My Thoughts About One of My Favorite Places--Northeastern Indiana's Amish Country

Thursday, December 29, 2016

25 Facts? Part Four


This is a continuation of comments on an article I recently came across online entitled “25 Facts About the Amish That Everyone Should Know”—a well-meaning article filled with the typical misinformation about the Amish which is constantly floating around the internet...


13.  Mennonites And Amish Are Distinctly Two Different Communities. 
Both communities find it greatly insulting to be mistaken for one another. The Mennonites, pictured on the left, are not as strict as the Amish. Mennonites may wear brighter colors, drive cars, and even live modernly.

The “greatly insulting” part made me smile!…  As far as “strictness,” both the Mennonites and the Amish vary from group to group.  The Mennonites fall on a continuum, with Old Order Mennonites on one end—horse and buggy and nearly as strict as the Amish—to modern Mennonite churches on the other end, where dress and lifestyle are no different than the Presbyterian church where I grew up. 

The Amish also fall on a continuum,  but a narrower one.  The Nebraska Amish are so strict that they won’t use screens on windows, or carpets or curtains—but on the other hand, a small group called the Beachy Amish have phones in their homes and drive cars.

The photo?  The people in the left photo are not Mennonites—I believe those are Amish women from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, based on the headgear.  The photo on the right, of the women all dressed in black?  I don’t know who or what they are!

12.  The Amish Came To America From Switzerland In The 18th Century. 
The Amish escaped persecution in Europe by immigrating to America. They found live more peaceful in their new country and decided to make it their permanent residence.

The greatest Amish immigration did happen in the 18th century (1700s), when most of the Amish in Europe came to Pennsylvania, at the invitation of William Penn, for religious freedom (and to escape military service in Europe).  A smaller group, even more conservative, called the Swiss Amish, came in the 1800s.  I wrote a blog post about this.

The photo?  Those aren’t Amishmen, and it wasn’t taken in the 18th century, when photography hadn’t yet come onto the scene.

11.  They Refuse Genealogical Testing Because Of Suspected Inbreeding. 
Despite living in small communities and reported inbreeding, the Amish refuse testing that would tell them who is related to who as they claim the testing is not of God’s will.

Besides being a blogger about the Indiana Amish, I am also a genealogist.  I’ve done lots and lots of Amish genealogy, and my various Amish friends were thrilled to receive an ancestry binder which outlined their family history and “who was related to who.”  I found that the rate of semi-close relatives marrying was about the same as it was in the “English” genealogies I’ve done—which is to say, it was and is extremely rare, but not unheard of.  The Amish may be uneducated, but they are not stupid.  They are aware of the dangers of inbreeding, and as a rule, they are very careful about avoiding it.

10.  Jakob Ammann Is Credited With Starting The Amish Religion. 
Jakob Ammann, an Anabaptist leader, began the Amish movement when he left Switzerland and other Christians decided to join him. Obviously, the word “Amish” comes from Jakob’s last name.

When Jacob Ammann decided to leave Switzerland, it’s not so much that “other Christians decided to join him.”  Rather, the Amish left Europe as a group and came to America.  Jakob and his followers were originally Mennonites, but they broke off because Jakob felt that the Mennonites were not strict enough on certain issues, particularly “shunning.”  He is indeed the founder of the Amish church, and it is named after him.

9.  Women Are Considered Second Class Citizens. 
As their tradition and old-fashioned thinking dictates, women are treated as second class citizens. This means girls are only destined to become housewives to cook, clean, and raise children.

I think my Amish women friends would disagree with the “second class citizen” statement.  As in many conservative Christian churches, male and female roles are well defined—and Amish families are large, due to the ban on birth control.  But I have seen true love and respect in the Amish marriages I’ve observed.  My original Amish friend Glenn has gone out of his way, over and over, to do things for his wife to make her life easier and better.  One time, he asked my husband to take them shopping for a good leaf blower; leaf cleanup is the wife’s role, as is all yardwork, but Glenn didn’t like to see his wife all tired out from a day of raking.  He and his wife are partners and best friends and have one of the best marriages I know.

The photo?  I don’t know what religious group these women belong to.  It’s very strange!

8.  The Average Amish Couple Has Between Five And Seven Kids. 
Amish communities do not believe in or use contraceptives, which results in large families. It’s also said they aim to have as many children as possible!

I not so sure about the aim as stated above; but due to the lack of contraceptives, families do tend to be large.  Reliable experts say that six to seven children would be typical.   



More next time.

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