The Amish Among Us: A History Lesson

J03y's picture

Last week I wrote in a comment about my family being ex-Amish, and this time I want to go into that some more. There's some things I won't write about for a bunch of reasons, but what I WILL say is true. Part of this is from a school history report I wrote two years ago, the rest is personal experience.

The Amish originated in Switzerland in the late 1600's when a group of people decided to leave their church and essentially for their own. Most left and came to the United States, settling in Pennsylvania because of the large amounts of farmland available. Hutterites are also part of this original group. There are currently around 250,000 Amish in the United States.

The Amish are separated into three groups: Old Order, New Order, and Mennonites. Old Order Amish are stricter and more hardcore in their beliefs and practices, New Order Amish are more relaxed on their rules and even allow modern technology at times, and the Mennonites are the most liberal of the three. For privacy reasons I don't want to say which group my family is from. The more I write about this the more that should make sense.

All Amish live by the church written rules called the Ordnung, which is a guide on how to live,dress, and function. Not following the rules is a really bad idea, leading to shunning or excommunication from the church for the worst offenses. Simple living, plain attire, and hard work are principal aspects of the Amish beliefs

The Amish live in close community groups of 10-30 families, and each group decide how to live. There are really strict groups and more liberal ones, and the bishop of the local church chooses and enforces the rules. One community can be quite a bit different from the next nearby community.

Most Amish speak an old German dialect called Pennsylvania Dutch, which is also known as Pennsylvania German, and a minority speak Swiss German. If you're around some Amish and they start speaking "Dutch" they are doing it so you won't understand what they're saying, and they're probably talking about you. Not saying nice things either.

The Amish refer to anyone not Amish as "English", and it's not exactly a compliment. They'd prefer to only be around their own but will tolerate outsiders, keeping them at a distance.

A big part of the Amish is that you willingly join the church after a period of free exploration in your late teens in "English" world called "rumspringa" (running wild) and once you have had your fill of the outside world you are baptized into the church and are free to marry, although only to another Amish.

I'm the result of a rumspringa encounter, and soon I'll write about that and more about my family.



jeff's picture


So, my rumspringa joke last time wasn't too far off. ;-)

I grew up near the Amish in PA (Lancaster area, I think?), but not like I would see them regularly, usually we'd pass through there on our way to other places...

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