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This section answers many of the more frequently asked questions regarding the Amish, their faith, and their lifestyle.
"I know that the Amish don't own automobiles, but in our area it is common to see them riding in other peoples' vehicles. Some even have made a business of offering rides, for a fee, to them. If the Amish don't believe in owning automobiles, it seems strange that they would ride in them. Seems inconsistent to me. Why is this?"
"I understand your belief in nonresistance and pacifism. Does this principal extend to personal situations where you are confronted with imminent evil -- say a known murderer confronting you and your family in your home? Can you use force to preserve your life in this situation? To what extent? What is the Biblical basis for your position?"
"Amish people interpret linking with electrical wires as a connection with the world - and the Bible tells them they are not to be "conformed to the world." (Romans 12:2) In 1919 the Amish leaders agreed that connecting to power lines would not be in the best interest of the Amish community. They did not make this decision because they thought electricity was evil in itself, but because easy access to it could lead to many temptations and the deterioration of church and family life.
Most of us today would think it impossible to live without the modern conveniences such as electricity and cars. What makes the Old Order Amish unique is not that they get along without modernity, but that they choose to do without it when it would be readily available. The Amish value simplicity and self-denial over comfort, convenience and leisure. Their lifestyle is a deliberate way of separating from the world and maintaining self-sufficiency. (Amish are less threatened by power shortages caused by storm, disaster, or war.) As a result there is a bonding that unites the Amish community and protects it from outside influences such as television, radios, and other influences."
"A local Amishman recently remarked, "You do not need to move here to adopt a lifestyle of simplicity and discipleship. You can begin wherever you are." Yes, it is possible for outsiders, through conversion and convincement, to join the Amish community, but we must quickly add that it seldom happens. First, the Amish do not evangelize and seek to add outsiders to their church. Second, outsiders would need to live among the Amish and demonstrate a genuine conversion experience and faith that results in a changed lifestyle. Third, it is extremely difficult for anyone who has not been raised without electricity, automobiles, and other modern conveniences to adjust to the austere lifestyle of the Amish. And to truly be a part of the Amish community one would need to learn the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect."
"There are quite a few scripture that mention beards in the Bible. An example would be Psalm 133:1,2. An Amishman does not shave his beard after he becomes married; a long beard is the mark of an adult Amishman. Mustaches, on the other hand, have a long history of being associated with the military, and therefore are forbidden among the Amish people."
"The Amish use the same yearly calendar that you use. We might add that November is the month for weddings - spring, summer, and fall months there is too much work to be done and in the winter there's the risk of unfavorable weather. Also, Tuesdays and Thursdays are the days for weddings - these are the least busy days of the week."
"This website is not maintained or created by the Amish themselves. However, those involved in this website are directly in contact with the Amish and Mennonites, either by heritage, friendship, or business relationships. This website, and the "Ask The Amish" feature especially, has been created in an effort to pass along the truth about the Amish and their chosen lifestyle. There is much misinformation about these fascinating people, even here in the heart of the so-called 'Amish Country', and one goal of this service is to dismiss that misinformation, and pass along the truth. We are not here to make money off the Amish, or to exploit them in any way. Many local Amish people have seen this website, and have expressed their appreciation for our efforts. Some participate in answering questions, or assisting in other efforts. Several local Amish businesses have also joined the Pennsylvania Dutch Welcome Center as participating advertisers."
"Self-employed Amish do not pay Social Security tax. Those employed by non-Amish employers do pay Social Security tax. The Amish do pay real estate, state and federal income taxes, county taxes, sales tax, etc.
The Amish do not collect Social Security benefits, nor would they collect unemployment or welfare funds. Self sufficiency is the Amish community's answer to government aid programs. Section 310 of the Medicare section of the Social Security act has a sub-section that permits individuals to apply for exemption from the self-employment tax if he is a member of a religious body that is conscientiously opposed to social security benefits but that makes reasonable provision of taking care of their own elderly or dependent members. The Amish have a long history of taking care of their own members. They do not have retirement communities or nursing homes; in most cases, each family takes care of their own, and the Amish community gives assistance as needed."
"The best source of that kind of information would be the Mennonite Historical Society, which maintains an extensive genealogical library. Their address is 2215 Millstream Road, Lancaster, PA 17602. Telephone: (717)393-9745."
"It is difficult to explain in a few sentences what the Amish people believe. This is a very simplified statement. As Amish and Mennonites, we believe that God loved the world so much that he gave his only son to die on the cross and that through faith in the shed blood of Jesus we are reconciled to God. We believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, that as Christians we should live as brothers, that the church is separate from the State, that we are committed to peace, and that faith calls for a lifestyle of discipleship and good works. More information on Amish and Mennonite beliefs can be obtained by writing: Mennonite Information Center, 2209 Millstream Road, Lancaster, PA 17602-1494."
"Main crops raised by Amish in Lancaster County, in order of acreage, are corn, hay, wheat, tobacco, soybeans, barley, potatoes, and other vegetables. Farmers also grow various grasses for grazing. Corn, grain, and hay crops usually stay on the farm for feeding livestock. Tobacco, potatoes, some grain and hay plus vegetables are raised for marketing. Farming is done with horsedrawn equipment with metal wheels (no rubber tires.)"
"Donald B. Kraybill in his book, The Riddle of Amish Culture, writes: 'The Amish blueprint for expected behavior, called the Ordnung, regulates private, public, and cermonial life. Ordnung does not translate readily into English. Sometimes rendered as "ordnance" or "discipline," the Ordnung is best thought of as an ordering of the whole way of life . . . a code of conduct which the church maintains by tradition rather than by systematic or explicit rules. A member noted: "The order is not written down. The people just know it, that's all." Rather than a packet or rules to memorize, the Ordnung is the "understood" behavior by which the Amish are expected to lfe. In the same way that the rules of grammar are learned by children, so the Ordnung, the grammar of order, is learned by Amish youth. The Ordnung evolved gradually over the decades as the church sought to strike a delicate balance between tradition and change. Specific details of the Ordnung vary across church districts and settlements.'"
"Amish people want nothing more than to simply be left alone. However, for the most part they have accepted the influx of tourism as something they cannot change. So far as their lifestyle, tourists have not changed the Amish. It is true that some have moved away, partly because of tourism, but also because of the high cost of land in Lancaster County. Others have opened small shops and are now realizing profits from the tourists."
"The movie, "Witness," portrayed Amish lifestyle fairly accurately in what was shown, but it portrayed a very limited segment of Amish lifestyle. The Amish people have had a lot of reservations about "Witness." The plot seemed to be inconsistent with the lifestyle and culture of the Amish. It was filmed in the geographical area of the Amish, but not on an Amish farm. The actors and actresses in the movie were not Amish."
"Throughout the United States and in Canada not all buggies are black. The similarity of Amish carriages in any given area allows little for status, but speaks of all being equal. Therefore, members of a particular group can be identified by the buggies they drive. In Mifflin County, Pennsylvania, for example, there are five distinct groups of Old Order Amish living in the Kishacoquillas Valley. The two most conservative groups drive white-topped buggies, another has yellow tops, and two others use black buggies. Here in Lancaster County, the Old Order Amish drive gray buggies and the Old Order Mennonites drive black buggies."
"A barn-raising is indeed a community endeavor for the Amish. At daybreak, the Amish buggies arrive at the farm where the barn is to be erected. An experienced Amish carpenter/contractor is in charge and men are assigned to various areas of work. Often the framing is completed before the noon meal and in the afternoon the roofing is installed. Meanwhile the women are preparing a delicious noon meal, sometimes served outdoors. There is always prayer before a meal is served. The children play games and are available to run errands. But they also have a most exciting day as spectators at a truly amazing project of brotherly love---building a barn in one day."
"In their homes and in conversations with each other, the Old Order Amish speak Pennsylvania Dutch, which is a dialect of German. We understand that it is similar to "Platt" that is spoken in parts of northern Germany. When children go to school they learn English. In their worship services the sermons are given in German. The German language, "Deitch", is also taught in Amish schools."
"Both Mennonites and Amish believe in one God eternally existing as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Romans 8:1-17). We believe that Jesus Christ, God's only Son, died on the cross for the sins of the world. We believe that the Holy Spirit convicts of sin, and also empowers believers for service and holy living. We believe that salvation is by grace through faith in Christ, a free gift bestowed by God on those who repent and believe.
One scripture often quoted in Amish worship services is: "Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." (Romans 12:2) They are admonished to live a life that is separate from the world."
"For many of the Old Order Amish young people, "pairing up" begins at Sunday evening singings, The boy will take the girl home in his buggy. The couple is secretive about their friendship and courtship. Several days to two weeks before the wedding, the couple is "published" in church and their intentions to marry are made known. Weddings are held in November, or at the very latest in early December. That's after the busy fall harvesting season is over. Weddings are on Tuesdays or Thursdays--the least busy days of the week on an Amish farm. The wedding is held at the home of the bride and the sermon and ceremony will last about four hours. Weddings usually begin at 8:30 a.m. There are no kisses, rings, photography, flowers or caterers. There are usually 200 or more guests. After the wedding there will be a delicious dinner of chicken, filling, mashed potatoes, gravy, ham, relishes, canned fruit, plus many kinds of cookies, cakes and pies."
"Here in Lancaster County, the Amish men wear broad-brimmed hats of black felt. The width of the brim and hat band and the height and shape of the crown are variables which gauge the orthodoxy of the group and individual wearer. A wide brim, low crown, and narrow hat band denotes the oldest and most traditional style. Within church groups, one's age and status is often reflected by the dimensions of one's hat. For warm weather, straw hats are preferred by plain men."
"Yes, Amish families do play games and read together in the evenings. Parents are involved in their children's activities. However, there are not long evenings in an Amish family. When the children get home from school, there are chores that must be done. At an early age, children have responsibilities assigned to them. After the evening meal, the school homework must be tackled, and before long it is bedtime. Amish are early risers and therefore go to bed early."
"Very few Amish, if any, do their milking by hand. Today they have modern milking equipment -- not electric, but operated by alternate sources of power. In order to ship milk, the Amish must have modern refrigerated milk tanks. They also have modern barn-cleaning equipment. Children get involved in daily chores at a very early age -- even before they start school. However, the chores are suited to the age of the child."
"The term "church members" means those who are baptized as adults and voluntarily commit themselves to a life of obedience to God and the church. Yes, those who break their baptismal vows are shunned by the Old Order Amish. "Belonging" is important and shunning is meant to be redemptive. It is not an attempt to harm or ruin the individual and in most cases it does bring that member back into the fellowship again. Actually, the number of members excommunicated and shunned by the Amish is small.
The Biblical basis for shunning is found in these two verses: "But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat" (I Corinthians 5:11)
"Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and of fences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them." (Romans 16:17)
The families of a shunned member are expected to also shun them. Families shun the person by not eating at the same table with them. The practice of shunning makes family gatherings especially awkward."
"Early Anabaptists, the ancestors of Amish and Mennonites, were very evangelistic, going everywhere preaching and teaching. This was a sharp contrast to the "Christian" society in which they lived. Persecution followed and many Anabaptists died for their faith and their zeal for evangelism. In the years that followed, missionary zeal decreased. The church succumbed to persecution and discrimination. Gradually Amish and Mennonites became known more for their traditional practices and their quiet, peaceful way of life and less for their active evangelism. This trend continued until it seemed almost wrong to send members out of the close community to evangelize. Old Order Amish, along with some Old Order Mennonites, have retained this position and desire to remain "the quiet in the land." However, missionary zeal experienced a strong rebirth around the beginning of this century in Mennonite circles and more recently among the Church Amish. As a result of this rebirth of evangelism, Mennonites today number more than one million people in over 60 countries around the world and speak 78 different languages."
"Holidays observed by the Amish are the religious holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension Day, Pentecost, and Whit Monday (the day after pentecost). The reasons for these observances are to fast and meditate on scriptures related to these days. We should also mention that December 25 is a solemn celebration of Christ's birth and "second Christmas" on December 26 is a time for visiting and family dinners."
"Most Amish and Mennonite groups to not oppose modern medicine. Their readiness to seek health services varies from family to family. Nothing in the Amish understanding of the Bible forbids them from using modern medical services, including surgery, hospitalization, dental work, anesthesia, blood transfusions, etc. They do believe, however, that good health, both physical and mental, is a gift from God and requires careful stewardship on the part of the individual. With few exceptions, physicians rate the Amish as desirable patients: they are stable, appreciative, and their bills will be paid. They do not have hospitalization insurance, but they band together to help pay medical expenses for anyone of their group who needs financial assistance. A designated leader in the Amish community is given responsibility for their mutual aid fund."
"Some Amish women go to "English" doctors and have their babies in local hospitals; others go to birthing centers; and some choose to have midwives who will deliver the babies at home. It is a matter of preference. We do not have statistics as to how many midwives are in Lancaster County."
"According to John A. Hostetler, author of Amish Society, the most common family names among the Amish in Lancaster county are: Stoltzfus, King, Fisher, Beiler, and Lapp. The most common first names for males are: John, Amos, Samuel, Daniel, and David. The most common first names for females are: Mary, Rebecca, Sarah, Katie, and Annie."
"Old Order Amish and Mennonites forbid photography of their people, and their objection is based on the second commandment, Exodus 20:4: "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth"."
"It is impossible to answer this question with a few simple sentences. There are so many varieties of Mennonites and Amish around the world that we cannot cover the many shades of belief and practice among them. It is true that most Mennonite and Amish groups have common historical roots. Both were part of the early Anabaptist movement in Europe, which took place at the time of the Reformation. A group led by Jacob Amman broke from the Mennonites in 1693 and became known as "Amish." Amish and Mennonites are Christian fellowships; they stress that belief must result in practice. The differences among the various Amish and Mennonite groups through the years have almost always been ones of practice rather than basic Christian doctrine."
"School for Old Order Amish and Mennonites is only a part of the learning necessary for preparation for the adult world. Children have formal schooling in one-room schools to 8th grade and then have a structured learning program supervised by their parents. Classes in the one-room Amish schools are conducted in English, and the children learn English when they go to school. The teachers are Amish and they have no more than an eighth grade education themselves. When the landmark United States Supreme Court decision of 1972 gave exemption for Amish and related groups from state compulsory attendance laws beyond the eighth grade, Chief Justice Burger wrote: "it is neither fair nor correct to suggest that the Amish are opposed to education beyond the eighth grade level. What this record shows is that they are opposed to conventional formal education of the type provided by a certified high school because it comes at the child's crucial adolescent period of religious development."
Mennonites, on the other hand, have dozens of parochial elementary schools, more than 20 high schools, eleven colleges, and three seminaries sponsored by Mennonite groups in North America. Mennonite families choose whether to send their children to public or church-sponsored schools. Higher education became a vocational necessity as Mennonites left the farm. Missions and service opportunities also gave rise to the need for higher education."
"Here in Lancaster County, funeral and burial usually takes place three days after death. A funeral director from the local area assists in a minimal way, which usually includes embalming, and sometimes includes supplying the coffin and the hearse. In death, as in life the simplicity is evident. A plain wooden coffin is built. Often it is six-sided with a split lie - the upper part is hinged so it can be opened for viewing the body. It is very simple - no ornate carving or fine fabrics. Traditionally a woman will wear the white apron she wore on her wedding day. In some Amish communities both men and women wear white for burial. The tone of the two-hour Amish funeral service is hopeful, yet full of admonition for the living. There are no eulogies. Respect for the deceased is expressed, but not praise. A hymn is spoken but not sung. There are no flowers. The grave is hand dug in an Amish church district cemetery. There will be only a simple tombstone to mark the spot, much like all the other tombstones in the cemetery - in death as in life, we are all equal and do not elevate one person above another."
"Our understanding is that years ago, most of the dolls for little girls were rag dolls without faces. The Amish have retained this custom. We believe the reason is similar to the refusal to have pictures of people and is linked to the second commandment. (Exodus 20:4-6) At an early age children are learning not to have images, likenesses, idols."
"We've heard that many years ago sometimes a scrap of fabric that didn't quite match was used inconspicuously in a patchwork quilt to give it "identity." We question whether this is true. We don't know of any quilters who would do that today. Amish quilts are all band quilted; stitches are very small and uniform. But, no matter how hard one tries, the stitches are not all identical and perfect. A quilt may have an imperfection, but it wasn't on purpose."
"No. Musical instruments are forbidden by the Old 0lder Amish community. Playing an instrument would be "worldly." It is contrary to the spirit of "Glassenheit" (humility), and would stir up the emotions of those who are involved."
"The Amish have deliberately made decisions as to what will or will not be allowed among members of the Amish community. The Amish do not pass judgment on outsiders."
"No, the Amish community is not aware of the television program you referred to, and therefore we cannot comment. No, we do not know of any Amish families who have "broken away" and maintained the Amish lifestyle. We should add that we did check with someone outside the Amish community who saw several episodes of "Aaron's Way" and said it was almost totally fictional and thoroughly disgusting."
"Maintaining Amish standards, but accepting some modernization to meet needs of living, requires compromise that must not disrupt the social structure. By rejecting certain types of modernity and accepting others, some Amish appear to the outside world to be contradicting themselves - hypocrites. However, from the viewpoint of Amish culture, there is no contradiction. One of the more pronounced inconsistencies is the use of an automobile...although he may not own a car, a member may accept rides and willingly hires an automobile with a driver to transport him from place to place. There was little hesitation when the Amish decided "no" to car ownership. It would separate the community in various ways. If only wealthy members could afford it, the car would bring inequality. Proud individuals would use it to show off their status, power and wealth. Cars would speed things up dramatically, disrupting the slow pace of Amish living. So, they will use them but not own them, for then things will surely get out of control."
"Yes, the Amish use gas. Bottled gas is used to operate water heaters, modern stoves and refrigerators. Gas-pressured lanterns and lamps are used to light homes, barns and.shops."
"Medicare and Medicaid are a part of the Social Security system. Old Order Amish believe that if the church is faithful to its calling, many government programs and commercial insurance are not needed. That conviction forced them to testify before Congress because they did not want to receive Social Security benefits. What they wanted instead was the right to look after their own elderly. They were finally given approval, if self-employed, to be exempt from paying the tax. Seldom do Old Order Amish individuals accept Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid."
"Both Amish and Mennonites are committed
to a lifestyle of peace and non-violence. Yes, this pervades every aspect of
life. However, no one can predict with certainty how anyone would really react
to an absolutely unprecedented crisis such as described above. Emotions as well
as thoughts are involved and the situation is personalized. Having said this, we
would hope that as people who have practiced a lifestyle of peace, we would not
resort to force and violence in a crisis situation such as the one
We must briefly make several points:
The analogy to war in the situation
described above tends to break down when we think of the vast preparations for
war -- accumulation of weapons, training of the military, etc. War is planned
and seldom is aggression so clearly defined with the defense staying on its home
Some of the Biblical references for peace and non-resistance are: Matthew 5:38-48; John 18:36; Romans 12:18-21; and I Corinthians 6:18."
Campground and Amish Log Cabin Lodging
5970 N SR 5
PO Box 172
Shipshewana, IN 46565-0172
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