The Amish: Expressing The Freedom of Religion

The Amish are a religious sect of Christianity that has made a big impact on American culture. Though they appear to hold opposite values than most Americans, they still seem to embody the American spirit of independence, individuality and religious freedom.

The Anabaptists
The roots of the Amish sect come from a religious group in Europe known as the Anabaptists. At the time of the Protestant Revolution, the Anabaptists split off from the rest of Protestantism with their belief in adult baptism instead of infant baptism. The group was feared and persecuted for their beliefs and were forced into rural areas of Europe where they learned to thrive. Another split occurred in the group when Jakob Ammonn proposed new rules to revive the movement in the 1600s. His followers, called “Amish” became the unique community we know today.

The Amish in America
The first groups of Amish first came to America looking for freedom from persecution in 1730. They settled in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. They soon spread to surrounding states, to Canada and even into Central America. Today, about 280,000 Amish live in various parts of North America. As many as two-thirds live in three states, Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania. Traditionally, they engaged in farming. Today however, they can be found in a broader range of livelihoods.

Amish Beliefs
The Amish follow basic Christian beliefs like many other protestant groups. They belief that Jesus was the son of God, that the Bible is the unerring word of God and that there is a heaven and hell. They take communion twice each year and meet in groups in each other’s homes to worship. There is no clergy, but instead look to the elders of the community to lead services and set rules. They do not evangelize others into the religion. Community and separation from the corrupting influences of the world are their prime commitments. Like other religious groups, the Amish can be further broken down into a number of sub-sects. Each of these adheres to slightly different beliefs, though all follow the basic principle of the Amish religion. The Old Order Amish are the largest group. The most conservative group follows the principles of the Swartzentruber Amish.

Amish Customs
Many people are familiar with the horse and buggy transportation of the Amish. They do not believe in hooking into community electrical grids, but some groups do use battery power. They do not own automobiles, televisions, cell phones or computers. They dress very simply and modestly in a uniform fashion. They allow their young people to go out into the world at around age 16. This period of freedom is called “rumspringa,” which means “running around.” After a time, the young person is expected to be baptized, commit himself fully to the Amish life and become a functioning member of the adult community. Most of them, in fact, do this.

The Amish in the Media
Though some Americans may have encountered the Amish while traveling to various communities around the country, most people have never had a face-to-face interaction with these “plain people.” They only know them from books, movies or TV shows. Americans first pop culture look at the Amish may have been with the movie Witness which was presented to the public in 1985. The Peter Weir film, starring Harrison Ford and Kelly Gillis, brought so much tourist attention to the Amish communities of Pennsylvania that they became a nuisance. The curiosity about the Amish people, their customs and their beliefs became all the rage in the media. A number of movies and TV shows featured Amish characters, usually as subjects of derision or curiosity–but also with a strange fascination. That a group like the Amish exists in modern America appears to be significant to American psyche at large.

American Identification with the Amish
Amish function without the conveniences that most Americans find necessary to their existence. But knowing that a group can live without these necessities—and can even thrive without them—appears to have great meaning to American society at large. Perhaps the Amish represent the “pioneer spirit” that helped to build the country. It may be that the Amish reassure Americans about the freedom and diversity that they hold so dear. Perhaps the Amish are a reminder to not become too attached to the machines, electronics and diversions that are so prevalent in our age. Whatever the reason, it is clear that Americans find the Amish a fascinating component of the diverse tapestry that makes the country so great.

Interested in chatting online with professionals and experts in various religions? Do you want to explore spirituality with advice and insights from professional spirituality advisers? Go check out Chat About Religion.

Copyright Protection

Spirituality And Related Sites To Investigate …