The Old Order Amish are a subgroup of the Amish church. They’re known for their conservative practices and adherence to traditional Amish values.
The Old Order Amish emerged in the early 1800s as a reaction against what they perceived as the liberalization of the Amish church.
The Old Order Amish way of life is dictated by the Ordnung, the set of rules that guides everyday living. These rules are based on scripture and Amish tradition, covering everything from clothing and transportation to technology and social interactions. The Ordnung is interpreted differently by each Amish community, and some practices, like the Amish blue door, are so ingrained that no one can actually remember why it’s practiced, but they do it just to maintain the tradition.
Let’s take a closer look at what makes the Old Order tick.
What this article covers:
- Old Order Amish Beliefs
- The Ethno-Religious Roots of Old Order Amish
- The Old Order Amish and Separation from Mennonites
- The Old Order Amish and Technology
- The Old Order Amish and Education
- Old Order Amish vs New Order Amish: Similarities and Differences
- The Role of Men and Women in Old Order Amish Society
- Old Order Amish Beliefs on Marriage and Family
- Old Order Amish Beliefs on Death and the Afterlife
Old Order Amish Beliefs
The Amish believe in simple living, humility, and a commitment to community and family. They shun materialism and strive to live a life that is pleasing to God. The Amish way of life is based on Gelassenheit, which means “letting go” or “submission.” This is the idea that one should surrender to God’s will and submit to the church's authority. It’s also a way of life that emphasizes simplicity, community, and family.
This religious group believes in nonresistance, which means they don’t believe in violence or fighting. They also don’t believe in taking part in the military or any other form of violence. The Amish believe God is the ultimate authority and that humans are fallible. They believe humans should submit to God’s will and live a life of simplicity, humility, and service.
The Ethno-Religious Roots of Old Order Amish
The Old Order Amish are commonly referred to as an ethnoreligious group. This means that their shared identity is based on both their ethnicity and religion. They’re a close-knit community that is united by their shared Germanic heritage and religious beliefs. The Amish church began in Switzerland in the 1600s. A group of Swiss Anabaptists broke away from the state church to form their own congregation.
These Anabaptists were persecuted for their beliefs, so they migrated to other parts of Europe, eventually settling in Pennsylvania in the early 1700s. The Amish community that exists today is descended from these early immigrants.
The Old Order Amish are a distinct ethnoreligious group because of their shared Germanic heritage and their religious beliefs. Despite living in a predominantly English-speaking country, they’ve maintained their cultural identity for over 300 years. This is a remarkable feat, considering the high rates of assimilation that other immigrant groups have experienced.
The Old Order Amish and Separation from Mennonites
While the Old Order Amish are descended from the same Anabaptist tradition as the Mennonites, they are a separate and distinct group. The Amish church split from the Mennonite church in the early 1800s over a disagreement about how to respond to growing religious liberalism.
The Old Order Amish remained committed to traditional Amish values, while the Mennonites became more liberal in their beliefs. This split resulted in the two groups going their separate ways. The Old Order Amish continued to live a life of simplicity and humility, while the Mennonites became more assimilated into mainstream society.
Despite separating from the Mennonites, the Old Order Amish have maintained many of the same core beliefs. Both groups believe in simple living, nonresistance, and humility. However, there are some key differences between the two groups.
The Old Order Amish continue to live a more isolated lifestyle, shunning technology and modern conveniences. They also maintain a stronger connection to their Amish community and culture. In contrast, the Mennonites use technology and modern conveniences and are less connected to their Amish roots.
The Old Order Amish and Technology
One of the most distinguishing features of Old Order Amish life is their avoidance of technology. The Amish believe that technology creates a barrier between people and God. They also believe that it can lead to individualism and pride. For these reasons, they have chosen to live a simple life without many of the modern conveniences that we take for granted.
The Amish use horses and buggies for transportation, and they don’t use electricity in their homes. They also avoid using modern farm equipment. Instead, they rely on traditional methods, such as horses and plows to do their work.
You’ll find them using woven harvest baskets instead of combine harvesters. Kids play with Amish baby dolls, not video games. They put their documents in hanging folder baskets, not filing cabinets. The Amish material culture is very different from ours, but it’s functional and well-suited to their lifestyle.
The Old Order Amish and Education
Old Order Amish children attend school through the eighth grade. After that, they’re expected to work on the family farm or in an Amish-owned business. Girls usually become homemakers, while boys learn a trade such as carpentry or blacksmithing.
The Amish believe that formal education isn’t necessary beyond the eighth grade. They believe that children should learn practical skills that will help them in their everyday lives.
They also believe that higher education can lead to pride and individualism, which are values the Amish discourage.
This community has its own schools, which are purely governed and operated by the Amish.
The Amish believe that it’s important for children to learn about their faith and culture. For this reason, religious instruction is central to the Amish school day. Bible stories, hymns, and prayers are all part of the daily routine.
Teachers are young women who volunteer in the community. They receive no formal training, but they undergo a rigorous selection process.
Old Order Amish vs New Order Amish: Similarities and Differences
One of the most discussed topics within the Amish community is the difference between Old Order Amish and New Order Amish. This section discusses the similarities and differences between the two groups.
Both groups dress plain, with the women wearing bonnets and long dresses. The men wear suspenders and hats. They don’t wear buttons on their clothing, as they believe this symbolizes vanity.
Both groups also avoid brightly colored clothing. Instead, they stick to subdued colors such as black, blue, and gray.
Horse and Buggy Travel
Both Old Order and New Order Amish avoid using cars. Instead, they travel by horse and buggy. This is one of the most visible aspects of Amish life. The horse and buggy is a symbol of the Amish commitment to simplicity and avoidance of modern technology.
Use of Signs and Symbols
One of the most common Amish symbols is the horseshoe. This symbol is thought to bring good luck. It’s often seen on Amish buggies. Another sign that’s often seen on Amish property is the birdhouse. Birdhouses are thought to attract good spirits.
Respect for the Elders
Both Old Order and New Order Amish respect their elders. This is reflected in their practices of avoiding eye contact with elders and using the formal form of address when speaking to them.
Use of Pennsylvania German language
Both groups speak Pennsylvania German, also known as Pennsylvania Dutch. This is the language that was brought over by the Amish immigrants from Germany in the 18th century. It is a mix of German and English.
Home Worship Services
Both Old Order and New Order Amish hold worship services in their homes. These services are led by a minister, usually chosen from within the community.
Even though Old Order and New Order Amish have different views on technology, they both restrict its use. Their aim is to live a simple life, free from the distractions of modern technology.
The Amish believe that technology can lead to greed and isolation. They also believe that it can interfere with family life and community involvement.
Some of the technologies that both groups avoid include cars, telephones, and computers. They also avoid using electricity in their homes. Instead, they use gas lamps and wood-burning stoves.
Although the two groups have many similarities, there are also some significant differences. These differences include:
The Old Order Amish aren't allowed to trim their hair. This is because they believe that it’s a vain practice. Women must wear their hair in a bun or capped. Men must wear their hair long and parted in the middle. They aren’t allowed to wear mustaches because of its 19th-century association with military style.
The New Order Amish, on the other hand, don’t have such restrictions. They are allowed to trim their hair and beards. However, men are still not allowed to have mustaches.
In the Old Order Amish community, telephone lines are not allowed to enter the home. However, they are allowed to have phones in outbuildings such as barns. This is because the Amish believe that telephones can interfere with family life.
The New Order Amish are allowed to have telephone lines in their homes. However, they can't have modern conveniences such as answering machines and call waiting.
The Old Order Amish aren’t allowed to travel by air. This is because they believe that it’s a vain practice. The New Order Amish, on the other hand, are allowed to travel by air.
Due to their strict adherence to their beliefs, the Old Order Amish have a high retention rate. In fact, more than 95% of Amish children stay in the community and become members of the church.
The New Order Amish have a lower retention rate. The most likely to leave the community are teenagers during the years in which they’re allowed to leave the community to experience the outside world for themselves, commonly known as Rumspringa.
More Elaborate Buggies
New Order Amish buggies are more elaborate than those of the Old Order. They’re allowed to have rubber tires and glass windows.
Assurance of Salvation
The Old Order Amish believe that it’s impossible to be assured of salvation. They believe in "living hope," which means that salvation can only be attained through a life of good works.
The New Order Amish believe that it’s possible to have the assurance of salvation. They believe in "eternal security," which means that once a person is saved, they can never lose their salvation.
The New Order Amish restrict the use of alcohol and tobacco. They believe that these substances can lead to addiction and cause health problems.
Some Old Order Amish groups grow and use tobacco. Even though it's not too common, some Amish men chew and smoke tobacco.
The Role of Men and Women in Old Order Amish Society
The roles of men and women in Old Order Amish society are clearly defined. Men are the head of the household and are responsible for providing for their families. They’re also responsible for making decisions for the family.
Men are community and church leaders. They’re also the ones who own and operate businesses.
Women, on the other hand, are responsible for running the household and taking care of the children. They’re also responsible for cooking and cleaning. Women aren’t allowed to be community or church leaders.
Women must be submissive to their husbands. This is in accordance with the Bible verse, "Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord." (Colossians 3:18)
It’s uncommon for women to work outside the home. If they do, they usually work in jobs that benefit the community, such as volunteering as teachers, working in a canning kitchen, or sewing clothes for the needy.
Old Order Amish children are taught gender roles at a young age. Boys are taught to be hard workers and to take on responsibilities. Girls are taught to be homemakers. These gender roles are strictly adhered to, and those who don't conform to them may be shunned by the community.
Old Order Amish Beliefs on Marriage and Family
The Old Order Amish believe that marriage is a sacred institution ordained by God. They believe it should be between a man and a woman, and it should be for life. It’s rare for an Amish person to get a divorce.
Before marriage, an Amish couple must agree to abide by the Ordnung or Amish rules. They must also commit to remaining faithful to each other and to God.
The dating couple engages in what’s known as bundling. This is where the couple lies in bed together, fully clothed, with a board or some other barrier between them to prevent any physical contact.
The purpose of bundling is to allow the couple to get to know each other better without the distraction of sex. It also allows them to see if they are compatible enough to get married.
Old Order Amish weddings are simple affairs. They’re usually held in the home of the bride's parents, and they’re officiated by an Amish bishop.
There’s no music or dancing at an Amish wedding. The guests sit on benches while the couple exchange vows. After the ceremony, a meal is served, and then the guests return to their homes.
After the wedding, the couple settles down in their own home or in the home of the groom's parents.
The Old Order Amish believe that families are ordained by God. They believe that children are a blessing from God and should be raised in a loving and nurturing environment.
Old Order Amish parents teach their children to respect their elders, to be honest, and to be hard workers. They also teach them to avoid materialism and pride.
They discipline their children using the rod. They believe that this is in accordance with the Bible verse, "Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them." (Proverbs 13:24)
The children are expected to obey their parents and respect their elders. They’re also expected to attend church every Sunday.
When an Old Order Amish child reaches the age of 16, they are considered to be adults. They’re then responsible for making their own decisions.
Old Order Amish Beliefs on Death and the Afterlife
The Old Order Amish believe in the resurrection of the dead and life after death. They believe that those who die in a state of grace will go to heaven, and those who die in a state of sin will go to hell.
The Amish funerals are simple affairs. They are usually held at the home of the deceased. The body is laid out in the front room of the house, and the funeral is held in the same room.
The casket is usually made of wood, and it’s closed during the funeral service. The funeral service is conducted by an Amish minister and lasts about two hours. After the service, the body is buried in the Amish cemetery.
The Old Order Amish believe in living a simple life, free from the distractions of modern technology and materialism. They seek to live according to the teachings of the Bible, and they place a high value on family, community, and hard work.
Therefore, when you visit the community, don't view them as a bunch of oddities. Instead, try to see them as people who are trying to live a good and honest life according to their beliefs.
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