Just Plain Interesting: Springboards for Research on the AmishBy Karen Robuck
I see them on major streets and country roads in my northeast Mississippihometown. Black flat-top buggies with orange reflectors. Black hats. Distinctivebeards. Solid, dark clothes. Women and girls with full head coverings. I’ve heardthem speak their unique German dialect. I’ve bought their baskets, baked goods,and fresh produce. I have a general idea of what the Ordnung, rumspringa, singings,and shunning are. My father admires their work ethic so much that he has hiredthem for non-mechanized day labor on the farm. I admire their ability to live withoutwhat most of us think we must have. They are the Amish.No longer found only in Pennsylvania and surrounding states, they have migratedsouth and west, to Ohio, Maryland, Indiana, Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi, Texas,Montana, and fourteen other states. By the time you and your children finish yourresearch on the Amish, your curiosity about this unique religious group may besatisfied. Then again, you may have more questions. Regardless of the outcome,have fun.
Who Are the Amish?
The Amish church began as part of the Anabaptist movement in Europe in thesixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Anabaptists rejected the doctrine of infantbaptism, believing instead that only adults who had confessed a personal belief inJesus as Savior should be baptized. They also did not believe in war and tried to livepeaceably with their neighbors. Because of these beliefs, they were severelypersecuted by both Protestants and Catholics.In 1693 a group of Mennonites led by Jacob Amman broke away over issues of doctrine, primarily the use of shunning (excommunication, including avoidance of allsocial interaction). The Amish practice shunning, based on their understanding of passages such as 1 Corinthians 5. The group led by Amman fled to Switzerland andsouthern Germany, where they became farmers and began having services in theirhomes. Eventually they heard of William Penn’s colony in the New World and hispromise of religious freedom. Many left Europe and settled in what would becomePennsylvania.
What They Believe
The Amish are devout in their faith, believing in the literal interpretation andapplication of Scripture. Their devotion to their families, their farms, and their way of life are second only to their devotion to God. They believe separation from the thingsof the world is not only commanded by God but also strengthens their relationship toGod. After all, the things of the world can be distractions. They value simplicity andself-denial over comfort, convenience, and leisure.Their belief system is even evident in how they dress. Their plain clothing representshumility and separation. Men do not grow mustaches because they associate themwith military service.One of the ways the Amish literally interpret Scripture is their interpretation of theSecond Commandment: Thou shalt not make any graven images. They will not allowtheir photographs to be taken (although some tourists and reporters do so secretly).For this reason, Amish dolls do not have faces.