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

Thursday, December 8, 2016

25 Facts? Part One

My sister-in-law Deb emailed me a question the other day.  She’d seen an article on a website called entitled “25 Facts About the Amish That Everyone Should Know.” She asked me, “So – are any of these actually true??  On the picture of the wedding they have microphones.  What about the no power/no technology thing?  I’m so confused.”

After reading the article myself, I decided it was time to lay out some better information, based on the 20 years I’ve had friends among the Amish.  My knowledge is based mainly on the Indiana Amish of Elkhart and Lagrange Counties, but I’ve read enough reliable information on the other major groups to have a feel for their beliefs and lifestyles also.  (And I know where on the internet to go to get trustworthy information!)

Let’s take them one by one… in reverse numerical order, like the article.

25.  Courtships are usually short and quickly followed by marriage. 
Once a couple starts “dating,” they will go out only a few times before deciding if they should marry. The church will then bless the marriage, and the engagement becomes official once it’s announced in their town’s newspaper.

I’ve watched half a dozen Amish courtships over the years, including a few that ended up with breakups and broken hearts.  I would say that their courtships are no longer or shorter than ours in the “English” world.  Going out only a few times?  That’s just not true...  I’ve never heard of a “church blessing” before a marriage (although the engagement is announced, or “published,” in church)—but what typically happens is, if either or both are not yet baptized members of the Amish church, then that’s the time it’s done.  As for announcements in the town’s newspaper—nope.  Shipshewana, Indiana, for example, doesn’t even have a newspaper.

24.  The Amish Have Lower Cancer Rates In Their Community Than Other Demographics.
The Amish not only produce their own food— free of pesticides and processing, but they also refrain from drinking and smoking. This healthy lifestyle means lower cancer rates for their communities.

Most Amish refrain from smoking (except some of the tobacco growers in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania), and drinking is not a part of their culture.  They don’t produce all their own food, however, although many do have large gardens.  Some have organic farms (free of pesticides and processing), but some don’t.  And I’ve shared a very non-organic local pizza, and other dishes, with Amish friends more than once!

23.  New Couples Are Encouraged To “Sleep” Together. 
Surprisingly, young couples are encouraged to share a bed together prior to marriage. However, both parties are fully clothed and a board is placed between them to prevent contact. The idea is for them to spend the whole night talking instead of doing other things…

This practice is called “bundling,” and it was common in Colonial America—google it for more information.  It is not, however, common in Amish communities today.  And the photo that goes with this one—wow!  It’s ridiculous!  Wikipedia has this one just about right:  “The [bundling] tradition is thought to have originated either in the Netherlands or in the British Isles and later became common in Colonial America, especially in Pennsylvania Dutch Country.  Some Nebraska Amish may still practice it.”  (The Nebraska or White Buggy Amish are the most conservative among the Amish groups today.  See my 2015 blog post on them.)

22.  Amish Beliefs Forbid Them From Using Technology.
The Amish do not use technology even in the slightest sense. They go without electricity, phones, and internet due to their belief in “Gelassenheit,” which is a Christian word equating to keeping the earth as God created it.

The Amish do indeed use technology—but sparingly, and after great deliberation.  Drive around Amish Indiana and watch for the solar panels on the roofs of Amish homes and barns.  I’ve seen items in Amish homes like an electric typewriter that ran on a 12V car battery.  My Amish friend Glenn recently said, about a son-in-law, “He really likes to use that GPS!”  And some Amishmen who have businesses which require being away from home all day, are allowed to have cell phones; I know an Amish cement contractor who has one.  Also—“Gelassenheit” is an Amish word which means submission—yielding oneself to a higher authority.

More next time.

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