Amish are a well-known religious group in America. “The Amish culture is known for simple living, reluctance to use modern technology, and a heavy emphasis on church and family relationships.” (Rogers, Horst, Rogers, Lee, & Reihart, 2013, p. 916). They are known for their beliefs and practices and their desire to live in a clean and virtuous environment. They are hard workers and discourage lives of excess and greed. A brief into their religion and beliefs helps shine light into a popularly researched and examined religious group.
Some of the aspects of culture to be briefly explained involve rules and dress. For instance, the Ordung or the list of oral or written rules outlines the fundamentals of Amish religion, helping to define how to live and be Amish. The Ordung can and does dictate every facet of an Amish person’s life. This can include hair length, beard length for males, dress, and even how Amish people farm. The Ordung is different within each community. Some Amish for instance, drive automobiles, while others do not use electricity.
Amish dress is another important aspect of Amish culture. It is a symbol of their faith and encourages separation and humility from the outside world. Amish fashion is simple avoiding most ornamentation. Any clothing worn is usually made at home using simple fabrics and is typically dark in color. Amish men where coats with no collars, pockets, or lapels and then women wear full length skirts, aprons, and capes along with some form of head covering, usually a bonnet. Any stocking worn are usually made of black cotton.
Some of the fundamental beliefs of the Amish include their belief in the Bible. The Amish see the Bible as the inerrant and inspired word of God. They believe in Communion which is practiced two times a year both in the spring and fall. The Amish vehemently believe in humility and practice disbelief in eternal security. Although in past instances the Amish believed in spreading their beliefs to others, in recent times, they have made it less of a priority, deciding to live their lives isolated. The Amish, like many Christian sects, believe in Baptism and practice adult baptism. The reason they perform baptism on adults is because they believe at that developmental stage, the person is old enough to make a decision. Amish also believe in heaven and hell and must follow the church’s rules in order to get access to heaven.
Certain forms of social control are practiced by the Amish in order to control their children’s behavior as well as their wives. Such behaviors include separation and shunning. Separation means the Amish isolate themselves from society and practice this as a fundamental belief. Their belief lies in the idea that secular culture contaminates their religion and the people within. In order to keep separation active within Amish culture, they prohibit or avoid watching and using radios, televisions, computers, and any other modern appliances. They typically live off the grid.
Shunning, a controversial Amish belief, is the practice of business and social avoidance of individuals within the Amish community that violate the rules. Because this practice is so controversial, it is not seen often within the community. It is seen and applied as a last resort. Members who are excommunicated can be welcomed back if they show remorse and repent.
Women are a vital and integral part of Amish society. However, they are not seen or treated as equals. Women are allowed to work and do so as teachers or hired help in households but must remain in the household when married. Women are also not allowed to become leaders in the church but can and do vote on church and community matters. Women can be educated but there is some restriction. Women ultimately in public are supposed to fall back to the opinion and decisions of the husband, however in the home, women have more of an opinion on decision matters, especially concerning the home. Because it is a Biblical-based society, women are treated in a subservient fashion compared to the men. “The Amish are a pacifist Christian sect widely misunderstood as quaint and even backward; their traditional work is small-scale farming. In 1972 the Amish wrested the national right — via a U.S. Supreme Court case — to educate their children only through 8th grade, and in their own schools” (Howley, Howlet, Burgess, & Pusateri, 2008, p. 1). The article also highlights for main themes that emerged from examination of transcripts.
Four themes emerged from the analysis of transcripts: (1) “in league with parents,” (2) “teaching agrarian values,” (3) “educating for community participation,” and (4) “embracing all children.” These themes were, in fact, the obverse of those that characterized the other five schools represented in the overall data set, making it by far the most egalitarian school studied (Howley, Howlet, Burgess, & Pusateri, 2008, p. 1).
What this meant within Amish society is that education was not restricted to males. Education is an important part of Amish society even if it is restricted to a certain level of education. Education is meant to help people within the community to fully participate and help, be of service. After all, Amish society is small in comparison to other populations and needs active participation from all in order to survive. That means that women can and do receive education similar to that of the males.
Confession is an important part of Amish society and most crimes can be forgiven if one confesses and repents. Many horror stories of Amish culture reveal men who rape and molest children are forgiven simply because they confess. This is not always the case, but has been documented from eye witness testimonials of Amish women. Certain crimes weigh more than others. For instance, drinking is considered more taboo and less tolerable than sex crimes. The largest punishment one can face in Amish society is shunning. Otherwise, disputes are settled by the bishop, the highest-ranking member of the Amish clergy. If problems become too big to be settled by the bishop, other bishops from other populations in other states step in to help resolve the issue. The Amish lifestyle is motivated by the notion of “gelassenheit,” a German word that proposes tranquility, discreetness of character, and obedience to God, church and family. This means that people can and will get away with crimes due to the way of Amish life as seen by the countless stories of rape and abuse in Amish society.
A brief history of the Amish in the United States during the earlier centuries show agricultural innovations and a society keen on agricultural development. “The 18th and 19th century Amish in the United States were noted for their agricultural innovations, and were among the first to practice: “stall feeding of cattle, crop rotation, meadow irrigation, and to use natural fertilizers and clover and alfalfa pastures as a means of restoring fertility to the soil” (Thompson, 1984, p. 40). Although this agricultural innovation is absent in modern times, it does show some of the complexity of Amish culture. Often outsiders view Amish culture as being stuck in time and to some extent it is. But Amish culture is progressing. Amish women can own businesses and the Amish are beginning to use more and more electricity.
In conclusion, the Amish are an old and well-known religion culture embedded in American history. Several stories discuss how the Amish live, what crimes exist within the culture and their habits and way of dressing. It is and will remain a mysterious yet interesting culture full of history and controversy. Much like other Christian sects such as Mormonism, the Amish follow their own doctrines and sets of rules.
Howley, A., Howlet, C., Burgess, L., & Pusateri, D. (2008). Social Class, Amish Culture, and an Egalitarian Ethos: Case Study from a Rural School Serving Amish Children. Journal of Research in Rural Education, 23(3), 1.
Rogers, A.B., Horst, M., Rogers, F., Lee, J., & Reihart, M. (2013). From the barn to the operating room and back: The Amish way of life leads to improved throughput and outcomes following trauma. Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery, 75(5), 916.
Thompson, W.E. (1984). OLD ORDER AMISH IN OKLAHOMA & KANSAS: RURAL TRADITION IN URBAN SOCIETY. FREE INQUIRY IN CREATIVE SOCIOLOGY, 12(1), 40.
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