Although some progressive Amish communities permit a limited amount of technology, more traditional societies do not even allow the use of electricity. Innovation is not typically valued. The intent is to avoid any secular values and live a life as closely following biblical principles as possible. However, given modern advancements, even some hardline Amish communities will grant the right to use electricity for community members requiring lifesaving medical devices that cannot operate without it.
Perhaps the most iconic symbol of the Amish community is the horse and buggy. This image is because Amish people abscond from the use of modern technology, including things like cars, trains, and airplanes. They prefer to remain interdependent on other members of the community rather than rely on technologies that make people dependent on them.
Despite a general shunning of any modern amenities, Amish people are generally accepting of modern medicine, but with a nuanced approach. Biblical rules about things like blood transfusions must be followed. Instead of purchasing health insurance, members of the community often come together to cover the cost of a medical bill. Some hospitals in areas with large Amish populations have opened centers catering to the simple way of life of their patients.
To ensure that a person has made a genuine decision to become a full-fledged member of the faith community, adolescents typically are allowed greater freedom from the Ordnung’s governance than fully-fledged members of the church. While popular culture envisions Rumspringa as a hedonistic trip through outside, or “English” society, teenagers in Rumspringa don’t usually follow a rock-and-roll lifestyle. Rather, they may simply dress in a more relaxed manner or not attend as many prayer meetings while enjoying their teenage rebellion.
The strict Amish way of life means that women have a much more traditional role of being housewives. Decision-making is left to their husbands, and the women usually remain busy with cooking, cleaning, raising children, and helping neighbors. They are not allowed to hold jobs, even as religious leaders, as men hold these positions. This is unsurprising, given their Biblical lifestyle, as the Bible makes it abundantly clear that men are to be the heads of their communities and families. In fact, men are considered to be a spiritual failure if they refuse the burden of leading and protecting their family.
Bundling is a practice in which a young man and woman who are not yet married can get to know each other without engaging in premarital sex. They are put in a bed together but wrapped in separate blankets. There may even be a wooden divider between the two partners. This practice began in Europe, but was maintained largely by the Pennsylvania Dutch. The Nebraska Amish might still continue the practice today.
Like weddings and other ceremonies of significant life events, funerals are modest, usually held in someone’s home. As in all other aspects of Amish life, simplicity, humility, and modesty are represented in burials. A horse and buggy function as a hearse to carry the coffin to an Amish cemetery. The grave may be marked with nothing more than a wooden cross, which will eventually decay. This is consistent with their Anabaptist roots against idolatry and graven images.
While Amish boys are usually taught woodworking skills, Amish girls learn how to sew. Amish quilts are almost as coveted as Amish furniture. They feature ornate, colorful designs. Surprisingly, though, the quilts that are made for themselves are quite plain and simple, and the colorful ones are made for consumers. Quilt-making is a form of socialization and relaxation for Amish women, and the finished products represent the communal and cooperative spirit of their community.
There are sizeable communities that exist outside of the profoundly traditional Amish way of life, but that still adhere to a simpler, “unworldly” lifestyle and strict faith. They may have faith creeds that lie outside of Amish beliefs. These groups are often referred to as being “para-Amish,” as they are not Amish but have Amish qualities. They are also sometimes referred to as the “Plain” people, a name which can include Hutterite and Mennonite groups as well.
Amish communities usually grow their own foods on their family farms. The main staple of Amish cuisine is soup – lots and lots of soup. An Amish meal will typically feature apples (which are plentiful in Pennsylvania), potatoes, and chicken. There are no chemicals or preservatives in these ultimate comfort foods. The Amish are excellent farmers and gardeners, and often grow and preserve all of the food their families need themselves. One Amish woman, Elizabeth Coblenz, published popular cookbooks of Amish food.
Much of Amish life, especially religious traditions, are informal but heavily ingrained within the community. One of these practices is the ritual of communion. Many Christians usually have it at a designated time, but Amish elders determine when their churches will hold communion. During the ceremony, men and women are separate from each other. One unique element to Amish communion is the foot washing ritual Jesus practiced, which Jakob Ammann was adamant about including in his vision of Anabaptism.
In Amish communities, retirement is a very personal decision. While the retired person may no longer partake in a trade full-time, he or she usually moves next door to the kids and works full-time as a grandparent. Retired people often stay healthy and active by continuing to work on the family farms. The Amish embody the idea that it takes a village to raise a child, with retired community members helping a great deal with child care.
Often, Christians determine which church to attend after visiting several. They will most likely then pick which one suits them best. For Amish people, however, the congregation that they belong to depends on the geographic area in which they live. Families that live within a specific space attend the same house church, presided over by a bishop, two to four preachers, and a community elder. There is no formal church building, church governing council, or any of the other church structures familiar to modern Christians. .
With half a dozen children in the average family and 90% of children choosing to remain Amish as adults, Amish communities are in no danger of dying out. While many other Christian denominations are shrinking and attempt to grow via conversion and evangelism, the Amish usually tend to their own affairs. While many Anabaptist groups do historically encourage evangelism, the Amish way of life specifically caters to a form of quiet witness of their faith.
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