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What People Believe: The Amish

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Horse-drawn carts, isolation and rejection of technology are the first things that spring to mind. But who really are the Amish? TNS looks at the facts behind the secretive religion.

Who?

The Amish community are an American Christian group descended from European Anabaptists who fled to the USA in the 1730s to escape persecution. The Amish speak three languages: Pennsylvania Dutch at home, High German in worship and English to outsiders. The complete Amish community is thought to have around 200,000 members but this is formed from many groups, each with around 40 households.

What do they believe?

Community is at the heart of Amish life and as such, individualism is not encouraged. Although the Amish value self-help, it is expected that the community will always come to the aid of anyone who is in need. A simple life and a humble self are of prime importance; they do not believe that power should be chased or enjoyed.

Due to the value of God’s creation, the Amish advocate living harmoniously with nature and in peace with all fellow humans. Harsh words and violence are viewed as wholly detrimental; any issues are resolved by the community as a whole.

The community does have a limited relationship with the world outside but this is not due to any hatred of external communities. Instead, Amish believe that salvation only comes from living separately from the wider world and its influence. They take their inspiration from Romans 12:2 which says: “be not conformed to this world”.

A life of goodness is valued ahead of a life of intellect. The religious faith of the Amish is inextricably linked to their way of life, a life of spiritual activity and self-denial. The Amish are against homosexuality, sex outside of marriage, divorce and public nudity.

What do they do?

The Amish community try to be as self-sufficient as possible but they do maintain some contact with the outside world through occasional business with the surrounding areas. However, they produce most of their own food through farming and the women often make all the clothes. Clothes are simple and not seen as a way to promote individualism. Men don straw hats, shirts and trousers with braces while women are often seen in dresses and bonnets.

Refusing to accept state benefits and insurance is one way in which the Amish community avoid reliance on the outside community. Each Amish district considers itself entirely separate from not only the world, but other Amish compounds. There is no central authority and members live by unwritten rules called Ordung. These rural communities endeavour to stay that way; Amish are often reluctant to use any new technology. Cars, electricity and phones are not used.

Every member of the community must practice strict commitment to church rules and an individual who disobeys must ask for forgiveness. As part of these rules, Amish only ever marry other Amish and children (most families have 7 or 8) are educated only up to the age of 14, after which they learn practical skills.

Worship takes place in various houses within the community and ministers are selected from the group as opposed to being professionally trained.

Weird facts...

At the age of 16, Amish children are allowed into the outside world to decide if they wish to be fully baptised into the community.

The Amish don’t use cameras due to the biblical ban on making images in chapter 20 of the book of Exodus.

Amish men grow beards only after they marry but never moustaches, due to the connection to nineteenth-century military generals.




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