Joining the Amish, Revisited

Elin asked: "What do you think about outsiders who wants to join the Amish? Do you think that they are 'crazy' or can you understand their reasoning?"
Thank you for asking this question, Elin. I know that everyone has a spiritual path — mine happened to take me out of the Amish, but someone else's might take them into the Amish. I will say, however, when I read the posts on Amish America I wince whenever people write that they love the Amish lifestyle after reading ten Beverly Lewis books, or that they met someone Amish for the first time, and now they want to join their community. 

 
First of all, I would like to say that the image most people have of the Amish is romanticized — they are up on a pedestal as a model of ultimate "goodness." In reality, the Amish are human and they have their good points and their bad. Their society is a microcosm of the rest of society, only with different cultural and religious values. It is in examining these values that we can learn what is missing or overwhelming in our own lives. If we like their back-to-the-earth lifestyle because of their beautiful gardens, then perhaps we need to plant a garden of our own. If it's the plain clothing, then maybe we pay less attention to the latest styles or fashions and wear what is comfortable. If it's the beautiful quilts and furniture, then let's take up a homespun art. If it's their close-knit community, then we can become involved in a community that focuses on helping others. If we like their lifestyle because it is not so "cluttered" with the latest technologies, then perhaps we want to be more discerning about the technologies we adopt. But our mythological view of the Amish does not exist in reality. If seekers are willing to see the Amish as people with flaws like the rest of us, then they have a much better chance at succeeding if they join. Otherwise there will be disillusionment. 
 
After saying all of this, please see my earlier post about a success story of someone who joined the very church district I left.
 
Back to my original comment, if people are led to the Amish in their journey, and they are willing to accept that the Amish are not perfect and make the sacrifices that it takes to become part of the Amish community, then they will probably find themselves in a close-knit community that the rest of us can only long for. We all look for a sense of belonging, and I wish all those who embark on this journey many blessings and much success. It is not an easy journey, that is for sure.
 
I would encourage anyone who is thinking of embarking on this journey to visit A Joyful Chaos for a realistic and detailed description of an Amish baptism and first attendance at Ordungs Church. 
 
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11 thoughts on “Joining the Amish, Revisited”

  1. I went down this road once. I lived Amish for a long time, but long term, it is so hard to make work. I like to compare it to someone wanting to become Chinese. Amish life is as much about the culture as it is the religion. I really feel you have to be born into it to understand it and have your mind work the way it needs to in order to be Amish.

    Like I said, trying to become Amish is like trying to become Chinese. As much as you can learn customs and mannerisms, etc. you are always going to be an outsider…always…if you are not born into it.

  2. Thank you for this insight, Anonymous. I haven’t ever talked with anyone who tried that lifestyle. How long were you “inside” and was it hard to leave? My guess is the same way you felt you were never going to be an insider, you probably were not “pursued” as much when you left as someone who was born and raised in the culture.

    Thank you again for sharing your perspective.

  3. Saloma, I was “inside” off and on over a couple year period, in Pennsylvania. It wasn’t so hard to leave, being that my feelings on joining the church were always kind of on hold. For me it was more an experience of living the lifestyle and assimilating in for a while before I fully accepted that it was not the direction I could go in. There were too many differences in my religious view that were incompatible. That aside, though, it would still have been a massive mountain to climb, even just the cultural elements of it.

    I will say, though, that it was perhaps one of the most important times of my life and played a huge role in who I am today. I still have a great relationship with everyone I knew in the community and love to go back as often as I can to visit and spend time. It is a very comfortable place for me to be and still feels like home in many ways.

  4. Also, being that I was never baptized in, I wasn’t pursued for leaving, I was also still “english”. If pursued in any regard it was along religious lines, hoping I would accept certain beliefs. Although I have a great relationship with people, that still comes up from time to time and has to be talked through. I guess that is more an individual thing, as it comes up with only people whose religious feelings are very intense in comparison to most Amish I know.

    Even though I spent so much time there, living, eating, speaking, working, breathing Amish, I was probably always just “english” for not being a member. That determined any pursuing…

  5. Thank you very much for your answer. I would never consider joining myself although I see many good things with living the Amish way, but I see too many good things with not doing it and I want ‘my’ life, not the Amish or anyone else’s life. I would love to grow my own food and live in the countryside and I am religious but it needs to be mine (and my partner’s way).

    I find some that say they want to join the Amish to not being able to see the downsides just like you say and a very few realistic about it. But, if you really want to join I guess you might but it will probably be very hard.

    I have another request: Perhaps you could tell us a little about the Amish language? For example, how does it compare to standard German or Dutch?

  6. Anonymous, thank you for sharing this. I’m glad something good came of your “joining” and that you still have friends in the community.

    I feel the same way, my experiences of being raised in the Amish played a huge role in shaping who I am today. As horrendous as some of my experiences were, they also helped make me who I am. And the end result is that I love my life and I am grateful for the life lessons I’ve learned… even those that I learned through hardships.

  7. I work at a library and I hear so many woman talk about how they just love the Amish lifestyle and they would just love to live the simple life after reading the B.Lewis books and others like hers. As they get into their A/C cars, talk on the cell phone and make plans that would NOT fit in the Amish way of life

  8. Nikole Kestner

    Below is a statement my friend made after we visited Holmes county and met a lady that had left the amish and after we spoke with a deacon in the amish church. Having lived it would you agree with this statement?

    “The Amish try so hard to avoid sin by avoiding the world and worldly possessions but sin is in us and you can’t escape it. We ALL need a Savior!”

  9. Krissy, what a great description of the attitude that often goes with those who read “Amish fiction.” And many of these people won’t want to read my book, because it might complicate their image of the Amish.

    Nikole, that is an apt description of how the Amish look for sin in the outside world and sometimes forget to look within.

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