The amish: a culture of tradition and preservation

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The Amish: A Culture of Tradition and Preservation

The Amish, or Amish Mennonite church fellowships, are a Christian religious denomination known for their simple living, plain dress, and resistance to the adoption of many modern conveniences. They originated back in Europe due to a schism in Switzerland within a group of Swiss and Alsatian Anabaptists in 1693 (Gutkind, 1953). In the early18th century, many Amish immigrated to North America in areas such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Ontario to avoid persecution. Though initially following the same frontier as other Americans, they have maintained a considerable separation from the non-Amish world over the years (Crowley, 1978), and subsequently they have maintained the same lifestyle for many generations. Their refusal formodernization and outside influences has made them a truly unique community, one with specific anthropological aspects worth noting. The following research paper will delve into these very aspects, examining the life of the Amish through ethnicity, religious practices, family, and their isolation from the outside world.

The Amish identify with each other through a common heritage, and as such theyqualify as a distinct ethnic group. Largely of Swiss-German descent, they tend to think of themselves as members of the same faith community, and disregard the ethnic designation. They are predominantly Caucasian, and speak a distinctive German dialect called Pennsylvania German, also known as Pennsylvania Dutch. However, they also speak English. Those who choose to affiliate with the church, oryoung children raised in Amish homes, but too young to yet be church members, are considered to be Amish. A large number of today’s Amish descend from 18th century immigrants, though a larger number immigrated during the 19th century. It is theorized that the 18th century immigrants emphasized on tradition to a greater extent, and in doing so managed to maintain a separate cultural identity moreefficiently (Crowley, 1978).

According to the Mennonite Information Center in Lancaster, the Amish "believe that God loved the world so much that he gave his only son to die on the cross and that through faith in the shed blood of Jesus (they) are reconciled to God. (They) believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, that as Christians (they) should live as brothers, that the church isseparate from the State, that (they) are committed to peace, and that faith calls for a lifestyle of discipleship and good works" (Tuberman, 2008). Their religion stems from the teachings of Jakob Ammann, the leader of the schismatic faction of Anabaptist Christians. One of the most important aspects of their religious teachings revolves around the notion of humility, also known as Demut (Tuberman,2008). Contrary to mainstream American culture, the Amish renounce the notion of individualism, demonstrating reluctance to be self-promoting called Gelassenheit in order to submit to the superior Will of God (Hostetler, 1964). As such, strong communal norms are used to emphasize the importance of being humble in the eyes of The Lord.

Astonishingly enough, Amish congregations have no churchbuildings for worship despite their intense devotion to religion. Alternatively, worshiping services are held in private homes. This practice is either believed to be based on the verse in Acts 17:24 from the New Testament, or possibly due to the fact that as a result of religious persecution in Europe, it was safer to pray at home (BBC, 2009). Members meet every Sunday at a designated home, which isdetermined at the beginning of each year, meaning all members end up hosting worship. This is a big contribution to the community, as the designated home will also host important Christian rituals such as baptisms and communions. As for religious leadership, a congregation elects one bishop, one deacon and one secretary, all of which act out their duties for a determined period of time which...
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