Amish Religion Definition Essay

This article is about the Old Order Amish, and only marginally for other Amish groups. For other uses, see Amish (disambiguation).

An Amish family riding in a traditional Amish buggy in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania

Total population
318,000+
(2017, Old Order Amish)[1]
Founder
Jakob Ammann
Regions with significant populations
United States (notably Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana)
Canada (notably Ontario)
Religions
Anabaptist
Scriptures
The Bible
Languages
Pennsylvania German, Bernese German, Low AlemannicAlsatian German, Amish High German, English

The Amish (; Pennsylvania German: Amisch, German: Amische) are a group of traditionalist Christian church fellowships with Swiss Anabaptist origins. They are closely related to, but distinct from, Mennonite churches. The Amish are known for simple living, plain dress, and reluctance to adopt many conveniences of modern technology. The history of the Amish church began with a schism in Switzerland within a group of Swiss and AlsatianAnabaptists in 1693 led by Jakob Ammann. Those who followed Ammann became known as Amish.

In the early 18th century, many Amish and Mennonites immigrated to Pennsylvania for a variety of reasons. Today, the Old Order Amish, but also the New Order Amish and the Old Beachy Amish continue to speak Pennsylvania German, also known as "Pennsylvania Dutch", although two different Alemannic dialects are used by Old Order Amish in Adams and Allen County, Indiana.[4] As of 2000, over 165,000 Old Order Amish lived in the United States and about 1,500 lived in Canada.[5] A 2008 study suggested their numbers had increased to 227,000,[6] and in 2010 a study suggested their population had grown by 10 percent in the past two years to 249,000, with increasing movement to the West.[7] Most of the Amish continue to have 6–7 children while benefitting from the major decrease in infant and maternal mortality in the 20th century. Between 1992 and 2017, the Amish population increased by 149%,[8] while the U.S. population increased by 23%.[9][better source needed]

Amish church membership begins with baptism, usually between the ages of 16 and 25. It is a requirement for marriage within the Amish church. Once a person is baptized with the church, he or she may marry only within the faith. Church districts average between 20 and 40 families and worship services are held every other Sunday in a member's home. The district is led by a bishop and several ministers and deacons. The rules of the church, the Ordnung, must be observed by every member and cover most aspects of day-to-day living, including prohibitions or limitations on the use of power-line electricity, telephones, and automobiles, as well as regulations on clothing. Most Amish do not buy commercial insurance or participate in Social Security. As present-day Anabaptists, Amish church members practice nonresistance and will not perform any type of military service. The Amish value rural life, manual labor, and humility, all under the auspices of living what they interpret to be God's word.

Members who do not conform to these community expectations and who cannot be convinced to repent are excommunicated. In addition to excommunication, members may be shunned,[11] a practice that limits social contacts to shame the wayward member into returning to the church. Almost 90 percent of Amish teenagers choose to be baptized and join the church.[11] During an adolescent period of rumspringa ("running around") in some communities, nonconforming behavior that would result in the shunning of an adult who had made the permanent commitment of baptism, may meet with a degree of forbearance.[12] Amish church groups seek to maintain a degree of separation from the non-Amish world, i.e. American and Canadian society. Non-Amish people are generally referred to as 'English'. There is generally a heavy emphasis on church and family relationships. They typically operate their own one-room schools and discontinue formal education after grade eight, at age 13/14.[11] Until the children turn 16, they have vocational training under the tutelage of their parents, community, and the school teacher. Higher education is generally discouraged as it can lead to social segregation and the unraveling of the community.[13]

History[edit]

Anabaptist beginnings[edit]

The Anabaptist movement, from which the Amish later emerged, started in circles around Huldrych Zwingli (1484 – 1531) who led the early Reformation in Switzerland. In Zurich on 21 January 1525, Conrad Grebel and George Blaurock practiced adult baptism to each other and then to others.[14] This Swiss movement, part of the Radical Reformation, later became known as Swiss Brethren.[15]

The emergence of the Amish[edit]

The term Amish was first used as a Schandename (a term of disgrace) in 1710 by opponents of Jakob Amman. The first division between Swiss Brethren was recorded in the 17th century between Oberländers (those living in the hills) and Emmentaler (those living in the Emmental valley). The Oberländers were a more extreme congregation; their zeal pushing them into more remote areas and their solitude making them more zealous.[citation needed]

Swiss Anabaptism developed, from this point, in two parallel streams, most clearly marked by disagreement over the preferred treatment of "fallen" believers. The Emmentalers (sometimes referred to as Reistians, after bishop Hans Reist, a leader among the Emmentalers) argued that fallen believers should only be withheld from communion, and not regular meals. The Amish argued that those who had been banned should be avoided even in common meals. The Reistian side eventually formed the basis of the Swiss Mennonite Conference. Because of this common heritage, Amish and Mennonites from southern Germany and Switzerland retain many similarities. Those who leave the Amish fold tend to join various congregations of Conservative Mennonites.

Migration to North America[edit]

Amish began migrating to Pennsylvania, then known for its religious toleration, in the 18th century as part of a larger migration from the Palatinate and neighboring areas. This migration was a reaction to religious wars, poverty, and religious persecution in Europe.[citation needed] The first Amish immigrants went to Berks County, Pennsylvania, but later moved, motivated by land issues and by security concerns tied to the French and Indian War.[citation needed] Many eventually settled in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Other groups later settled elsewhere in North America.

1850–1878 Division into Old Orders and Amish Mennonites[edit]

Main article: Old Order Movement

Most Amish communities that were established in North America did not ultimately retain their Amish identity. The major division that resulted in the loss of identity of many Amish congregations occurred in the third quarter of the 19th century. The forming of factions worked its way out at different times at different places. The process was rather a "sorting out" than a split. Amish people are free to join another Amish congregation at another place that fits them best.

In the years after 1850 tensions rose inside Amish congregations and between different Amish congregations. Between 1862 and 1878 yearly Dienerversammlungen (ministerial conferences) were held at different places, concerning how the Amish should deal with the tensions caused by the pressures of modern society.[18] The meetings themselves were a progressive idea; for bishops to assemble to discuss uniformity was an unprecedented notion in the Amish church.[citation needed] By the first several meetings, the more traditionally minded bishops agreed to boycott the conferences.

The more progressive members, comprising approximately two-thirds of the group, became known by the name Amish Mennonite, and eventually united with the Mennonite Church, and other Mennonite denominations, mostly in the early 20th century. The more traditionally minded groups became known as the Old Order Amish.[19] The Egli Amish had already started to withdraw from the Amish church in 1858. They soon drifted away from the old ways and changed their name to "Defenseless Mennonite" in 1908.[20] Congregations that took no side in the division after 1862 formed the Conservative Amish Mennonite Conference in 1910 but dropped the word "Amish" from their name in 1957.[21]

Because there was no division in Europe, the Amish congregations remaining there took the same way as the change-minded Amish Mennonites in North America and slowly merged with the Mennonites. The last Amish congregation in Germany to merge was the Ixheim Amish congregation, which merged with the neighboring Mennonite Church in 1937. Some Mennonite congregations, including most in Alsace, are descended directly from former Amish congregations.[22]

Religious practices[edit]

Main article: Amish religious practices

Two key concepts for understanding Amish practices are their rejection of Hochmut (pride, arrogance, haughtiness) and the high value they place on Demut (humility) and Gelassenheit (calmness, composure, placidity), often translated as "submission" or "letting-be". Gelassenheit is perhaps better understood as a reluctance to be forward, to be self-promoting, or to assert oneself. The Amish's willingness to submit to the "Will of Jesus", expressed through group norms, is at odds with the individualism so central to the wider American culture. The Amish anti-individualist orientation is the motive for rejecting labor-saving technologies that might make one less dependent on the community. Modern innovations like electricity might spark a competition for status goods, or photographs might cultivate personal vanity. Electricity lines would be going against the Bible, which says that you shall not be "Conformed to the world" (Romans 12:2).[citation needed]

Way of life[edit]

Main article: Amish way of life

Amish lifestyle is regulated by the Ordnung ("order")[11], which differs slightly from community to community, and, within a community, from district to district. What is acceptable in one community may not be acceptable in another. It is agreed upon within the community by the elders prior to the annual Communion. These include matters such as dress, permissible uses of technology, religious duties, and rules regarding interaction with outsiders. These elders are generally men.

Bearing children, raising them, and socializing with neighbors and relatives are the greatest functions of the Amish family. Amish typically believe large families are a blessing from God. Community is central to the Amish way of life.

Working hard is considered godly, and some technological advancements have been considered undesirable because they reduce the need for hard work. Machines such as automatic floor cleaners in barns have historically been rejected as this provides young farmhands with too much free time.[24]

Cuisine[edit]

See also: Cuisine of the Pennsylvania Dutch

Amish cuisine is noted for its simplicity and traditional qualities. Food plays an important part in Amish social life and is served at potlucks, weddings, fundraisers, farewells and other events.[25][26][27][28] Many Amish foods are sold at markets including pies, preserves, bread mixes, pickled produce, desserts and canned goods. Many Amish communities have also established restaurants for visitors.

Subgroups of Amish[edit]

Main article: Subgroups of Amish

Over the years, the Amish churches have divided many times over doctrinal disputes. The largest group, the "Old Order" Amish, a conservative faction that separated from other Amish in the 1860s, are those that have most emphasized traditional practices and beliefs. The New Order Amish are a group of Amish that some scholars see best described as a subgroup of Old Order Amish, despite the name.

Affiliations[edit]

There are eight major affiliations of Old Order Amish with the largest number of districts belonging to Lancaster:[29]

Use of technology by different Amish affiliations[edit]

The table below indicates the use of certain technologies by different Amish affiliations. The use of cars is not allowed by any Old and New Order Amish, nor are radio, television or in most cases the use of the Internet. The three affiliations: "Lancaster", "Holmes Old Order" and "Elkhart-LaGrange" are not only the three largest affiliations, they also represent the mainstream among the Old Order Amish. The most conservative affiliations are above, the most modern ones below. Technologies used by very few are on the left; the ones used by most are on the right. The percentage of all Amish who use a technology is also indicated approximately.[timeframe?]

AffiliationTractor for fieldworkRoto- tillerPower lawn mowerPropane gasBulk milk tankMechanical milkerMechanical refrigeratorPickup balersInside flush toiletRunning water bath tubTractor for belt powerPneumatic toolsChain sawPressurized lampsMotorized washing machines
Percentage of use
by all Amish
62025303535405070707070759097
SwartzentruberNoNoNoNoNoNoNoNoNoNoNoSomeNoNoYes
Swiss (Adams)NoNoSomeNoNoNoNoNoSomeNoNoSomeSomeSomeSome
Buchanan/MedfordNoNoNoNoNoNoNoNoNoNoNoSomeNoYesYes
DannerNoNoNoSomeNoNoSomeNoNoNoYesNoNoYesNo
Geauga INoNoNoNoNoNoNoSomeYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Holmes Old OrderNoSomeSomeNo*NoNoSomeYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Elkhart-LaGrangeNoSomeSomeSomeSomeSomeSomeSomeYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
LancasterNoNoSomeYesNoYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Nappanee, IndianaNoYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
KalonaYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYes

[30] * Natural gas allowed

Language[edit]

Main article: Pennsylvania German language

Most Old Order Amish speak Pennsylvania Dutch, and refer to non-Amish people as "English", regardless of ethnicity.[11] Some Amish who migrated to the United States in the 1850s speak a form of Bernese German or a Low AlemannicAlsatian dialect. According to one scholar, "today, almost all Amish are functionally bilingual in Pennsylvania Dutch and English; however, domains of usage are sharply separated. Pennsylvania Dutch dominates in most in-group settings, such as the dinner table and preaching in church services. In contrast, English is used for most reading and writing. English is also the medium of instruction in schools and is used in business transactions and often, out of politeness, in situations involving interactions with non-Amish. Finally, the Amish read prayers and sing in Standard German (which, in Pennsylvania Dutch, is called Hochdeitsch[a]) at church services. The distinctive use of three different languages serves as a powerful conveyor of Amish identity.[31] "Although 'the English language is being used in more and more situations,' Pennsylvania Dutch is 'one of a handful of minority languages in the United States that is neither endangered nor supported by continual arrivals of immigrants.'"[32]

Ethnicity[edit]

The Amish largely share a German or Swiss-German ancestry.[33] They generally use the term "Amish" only for members of their faith community and not as an ethnic designation. However some Amish descendants recognize their cultural background knowing their genetic and cultural traits are uniquely different from other ethnicities.[34] Those who choose to affiliate with the church, or young children raised in Amish homes, but too young to yet be church members, are considered to be Amish. Certain Mennonite churches have a high number of people who were formerly from Amish congregations. Although more Amish immigrated to North America in the 19th century than during the 18th century, most of today's Amish descend from 18th-century immigrants. The latter tended to emphasize tradition to a greater extent, and were perhaps more likely to maintain a separate Amish identity. There are a number of Amish Mennonite church groups that had never in their history been associated with the Old Order Amish because they split from the Amish mainstream in the time when the Old Orders formed in the 1860s and '70s. The former Western Ontario Mennonite Conference (WOMC) was made up almost entirely of former Amish Mennonites who reunited with the Mennonite Church in Canada.[36][better source needed] Orland Gingerich's book The Amish of Canada devotes the vast majority of its pages not to the Beachy or Old Order Amish, but to congregations in the former WOMC.

Para-Amish groups[edit]

There are also several groups, called "para-Amish" by G.C. Waldrep and others that share many characteristics with the Amish, like horse and buggy transportation, plain dress, and the preservation of the German language. The members of these groups are largely of Amish origin, but these groups are not in fellowship with other Amish groups because they adhere to theological doctrines (e.g., assurance of salvation) or practices (community of goods) that are normally not accepted among mainstream Amish. A former Amish group is the Bergholz Community.

Population[edit]

Historical population
YearPop.±%
19205,000—    
19287,000+40.0%
19369,000+28.6%
194413,000+44.4%
195219,000+46.2%
196028,000+47.4%
196839,000+39.3%
197657,000+46.2%
198484,000+47.4%
1992128,150+52.6%
2000166,000+29.5%
2010249,500+50.3%
2017318,400+27.6%
Source: 1992,[37] 2000,[38] 2010,[39] 2017[40]

Because the Amish are usually baptized no earlier than 18 and children are not counted in local congregation numbers, it is hard to estimate their numbers. Rough estimates from various studies placed their numbers at 125,000 in 1992; 166,000 in 2000; and 221,000 in 2008.[38] Thus, from 1992 to 2008, population growth among the Amish in North America was 84 percent (3.6 percent per year). During that time they established 184 new settlements and moved into six new states.[41] In 2000, about 165,620 Old Order Amish resided in the United States, of whom 73,609 were church members.[page needed] The Amish are among the fastest-growing populations in the world, with an average of seven children per family.[43]

In 2010, a few religious bodies, including the Amish, changed the way their adherents were reported to better match the standards of the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies (ASARB). When looking at all Amish adherents and not solely Old Order Amish, there were about 241,000 Amish adherents in 28 U.S. states in 2010.[44]

Distribution[edit]

United States

See also: List of U.S. states by Amish population

In 2017 there were Old Order communities in 31 U.S. states. Pennsylvania has the largest population (74,300), followed by Ohio (73,800) and Indiana (53,100), as of June 2017.[40] The largest Amish settlements are in Lancaster County in southeastern Pennsylvania (36,900), Holmes County in northeastern Ohio (35,100), and Elkhart and LaGrange counties in northeastern Indiana (24,200).[45] Nearly 50% of the population in Holmes County is Amish.[46]

The largest concentration of Amish west of the Mississippi River is in Missouri, with other settlements in eastern Iowa and southeast Minnesota.[47] The largest Amish settlements in Iowa are located near Kalona and Bloomfield.[48] The largest settlement in Wisconsin is near Cashton, Wisconsin with 13 congregations, i.e. about 2,000 people in 2009.[49]

Because of rapid population growth in Amish communities, new settlements are formed to obtain enough affordable farmland. Other reasons for new settlements include locating in isolated areas that support their lifestyle, moving to areas with cultures conducive to their way of life, maintaining proximity to family or other Amish groups, and sometimes to resolve church or leadership conflicts.[41]

StateAmish
Popu-
lation
in 1992
Amish
Popu-
lation
in 2000
Amish
Popu-
lation
in 2010
Amish
Popu-
lation
in 2017
Pennsylvania35,20040,10059,35074,250
Ohio43,20049,75058,59073,780
Indiana25,20032,65043,71053,075
Wisconsin7,80010,25015,36020,095
New York4,7005,00012,01518,575
Michigan6,5009,30011,35015,040
Missouri5,2006,1009,47512,320
Kentucky1,5005,1507,75012,060

The adjacent table shows the eight states with the largest Amish population in the years 1992, 2001, 2010 and 2017.[50][51][52][40]

Canada

The majority of Old Order settlements in Canada are located in the province of Ontario, namely Oxford (Norwich Township) and Norfolk counties. A small community is also established in Bruce County (Huron-Kinloss Township) near Lucknow.

In 2016, several dozen Old Order Amish families relocated to Kings County in the province of Prince Edward Island as part of a planned, long-term migration. Increasing land prices in Ontario had reportedly limited the ability of members in those communities to purchase new farms.[53][54] Two separate settlements have been established in the vicinity of the town of Montague; one west of the town in the Summerville - New Perth area, and the other northeast of the town in the Dundas - Bridgetown area.

Europe

In Europe there was no split between Old Order Amish and Amish Mennonites; like the "Amish Mennonites" in North America, the European Amish assimilated into the Mennonite mainstream during the second half of the 19th century through the first decades of the 20th century. Eventually they dropped the word "Amish" from the names of their congregations and lost their Amish identity and culture. The last European Amish congregation joined the Mennonites in 1937 in Ixheim, today part of Zweibrücken in the Palatinate region.[55]

A small Beachy Amish congregation associated with the Weavertown Amish Mennonite Church exists in the Republic of Ireland.[56]

Latin America

The first attempt by Old Order Amish to settle in Latin America was in Paradise Valley, near Galeana, Nuevo León, Mexico but the settlement only lasted from 1923 to 1929.[57] There was an Amish settlement in Honduras from about 1968 to 1978, but this settlement failed too.[58] In 2015 new settlements of New Order Amish were founded east of Catamarca, Argentina, and Colonia Naranjita, Bolivia, about 75 miles (121 km) southwest of Santa Cruz.[59]

Seekers and joiners[edit]

Main article: Seeker (Anabaptism)

Only a few outsiders, so-called seekers,[citation needed] have ever joined the Amish. Since 1950 only some 75 people have joined and remained members of the Amish.[60] Since 1990 some twenty people of Russian Mennonite background have joined the Amish in Aylmer, Ontario.[61]

Two whole Christian communities have joined the Amish: The Church at Smyrna, Maine, one of the five Christian Communities of Elmo Stoll after Stoll's death[62][63] and the Church at Manton, Michigan, which belonged to a community that was founded by Harry Wanner (1935–2012), a minister of Stauffer Old Order Mennonite background.[64] The "Michigan Churches", with which Smyrna and Manton affiliated, are said to be more open to seekers and converts than other Amish churches. Most of the members of these two para-Amish communities originally came from Plain churches, i. e. Old Order Amish, Old Order Mennonite or Old German Baptist Brethren.

More people have tested Amish life for weeks, months, or even years, but in the end decided not to join. Others remain close to the Amish but never think of joining.[60]

Stephen Scott, himself a convert to the Old Order River Brethren, distinguishes four types of seekers:

  • Checklist seekers, who look for a couple of certain specifications.
  • Cultural seekers, who are more enchanted with the lifestyle of the Amish than with their religion.
  • Spiritual utopian seekers, who look for true New Testament Christianity.
  • Stability seekers, who come with emotional issues, often from dysfunctional families.[65]

Health[edit]

Main article: Health among the Amish

Amish populations have higher incidences of particular conditions, including dwarfism,[66]Angelman Syndrome,[67] and various metabolic disorders,[68] as well as an unusual distribution of blood types. The Amish represent a collection of different demes or genetically closed communities. Although the Amish do not have higher rates of genetic disorders than the general population,[71] since almost all Amish descend from about 200 18th-century founders, genetic disorders resulting from inbreeding exist in more isolated districts (an example of the founder effect). Some of these disorders are rare or unique, and are serious enough to increase the mortality rate among Amish children. The Amish are aware of the advantages of exogamy, but for religious reasons marry only within their communities.[72] The majority of Amish accept these as "Gottes Wille" (God's will); they reject the use of preventive genetic tests prior to marriage and genetic testing of unborn children to discover genetic disorders. However, Amish are willing to participate in studies of genetic diseases. Their extensive family histories are useful to researchers investigating diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and macular degeneration.

While the Amish are at an increased risk for some genetic disorders, researchers have found their tendency for clean living can lead to better health. Overall cancer rates in the Amish are reduced and tobacco-related cancers in Amish adults are 37 percent and non-tobacco-related cancers are 72 percent of the rate for Ohio adults. The Amish are protected against many types of cancer both through their lifestyle and through genes that may reduce their susceptibility to cancer. Even skin cancer rates are lower for Amish, despite the fact many Amish make their living working outdoors where they are exposed to sunlight. They are typically covered and dressed by wearing wide-brimmed hats and long sleeves which protect their skin.[73]

Treating genetic problems is the mission of Clinic for Special Children in Strasburg, Pennsylvania, which has developed effective treatments for such problems as maple syrup urine disease, a previously fatal disease. The clinic is embraced by most Amish, ending the need for parents to leave the community to receive proper care for their children, an action that might result in shunning. Another clinic is DDC Clinic for Special Needs Children, located in Middlefield, Ohio, for special-needs children with inherited or metabolic disorders.[74] The DDC Clinic provides treatment, research, and educational services to Amish and non-Amish children and their families.

People's Helpers is an Amish-organized network of mental health caregivers who help families dealing with mental illness and recommend professional counselors. Suicide rates for the Amish are about half that of the general population.[b]

The Old Order Amish do not typically carry private commercial health insurance.[77][78] A handful of American hospitals, starting in the mid-1990s, created special outreach programs to assist the Amish.

Although not forbidden, most Amish do not practice any form of birth control. They are against abortion and also find "artificial insemination, genetics, eugenics, and stem cell research" to be "inconsistent with Amish values and beliefs".[79]

Amish life in the modern world[edit]

Main article: Amish life in the modern world

Cover of The Amish and the Mennonites, 1938
A scan of the historical document Diß Lied haben die sieben Brüder im Gefängnüß zu Gmünd gemacht
An Amish farm near Morristown in New York State

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The past five weeks in my life have really had an impact on me. In such a short period of time, I have become more aware of the different cultures that exist around the world today. We tend to think that our way of life is the only way there is, or at least the only right way. It is really very ignorant to think that everyone believes and behaves the same way.

People should stop being so self-centered and take notice and interest in cultural diversity. There are numerous different cultures in our country alone. One in particular is the Amish culture, which I would like to familiarize you with. The Amish culture consists of many unique beliefs that makes their ways unlike that of any other culture. They lead a life of simplicity and yet have very harsh ways of doing things. The Amish is perhaps the most diverse culture in the entire United States.

The Amish of Pennsylvania and Ohio greatly differ with the rest of American society. "Although the Amish look like they stepped out of the rural nineteenth century, in fact they do change, " (Amish Cultures). Their lives move more slowly than ours, but they definitely are not stuck anywhere. They move on slowly but surely. Instead of accepting new technology like the rest of American society, they choose to examine change carefully before they approve of it. If the new idea or gadget does not succeed in keeping their lives simple and their families together, they will most likely reject it.

Family is among the most important values the Amish stress. They don't like to let anything break their family ties. The fact that they have lived this way for hundreds of years and not allowed the "modern" world to deter them from their pursuit of their service to God, is truly unbelievable. As mentioned earlier, the Amish do not like anything technologies in fear that it will break the family up. In actuality, they are completely right. If you take a look at an Amish family and compare it to an average American family, you would see major differences.

The average American family would be very divided. You'd find the children and parents watching T. V. , accessing computers, surfing the internet, playing video games, etc. In the Amish family, everyone would gather together to eat, work, and play. The Amish keep their materials basic. This way they are certain no technological advance can pull them apart. "Old order groups all drive horses and buggies rather than cars, do not have electricity in their homes.

Bottled gas is used to operate water heaters, modern stoves and refrigerators. Gas-pressured lanterns and lamps are used to light homes, barns, and shops, " (The Amish People 14). The Amish place very large emphasis on humanity, family, community, and separation with the rest of the world. They place value on simplicity and self-denial, whereas, typical Americans cherish comfort, convenience and leisure. Most Americans speak one to two languages fluently. Among the most popular are English and Spanish.

On the other hand, "most Amish are trilingual. They speak a dialect of German called Pennsylvania Dutch at home; they use High German at their worship services; and they learn English at school, " (Amish Culture). On average, an Amish family numbers 8 as opposed to the rest of American cultures which numbers 3. Their homes are large with several rooms opening into one large room where they hold church.

The houses are furnished very simply with benches on which the families sit to eat their meals. The floors are bare and the windows are covered with plain colored cloth. Amish children attend private, one-room schoolhouses which are either taught by the parents or a young, unmarried Christian woman. However, in most American cultures, teachers of any sex and marital status are hired for the job. Amish children usually attend school until eighth grade, whereas, most other cultures continue on through high school and sometimes even college. Also, Amish school systems are operated solely by the parents.

Every family pitches in and helps paint, repair and maintain their local school. Though Amish communities hold very close ties with their schools, much emphasis isn't really placed on scholastic education because it is thought that what children really need to know is taught at home: domestic skills, farming responsibilities, and certainly the religious teachings. Although school isn't a major part of Amish life, they still are more dedicated to it than average Americans. After a snowstorm, when most private and public schools are closed down, the Amish schoolhouses remain open. "They just adapt to the weather by using sleighs for transportation, " (Amish Life). The Amish people are extremely hard workers.

They wake up at the crack of dawn and work through the entire day. Their labor is hard and tedious, but yet, the work gets done. "Children usually work on their parent's farm until they marry and go off to create a farm of their own" (Amish). Even the youngest of their children are assigned chores to do around the farm. They work long and hard and complain little. In most other cultures, children complain over the littlest tasks. In a society such as ours where whining has become an art form, the Amish just keep on going.

It is truly ironic that Amish children do much more work then any others and yet, they don't voice a single complaint. Amish clothing styles may be the most distinct feature about their culture. While most cultures sport trendy, modern fashions, the Amish hide their body in simple, drab clothing. "The Amish feel these unique clothes encourage humility and separation from the world, " (Living in Pennsylvania). Their clothing is not a costume, but instead, an expression of faith. Amish men wear dark colored high vests over homemade shirts.

Then, collarless coats with hook and eye fasteners drape over them. Their hair is cut in what is known as a "Dutch Bob. " Young men shave their beards until marriage. A nice full beard symbolizes manhood and maturity. For formal events, men and boys wear dark-colored suits, straight-cut coats without lapels, broad fall trousers, suspenders, solid-colored shirts, black socks and shoes, and black or straw broad-brimmed hats. Their shirts fasten with conventional buttons, but their suit coats and vests fasten with hooks and eyes.

The Amish women dress simply with plain ankle length dresses, black stockings and flat shoes. In the cold months, they wear black wool shawls. Their heads are usually concealed by a covering or white prayer cap which is worn inside the home or during church sermons, and a black bonnet when outside. The girls dress like their mothers except they do not wear prayer caps until they have joined church. Old order Amish women and girls wear modest dresses made from solid-colored fabric with long sleeves and a full skirt. These skirts are restricted to be no shorter than halfway between the knee and floor.

These dresses are covered with a cape and apron and fastened with straight pins or snaps. They never cut their hair, but instead wear it in a bun on the back of the head. Amish women do not wear jewelry either. Amish boys and girls begin their search for a spouse when they turn sixteen. It is considered quite rare that people reach the age of twenty unmarried.

Unlike American's traditional white, blue is a typical color chosen for wedding gowns by young Amish women. "An Amish bride's wedding attire is always new. She usually makes her own dress and also those of her bridesmaids, known to the Amish as newehockers, " (Amish Cultures). The style of the dresses are very plain and are mid-calf length. They display no fancy trim or lace and never have a train. When young members are married, they are often given a parcel of land by one father.

This land is given so the couple can get a head start and make a living. An average Amish farm consists of approximately 80 acres. Ohio's most popular crops grown are wheat, oats, clover, and corn. In Pennsylvania, a wider selection is raised including: corn, hay, wheat, tobacco, soybeans, barley, potatoes, and other vegetables. The corn, grain, and hay crops are usually used to feed the farm's livestock. Tobacco, potatoes, grain, hay, and the remainder of vegetables are raised for marketing purposes.

Farmers also grow various grasses for grazing. Most Amish farming is done with horse drawn equipment with metal wheels. Until a few years ago, farming was the only way the Amish folk were able to make a living. This all changed simply because of the fact that soil was no longer plentiful. As a result, former farmers went off to enjoy woodworking, canning, watch repair, and getting employed at various manufacturing jobs. The Amish women are good cooks, but only cook plain foods raised on their farms.

They usually serve pork, beef, chicken, turkey, and garden vegetables as main meals. Among Amish favorites are "roast, (roast chicken with bread stuffing), mashed potatoes, gravy, creamed celery, coleslaw, applesauce, cherry pie, donuts, fruit salad, tapioca pudding and bread, butter and jelly... " (Amish Life). Holidays observed by the Amish are very religious. During these holidays, the Amish practice family and religious values more than that of any other culture.

The most stress is placed upon Thanksgiving, Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension Day, Pentecost, and Whit Monday (the day after Pentecost). "December 25 is a solemn celebration of Christ's birth and "second Christmas" on December 26 is a time for visiting and family dinners, " (A Day Through Amish Eyes). On the other hand, the majority of American society lose sight of the religious meaning of holidays and instead, are hypnotized by the gifts they receive. Another characteristic of the Amish culture is that they have a lot of predictable names. There are few names that are occupied by many. "The most common last names are Stoltzfus, King, Fisher, Better, and Lapp.

The most common first names for males are: John, Amos, Samuel, Daniel, and David. The most common first names for females are: Mary, Rebecca, Sarah, Katie, and Annie, " (The Amish People). Both Amish men and women wear white for burial. It is very ironic that the traditional wedding color in American society is white, but the Amish use white to symbolize death, and marriage blue. Black and white are complete opposites, and yet, the Amish wear white at funerals and the rest of American culture wears black. "In death, as in life, the simplicity is evident. A plain wooden coffin is built.

Often it is six-sided with a split lie - the upper part is hinged so it can be opened for viewing the body. It is very simple - no ornate carvings or fine fabrics. There are no eulogies. Respect for the deceased is expressed, but not praised. A hymn is spoken but not sung. There are no flowers. " (Amish Life).

As one can clearly see, the Amish have a way of life unlike any other culture in this area. It is a life that consists of simpler ways, with the technological exclusions; yet it is much more difficult than the average American lifestyle considering all of the hard work performed. The rest of America should possibly consider some of the Amish practices in order to bring family life back together as it once was. Bibliography: "A Day through Amish Eyes. " Ask Jeeves. Online.

America Online. 12 June 1999. "Amish. " World Book Encyclopedia. 1988 ed. "Amish Cultures. " Ask Jeeves. Online. America Online. 15 June 1999. "Amish Life. " Yahoo. Online. America Online. 11 June 1999. Harris, Joseph.

The Amish People. New York: New York, 1992. "Living in Pennsylvania. " Yahoo. Online. America Online. 12 June 1999.


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