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The Amish: A Special Report

Updated on August 22, 2013
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The Amish.

For many of us, when we think of Amish folks, we think of frugal living and large families living off of the land on farms.

When talking with a friend of mine, she told me that every time she took her granddaughter shopping at the local supermarket, she would have to wipe down the shopping cart. The Amish women where she lives would bring their children to the supermarket and most of them are unvaccinated. A breakout of childhood diseases that rarely occur anywhere else would suddenly start becoming the daily news story. (According to PBS, many Amish do vaccinate in today's society.)

As I was telling my husband about the story my friend told me, he paused. He then said, "did you just say the Amish people were shopping at the supermarket?" I said, "yes dear, that's what my friend said."

He looked at me and repeated the question as if I was landing in off a spaceship from Mars. "Why are you looking at me like that?", I questioned, to which he replied, "since when do Amish people shop at grocery stores? Their whole way of life is structured around living off of the land. They have farms. They grow their own food."

I thought he was over-reacting to what my friend told me. Obviously people need to go to the grocery store for various reasons. He was defiantly opposed to the notion that Amish people shop at supermarkets.

Not giving it another moment's thought, I was sitting in a doctor's office yesterday. They display the best magazines on a little side table in the waiting area. I picked up a back issue and started reading about how Amish people are taking jobs anywhere they can make money to survive. They can no longer afford to live off their own land because no one is buying their goods.

Well, after reading that, it sent spine-chilling goose bumps right through me! What does this mean to the rest of us? If Amish people aren't making it by their customary means of survival in these times, are we all doomed?

History behind Amish.

Amish people are known for simple living, old-fashioned dressing, women in bonnets, horse & buggies, and stead-fast resistance to modern conveniences.

They incorporate traditional Christian fellowships and ministry in Mennonite churches. Amish hold great convictions about their beliefs and are known as one of the peace churches because of their dedication to opposing war and violence.

The Amish church began in Switzerland in 1693 led by Jakob Ammann. Followers became known as Amish.

In reaction to religious wars and persecution, plus poverty, the Amish migrated to Pennsylvania in the 18th century. Many settled in Lancaster County. Other groups later spread out across the United States settling in Alabama, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Maryland, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Maine. Eventually settlers crossed over to Ontario, Canada.

Ohio has the largest population of Amish settlers today.

Religious Beliefs.

Amish people reject pride, arrogance, and haughtiness. They place value on humility, calmness, composure, and placidity. They are usually submissive people with the idea of letting things be versus self-promoting or assertiveness.

Amish people believe photographs encourage vanity.

In 2012, Breaking Amish, an American reality television show, depicts younger generation Amish trying to break free and start new lives of their own. Soon after the show aired, it was revealed though, that these characters may not totally be true Amish, as many of them had already left their Amish families and backgrounds, marrying outside of their culture, before the show even began.

Amish and modern medicine.

Today, most Amish do not oppose modern medicine including surgery, hospitalization, dental work, anesthesia, etc. They do not have insurance, but they help each other pay medical expenses when anyone needs financial assistance through their mutual aid fund.

Amish clothing.

Women and young girls wear long-sleeved dresses with full skirts almost floor length in solid colors. They wear aprons. They never cut their hair and wear it in a bun. They do not wear jewelry. They wear a white prayer covering if they are married and a black one if they are single.

Men and young boys wear dark suits, straight coats without lapels, trousers with suspenders, solid colored fabrics, black socks, black shoes, and black broad-brimmed hats.

By wearing these distinctive clothing, Amish people believe it encourages humility and nonconformity to the world.


Amish are famous for their beautiful quilts. Here's a fine example of a quilted table topper.

Source

Amish transportation.

Amish people use old-fashioned horse and buggies to get around most of the time. Horse and buggies come in several colors including black, gray, white and some have a different colored top.

Amish are not opposed to riding in an automobile. Amish have accepted modern conveniences to meet their basic living needs. They will not compromise their social structure however. While they do not own cars, they will accept a ride in one hired at their own expense to travel from place to place. Car ownership would create a division in the community bringing inequality. It would create proudness, wealthy status, and speed up the slow pace of Amish living.

They will use them but not own them.

Amish do believe in using gas to operate water heaters and modern stoves. They also use gas in lanterns to light their homes, barns, and shops.


Why do Amish people forbid music?

Amish people believe that playing an instrument would be conforming to the world. It's contrary to their belief in humility and would stir up emotions.


Modern world collides with Amish beliefs.

Modern societal issues such as taxation and education are issues which collide with Amish beliefs.

On occasion, Amish people are discriminated against and shown hostile opposition. They have had stones thrown at them or their horses on the roads.

Most Amish children are schooled through eighth grade, believing that knowledge and training to that point is enough to prepare one for the Amish way of life. In many Amish communities, they operate their own schools.

In 1972, members of the Amish community and Mennonite Church were fined $5 for refusing to send their teenagers aged 14 and 15 to high school. The Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned the conviction. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed this decision citing the benefits of a universal education do not justify a violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. See Wisconsin v. Yoder.

Amish people do pay taxes. However, traditionally they do not agree with the idea of social security benefits and have a vehement stance against insurance. The United States Internal Revenue Service agreed in 1961 that Amish did not need to pay social security taxes nor would they receive benefits. This became law in 1965. This only applied to Amish who are self-employed.


This mission armoire will take 8-12 weeks to construct.

Source

Amish Furniture

Amish religious beliefs forbid the use of electricity which they believe might create competition for status. They do not believe that electricity is evil, but rather believe it could lead to many temptations which would corrupt their church and family life.

Many of their woodworking tools are powered by hydraulic and pneumatic power that is run on diesel generators. Some technology is acceptable, and exceptions are made for craft that support multiple families within the community.

Superb attention is paid to the details in wood furniture. Each piece of wood is hand-selected and particular attention is paid to the grain. Furniture made by Amish is considered a green product. The Amish review their work as art and sustainable furniture that will be used for generations!


Mustaches
Mustaches are associated with military and are forbidden by Amish.

Amish in the news.

In February 2013, prosecutors sought a life sentence after a Amish bishop allegedly participated in beard-cutting tactics promoted to humiliate and punish other Amish. Once an Amish man becomes married, he does not shave his beard. It's a symbol of transitioning to an adult.

In Ohio, April 2013, one town served eviction notices on Amish families that built new homes without septic systems for their outhouses. The County Prosecutor told families that if they continued to make progress, no one would be evicted.

Traditional chocolate Amish friendship bread

Source

Have you ever visited Lancaster, Pennsylvania?

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How do Amish people survive in today's economy?

A basic way of life for early settlers and farmers was to live off the land. It's a concept not so much used any more today, but the Amish certainly are accustomed to it. When I read that article in the doctor's office yesterday, I thought if the Amish can no longer sustain their way of life by living off the land, what direction is our nation's outlook taking on farming?

It is estimated that half of the Amish community have jobs outside of their properties and homes. There are a quarter million Amish today and many do not have home farms. Some have resorted to working in factories to get by.

With the growing amount of Amish people and the increasing rise of property, the Amish simply cannot keep up with land acquisitions as they once enjoyed to pass land from one generation to another.

Younger generation Amish are deciding more frequently to move away from farming all together.

Many Amish sell their intricately crafted handmade furniture, quilts and deliciously handmade breads. However, not all Amish people can sell their wares which causes many to find work outside of Amish traditions.

Conclusion

The news of American Amish cultures dwindling has left me feeling very sad.

A part of American culture and history are farms that were established years ago that fed generations before our time.

Hearing that Amish communities are no longer exclusively sustaining themselves from their own land as they used to be able to really makes it clear that times are changing.

Having said that, I foresee a trend. Not only is farming affected, but overall everyone from the mom and pop retail store, to online vendors in business for years have been facing hard times. It makes me think that there is something to this story of the dwindling ways of life we have become accustomed. It's time to start looking toward the future and not sit idle while change comes upon us when we least except it.

It's hard to accept change, especially when it affects our comfortable way of life.

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    • erorantes profile image

      Ana Maria Orantes 3 years ago from Miami Florida

      Mr. Craftytothecore, I like your hub about the amish way of living. Their lives is good and healthy. A simple way of living, yet it is a lot of work. They most be exhausted at the end of the day. In every race, there is always one that make the entire group look bad. We need to see them as a good group in this beautiful world. There are other groups that do bad thigs to survive. Thank you for writing this article.

    • CraftytotheCore profile image
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      CraftytotheCore 3 years ago

      Hi RTalloni! Thank you so much for your comments here. That's an excellent point. "Bend with winds of change". I like that.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 3 years ago from the short journey

      It is sad to think of the Amish (or any others, for that matter) not being able to sustain themselves by living off the land. I'm thinking that there are many factors contributing to the issues, and also that avoiding stereotyping is important for all communities. This hub/comments offer much food for thought. Your conclusion was interesting. It is important to bend with winds of change on certain levels in order to progress into whatever the future holds.

    • CraftytotheCore profile image
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      CraftytotheCore 3 years ago

      Hi PegCole! Thank you for stopping by and your nice comments!

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 3 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Interesting development in the Amish society. I saw the TV documentary on "Breaking Amish" which described the "Rumspringa" but didn't know most of the other details you've provided here. Sad to think their way of life is changing.

    • CraftytotheCore profile image
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      CraftytotheCore 3 years ago

      Oh wow, Moonlake. I didn't know anything about puppy mills. I have 3 rescued dogs and wish I could take in more as is. ;D

    • CraftytotheCore profile image
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      CraftytotheCore 3 years ago

      Hi angelicwarriors! Thank you so much for your thoughtful input. I've become too spoiled by modern conveniences, but I do love the lifestyle of the Amish. I've never been to Lancaster but it truly sounds like a place I would love to visit!

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 3 years ago from America

      I'm not as crazy about the Amish as so many people are. I have not been able to get over seeing on tv the documentary about the puppy mills they run to make money. I no longer look at them as kind decent moral people.

      Voted up on your hub.

    • angelicwarriors profile image

      John Chartier 3 years ago from EHT New Jersey

      I loved the writing, I spend a lot of time in the Amish areas, along the east coast (not just lancaster) mid west, and one day I would like to travel overseas to see where they came from...

      I have some Amish friends, that I have meet in my travels, I have Amish families I do business with, and I really find their life style attractive. Look I may not give up electricity or any of my motorcycles, but that doesn't mean I can't have what they have...

      Simple is what we make it, they center their life around God, first, then Family, then community.. put these things in your life in this order and watch your how simple your life becomes...

      They are up early to work long hard days, men have jobs they must do, women have theirs... at sundown they are done, and it is family time...

      I once got to speak to a couple that left the church and lived among us, I asked what the biggest problem was for them once they left the church was, and I will be honest I was surprised, at their answer... it was TV Sports... He loved sports on TV and she felt alone because he didn't hear her when she spoke to him, where back on the farm they spent nights speaking to one another...

      That's the things that complicate our lives, not the grocery store shopping, or the cars we drive, it is we have so many things to keep us from the three things the Amish value most, God Family Community...

      Anywho great article, made me think of my last trip to lancaster and all the need things I brought home...

      (now following you)

      God Bless

    • CraftytotheCore profile image
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      CraftytotheCore 3 years ago

      Hi Heather! I love whoopee pies. A customer brought some in to where my husband works. They are homemade pumpkin whoopee pies. I don't know who made them, but they were so good. That's interesting that you live there! That's so funny about the horse and buggy parking!

    • HeatherH104 profile image

      HeatherH104 3 years ago from USA

      Hi! I live in Lancaster PA and we have horse and buggy parking at our Walmart, banks, and hospital. When I was taking birthing classes the class was half Amish half "English". When the class was to meet at the hospital to see the birthing rooms we needed to drive one of the couples because they rode bikes to the class and it would take too long for them to ride out to the hospital. I would say they are, but on the other hand, aren't living a simple life. While they don't own cars, phones, etc. they are not opposed to using them.

      If you ever visit DO buy their baked goods. Very delicious. They are best known for shoo fly pie and whoopie pies.

    • CraftytotheCore profile image
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      CraftytotheCore 3 years ago

      Thank you Rose! Peaceful times are certainly decreasing. I didn't have to go anywhere today. It felt good to just sit back and hang out at home instead of being in the middle of a mad rush with people in a hurry to get nowhere fast.

    • rose-the planner profile image

      rose-the planner 3 years ago from Toronto, Ontario-Canada

      A very insightful article regarding the Amish. It is sad to see that changing times have affected the simple and peaceful lifestyles of the Amish. We have an Amish community west of Toronto in a very picturesque village called St. Jacob. It attracts tourists because of its lovely Main Street with pretty little shops and restaurants, but the biggest attraction is seeing the Amish going about their business in horse drawn carriages dressed in their traditional attire. They really do have a very peaceful way of life it would be awful to see that disappear. Thanks for sharing. (Voted Up) -Rose

    • CraftytotheCore profile image
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      CraftytotheCore 3 years ago

      Thank you EP! I have to turn my cell phone off every day because otherwise I wouldn't get a thing done. I would love to go back to basic and live off the land. Around here though, people honestly believe now that if they want something they can just go buy it at the store. While that's true and convenient, it doesn't replace the gardening experiences I've had growing up on a farm.

    • CraftytotheCore profile image
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      CraftytotheCore 3 years ago

      Thank you Pamela! Yes, you state it perfectly....their way of life has worked for centuries!

    • epbooks profile image

      Elizabeth Parker 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Very interesting article! I often wonder if all of these modern conveniences are detrimental to our society. There's something wonderful about how the Amish live. I don't know if I could ever make the transition, but I'd have to imagine in a way, there is less stress. No cell phones ringing, texts every five minutes, social media,etc. Sounds peaceful. Well -written as always!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 3 years ago from United States

      This is a very interesting hub. I had the pleasure of traveling through PA and the Amish areas are so beautiful with their farmland, silos and children playing. I think it is sad if they have to change their way of life as it has worked for centuries. This informative hub is very well written and I enjoyed it very much.

    • CraftytotheCore profile image
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      CraftytotheCore 3 years ago

      Thank you Billy! I'm improving from the tips you posted in your articles!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I have been reading a lot of hubs over the past nineteen months, but I gotta tell ya, this was one of the best introductions I have read in a long time, and I'm very picky about introductions. The story about your friend telling you about the Amish had me hooked from the very beginning.

      Well done!