As a theologian, I find learning about other Christian denominations fulfilling. Last year, I was drawn to study the Amish. As part of my research, I decided to visit one of the Amish communities in Ohio, and I got amazed by this unique religious group. So, last week, one of my online Christian forum members asked about the Amish, claiming that he had never heard of them and wanted to learn something new. I read so many responses, and I realized that many members needed to be more informed about Amish. Since I lived with them and learned about them one on one, I decided to write a detailed article about Amish.
So, the Amish are a sect of Anabaptists who split from Catholics in the sixteenth Century. Their founder was Jacob Ammann, who taught them to lead a very simple life. Their lifestyle is distinct because most Amish groups do not use modern technology. They are mostly strict about appearance, although rules depend on the Amish group, either Old Order, New Order, Beachy Amish Mennonites, or Mennonites. In addition, they believe in Jesus Christ’s salvation and only baptize adults.
Join me in this article as I write about the history of the Amish, their beliefs and practices, and their Courtship and Marriage rules. I will also write about their rules on clothing and give a comparison between Amish and other similar sects, as well as Protestants. Read on to find out more.
History of Amish
To understand the history of the Amish, you must first understand that they are part of the Anabaptists. In 1525, the Anabaptist group was formed after a disagreement with Catholics on the baptism of infants. They believed that babies are too young to have a meaningful commitment to Christianity; therefore, it is useless to baptize them. The name “Anabaptist” means, Baptized Again. They also disagreed with Catholics over unnecessary church hierarchies.
The formation of the Anabaptist sect threatened civil and religious men in power. In a few decades, as the Anabaptists group grew popular and many mini-groups formed, almost 2500 Anabaptists were killed. Some were drowned, some were killed in prison, some were starved, and some were decapitated by swords. Fear engulfed the members of the Anabaptists, and many fled into hiding. 160 years later, the sect started resurfacing, and an Anabaptist movement was formed. People like Jacob Ammann converted to Anabaptism. He later became a leader of the Swiss Anabaptist church. Unfortunately, the prosecution started again, which forced him to move to Alsatian, present-day France.
In 1693, Ammann started setting some rules for his followers. One of them was partaking in the Holy Communion twice a year, unlike previously, which was only one. He also proposed that Christians should follow Christ’s doings by washing each other’s feet during Holy Communion. He also forbade men from trimming their beards, and the whole group was not allowed to put on Fashionable outfits as a way of maintaining a pure doctrine and spiritual discipline. He also promoted the idea of shunning people who had been excommunicated.
These rules, especially the last one, caused division amongst Anabaptists in Switzerland and Alsace. People who sided with him and continued to follow him formed the Amish group. Therefore, the Amish group came into existence in 1693.
Where did the Amish come from? Origin of Amish?
Amish came from different European countries, including Switzerland, Germany, Alsace, Russia, and Germany. However, they migrated to Northern America during the 19th and 20th Centuries from Europe. Those who remained in Europe assimilated into Mennonites, and gradually, the population of Amish was reduced in Europe.
How many types of Amish are there?
There are four types of Amish; Older Order, New Order, Beachy Amish Mennonites, and Mennonites.
Old order Amish
This is the most popular conservative Amish group. They were established in 1878 after splitting from progressive Amish Mennonites because they wanted to be conservative. They are so strict on matters regarding the use of technology and appearance. The people must dress according to their traditions. They dress up in plain colors.
Also, the old order is strict about shunning excommunicated members to maintain discipline in the group. Since they do not use technology, they do not use birth control, and their population is growing very fast. They live in the US and Canada. In the US, they are in Pennsylvania, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Illinois, Maine, Missouri, and Minnesota.
They do not support any participation in the military because they believe that believers should not be violent. They also travel by means of horses.
Lastly, these order of Amish hold their worship in their houses and do not build churches.
The group was established in 1966 by members of Old Order Amish who felt that they were at risk of being excommunicated. The conflict was because some members felt it was time to use modern means of farming and allow youths a little freedom during courtship. Although they do not allow internet access, watching TV, or listening to the radio, they at least accept electricity, and homes can have simple telephones for communication.
They also allow members to dress in bright-colored clothes, unlike the old Amish order. However, just like Old Order Amish, they travel by horse and buggy and worship in their houses, i.e., they do not build churches. They live in Pennsylvania, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Illinois, Maine, Missouri, Michigan, Kentucky, New York, and Minnesota.
Beachy Amish Mennonite
These are the type of Amish that do not have Amish features, and if you come across them, you can barely tell if they are Amish. They do not travel by horse and buggy, they do not speak German, and they do not worship in homes. They have a meeting house where they teach Sunday school and conduct Bible study with youths. They also support missionary work.
They do not shun members and accept the use of automobiles, and their Internet is also filtered. However, no one is allowed to use radio and TV.
Like the old order Amish, women cover their heads with bonnets, and men do not shave beards. They live in Kentucky and Illinois.
Between 1862-1878, there were reform movements that led to the establishment of Amish Mennonites. They are often called Mennonites from Amish, but they left the old order Amish, and these days, they do not use the title Amish Mennonites. However, they still are similar to Amish in many ways, including values like doing good as an act to counter injustice. They largely support voluntary faith like the Amish.
They also have clear differences, which made them stop using the title Amish Mennonites. They are not strict when it comes to appearance; men can shave beards, unlike the original Amish. They also accept and use modern technology.
Where do Amish live?
Amish People live in North America. Their population is high in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana. The high population in Pennsylvania is connected to the fact that it is where they first settled after coming from their original homelands.
Amish beliefs and practices
What is the Amish lifestyle?
Amish lead a simple lifestyle that is mostly distinct from modern lifestyle. They live according to the Old Testament law. Their lifestyle is guided by their do’s and don’ts list. Their lifestyle is free from worldly things like technology, modern clothing, etc. They make their clothes, plant their food, make furniture that follows their customs, and teach their children. They are so hardworking and focused on nurturing their families by spending enough time together.
What are Amish traditions?
There are many Amish traditions, and they include;
Marrying from the community
Their traditions demand them to date from Amish communities and marry Amish.
Playing with faceless toys
Children play with faceless toys, and it is a tradition that trains them not to have an obsession with physical looks.
Tradition of Puppy Mills
Amish pass down their tradition of breeding puppies which has now become a very lucrative business for them.
Growing beards after marriage
Amish men grow their beards after getting married as a tradition. They do not keep mustaches since it is associated with wealth.
Part of their tradition is to shun members who go against their beliefs. It means that the person cannot eat with them, sit with them or visit family or friends.
Rumspringa is a tradition that permits teenagers in Amish to go out and experience the world without parents interfering. They then come back at 20 to resume their Amish lifestyle.
They have a dating ritual called bundling that is meant to make sure there is no premarital sex. They start courtship at sixteen, and bundling starts when they feel like they are suited for each other. The boy is invited to the girl’s home after every two weeks and is made to sleep in the girl’s room with his girlfriend. However, measures are put in place so they don’t engage in sex. They either choose to sleep till morning or talk.
What is the Amish language?
The Amish Language is Pennsylvanian Dutch. However, some groups speak both Pennsylvanian Dutch and English. There is also a minority group called the Swiss Amish who speak a different language. They speak Berness Swiss German.
What do the Amish eat?
As a community that emphasizes simple living, their food is also simple but very tasty. Their daily food includes pork chops, meatloaf, beef, ham, eggs, cheese, vegetables, potatoes, shoofly pies, and doughnuts. The recipes are passed down from generation to generation, which is why their food has a high level of perfection; each generation perfects the recipe.
What kind of furniture do the Amish use?
Amish use furniture that is made by the Amish themselves. They use complete wood and no wood substitutes. Their furniture does not have nails or nuts. This craft is growing popular because of the perfect craftsmanship learned through apprenticeship after 8th Grade.
What kind of Transport does the Amish use?
The most common type of Transport used by Amish is horse and buggy. The type of buggy and the way the horse is kept is different across all groups. The most conservative Amish groups use traditional buggy and a stocky horse. The less conservative Amish groups use more fancy buggies and less stocky horses.
Also, some groups allow their members to use automobiles like bicycles. Others can ride on the back of a horse, while others use inline skates. Some groups also allow members to use drivers and be shipped to their errands by vans and cars. Also, in some groups, teenage boys are allowed to own cars until they are settled in their 20s and join the church, then start leading an Amish Lifestyle.
What kind of education system does the Amish have?
Their education system is called Amish Education. Amish teach children collaboration and cooperation while they discourage competition. They do not encourage speed over accuracy like other schools. Students in Amish schools complete their education in grade 8 and not grade 12. After 8th Grade, students get informal education through apprenticeship to learn some skills like Agriculture or craftsmanship.
The school activities in Amish schools start at 8:3 am. They must always read the Bible, sing hymns, and say the Lord’s Prayer. They do not teach religion in schools but teach reading, penmanship, writing, Math, History, Geography, Science, Social Studies, and art. They also teach languages like Pennsylvania Dutch, High German, and English. Also, for students to learn to be responsible, there are chores incorporated into the curriculum. They teach their children in a one-to-school house that can hold 30-35 students.
How do the Amish view Modern Technology?
Their view on technology is a little complicated because while the Old Order Amish views technology as something unacceptable, some types of Amish accept some form of modern technology. Most of the Amish accept and use electricity which is part of modern technology.
Also, while they insist on manual labor, some Amish groups use power to make their work easier. In fact, others have made their transportation easier through the use of vehicles, and they keep in touch with distant relatives through calls and texts. In addition, some of them accept the Internet and use computers in their businesses. However, those who use technology use it in moderation.
The most conservative type of Amish, the old-order Amish, eschew modern technology. Technology makes them raise questions about their traditions. They do not support modern technology because they feel it can lead members astray.
What are Amish religious beliefs?
Amish believe that Jesus is the son of God who died for the sake of humanity. They believe that Jesus is the only way to salvation. Just like Catholics, they believe that participating in good works they are pleasing God. If they do more good than bad, they believe that it means they have secured a chance in Heaven. In as much as they believe Christ died to save us, they still insist that members can lose their salvation if they go against the teachings.
Amish also do not baptize babies because they believe babies are not old enough to commit to religion. They baptize adults by sprinkling water on them, unlike Protestants who immerse them in water.
What type of Christianity is Amish?
Amish are a branch of the Anabaptists who split from Roman Catholic in the sixteenth Century. Some people tend to think that they are Protestants. Anabaptists are different from Protestants, which makes Amish different from Protestants. Anabaptists disagreed with Catholics over things like infant baptism and the Eucharist doctrine.
There are about 367,295 Amish in the US. The table below shows the percentage distribution in different States.
What are Amish rules on courtship and marriage?
Bachelors and Spinsters are allowed to choose their partners. In the process of selection, the woman is so involved. Courtship kicks off when a bachelor starts escorting a spinster from church or from singing to home. Singings in this community refer to courtship activities that only single youths take part in. You can compare this to teen dance, but for them, dance is not permitted. They sing folk and country music.
During courtship, the couple is allowed to spend time in privacy but not behind closed doors. They are mostly given space and time to talk on the porches. They can even travel in open buggies. Sometimes, they have Chaperons who spy and eavesdrop on the couple’s conversations. Courtship is also only allowed for 16 years and above teens. However, most couples tie the knot in their 20s. Also, when they decide to get married, both the lady and the man must be church members. When they are sure they want to get married, the man is supposed to give the lady a tangible gift and inform her family.
In Amish communities, weddings can only be held after the harvest during fall. This means that November is the perfect month for weddings. Also, when the couple has become serious enough during their courtship, the public can have a hint that they might get married. However, if the wedding is supposed to happen, it is kept a secret and only revealed in July or August.
The wedding and reception happen at the Bride’s home with hundreds of guests whom the Bridegroom spent time inviting. The Bride wears a new blue dress that has no laces or trains. She also puts on high topped shoes. She can wear the dress for future occasions. The new couple has to spend their first night at the Bride’s parents’ house and may live there until next spring. Their honeymoon includes visiting new relatives and getting gifts from them.
What are Amish rules on clothing?
One common thing about Amish people is that they are humble, and this value impacts their rules on clothing. They do not use flashy or bright colors for their outfits. They wear subtle designs that may have a little difference depending on gender. Also, their fabrics are mostly muted in color. In addition, many Amish people make their own clothing.
Amish Women Clothing
Amish women are expected to cover most of their skin and also cover their hair with bonnets. The bonnets are normally navy blue, purple, or black. The bonnets signify their devotion to their faith because, in the book of Corinthians, women are encouraged to pray with their heads covered.
Also, they mostly go with mid-calf long skirts matched with long-sleeved blouses. They also put on long socks, either black or white.
They cannot wear printed clothes; their skirts must meet the ankles.
Regarding Jewelry and ornaments, Amish women do not wear earrings, necklaces, bracelets, etc. It is believed that the ornaments might make them greedy. This is why they do not wear clothes that have buttons.
Also, they do not wear underwear that is similar to modern-day underwear. Theirs look like bloomers made from white cotton. It can also be made from Muslin fabrics. All Amish women wear ankle boots with low heels and slip-on loafers.
Amish Men Clothing
They can not wear bright colors or patterned clothing. They are also not allowed to put on Jewelry or ornaments. They wear long-sleeved shirts of solid color and add a jacket or vest. They must tuck in the shirts in their trousers that have suspenders. They are also allowed to wear overcoats and suit coats. All their clothes are made from wool, linen, or cotton. Their shoes are supposed to be brown or black. They should have low soles made from leather.
Married Amish Women Clothing
Married women cover their hair with a white covering called a Kapp to show their commitment to their marriage and devotion to the faith. Also, the shortest skirts they can wear should be 2 inches close to the ankles.
When going to church or other gatherings, they are supposed to put on black capes and Apron to show their married woman identity. They also have special dresses for pregnant women in labor. They wear comfortable white gowns as they await to give birth.
Differences between Amish and other similar communities
|Founder||Jacob Ammann||Menno Simons||George Fox||Johann Rock & Ludwig Gruber||Jan Hus||Anne Lee|
|Memberships||Approximately 300,000 members globally||Approximately 2 million members globally||Approximately 400,000 in the world.||1500 people living in their seven villages||About 750,000 members worldwide||About 5000 in the world.|
|Appearance||Men don’t shave beards and wear huts.
Women cover their hair with bonnets and must put on long dresses
|The most liberal Mennonites put on modern but modest clothes. The conservative ones stick to their usual modest clothing.||They do not have any distinct way of dressing.||They do not have any strict dress codes||They have less strict rules about appearance||Men shave beards but keep Mustaches.
They dress like other Christians in their areas, but they cannot put on clothes with laces or buttons.
|Technology||Many Amish do not use technology
Those who use it use it with limits
Only a handful use technology fully
|Most Mennonites use Modern Technology||Quakers use modern technology.||They accept and use technology.||They use technology||They accept and use modern technology.|
|Shunning||They shun excommunicated members||They also shun members as punishment to maintain discipline in the church||They just excommunicate||Not known||They practice anathema||They excommunicate sorcerers and those who practice heresy|
|Leadership||They do not have anything like headquarters.
They have Bishops, Deacons, and ministers in charge of districts
|They have a headquarters in Elkhart Indiana||They do not have any liturgy like ministers, bishops, etc.||Established leadership||Self-governing||Hierarchical leadership|
Differences between Amish and Protestant Christians
|Church||They do not have church buildings.||They have church buildings and meet together to worship.|
|Political Stand||They do not have a political stand and do not vote.||Many Protestant churches are actively involved in politics and the Government. Members are encouraged to vote as a way of being responsible and patriotic.|
|Baptism||They Sprinkle water on adults||Most baptize adults through immersion.|
|Resistance||They practice pacifism, meaning they do not resist and participate in violence. They cannot serve in the military.||Most protestant churches allow members to serve in the military.|
|Beliefs||They believe in good works and can earn favor from God through Good works.||They do not believe in good works.|
|Appearance||They have strict rules on clothing and appearance and do not use modern clothing.||Most Protestant churches do not have strict rules on appearance. They allow members to follow modern trends but stay decent.|
|Technology||They are very strict about technology, and more conservative Amish do not use any technology. Others use technology like automobiles and electricity but with moderation.||Most protestants use technology, and there are no strict rules like in Amish.|
How to Become an Amish
Requirements for Becoming an Amish
- Confess your faith in God and Jesus Christ.
- Getting Baptized in the Amish way.
- Be ready to follow the rules written in Ordnung.
Can anyone become an Amish?
Yes, anyone from any race can become Amish, provided they are ready to follow the rules. If you have tattoos, you will have to remove them before they accept you. If you have piercings, you must remember that you cannot wear earrings.
What to remember as a new Amish
The only thing you have to remember is to follow the rules in Ordnung. They will help you lead the simple Amish lifestyle. The Ordnung will tell you whether what you are doing is Amish or non-Amish.
How do the Amish relate to other people?
Contrary to what people say, the Amish are a very welcoming and warm community. They do not discriminate, but if you want to be Amish, you must follow their rules. In most states, the Amish welcome visitors fascinated by their way of life.
What are some forms of discrimination against the Amish?
People discriminate against the Amish for their backward way of life. They also discriminate against them on the basis that they are not educated. Sometimes, they face religious discrimination from states. In 2022, Michigan County discriminated against the Amish community and wanted to bulldoze their houses. Were it not for the residents around the area and other public supporters, they would have crushed the houses. The county said that the homes of Amish are dangerous to humans, which was so much based on stereotyping.
Other facts to know about the Amish?
- Amish go on vacations but in specific places like Pine Craft.
- It is not a race; they say it is a lifestyle.
- They play softball.
- Their cinnamon rolls are the best in the world.
More about the Amish
Below are more articles that will help you learn more about the Amish:
As a devout Christian, I have always been passionate about the Christian faith. This inspired me to pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology in college. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Since I am dedicated to spreading the word of God, I am actively involved in the Church. Additionally, I share his word online and cover diverse topics on the Christian faith through my platform. You can read more about me on the about us page.