What Does it Mean to Be Amish?

Elin wrote:

There are times when the modern world seems a bit too much that I think that perhaps one would have been better off amish or born in the past. But then I start thinking about all the hard work. electric stove within minutes. I am not one that needs a lot of of gadgets to live my life but I prefer being able to use modern technology and chosing what in that area to use myself. I also think I would be much too independent to fit into amish society. The culture of where I grew up has some similarities with the Amish as it is quite collective but even there I was never very good at fitting in and it is much more allowing than Amish culture.


Elin, thank you for your perspective. It’s always interesting to hear about the differences and similarities between a collective culture from a different part of the world and that of the Amish.


Your feelings about technology and being discerning which technologies to adopt are my sentiments exactly. There are so many things that are heavily advertised that I can do without, and it actually simplifies my life by not having all the latest gadgets. 




Sprouting Acorn wrote:


Hi,
I’ve been a “lurker” of the site for a few months now. I am curious about Amish folks. My aunt is friends with a young Amish girl who used to clean for her. About a year ago this girl, who was considered Beachy, decided to go into the Amish church. She’s now what I believe is called “Old Order.” My aunt is afraid that after her Amish friend and boyfriend are married, that it will change the friendship. We go up to visit her, take her out to eat and shopping. We attended her baptism (I now know what it is to be a minority!) into the church, and experienced the backless benches. And felt like we were the devil when we entered the services. It was quite the experience. Don’t get me wrong, I love new experiences and wouldn’t trade it. We were then invited to her house where she fixed a meal for her and her boyfriend’s family. My aunt is more like a second mother to this girl, and helps her considerably financially. Do you think they would make her sever her friendship with my aunt?

As for bring born Amish, I think there’s a familiarity with the Amish and our pioneering history in the US. The knowledge base of being self-sufficient is still present within the Amish communities where the history of our pioneers is just that: history. For the average American, being self-sufficient is making a strong comeback. It’s a lost art. Many have to take classes to relearn the things our ancestors knew so well. I believe the steadfast ways of the Amish is one that is sought after today. That, and the fact that the Amish seem to be almost secretive. Most “English,” it seems, aren’t allowed “in” so they will remain a curiosity.
That was a long way to the answer. I wish I was born with the knowledge the Amish have, just as my ancestors did. I don’t think I would want to live with someone else making decisions about my life.

Thanks for your insight. I’m anxious to read your book.


Sprouting Acron, I love your name. I imagine all the potential it suggests.


About the young woman to which you are referring: this is actually the first time I’ve ever heard of someone Beachy converting to Amish — there are many examples of the reverse. I am also amazed that you were invited to her baptismal service. I am curious about which community she joined. 


About your aunt’s relationship with this person… I would say just from observing relationships that the one between your aunt and this young woman, will indeed change. Whenever there is a marriage, many relationships shift, for both the man and the woman. Just how it will change is impossible for me to predict. It all depends on the individual she married. If he is not hard-nosed, the relationship can most likely continue, but that is as unpredictable as it would be if you were asking about such a relationship between an older and younger woman in mainstream society. The nature of the relationship will also have something to do with it. In most Amish communities, there is no rule against having “English” friends. However, this depends, so without being familiar with the particular community she is dealing with, it is hard to say.


Your thoughts about the Amish ways and being more self sufficient than mainstream society is something that I think many people are drawn to. But the rules of the religion that determine many aspects of people’s lives is what makes it hard to live that life. I’ve often said that I like many of the Amish ways, but the male-dominated aspects are what make it impossible for me to abide by their religion.


I hope you’ve had a chance to read my book. If you have any further questions, please let me know.


Thanks to everyone who posed a question on this post. I think this concludes this set of questions. I will now move on to the subsequent questions that were posed. I am enjoying this a great deal.


Cheers,
Saloma

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3 thoughts on “What Does it Mean to Be Amish?”

  1. I just found your blog today and I am SO intrigued! I have been reading through all of your past posts. I saw a few comments about rum springa but I can’t seem to find the post it refers to. I had watched a documentary on the Amish and rum springa and was wondering if you had seen it and whether or not it is anything like what your experience of it.

  2. One thing I’ve wondered: what sort of resources did you get as a teacher? I’ve heard a lot about the problems when communities don’t allow higher education, and only bring in teachers from inside, but never as relates to the Amish. (More about the Mexican Mennonites). With only a grade 8 education, I can see it being difficult to teach the students, did you have any trouble? Do you feel that knowledge is being lost?

    Also, on an unrelated note, did your hymnals use shaped notes?

  3. So sorry it’s taken this long to answer your questions.

    Gumbo Soul, thank you for your interest in the blog. No, the documentaries out there about “rum springa” are highly inaccurate. On the right-hand side of my blog, there is a search bar. If you type in “rumspringa” and “rum springa” in the search bar, all my postings on the subject will come up. There are quite a few.

    Christine, the resources I got as a teacher were textbooks, workbooks, and we had a “duplicator” at the time. Now I believe many of the Amish have copier machines, often powered by a solar panel on the roof of the schoolhouse. The textbooks were those that I knew in public school several years before… the “Alice and Jerry” series of reading books, etc.

    Yes, one of the hardest things I ever undertook, is teaching school with only eight grades of education. I felt so unprepared. I basically emulated the teachers I knew who taught in that same school when I was growing up.

    I don’t feel that knowledge is necessarily being “lost” among the Amish… they’ve only allowed an eighth grade education for generations, so they are basically passing the same knowledge down from one generation to the next. I’ve written quite a bit about Amish and education on my blog… you can search for key words from the search bar to find those posts.

    No, Amish hymnals do not have notes. They are straight German texts of the songs that were written by our Anabaptist ancestors in Europe.

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