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The Amish and the Mennonites in the United States

The Amish and the Mennonites in the United States

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Published by Tessa B. Dick
religous groups who donot use modern technology
religous groups who donot use modern technology

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Published by: Tessa B. Dick on May 05, 2008
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The Amish and the Mennonites in the United StatesIntroduction:
The Amish and the Mennonites puzzle many people. They appear to be of another time and another culture. The Amish, particularly, keep to themselvesand do not marry those of different faiths. While Mennonites seem slightly moreconnected with the world at large, they, too, seem disconnected and far-removedfrom the way most of the United States lives. The Amish avoid the use of electricity and most modern conveniences. The Mennonites use such thingsselectively. They are, by their own description and wish, “Plain People.” Theyseek simplicity in how they live and how they worship. The idea that the Amishand the Mennonites, as Christian sects, do not change with the times is untrue.They came to this country settling largely in Pennsylvania and Ohio in the 1720sand 1730s but they dress as if they were still living in the rural 19
th
century. Thedifference between these sects and other protestant Christian groups is thatthese change with the times extremely slowly and with great caution. Anythingthat does not add to their simple life and faith is rejected. Their clothes seem likecostumes to most Americans with women in their cloth bonnets shielding their faces and long straight skirts, men, as with women, usually wearing black or other dark colors with beards, but no mustaches.There is a reason for all that they do. They take the Bible literally word for word and put their faith before all else. This paper will introduce the reader to theAmish and the Mennonites, shedding light on their unusual way of life, by
 
reviewing their histories and also the differences between these similar sects of the Christian church.
The Beginnings in Europe:
The Amish have their roots in the original Mennonite community. Bothwere part of the Anabaptist movement, which began in the 16
th
century inEurope, about the time of the Reformation. The Anabaptists took a firm standagainst the Roman Catholic church’s practice of infant baptism, in favor of believer’s baptism after the age of accountability and knowledge of what baptismmeant in the life of a Christian. Because of the stand against infant baptism weremockingly called Anabaptists from the Greek word ‘
ana’ 
, which means to lookbackwards or against (“Why Amish and Mennonites?” 1999).The Anabaptists were most plentiful in those days in Zurich, Switzerland.They believed that there were huge differences between the Bible and theCatholic’s doctrines, the most powerful church of the time throughout Europe.They taught against the Catholic teachings of indulgences (money charged for prayer), worship of relics, images and saints and other doctrines.The Anabaptists and other reformers of the day such as Martin Luther believed that reformation meant a return of the church to its first-century ways. It justified the name Anabaptist because the movement did look backwards to theearly church’s example. According to
 An Introduction to Mennonite History,
“Somewhere along the way the church had fallen and needed to return to a virtueit had once possessed” (Dyck, 1993, p.15). The Anabaptists rejected the
 
sacramental system as a way of salvation and accepted the words of Jesus asfinal authority. Again, according to Dyck, “Called the Sermon on the MountChristians by friend and foe alike, they believed that word and deed belongtogether in Christian living” (Dyck, 1993, p. 16).About the same time, a Dutch Roman Catholic priest named MennoSimons (1496-1561) had been studying his Bible and comparing it to theteachings of the church. Based on the teachings of the Bible, he was forced tocome to the conclusion that the Anabaptists already had, which pointed him backto the way of life in the early church. Menno knew he had to obey the words of Christ to, “deny himself, take up his cross and follow” Jesus openly, even if it costhim his life. Menno Simon’s disciples were called Mennonists, and later,Mennonites (“Why Amish and Mennonites?”). Surprisingly, Menno Simon is notconsidered the founder of the Mennonite Church nor the most articulatespokesman of early Anabaptist theology. His greatness lay in the leadership hegave to northern Anabaptism during its formative first generation. He is reveredfor his calm, biblically oriented approach and through his writings, which helpedto consolidate the movement (The New Encyclopedia Britannica, 1986, vol. 8, p.16).A century later, in the late 17
th
century, a man named Jakob Amman, aSwiss Mennonite bishop, believed that worldliness and complacency werebecoming part of the Anabaptist church. Resistance to his efforts caused a splitin 1693. Although Jakob Amman and Menno Simons shared most beliefs, thissplit was largely over two practices: Foot Washing and Avoidance. Amman

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