The Amish are a group of people that have been a part of American history for centuries. And yet, rather than assimilate and lose their cultural identity, they have carefully preserved it through the years, living separately in harmony with nature.
When outsiders hear the word ‘Amish”, they often aren’t sure what it refers to- a people, a culture, or a religion. In truth, it encompasses all of these things. A distinct group of people with its own culture, which has evolved around their practice of religion.
In spite of having its own Amish religious symbols, the Amish religion doesn’t oppose the Christian faith. Rather, it’s an Anabaptist denomination; one that is integral to the Amish way of life. Join us as we take a closer look at the Amish people and their deep devotion to their faith.
What this article covers:
- What Do the Amish Believe?
- What Religion is Amish
- Who/What Are the Amish?
- Amish Baskets - Traditional Crafts with a Purpose
- The Mennonites and Anabaptists - The Origins of the Amish
- A New But Separate Life in the New World
What Do the Amish Believe?
If your only experience of Amish people is seeing them riding a horse and buggy along a country road, you may have many questions.
The most commons ones usually center around where the Amish came from and why they choose to stay separate from the rest of modern society. To answer these questions, we need to take a closer look at their origins.
Remember what we said earlier? The Amish are a people, a culture, and a religion. Well, to be more specific, they aren’t a separate religion, but rather a branch of one.
Many of you may be wondering about Amish values as they seem so far removed from your own. But in reality, the answer to that question is their faith is not so different after all. Yet their culture and traditions have distinct characteristics that bind them together as a people.
Amish Beliefs, Values, and Traditions
The Amish are often easily identified by their simple attire, most of it homemade. It resembles that of 17th-century European peasants, reflecting their reverence for tradition and their interpretation of the Bible’s warning against worldliness.
It may surprise you to know that there are, in fact, different sects of Amish people. Some are more strict than others about involvement in modern society and may have slightly more liberal ideas regarding dress code and certain technology.
Simply put, Amish people live in our modern world and yet aren’t part of modern society. Yet they co-exist peacefully with all societies, faiths, and cultures. They also make their living and support their families, by interacting with non-Amish people and selling their wares.
Amish Work, Customs, and Pastimes
Woodworking, and barn raising, are the most common work that Amish men engage in after farming and agriculture.
Besides being the caregivers in their families and communities, Amish women also engage in social gatherings to do needlework and other crafts. Handmade Amish quilts are very popular, and much loved even by the non-Amish.
The Amish Understand the Challenges of Modern Living
Although they choose to live a non-urban lifestyle, the Amish are aware of the challenges it brings and aims to meet these needs with their quality crafted products.
One of their most popular traditional pastimes, and a source of income for the community at large, is the weaving of gorgeous wicker baskets. These offer innovative storage solutions that complement any home.
With the trend towards working from home, remote workers have to create a home office space. It can be difficult to keep everything tidy and in order, but not when you invest in a mail basket and some file baskets.
Okay, the Amish are talented, peace-loving, and deeply devout people but is “Amish” a religion? And if not, what religion do the Amish follow?
What Religion is Amish
While small differences may exist between Amish communities, the tenets of their faith remain the same. Most communities practice the same Amish funeral traditions, read from the same Amish German Bible, and have similar modesty and dress codes.
This is because they all follow the same religion, and therefore have the same religious laws and codes of conduct in accordance with their beliefs.
Their beliefs, though they may seem foreign, are rooted in the same Christian faith that many non-Amish Americans profess to follow.
Amish Religion and Christianity
The Amish are Christians, but they have their own interpretation of Christian scriptures. So, do the Amish believe in Jesus?
Yes, all Christian denominations do. Christians are believers in and followers of Jesus Christ and, as in other churches, Amish adult baptism is a significant rite of passage.
The differences lie in the levels to which the Amish are willing to commit to the bible’s teaching. While many other Christian denominations are willing to adapt with the times, the Amish strongly consider all the implications of progress for the sake of progress and are unwilling to change standard practice if there’s even the slightest chance it will corrupt the system they’ve worked so hard to build.
Similarities/Differences Between Amish Religious Practice and Mainstream Christianity
Like other Christian denominations, the Amish read both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, believe in the teachings of Christ, and get together on Sundays to worship.
They don’t congregate every Sunday though, but rather on alternate Sundays. The in-between Sundays are reserved for rest and recreation.
On Amish Church Days, services are not presided over by clergy in church buildings. They’re conducted in community members’ homes and barns, presided over by elders.
Services are in High German, while Pennsylvania Dutch (an evolution of High German, various German dialects, and a bit of English) is spoken in the home.
Who/What Are the Amish?
Amish values and beliefs heavily influence traditions, pastimes, and customs. Rather than get caught up in the modern way of life, they have chosen to live a life of duty to their families and their faith.
This doesn’t mean that Amish people are opposed to progress, but rather that they choose not to be distracted by things that don’t harmonize with their faith.
This can be traced to their very beginnings as a distinct people.
History and Culture of the Amish
Religious refugees that fled in the face of persecution in their native Europe, they came to North America in the hopes of living peacefully. Here they were able to lead purpose-filled lives, working the land and practicing their faith, without political or religious interference.
In time, they became known for certain customs that set them apart from other people who had settled in America. The history of the Amish people has a direct bearing on how they live their lives. While some of these customs may be known to you, some may not be familiar.
Part of the reason why so few non-Amish people know about the traditions, customs, and pastimes of the Amish, is their seclusion from outsiders, but the Amish people love all people and want to share their wonderful talents and skills with the world. They do so through traditional crafts, like handwoven baskets.
Amish Baskets - Traditional Crafts with a Purpose
Because Amish communities live outside urban areas, most people were unaware of the beautiful woodwork and wicker crafts they produce. Now, though, everyone can appreciate these stunning works of art, thanks to our Amish Baskets initiative.
There is one for every occasion and purpose in the home, and they make thoughtful and practical gifts as well. Have you been looking for the ideal harvest basket for harvesting your home-grown fruits, veggies, and herbs or to take to the farmer’s market when you shop for fresh produce?
What about one of our rustic bread baskets for your mom’s country-style kitchen? Or a handy stair basket, perfectly designed to maximize storage in your home and bring a touch of countryside charm into your decor.
Traditional Solutions to Modern Issues
There’s so much more to our range of Amish wicker baskets and accessories. With Amish Baskets, the possibilities are endless, and the benefits are even more so. So get these traditional solutions to modern issues today.
We all love it when our kids play safely in their rooms and are having fun, or when our grandkids come over to visit, but we aren’t quite so fond of toys lying all over the show after playtime. That’s no longer a problem with Amish under-bed baskets, perfect for stowing away those toys or even spare linens.
High-quality traditional toys are so hard to find these days, That’s why your daughters and granddaughters will be delighted by our gorgeous Amish dolls and handmade doll furniture. Both boys and girls will be super excited to receive their chocolate eggs and bunnies in our Easter baskets.
In a world where quantity is prized over quality, and progress above tradition isn’t it good to know that you can still buy handmade goods of superior quality and design? So purchase these baskets for your friends and family, and you’ll be helping Amish communities support theirs.
The Mennonites and Anabaptists - The Origins of the Amish
One of the few established facts that non-Amish people can usually cite is that the Amish descended from the Mennonites and the Anabaptists, but who exactly were these Mennonites and Anabaptists? And how did they become what’s now known as The Amish, here in America.?
To answer those questions, we first need to take a trip back in time, all the way to 17th-century Europe. This is where the Amish tale unfolds and explains much about their current position in the US. The story begins in the 1600s, with a Christian denomination in Switzerland known as the Anabaptists.
How Anabaptist Separatists Became the Forerunners of the Amish
At that time, a group of Anabaptists in Europe were led in a program of religious reform by a deeply religious man called Jakob Ammann (after whom the Amish are named). Born in 1644, in Erlenbach im Simmental, Switzerland, he later moved to Alsace with other Anabaptist emigrants.
Jacob Amman was influenced by some of the practices of the Dutch Mennonites. But these were religious practices that the Swiss Mennonites and the Anabaptists did not follow. Some of Jacob’s followers started to practice these too, as a part of the stricter religious doctrine that he had initiated.
This inevitably caused division in the Swiss/Alsace Anabaptist community. Soon, Amish communities started to spread throughout Switzerland, Alsace, Germany, and other European nations. Rather than be at odds with their former congregation members, they chose to make a new life elsewhere.
When Jakob Amman and his faithful followers emigrated to America, known as the “New World’, they formed communities in the US and Canada. Their descendants live on in these communities up to the present day.
Amish vs Mennonite
Most of these Amish families settled in Pennsylvania. To this day, a large Amish community remains here. But there are also Amish communities in Ohio, Indiana, Minnesota, and several other states. Although many traditional Mennonite families also came to America, not all of them chose to become Amish.
Everyday Amish life is heavily influenced by the unwritten Amish code of behavior called Ordnung, but as far as religious doctrine is concerned, the Amish differ little from their Mennonite peers. This may explain why when some Amish people decide to leave their communities, they sometimes assimilate into Mennonite congregations.
A New But Separate Life in the New World
Amish people are descendants of a sect of Anabaptists who left Europe to avoid the religious intolerance and persecution that was taking hold there. Those Amish people who chose to stay in Europe mostly assimilated into the Mennonite congregations and therefore disappeared as a distinct group.
This means the entire Amish population now lives in North America. The early American pioneers decided to live life in peace and stay true to their faith without the distractions that modern life caused. That’s why the Amish separate themselves from society, even to this day. It helps to keep their traditions and culture alive.
Amish people don’t join the military, are against war and aggressive sports, and they don’t socialize in groups that encourage such activities. They have no animosity towards western culture, and the degree to which Amish communities engage with outsiders may vary.
However, there’s a common thread running through all Amish communities. They all believe that to follow the Bible’s laws and Christ’s true teachings, one needs to live a life of purity, humility, and simplicity. As this can be hard to do while enjoying a modern lifestyle, they remain in their own close-knit communities.
Old Order vs New Order Amish
Some basic Amish beliefs are true for all Amish communities. And these beliefs all stem from the one guiding light that leads all Amish people - their faith. That said, there’s a divide in the Amish Community that not many outsiders are aware of; Old Order versus New Order.
They have the same basic beliefs, yet have slightly different attitudes to the use of modern technology. Let’s examine some of these differences.
Old Order Amish: Traditional and Steadfast
The Old Order Amish believe more strongly in staying separate from worldly things. They prohibit personal telephones, although they may allow a communal one for emergencies. They don’t drive automobiles, relying instead on bicycles and especially horse-drawn buggies for transportation.
The use of electricity is strongly avoided, to reduce the temptations that may be detrimental to their way of life. Because the Amish are primarily engaged in agriculture and farming, certain forms of mechanization are sometimes allowed. However, most Old Order Amish prefer not to use modern farm equipment.
Old Order is the largest group of Amish people in central Ohio, and they’re also highly represented in Pennsylvania. The Nebraska Old Order Amish communities are thought to be the most conservative.
New Order Amish: Moderately Progressive
New Order Amish, while practicing the same religious beliefs and customs, are more relaxed about the use of modern conveniences. They allow the use of electricity, and driving of cars, and sometimes also telephones in the home.
Although New Order Amish are slightly more tolerant of modern technology, they still practice modesty laws and follow the basic Amish religious teachings of the Old Order. New Order Amish communities can be found in about a dozen states across the US.
A major contributor to the survival of Amish traditions and customs is their devout faith. Amish religion, and the code of conduct that has developed around it, are integral to the Amish way of life.
When one understands this, it’s easier to understand the Amish life and appreciate all of their wonderful ways. When we take the time to learn about what sets us apart, we also learn much about what we all share.
The Amish people, religion, and customs are part of the colorful fabric of our nation. American society truly is a fusion of different peoples, cultures, and faiths. It’s within these differences, that we can truly gauge the strength of their beliefs and the impact religion has on Amish culture.
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