Who Are The Amish


Who Are The Amish Essay, Research Paper

Who are the Amish

If you are interested the values and lifestyle of the

nineteenth century, here is a great example: The

Amish, is a group of religious people who live in

settlements in 22 states and (Ontario), Canada. The

roots of the Amish come from Mennonite community, a

part of early Anabaptist Movement in Europe, which

took place at the time of the Reformation. At that

time, this movement were seen as heretical and the

members of the movement oppressed and people were

cruelly put to death by both Catholics and

Protestants. As a result, of this oppression from

larger religious groups and having a different point

of view in terms of interpretations of Christianity,

the Amish fled to the rural areas and isolated

themselves from the others. This separation from the

others can be the best answer to why the Amish have

insisted on being different from the contemporary

world. The Amish continue emphasizing the basic values

of the nineteenth century. Their distinctions from

other minorities in America are their different

beliefs, community structure and their simplistic


Until 1972 the Amish were forced to complete

high-school, at which point the supreme court

overturned this ruling to allow them to discontinue

after elementary school. Their lack of faith in the

American school system was made them to want withdraw

their children from school. They feared that U.S. high

school would spoil the children’s peaceful, simple

tendencies and push them into crime and violence.

Instead of public high school they have their own

schools, staffed with teachers from Amish backgrounds.

In the words of researcher John Andrew Hosstetler,

“The Amish school has generally been successful in

preparing young people to be honest, hardworking and

conscientious adults, capable of earning a living,

raising Christian family, and contributing to the

Amish community.” (29). Most Amish schools today have

one room and one teacher for all eight grades, and

English is the language of instruction.

Unlike the U.S. culture the Amish have their own

small communities. They live and die only within this

community without mingling with any others.

Individuality is of no concern to the Amish. They

become part of a whole community when they are

baptized, and remain so until death. The two most

important rules of the Amish demand that they are

separated from the rest of the world and that they

must be obedient to everything the church asks of

them. These two rules bring heavy restrictions on

them. Their strong ties to family and community limit

their interaction and participation in modern American

society. They do have to work among people outside of

their religions, for example, many in dairy factories,

but they do avoid working with any kind of modern

electronic machinery. They fallow the same

restrictions at home. For instance, most Amish

households do not have a central heating system, but

instead heat only the living room. This practice

gathers everyone in one room of the house and applies

to the importance they give to family and community.

Ruth Hoover Seitc states that “Almost all members of

the Amish community help each other to build a barn

and nothing is prefabricated. The entire structure is

built on location. In a single day.” (99). They try to

stay together and help each other with problems so

that interaction with the outside world is minimized.

The Amish still insists on rejecting modern

technology. For instance, they use gas lamps instead

electric lights and they reject using highly

sophisticated farming equipment, the Amish prefer

horse and cattle. “Kerosene lamps or pressurized lamps

are commonly used for general lighting. Ironically,

Amish farmers who do not use electricity may have to

put with massive power lines cut g through their

farms, ” says Merle Good in his book “Who are the

Amish?” (93). In addition to this the Amish children

play with hand-made toys. From a functionalist

perspective it can be said that the Amish are for the

most part isolated from American culture. They have

their own strict beliefs, their own churches and their

own communities. Family structure is more important to

them than the role they play in society. Amish people

refuse to be slaves of technology in the modern world.

Their basic principles in living are simplicity and

self-sufficiency, which are also factors in isolating

themselves from modern American culture.

The old order Amish gather to worship together, but

following a belief left from the years of exile and

torture in Europe, where they met in caves and

forests, they do not congregate in a church. Instead

Amish are separated from the modern Americans who

gather and pray in churches, although they have one

similarity in that they both study the same holly

book, the Bible. Bill Simpson points out that “The

Bible remains the central book of the Amish people and

they view the Bible as the guide for faith and life.”


The Amish mostly support themselves with agriculture.

They are very successful at farming, which is their

way of living according to their basic value,

simplicity. Mark Tompkins writes “The majority of all

Amish families earn their living by farming. Corn,

tobacco and alfalfa are favorite crops. ” (19). The

Amish have little impact on the American economy. Some

of them do work in regular jobs, but the majorities

are farmers who support their own community rather

than contributing to the American society. Stephen

Schiff reports that “Amish volunteers help prepare

meat to be canned and shipped overseas through

Mennonite Central Community. This worldwide service

agency distributes many millions of dollars of aid and

service to countries of all political affiliations,

‘in the name of Christ.’ (73). They sometimes organize

auctions that are open to the general public, but this

is the only time they interact with others than their

own community.

The Amish do pay taxes, but they do not receive any

social service relief or medical aid. They do not take

any kind of assistance from the government because

they do not value modern comforts in any way. It could

also be said that patriotism, which is an important

part of American culture, is not an issue for Amish.

Although they were required to join the army during

WWI, they were mostly stationed in offices and medical

facilities due to their strict ideas about peace, not

harming others and not bearing arms. Willis Thompson

and George Hanson, two such Amish people who survived

the war and are now living in Olivet Michigan as

professors in the local college, refused to take arms

during the war. They were as a result put into medical

troops to serve out their duties. In this way they

were able to maintain their personal beliefs without

jeopardizing the good of the country.

Amish as a way of expressing their faith, wear simple

clothes. While the American have been the slaves of

clothing daily fashion, the Amish continue to wear

their traditional clothes. For example, unlike the

mainstream women, Amish women wear modest dresses with

long sleeves and full skirts covered with a cape and

apron. On their heads, they wear a prayer bonnet; the

white one for marrieds, and the black one for singles.

Amish women also never use jewelry. This sharp

difference in terms of clothes is also seen between

Amish men and the mainstream men. Amish men and boys

wear dark colored suits, black socks, loose-fitting

trousers, solid-colored shirts, and black coats and


Almost all Amish are trilingual. They can speak a

regional dialect of German, High German, and English.

At home, they use the regional dialect. High German is

their worship language. English is only used when they

faced with anyone who is not Amish. They use the

dialect of Germany, when they speak to each other.

In deed as a result of having some tragic

experiences, the Amish have preferred to isolate

themselves from the modern world. They reject

modernity because they think that modernity can

destroy their simplicity and solidarity. However, it

is not possible to say that the Amish seem stuck in

history. Although they look like they stepped out of

the rural nineteenth century, in fact, they change.

They definitely are not stuck anywhere. Before

accepting new innovations, they examine them

carefully. If the innovations do not assist in keeping

their simplicity and their togetherness, they probably

will reject them. Unfortunately, in order to survive,

this unique culture has had to make many compromises.

With the advancement of technology and the growth of

population they are beginning to face many problems,

such as the loss of farmland which is so vital to

their survival. Tourism and housing developments have

contributed a lot to this problem. The younger Amish

generation is showing signs of wanting to the leave

the community, which is an act that could have many

effects on the next generation of Amish. The chances

of survival for the Old Amish Order against the modern

U.S. culture are not very strong. Sadly they might

give in to the pressure eventually and go with the

easy flow of modern society, and this will be the end

of a magnificently unique Old World establishment.

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