Amish. There are different reasons and circumstances as to why people decide to leave. Some choose not to be baptized after their rumspringa, some are born Amish but later on decide not to continue with the lifestyle, some are shunned, and some are converted into different Christian religions or beliefs.