A Brief Look at the World of the Amish

Amish family riding in a traditional Amish buggy in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, USA.

The Amish culture is steeped in tradition and history. All Amish follow the Ordnung, or rules that are set for them by the Bible, but it’s not just all work and no play.

The Amish are a group of people with distinct religious beliefs that are separate from the main stream. Historically, the Amish took their name from founder Jacob Ammann, who was from Alsace, Sweden. The Amish are Swiss Anabaptists who fled to America to live a God filled life, where they immigrated to Pennsylvania in the 1700’s, and then out to Ohio over the course of one hundred years. Since then, they can now be found in communities in several other states, and Canada. The only Amish people in the world are found in the Northwest hemisphere. The Amish speak a dialect of German, which is termed Pennsylvania Dutch, and while in school they learn English to talk to ‘outsiders’ or ‘English’.

To Live and Die by the Ordnung

The ‘Ordnung’ is the code of church discipline; this is to say the order in which Amish live privately, publicly and ceremonially. Therefore, it is the ordering of the entire way of life. The Ordnung is not written down, but it is considered to be verbal agreements and physical traditions that are simply understood. The Ordnung is also seen as evolving laws that are passed down through the generation to uphold the Amish way of life. Some areas of life are explicitly written, for example, the Amish look to scripture to tell them that women’s hair is to be covered and adored only by the husband, so women pin up their hair and cap it. Other areas of life are more lax, such as the crops chosen for growing, style of house, job, hobbies, and other things.

Amish Wish to Live Plain and Simple Lives for God

Socially, the Amish do all of their community events together. Church is held within homes of different Amish families every week, and this originates from the history of persecution in having an open Church in their Swiss homeland. The Amish are strong in their convictions, and would rather die then to go against their passive beliefs and morals. They also have plain clothing in order to live for God in a plain and simple way.

Rumspringa: The Life of the Teen-aged Amish Party

Rumspringa is the time that the young Amish people are allowed to have certain freedoms, since only adults are fully accepted by the Church. Adulthood is when Amish people are considered responsible to make a choice to be in the Church. The teenagers are allowed to date, but by a strict code of ethics and morals. ‘English’ music, customs, and luxuries are ignored by Amish parents during Rumspringa. One out of four Amish teenagers leave the community, but the Amish make up for the loss by having large families.

Without change and an evolving way of life, cultures are known to disappear or become obsolete and are then set aside. With the Amish, they are not frozen in time and resist change, but they choose to live off the land, thus ensuring their connection with God. In a technology choked world, the Amish only use electricity outside of the home, and utilize it by using steam, water, wind or battery powered electricity. These forms are not connected or wired to the world, and considered safe to use. Presently, telephones are installed in barns or in the workplace, or in telephone shacks in fields for several families to use. Economically, the Amish work with ‘outsiders’ to stay competitive in a global market. Some Amish businesses have websites built and operated by ‘outsiders’. Because the Amish choose to remain true to their teachings and way of life, they have met obstacles without loosing site of their beliefs on how and why they should live.


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