Why Amish?

This week a friend and I were talking about why people choose to be Amish. This is a complicated question. But, if you simplify it down to the broadest possible terms, there are mainly two reasons.

<em>Our non-Amish firend, Twila, honored her Amish ancestors by buying this dress.  She also owns a digital camera, allowing us to take this rather ironic photo.
Our non-Amish friend, Twila, wanted to remember her Amish ancestors by buying this dress. She also owns a digital camera, allowing us to take this photo. It's an ironic image. Many Amish frown on photographs because of Biblical prohibitions against graven images and vanity.

Some Amish chose to be Amish because of their faith. I’ve shared deeply spiritual conversations with many of my Amish friends about their faith, about what it means to be “saved” and about the importance of following God’s leading. I know that many are devout, faithful, humble people who are seeking to live with integrity, love and peace.

Want to know why they chose such an unusual way to express their faith? Check out these Bible passages, which are central to their understanding of faithful living.

– Faithful Amish try to literally follow the highest standards of Christian behavior, which are outlined by Jesus in Matthew 5-7
– Faithful Amish believe that everyone makes bad choices and that God will punish us for those bad choices. However, we can escape punishment by faithfully loving God. There are many passages in the Bible to support this, and one that is commonly cited is Romans 5
– The Amish dress and behave differently from most everyone else in the world because they believe it helps them to separate themselves from world, which they believe to be filled with temptations that encourage wrong choices. The idea of building artificial barriers between them and the world is supported by James 4:4

Some Amish choose to be Amish because of the culture.
They were born Amish. They feel safest when surrounded by like-minded people. They have incredibly tight bonds with family and friends (all of whom are also Amish). The non-Amish world, with its electronics, complex problems and constant change seems confusing, evil and dangerous. For many of them, faith has little role in the decision. They are often just behaving how those they love expect them to behave, and living how those whose love they need in return expect them to live.

Ever thought about joining the Amish? Because I work at Lehman’s, and because customers know that I have Amish connections, I am often asked how one can join the Amish. Joining the Amish is a difficult thing for an outsider, and I can’t remember a time when I’ve seen it done successfully. Joining the Amish as an outsider is probably about as difficult as moving to another country. Among themselves, the Amish speak a German dialect known as Pennsylvania Dutch. (To learn more, check out our English and Pennsylvania Dutch parallel Bible.) So, you will have to learn a new language to join the Amish. They have a complicated culture that will feel very foreign. It usually takes years for an outsider to earn their full trust and to feel a sense of belonging.

I am guessing that most of the people who ask about joining the Amish want to be Amish because it seems like a peaceful and happy way of life. But, things are not always as they seem. The Amish folks I know who are well-adjusted, happy and live lives of peace and love are the ones who chose their way of life for faith, not culture. The ones who chose their way of life because of culture are generally unhappy, often feel trapped and may often be surrounded by bitter and dysfunctional relationships.

From what I have seen, the key to a happy Amish life lies in a strong and faith-filled spiritual life. It does not come from riding in a buggy, farming with horses or wearing plain clothes and a straw hat or bonnet.

Disclaimer: Although I have many Amish friends, I am no authority on the Amish. I wrote this based my own limited experiences and observations, not based on any kind of serious or in depth study. I probably over-simplified. If you have differing views, I would love to hear from you!

If you want to learn more about the Amish, try 20 Most Asked Questions about the Amish and Mennonites. I recommend it!

Galen Lehman
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14 years ago

I’ve always thought about wanting to learn about the culture by living it for a week, but never permanently. I mainly want to have an inside perspective, but also learn their ways of sorta, living more with their own skills rather than relying on society and heavy equipment.

Mary  Troyer Rabatin
14 years ago

I’ve always wanted to know more because some of my ancesters way back were Amish . I’ve read a lot of Amish stories but not sure how true to real Amish life they are . Most are writen by writers from PA. 1 from OH . I enjoy the stories though .

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