The Amish, sometimes known as Mennonites, are well known for living simple lives, dressing plainly, and their refusal to become dependent on most of the conveniences of modern life that we all take for granted. The history of the Amish can be traced back to it’s founding in 1693 in Switzerland by a man named Jakob Ammann. In the early 1700’s, a majority of Ammann’s followers, who subsequently became known as “Amish”, immigrated to the young state of Pennsylvania. Now traditionally known as Pennsylvania Dutch, this dialect of Swiss-German descent is still spoken by those most traditional in regards to their Amish background. This group of “Old Order” Amish, though known to reside in Pennsylvania, live predominantly in the state of Indiana. A 2010 study puts the total number of Amish in the US and Canada at approximately 249,000.
Membership of the Amish church, which derives from Christian teachings, starts with Baptism between ages 16 and 25. Baptism is required for marriage, and once someone enters the church they must marry within the faith. As with the Christian faith, worship services take place every other Sunday at a district member’s home, with the Districts averaging around 20 to 40 families. The Ordnung, the German word meaning order and discipline, are the rules of the Church and must be followed by all members. These rules pertain to their day to day lives, such as not allowing use of Grid Electricity, automobiles, phones and limitations on clothing. The majority of these people will not accept aid from the government such as Social Security or Disability. In addition, most will not buy insurance or enlist in any facet of military service. Those who do not abide, face possible excommunication. Also, being that the Amish maintain such tight-knit communities, being shunned is a real threat as well and in most cases is enough to convince the person to correct their ways and return to the church.
In most cases, the Amish church prefers to keep their distance from the non-Amish community. Their teachings are based mostly around the balance of Faith and Family. The use of one-room schoolhouses, which in today’s society is seen as extinct, is still predominant within the faith. The core values of the Church, traditionally, are humility, tough manual labor, and simple rural living. As compared to the individualism of the majority of today’s American culture, the Amish way of life differs in almost every facet. This difference is what drives the idea of an aversion to labor-saving modern technology, which has the capability of driving one away from their dependence on the Community.
Unlike the variety that is the modern way of life, the Amish way of life centers around a relatively simple process. Becoming a member of the Church, getting married, having and raising children, and knowing the meaning of a day’s labor, are what make up the greatest functions of Amish life.