PART 1: WHO ARE THE AMISH?
Vol. 2, No. 5
“Wherefore come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord” 2 Corinthians 6:171
The Amish today are an American subculture that originated in Europe’s 16th century Protestant Reformation. Because of religious persecution, they fled Europe in the 1700’s and 1800’s, immigrating to North America, almost exclusively to the United States. William Penn, a Quaker and the founder of the Pennsylvania colony, issued an invitation in 1681 to Europeans and others to engage in a "holy experiment" in "brotherly love,"2 thereby creating religious freedom within Pennsylvania's boundaries. The Amish, a very religious people, accepted.
They believe God calls them to model their lives after Christ and live by His commandments. While emphatically not thinking themselves better than others, (“Judge not, that ye be not judged” Matthew 7:13) they affirm that they should live humble and modest lives apart from the world.
Living apart from the world means rejecting much, but not all, of the world’s modernism. They live in single family homes (although they frequently add on to homes in several segments for older generations) as part of an overall community. This community of families is called a “district.” Districts that share a common set of rules are called a “settlement.” They reject car ownership and instead travel by horse and buggy or open carriages. They uniformly reject electricity, radio, and photographs. They dress in a manner known as “plain,” with minute differences from district to district and slightly more noticeable differences between settlements. All have a distinct “Amish” look. They are strict pacifists, striving for humility and espousing hard work.
Above all, I don’t want to paint an idealistic portrait of the Amish. They are people, just like you and I are. While they strive to live a simpler life, they still have many of the same problems we all do. No one is perfect, and no life ideal.
Finally, most of my observations are directly tied to the Lancaster County, Pennsylvania Amish Settlement. It is the oldest surviving and largest Amish settlement in the world today. Lancaster County is where my husband and I live and where our company, Almost Amish, is based. Many other settlements in Pennsylvania, as well as 27 other states, and Ontario, Canada, have different rules. Some are more progressive and some more conservative. I will try to point out these differences from time to time, but since I live in Lancaster County, most of my entries will describe life here.
I have so much to share. So I will write much more in the weeks and months ahead. Join me for what I hope will be a fun and enlightening journey as I share my experiences and attempt to learn more about this dynamic, God-fearing and often fun-loving people!
The Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College: http://www2.etown.edu/amishstudies/Index.asp