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 few break-off Amish groups, mostly in Ohio, have electricity 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.

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 of Amish genealogy. as a hobby; I have a big Amish family tree with over 22,000 people in it.  I’ve found that the rate of semi-close relatives marrying was about the same as it was in the “English” genealogies I’ve done for the same time periods—which is to say, it was rare, but not unheard of.

The Amish in my community may have a limited formal education, but they understand basic genetics!  They are aware of the dangers of close-cousin marriage, and they always know who is related to who—it’s practically a hobby here! The typical local Amish couple in my tree might have one or two of their 16 pairs of great-great-great-grandparents in common. 

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 Amman decided to leave Switzerland, it’s not so much that “other Christians decided to join him.”  Rather, the Amish chose to leave Europe and come to America.  Jakob and his followers were originally Mennonites, but they broke off back in Europe because Amman 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, though—and Amish families are large due to the ban on birth control.  But I have seen love and respect in my Amish friends’ marriages, to differing degrees, but probably in about the same proportions as my “English” friends’ marriages (some of which have been very short on respect compared to mine)…  Also, any Amish woman can choose to remain single, and some do.

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 normally the wife’s role, as is all yardwork, but he didn’t like to see his wife tire herself out in the yard.  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 eight children would be typical.

More next time in part five, where I wrap up this series.

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