The Amish, or the Amish Mennonites as sometimes referred to, are traditionalist Christian church group fellowships, which form the Mennonite churches subgroup. The Amish are plain, simple, and reluctant in adoption of many conveniences derived from the modern technology. Their history began through a schism in Switzerland found within a group of Alsatian and Swiss Anabaptists in 1693. Their leader was Jakob Ammann. The followers of Mennonites are the ones, who became the Amish. Many of the Amish and the Mennonites migrated during the early years of the 18th century to Pennsylvania, each for a variety of reasons. Nowadays, those, who are traditional descendants of the Amish tribe, still speak Pennsylvania German, or Pennsylvania Dutch, as it is also known. Nonetheless, the Swiss German dialect still predominates, especially in some of the elderly generation of the Amish communities living in Indiana, a state in the United States of America.
The elderly generation, or the Old Order of the Amish group, consists over 165,000 people in the US as of the year 2000, while Canada settled approximately 1,500 people. These numbers grew to 227,000 in 2008 and the by further 10% in the two following years to reach 249,000 by 2010. This increase has also witnessed a great migration to the west. The membership at Amish churches begins at baptism, which occurs between the ages of 16 years and 25 years. Baptism is a requirement for one to get married. Once one affiliates himself or herself with the church, then he or she must marry strictly within their faith. Church districts have on average from 20 to 40 families, and they hold worship services each Sunday in the homes of their members. The bishops, deacons, and several church ministers lead these church districts. The church has rules known as the Ordnung, which every member of the church has to observe (Eicher & Williams, 2008).
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These church rules outline the day-to-day aspects of living of the members of the church, because the Amish Community and culture anchors themselves on the teachings of the church and on the Bible. These include the limitations and prohibitions on the use of telephones, automobiles, and power-line electricity. These rules also regulate their mode of dressing and the clothing they wear. The Amish rarely buy commercial insurance; neither do they participate in the Social Security system. The members of the Amish church do not perform in military service of any type and/or practice non-resistance. This is because they are Anabaptists of present-day. The church excommunicates all church members, who fail to conform to the expectations of the community, especially those, who refuse to repent after the church, their families, and the community members, who fail to convince them to turn back to the ways of the church. Moreover, except for excommunicating them, the church will shun these members. This practice limits social contacts and shames the wayward members for them to return to the church. Almost 90% of the Amish teenagers make a choice to join the church and undergo baptism
Some communities shunned non-conforming behavior during adolescence of adults, who made a permanent commitment at baptism. For this, they met a certain degree of forbearance. Amish churches maintain a certain degree of separation from the world or the non-Amish (English). They emphasize heavily on family and on church relationships. They operate in one-room schools and discontinue formal education for their children at grade eight, about age thirteen or age fourteen. They value manual labor, humility and rural life. This movement of the Amish Mennonite descended from the Swiss Brethren’s fellowship in the 16th century. They were Anabaptists, i.e. one, who baptizes a second time. Jakob Ammann, the leader of the Swiss Mennonite, who lived from 1656 to 1730, provided the name for the Amish Movement. He believed the Mennonites were drifting from Menno Simons teachings and the Dordrecht Confession of Faith by the Mennonite made in 1632. He favored strong church discipline, promoted a rigid application on shunning and complete social exclusion for excommunicated members (Furlong, 2011).
The Amish settled in several towns in the United States, with the largest settlement being in Lancaster County, in Pennsylvania South-Central, LaGrange and Elkhart counties in the northeast of Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Holmes and Wisconsin counties, and Ohio. The Amish experience all the different conditions of weather around the year, similar to their preceding generations from France, Switzerland, Holland, Germany, Russia and Poland. They adapt to lows of mid 20’s Fahrenheit’s during winter months, and a high ranging between 70’s to 80’s Fahrenheit’s during the summer. They also experience high levels of rain and snow all year round. They live in a setting that is rural, which includes country roads, rolling hills, and a lot of farming land isolated from other cultures. Therefore, they have little competition for the available resources, since many of them are engaged into farming on order to provide resources for themselves. Holmes County has agricultural diversity, which holds their local economy. This agriculture involves livestock, like pigs, cows, horses, grains, broilers, oats, forages, corn and timber.
The Amish have a physical adaptation of lighter skin, since they originally came from Europe, which has less sunny weather conditions. Their bodies produce melanin that acts like a natural and protective biological shield from the ultraviolet radiation. The skin has to absorb a certain amount of ultraviolet radiation from the sun to enable the body to form vitamin D. the lighter skin for the Amish people allows them to absorb the necessary amount of ultraviolet rays.
The Amish have another physical adaptation of being with an enhanced level of some particular diseases based on their genetics. This is because they have little contact with outside societies and are more inbred. This increases their risk of developing some genetic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, or cancer. The Amish have an ability of managing their environment, and use it for farming, as one of their cultural adaptations. Another cultural adaptation is in their modes of transportation in their environment that is very hilly. They use donkeys, horses, carriages, and carts for transporting their goods and farms produced from their farms to their homes, or to the market places for sale. Their choice of clothing also exhibits their cultural adaptations.
Amish women have to get married, give birth to many children, and submit to the will of their husbands. Their responsibility is to take care of the household chores like cleaning, cooking, gardening, and sewing. An Amish woman is responsible for raising the children born in the family. She is also responsible for teaching and training these children from when they are still of a tender age to instill in them discipline and traditional gender roles. The head of each family is the husband, and this applies in both societal and religious matters. However, they make all the major decisions together. The whole family labors and works on the farms. The men typically run finances in their households, though sometime their wives own small businesses. They sell products and services to support their families. Men are the only ones allowed to take religious leadership roles in church. They live a very traditional life and abide strictly to their gender roles. A girl would not belong to either female or male group. The entire population would treat the girl as a complete outsider, if she does not belong to a distinct gender role (Kraybill, 201).
Horticulture is the primary subsistence mode for the Amish culture. The farmers till land and plant several annual crops according to the season. They tend these gardens to feed their families, and sell the excess to the market to fetch a little income to support the family. They also rear cows for meat and milk, ducks and chickens for meat and eggs, pigs for pork, sausage and ham, and orchards for fruits. Their men also do woodwork for cash that they use to support their families. The Amish diet’s main food items include simple crops, like beets, corn celery, potatoes, carrots, peas, and tomatoes. They have grapevines and fruit trees on their property. They eat many fresh foods and keep hens for eggs. The Amish also purchase pre-packaged foods in markets and stores. The Amish homemakers are responsibly for storing surplus foods and cooking, though the entire family participates in harvesting the crops for food.
The Amish marriage patterns are monogamous, and the couples should remain married to their mates, whom they selected, while they were young adults. They inbreed in high levels, since their population lives isolated from all other communities surrounding their society. The young adults select their own marriage partners after a process of courting during singing or Sunday worship, which they do together. They can also spend some alone time together. However, singings are the primary courtship activity, as it is a mixed recreation. They do not trade dowry in exchange for marriage partners, but the couple receives wedding gifts as presents during wedding. The Amish community in the United States is patrilocal. This is because they always live together with their families and in-laws up to the time they are in a position to afford a house or land of their own.
The Amish usually have large families consisting of numerous children and members of their extended families. These relatives sometimes intermarry and have children because of living in isolation from other communities in the remainder of the populations. The grandparents play a vital role in the family. This is because their children inherit land from them. Moreover, they are always present to instill wisdom in their children’s families, and contribute to several chores within the household or the farm. All family members are important because of the roles they play in the family. The children help with the farm work; the father works to provide for the family, while the mother takes care of the household chores. This culture gives the male more authority within their families. They inherit land from the generation of their fathers, work, and make most of the family decisions for the good of the family. Property and goods in most times pass through descent lines starting with the male, who is the oldest in the family. Their naming patterns show similarity to the Iroquois and Eskimo naming systems. They use common names within their nuclear or extended families, such as cousins, siblings, uncles and aunts.
The Amish culture shows the egalitarian system. There is equal social power and status within their population. They avoid relationships of power in form of internal politics. Regardless of this, they usually appoint several men to act as leaders in the community. Their republic follows a similar political structure as that of the United States; though, they have low involvement in activities of the government. They do not prefer to receive government subsidies from the programs set by the government. They do not like serving in government commissions and committees, but consult in regular terms with their local officials and cooperate with them. They avoid holding offices in public positions or engaging in political activism. However, they take part in voting, as an exercise of their democratic rights.
Church leaders determine religious laws in accordance with the Bible. The government determines the laws within the Amish culture through traditional laws and voting. Those, who break the laws, face punishment from the state authorities through the court, and face the possibility of serving jail terms or paying fines. Amish societies have had gang violence with the feuds resulting in rivalry and physical harm. This has affected their culture in a negative way. They do not use guns for violence even in case of self-defense, but can use it for hunting. Gun violence is, therefore, uncommon among the Amish culture, because it is sinful to use a gun for any other activity apart from hunting. This helped to eliminate death cases and murders within the community, therefore, maintained peace and harmony.
The Amish practice the Christian religion and believe in the existence of a God, who came to earth as Jesus Christ in the human form. The Bible is the principal source of their beliefs. They believe the Bible is God’s word written using insights to His true prophets. They devote themselves to living a life of love, discipline and holiness. Adult Amish choose to commit themselves to Christianity and undergo baptism. They shun those, who breach religious guidelines, and force them to leave behind their friends, family and lives. Religious practices are the central pillar of the Amish culture; thus, the community cannot function without it. This makes them a religious community, and they live according to the teachings and practices found in the Bible. The church leaders anchor these teachings among their members during the church services on Sundays, and other communal functions.