When I think of the Amish people, I think of folks who refuse to use cars ,telephones, electricity ,steam engines etc,etc. But the Amish have been around since the 1500’s, way,way before the invention of electricity or any other technology . My question is: back in the 1500’s , what did they do (besides wearing black) to set themselves apart from the rest of society ? What “satanic” trappings of us evil city slickers did they disdain ?
Buttons… because they were introduced by the Prussian military…
The Amish are not anti-technology. The Amish do choose to live separately from “the world” to avoid entanglements that can lead to sin.
Aside from living in close communities, prior to the industrialization of farming, there was nothing really to set them apart from their neighbors. They did have some rules: they refused conscription in armies (for which they were persecuted), they adopt “plain” (i.e., not patterened) clothing, (they are not limited to black and gray for colors, but they do not use “print” fabrics), the men never wear mustaches (because mustaches were popular with the military at the time they were founded).
In modern times, they do not use electricity or telephones in their homes (because that would be an entanglement with the “world” relying on the power grid). On the other hand, Amish carpenters are quite willing (in some areas) to hire onto a construction site and use that company’s power tools. They do not participate in Social Security in the U.S., choosing to pool their funds to take care of their elderly within the community (or family, actually). Until the double-digit inflation and accompanying housing price hikes in the 1970s, they never took out mortgages for land or property. Instead, the community pooled its resources for a young family to acquire land and buy a house with cash, then they worked out the obligations among themselves. (When land and housing prices went through the roof, Amish near large cities were forced to secure mortgages for the first time. It is still not a popular action and a number of new Amish communities have sprung up in the last 20 years in more remote sections of the country in the hopes of abandoning the practice.) They do not drive cars or individual tractors to avoid relying on the oil companies for fuel.
Since they are a congregational rather than an episcopal organization (although they do have bishops, I believe) and do not take orders from a Curia or other church-wide governing body, different Amish communities are free to reconcile their own beliefs with the encroaching 21st century. In some communities, the local church will buy a single common tractor to use its PTO to drive common corn dryers or other farm equipment. In the Middlefield community outside Cleveland, weed-eaters are a common sight. Lawn mowers remain the old reel-type push mowers–although some folks hook up gang mowers behind a horse. The lack of farmland for their growing families in the face of encroaching suburbia is what has driven a number of them to take jobs in local factories or with contruction firms. They are not happy about it, but it takes a lot of effort to move thousands of people. (The Middlefield community is the world’s third largest after Millersburg, OH, then Lancaster, PA.)
There are also the Mennonites, who IIRC are a less restrictive sect. I grew up near Lancaster, PA, and knew a few Mennonite families – they did have electricity and telephones in their homes but still tended to live quite simply. I don’t know if this was typical of Mennonites, or just of those I knew.
On a slight digression, it’s always irritated me how Lancaster has become Amishland!, as if reducing the deep faith of a minority population to the level of a tourist attraction is somehow a good thing. Do people buy postcards in Vatican City saying “Greetings from Catholic Country!” and run around shouting “Hey honey – gedda picture of those guys with the red hats!”. Oh god, they probably do…
jr8 “don’t get me started on the use of the word quaint…”
The Amish stand out because of their disassosciation with the trappings of the modern world but when the shit hits the fan, they flock to a modern hospital. Am I the only one who finds this hypocritical? They don’t want to contribute to the trappings of an “evil” society but they sure will take advantage of one.
Interesting argument that an otherwise entirely benign people that choose to minimize their contact with consumerist society are a burden on the rest of us for doing so. Not sure what you mean by “hypocritical”, though. AFAIK, Amish wage earners and property owners pay taxes, same as everybody else. In your example about using modern hospitals, do you mean not enough Amish choose to go to medical school?
Geez, while we’re at it, those dang horse-drawn buggies are continually holding up traffic. Oughta legislate them off the road, right?
I agree with the others in abhorring the way the area east of Lancaster has become some sort of wierd Amish Disneyland. Sucks big time, not least because some of the country’s most fertile and productive farmland has been turned into parking space for outlet malls and silly attractions.
I hardly find hypocritical a desire to get sufficient aid to maintain or restore one’s health.
They do not separate themselves to avoid individual contamination. They are quite willing to do business with “Yankees.” They buy food at supermarkets and clothing and tools at “Yankee”-owned stores. They can be friendly (or even become friends with) “Yankees.” (My next-door neighbor was a surly misanthrope, but the guy who made the draft-horse harness that my wife wanted to give her dad was a delight to know.) Their choice, however, is to avoid large-scale day-to-day entanglements as a group that would tend to compromise their ability to remain separate.
Are all their decisions rigorously logical? Of course, not. How many human institutions are? They are struggling to maintain a vision of society formulated in the 16th century as the 21st century hurtles down on them.
Hey now! Who are you to call the “Dutch Wonderland” amusement park a silly attraction?
I’m going to assume you’re not just trolling here. But I think you should reserve your annoyance at the Amish for the Pit, okay?
You shouldn’t categorize about people like this. “Categorizing about people” is also known as “bigotry”. Here’s a quote from an Amish FAQ. http://www.800padutch.com/atafaq.shtml#medi
Where I live in Illinois, some Amish go to doctors, some go to “healers”, and some just stay home and pray.
I first learned of the existence of the Amish when I was in third grade on a field trip to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. We noticed a group of people in black and purple, the men with moustacheless beards and flat wide-brimmed hats, the girls in dresses and bonnets that looked like the Little House on the Prairie come to life.
We urban brats didn’t know what to make of them. Some kids were snickering (as brats usually do when confronted with the unknown) and calling them “hillbillies.” I went home and described them to my mom, and she said, “Ah! the Amish!” Must have been the Middlefield community you mentioned.
Just thought it was noteworthy that they had come to the museum to learn about science–they were obviously not allergic to science as is the stereotype. I have no inclination to run off and join them, but I really like the fact that they exist, to bear witness to an alternative point of view from our crazily rushing modern civilization. A slower paced life, built on personal and communal reliability.
Sometimes if you see a bearded bloke with no mustache, you might think he’s of a Mennonite persuasion, but in fact this same style is followed by certain tendencies within the Hanafi school of Islamic law. The wearing of beards in both cases goes back to ancient Semitic tradition. The aversion to moustaches derives from their popularity among 17-century soldiers in the case of Mennonites, and among the Sassanid Persian Empire in the case of early Islam. (However, there are certain Shi`ite tendencies in Islam that encourage the growth of moustaches.) How ol’ Abe Lincoln decided to omit the moustache when he grew his beard, I have no idea.
I love living in an area with several Amish and Mennonite communities. Our city’s one major grocery store has a few hitching posts with signs that read “Horse Parking.” Or you can go to the Mennonite-owned grocery/bakery out in the country, about 5 miles from our house. Mattie’s cheese bread is the best! There are several annual Amish consignment auctions around here; they sell furniture, crafts, and quilts, and you can get homestyle food all day long on the Amish farm wher the auction is held. We never miss the one on 4th of July weekend.
The Amish are no burden on “English” society. They carry their own weight and then some. I feel better off for having them around.
Whoops, forgot – an excellent book on the Amish and related sects is *Amish Society[i/] by John Hostetler, a sociologist who was raised Amish.
I liked the book Why Do They Dress That Way? by Stephen Scott, who was raised a regular Anglo, but converted to the Plain People way of life.
I’m from Kitchener, Ontario, and there are several different types of Mennonites here. Some, like the ones I work with, are less restrictive, like the ones you knew. Others are very much like the Amish being discussed here. No electicity or phones, still drive a horse and buggy, etc… You can tell which are the traditional Mennonite farms while driving in the country because there are no power lines coming in from the road to the farm.
Like Scarlett67 mentioned, several business around here (Home Depot, the shopping mall) have areas for the traditional Mennonites to to leave their horse and buggy when they come into town. It’s interesting to be driving in the city, and see them swing around the corner while you’re waiting for a red light.
They don’t call us “Yankees”, they call us “English.”
I go to an Amish farm near me (Baltimore) and get eggs, pies, jams, baked goods…the stuff is out-of-this-world-delicious!
“We noticed a group of people in black and purple, the men with moustacheless beards and flat wide-brimmed hats, the girls in dresses and bonnets that looked like the Little House on the Prairie come to life.”
Then the Amish are big users of Amtrak, because I see families of people dressed that way passing through Chicago Union Station without fail every day. So they certainly don’t refuse to USE mechanized transportation. And they definitely buy things like soda, candy, and chips. I know; I’ve had to wait behind families stocking up for the journey as I was trying to buy a soda and evening paper for my trip home.
I am not going to call them hypocritical for using mechanized transport but refusing to own it. They’re bringing more business to Amtrak, after all.
I can’t remember the reasoning for them not using cars, but yes, they do use trains. (Remember “Witness”?) And I believe most of them will accept a ride in a car, but just won’t drive one.
The reason for not using electricity is not to shun modern conveniences, but their very fervert belief in resting on the Sabbath. If they used electricity or phones, they would be responsible for someone having to work on the Sabbath.
With photographs, I know some people think the Amish don’t like their picture taken because they think it will “steal their soul” which is just sooooo wrong. They don’t like photgraphs because they believe it is a graven image.
Yes, a point I forgot to mention, which others have touched on, is that (in varying degrees) the Amish do not refuse to use modern conveniences, but rather they refuse to rely on them in everyday life. Their lives are strongly rooted in work – their simple lifestyle and strong work ethic are, in their view, how they glorify God.
I too, was surprised years ago to see an Amish man eating at Hardee’s, his horse and buggy parked out back. (This was before I came to live in this area.)
Perhaps my most amusing sighting of Amish “out of their element” was at Great America in Illinois. There were seveal young couples, one with a baby, and an older woman, presumably Grandma. We first saw them having lunch in an out-of-the-way corner. Later, we saw the young couples in line behind us for Logger’s Run – the wettest water ride in the park. (Presumably the baby was with Grandma.) There was a camera at the end where you could preview and buy pictures of yourself coming down the chute, getting soaked. We watched the Amish go down the slide, and they were obviously having a blast! (They didn’t buy a picture, though. ;))
About the “graven image” philosophy – this is also why Amish dolls have blank faces.
I’m with ishmintingas – they’re a pleasure to have around.
Mennonites vary more than Amish do in their acceptance of technology.
I’ve met some that are very strict and conservative–very little diff. from the old order Amish.
There’s a whole spectrum between that and the rest of us, though–some Mennonite women wear just the white cap, some the whole outfit (trad. plain clothing, that is). I know of one middle-aged Mennonite woman, a well-known restaurateur, who owns and drives a red corvette.
great feedback ,everybody! I learned a whole lot today.