Studying religion in Bible College expanded my knowledge of the Amish group. I learned that the Amish religion came with immigrants from Europe who arrived in America in the 1700s and 1800s.
This was about the same time other Christian immigrants were also established in America. Since most Christian communities are racially diverse, I have always wondered, are there any black Amish?
In this article, I aim to share my knowledge of the ethnic background of the Amish. Join me as we discuss whether the Amish community is racially diverse, whether black people can join the Amish community and how to join as an outsider.
We’ll also try to find the answer to the question, “Are the Amish people racists?”
What is the ethnic background of Amish people?
The Amish sect originated in Switzerland in 1693. In the 1700s, many of its members immigrated to America to avoid religious persecution in Europe. The majority of Amish families today can trace their ancestors back to 1700s immigrants.
As a result of their European ancestry, the Amish are predominantly white. Regardless of where they live today, almost all Amish families can trace their ancestors back to Europe, primarily Switzerland and Germany.
However, some are from Russia, the Netherlands, and Alsace in France. In addition to their beliefs, the vast majority share Swiss-German ancestry, culture, and dialect, and they generally marry among themselves.
These commonalities should qualify them to be regarded as an ethnic community. However, the Amish are said to not think of themselves as an ethnic group. Instead, they use the name “Amish” only for those in the church community and are church members.
This suggests that a person can be born to an Amish couple and be raised in the community, but as long as they are not church members, they do not qualify to be called Amish.
To be Amish, one has to choose to become a church member, get baptized, and embrace its lifestyle. If you choose not, you must move away from the community when you come of age.
From then on, you will be shunned and excluded from its activities.
Is the Amish community racially diverse?
The community does not seem to be racially diverse. The Amish are mostly of European descent and overwhelmingly white. However, there are reports of people of Latino and African descent in the communities.
The first explanation for their presence is adoption. It is said that some Amish people have adopted children from different ethnic backgrounds, leading to some non-white people in the community.
While a child adopted by Amish parents could be of non-Caucasian ancestry, they must choose to be baptized to be considered an official follower of the Amish church and truly “Amish.”
The other way non-Caucasian people get into the Amish is through conversion. This implies that although the Amish do not seek converts as many Christian groups do, non-Amish people have joined and remained members of Amish churches.
Of course, their ability to remain is based on how welcoming and accepting of these “spiritual seekers” the church they find themselves in is.
There are stories about non-Caucasian adults from several states, including several Latinos. There are also a few black Amish people in a community in Ohio.
Unfortunately, it is rare to find converts, especially among the old-order Amish. Many people who join the church eventually leave.
According to one report, only about one-third of the approximately three hundred who had joined over a long time had remained Amish.
Can black people join the Amish community? How to join the Amish community as an outsider
In theory, a black adult can easily become Amish. However, they would first have to face the usual obstacles, such as the language barrier, radically different lifestyles and worldviews, and limited technology.
Amish people have relationships with non-Amish people, so there’s no reason why a convert wouldn’t be able to keep in touch with their non-Amish relatives.
However, because of the lifestyle and frequent location changes, interaction with non-Amish relatives could become less frequent.
Additional stress may arise if family members do not fully agree with the choice or have a poor understanding of Amish customs.
These challenges are similar to what other white non-Amish would also have to overcome. However, a black person should also be ready to deal with other prejudices that may arise based on the color of his skin.
If the person decides to go ahead and join the Amish despite the many challenges, they’ll need to follow several steps. To begin with, one has to become familiar and comfortable with the Amish by having close and frequent interaction with a “seeker-friendly” community.
Living in the community for an extended period, attending church, and participating in community events are required.
The church’s members need to endorse the individual’s candidacy for membership. It is also necessary to learn the Amish German dialect.
A person can qualify as a candidate for baptism after some time when both parties are convinced that joining the congregation is the right decision.
The final step is the commitment to baptism. In the Amish church, baptism represents a lifetime pledge to one’s social and religious life. The decision to be Amish is not taken lightly, and one must be fully aware and convicted to take this last step.
Practically, becoming Amish is extremely difficult for outsiders due to cultural, lifestyle, and mindset differences. Frustration with the Amish way of life, as well as disillusionment with church members’ mistakes and joining for the “wrong” reasons, such as going in without spiritual conviction, are some reasons why people do not make it.
The others include difficulty adjusting and connecting to the community and leaving behind individualistic thinking contrary to the community’s way of life.
Are Amish people racists?
Certain people have labeled Amish communities as racist. Compared to other Mennonite religious sects, the Amish community has been more restrained in its opposition to white supremacy and racism.
Some have argued that the negative perception stems from the Amish’s social isolation and lack of regular interaction with other ethnic groups. Others argue that their apparent silence is based on their non-confrontational beliefs and stance and is excusable.
There is little evidence to support the Amish people’s history of racial discrimination. On the contrary, racism, according to the church’s official position, violates Jesus Christ’s teachings and is, therefore, a sin.
It can be inferred that, just like the Mennonites, the Amish believe that all people are equal in God’s eyes and that there should be no racial discrimination.
Mennonite groups, past and present, have a history of advocating for or defending the rights of oppressed people. They even advocated the end of slavery.
The Amish community bases its teachings on the fundamental beliefs of compassion and love for all humans.
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.