With the recent popularity of shows such as “Breaking Amish” and “Amish Mafia” people are becoming more curious about the religion. As entertaining as those shows may be, they are not an accurate depiction of all Amish lifestyles. Shocking, right? A television show exaggerating something for more views.
The Amish religion explained as simply as possible would be an extremely conservative form of Christianity. It originated from Switzerland in 1525 and got its name from a Swiss Anabaptist named Jacob Amman. The Amish left Switzerland and came to America to flee religious persecution. While the Amish do live a simple, pacifistic lifestyle, they are still people just like the rest of us. They have rules that their church defines and some decide to break the rules while others might follow them to a tee.
It is shocking to find out how little people actually know about a religious group that is right in their own back yard. There are Amish people that live in 31 states, the most populated being Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana. In 2016, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana makes up two thirds of the entire Amish population in North America.
Some facts about the Amish can be generalized and broken down into a list but the best way to find out more about their lifestyle would be to take a little road trip to Amish country and see for yourself.
A time that starts when an Amish kid is around 16 years old and lasts until they get married. During this time, it is acceptable to begin dating and go to parties on Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons. This time is supposed to be for sowing their wild oats and essentially deciding if they want to get baptized into the Amish church. If they get baptized and then decide to leave the church they would be shunned. If they leave the Amish church before they get baptized they will technically not be shunned. This might be hard to believe for some people, but their parties can actually get out of hand with large speakers blaring Akon and the Bud Light flowing.
2. No “Amish Tax Exemption”
This is a common misconception. The Amish are not exempt from paying federal and state income taxes, property taxes, etc. If they are self-employed, they are exempt from paying into social security and Medicare because they don’t use it. They pay their church tithes regularly, and then the church will take care of any needs that they might have.
3. Speaking Their Language
Yes, Amish have their own language but don’t try to look it up on Google translator because you won’t find it. What they speak, is a broken German language called Pennsylvania Dutch. The language is more commonly referred to as speaking Amish. Personally, I have found that people who can speak German can understand Amish, however it is very difficult to understand German if you speak Amish. In school, all Amish kids are taught how to speak, read and write in English.
4. The Amish are Here to Stay
By looking at how our society is advancing further and further into a technologically dependent world, one might assume that there are more people that are leaving the Amish than ever. According to an estimate by Ohio University ; ASARB the Amish population is expected to grow to 912,258 by 2050 from the 308,030 population that it is at today. The reason behind the growth is large family sizes and retention rates of 80%.
5. It’s a Simpler Life
Amish believe that it is sinful to be, “of the world”. This means that they reject the idea of having phones and televisions. There are different churches that will allow families to have a landline phone in their house or have a phone outside that a couple families would share. There are typically exceptions made for men who work construction or work in a factory where they need a cell phone but then the cell phone can only be used for work purposes. Just like any normal young person, the Amish are no different in terms of doing things they’re not supposed to. Depending on what area you are in, most Amish young adults have cell phones that they hide from their parents and some of them even have Facebook.
6. That’s NOT a Hipster Beard
Facial hair is not just a fashion statement for the Amish. Once a man is married, he is not permitted to shave his beard anymore. It has been traced back to Bible times that beards were part of being a man. The Amish men can’t have mustaches because they are pacifists and mustaches are sometimes linked to war and soldiers.
7. No Electric? No Problem
Amish believe that having electricity in their homes is of the world and sinful so they use propane or kerosene lights, stoves and ovens. Other appliances such as the washing machine are run off of a gas motor. Now, they are moving more towards LED lamps with a 12 volt battery that they charge off of solar panels rather than the propane lamps.
Hopefully this helps to shed some light on how the Amish live. There is much more to learn about the Amish lifestyle which can be done by a simple web search or a short trip to Amish country. When it comes to what you read on the internet, be skeptical when something sounds too extreme to believe. There is a lot of exaggerated information out there on the Amish.