amish family riding a horse carriage

Anthropology: The History and Lifestyle of Amish Christians in the Modern World

Anabaptised movment
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Anabaptist Christian Movment

Anabaptist Christians were members of  a fringe or a radical movement. It was the prostant Reformationand spiritual ancestors of  Morder Baptist Mennoneta, and Quaker.  During  that time, it was a crime  punishable by death under the legal rules of that time. The Anabaptists believed that infants and young children are not accountable for sin until they become aware of good and evil and can exercise  their own free will, repent and accept baptism. If they wanted to be followers of Jesus Christ.

Anabaptist ( from the Greek word Dana “again”)

Most Anabaptists were pacifists who opposed war and the use of coercive measures to maintain social order. They also refused to swear oaths, including those of civil authorities. Therefore, many faced persecution and danger. The members thought it was the end of time and the return of Jesus Christ. Churches and any Anabaptised member who made public commitments to their faith were immediately separated from the state. Which they believed existed only for the punishment of sinners.

Jakob Amman

Amish Leader Jacob Ammann
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Jakob Amman was born on the 12 February 1644 in Erienbach, Switzerland. Between 1712-1730 he was an Anabaptist leader and the namesake of the Amish religious movement. He was  known for his prominent involvement in a schism among the Swiss Brethren that began in 1693. Jakob was blamed for division, and was portrayed as an angry, harsh and demanding leader who imposed his views on others for many decades.

Jakob was a firm disciplinarian and did not comprise what he believed in, and expected others to conform to the teachings of Christ and his apostles. They would forsake the world and practice a very practical separation in their everyday life . Jackob disregarded longstanding customs and practices if they were not in the Bible. He denied all accusations of trying to start a new faith. He believed in a new birth experience that would radically change a person.

” If a mister does not turn from his fornication. And the drunkard from his drunkenness, or immoralities, is thereby separated from the kingdom of God. If he does not improve himself through a pious, penitent, life, such a person is no Christian and will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” By Jacob Amman.

Amish Christian History

Amish community village
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Amish Christians, who are also members of the Amish Mennonite church, were among the followers of Jakob Ammann. The Amish people emigrated to North America in the 18th century and first settled in Pennsylvania, where you can still find a large settlement today.  Schism and disruption occurred after the 1850s because of the tension between the “new order” Amish, who were open to social change and technological innovations. While the “old order” or traditional, the Amish did not believe in new social changes and way of life. During the 50 years, about two-thirds of the Amish formed separate small churches of their own or joined the Mennonite Church.

Religiouse practices

A picture of the Amish community attending church

“You shall not be conformed to the world” (Romans 12:2)

Amish practices  are to reject “Hochmut”(pride, arrogance and haughtiness.) They believe and place high value Gelassenheit(calmness, composure, placidity), which is translated into “submission” or “letting-be”.

Church services take place in one of the members’ homes or barn, every Sunday. The congregation is led  by a bishop and several other ministers or deacons. The Amish have a combination of electoral votes and cleromancy, which is the casting of lots as a means of divination. Bishops conduct Church services in German, or Pennsylvania Dutch. Holy communion is a celebration of unity in the congregation, as well as a symbol of commitment to following Jesus. Along with that, they also practice  feet-washing twice a year.

Family and community are the cornerstone of the Amish faith. Hence, the requirement for marriage is within the Amish. It is also a common practice to have a special place in the home reserved alongside the Bible for the Martyrs Mirror, a book chronicling Amish history and honoring the many Amish, Mennonite, and Anabaptist forebears who died for their faith.

Amish Community

The Amish are traditional Christians that believe in community and continue to live their lives as interpreted in the Bible, as well as the  Ordung, a set of rules for Amish, old order Mennonite and conservative Mennonite living. That prescribes behaviour, appearance and other aspects of the Amish culture. It results in Amish community life being one of humility, modesty, obedience, equality and simplicity.

Family life is one of the most important social units among the Amish. It’s very common for families to have seven to ten children, and the high birth rates increase the growth of the community. Usually, most children choose to remain in the community and church. Because jobs, long-standing friendships and business opportunities provide incentives to stay in the community.

Amish Beliefs and Practices

A family taking a walk in the community
An Amish family walking in Mennonite. (Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

“Their belief is that God has a personal and abiding interest in their lives, family and communites

The Amish Style of dressing

The Asian Christian style of dressing is plain. Their dress is the most obvious outward manifestation of their faith, purity and social separation from the world. It demonstrates group allegiance and identity, as well as the willingness to be part of the faith’s standards.

Amish women wear modest, solid colored dresses, with long sleeves and a full-length skirt with a cape and apron. Amish women wear their hair in a bun and never cut their hair. With no jewelry nor make-up

Amish men wear dark coloured suits, straight – coat coats with no lapels, broad-fall trousers,suspenders, solid-colored shirts,black socks and shoes, black hats or broad straw-brimmed hats. shirts fasten with conventional buttons, suits coats and vest fasten with hooks and eyes. Men do not wear mustaches and generally wait until marriage to grow beards.

Amish women

In the Amish tradition, a women refers to her husband as the head of the family. Although this may be true, she plays a very important role in the stability and growth of the family. She takes part in most of the financial decisions. All matters of the home, garden, animals and the children are her main responsibilities. Some Amish women also own and operate their own small businesses, such as  raising poultry or vegetables,baking,or sewing quills and other handcrafted items; some run bakeries, fabric shops, restaurants and more. The Amish culture values women and, on some levels, even afforded types of equality and freedom.

Technology and Electricity

Electricity and technology are a taboo in the Amish community. This is a public symbol of their separation from the world. They believe the use of public electricity and utility lines connects them to the outside world. This ban has prevented secular influences from intruding into Amish homes . It silences all debates over the uses of new electrical gadgets such as radios, TVs and appliances and more. So what do the Amish use to keep their communities running?

In  order to power tools for the cottage industry, farm equipment and some household appliances. The Amish get creative, using air or hydraulic powered motors, and self-contained batteries as these have no connection to the outside world.To operate major appliances such as refrigerators, stoves and water heaters, they use bottled gas. In addition to lighting their homes and shops, the Amish utilize pressurized gas lanterns to mount on walls, hang from ceilings and attach to mobile carts.

Amish views on photography

The Amish value and follow this Biblical commandment, “Thou shalt not make unto thyself a graven image”.

The Amish prefer to be remembered for the lives they lived and the examples they have left behind.  Not their physical appearance, because pride is viewed as a threat to the community. So, according to  the commandment which is followed, it is believed that personal photographs can accentuate individuality and call attention to one’s self. Therefore, all photographs in which they can be recognized are prohibited. Just as they do not carry personal photographs or display them in homes.

Amish Transportation system

When modern care became a common fixture in American life, it also became the American symbol of freedom, independence and mobility. The slower paces of horses and trolleys  were no longer the primary mode of transportation, and in many ways this clashed with the traditional values of the amish culture. The concept and use of the automobile breeds inequality in the eyes of the Amish.

The horse and buggy is the prominent mode of transportation, naturally limiting travel, and interaction with the non- Amish world. This also prevents the erosion of geographically organized local church districts, because members cannot simply drive to the congregation of their choice. The Amish rely on hiring non-ami drivers to take them to social functions on the outskirts, and businessmen often make agreements with non-Amish persons to haul materials needed , or employ non-Amish people to provide transportation.

Amish Education

Amish children receive formal education up until eighth grade. Schooling concentrates on the basic reading, writing and math skills and socialization in Amish history and values. The Amish live a very simple life, therefore their main focus for their children is to learn how to thrive and live within the community by learning essential skills such as

  • Practicality Amish trades are agricultural or craftsmanship-oriented: Amish empizie apprenticeship and hand on-learning.
  • Religious objections- Amish feel higher education can promote ideas counter to Christian values.

School is conducted in houses which have been converted, and small portions of land are donated by the members of the community to keep up with the demands of school children. Most  of the teachers are usually young women who have not  married yet. It is seldom that men take on the role as a teacher.

Amish health

The amish are very cautious about healthcare. Most of their medical procedures are out-of-pocket and cash.Usually, in some communities, they have a community doctor that will attend to the community’s medical needs. Moreover, worldly practices such as medical insurance, birth control and immunization are discouraged. They believe this shows a lack of faith in God.

Amish Financials

Despite their separation from modern culture, the Amish are still part of the larger economic system. They lean on the world for raw materials and supplies. Banks  and paying their taxes is something they do like every citizen. The only thing they do not do is pay for social security and collect social security benefits and welfare checks.  Hence, a financial aid scheme  is available  for the community. To assist them with their medical bills, disaster relief and any other financial constraints the members of the community face. Therefore, financial security and protection come from the community itself.

Amish teenage break

Rumspringa simply refers to adolescence. The period, which begins at the age of 16, is because young teenagers are no longer under the total control of their parents on weekends. During Rumspringa, the youth  enter a time of grater social activity. Some will participate in activities such as volleyball,swimming, picnics, parties and any outdoor activity which is not part of their daily lives. Some will go as far as buying a car-wearing non-Amish clothing. Most typically attend singing gatherings in someone’s home where they sing German hymns and English gospel songs for several hours and then enjoy a time of conversation and tradtional food. Some will use this time to find themselves a mate to marry, with the blessing of their parents.

Amish Occupations

  • Produce farming- can be operated on a few acres of land. Whereas, dairy farms require 60-80 acres of land to become profitable. The Amish prefer produce farming because it is labor intensive rather than mechanized. Which suits them well. Some Amish specialize in organic produce and usually sell their produce at a produce auction. They also sell through co-ops, community-supported agricultural programs, and at roadside stands.
  • At home shops, the Amish have a variety of home businesses.The most common shops are  hand-made furniture or cabinets, sawmills and pallets. They also sell bulk foods , dry goods, buggy and harness shops. Amish women usually have a home business specializing in quilting, baking and craft businesses.
  • Factory and non-farming work in some Amish settlements, such as Geauga County, Ohio, Elkhart, Geauga  Counties in India. A large number of Amish make a living by working in factories.  Amish men factory workers can make a substantial income.

Conculsion

An overview of the Amish Faith and belief system
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Our beliefs shape our perspective on the world and the people around us. If we allow ourselves to learn and surround ourselves with different people, we are encouraged to go beyond what we know and we discover gems that can also shape the way we view and think of different cultures and religion. The Amish live a very simple and stress-free life. That which we could all benefit from in the modern world.

 

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