Amish Culture – An Overview of Community, Religion & Technology

If you visit the areas of Holmes County, Ohio, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and LaGrange, Indiana you will find the largest settlements of Amish people in the United States. The Amish present a picture of strict culture and an attitude that is not conducive to compromise especially with the more modern and worldly culture that surrounds them. Many people believe that the Amish are Amish because of their religion. This is not so. The Amish are Amish because of Ordnung. This is the oral traditions passed down from generation to generation that are a set of behaviors and guidelines by which they live their lives.

This varies depending on the community but it regulates things such as dress, marriage and dating, the roles of both man and woman in the household and the community as well as how much modern technology is acceptable. The Amish believe that all people are equal in the eyes of God and that all things are for His glory and no other purpose. As a result things that would cause vanity, egotism and other undesirable emotions and behaviors are strictly avoided. It is because of this that the Amish dress and live simply. Their homes are warm but plain, transportation is serviceable and their work ethic is unparalleled.

Children and family are the focus of the community. They believe that family is essential. New additions are welcomed with joy and considered to be the gifts that they are. The older generations are cared for in the home often in their own apartments that built as additions to the main home. This allows them to be near family, be cared for if necessary but still maintain an independent lifestyle.

Unlike many inheritance based communities it is not the eldest that inherits the family farm, it is usually the youngest. The father of the family will provide for his sons by helping them to start farms of their own or cottage businesses. The community itself helps to build homes, barns, the community has insurance as a whole and all contribute in the face of an emergency.

It is true that the Amish are a religious based community. They have their origins first in the Catholic Church and in 1517 with the Protestant Reformation. The Anabaptists were formed shortly afterwards. A man by the name of Menno Simons, a Dutch Catholic priest, brought together the Anabaptist fellowships and formed the Mennonites. The Mennonites later splintered over the topic of shunning and the Amish are formed under Jacob Amman. Because of the church’s ruthless hunting of protestant groups during the reformation, the Amish and Mennonites found shelter by meeting in homes rather than churches and found refuge in Switzerland and Southern Germany. They moved to Pennsylvania on the invitation of William Penn who offered religious freedom in his Pennsylvania colony.