I watched this show recently called "The Amish" on American Experience.
"The Amish: American Experience answers many questions Americans have about this insular religious community. Their intense faith and strict adherence to 300-year-old traditions have by turn captivated and repelled, awed and irritated, inspired and confused America for more than a century."
I missed the first half hour but enjoyed it immensely. The show did focus a bit on saying the Amish would face challenges given that only 50% of Amish families now make their living in other ways besides farming. This made me ponder what will happen to them should our economy offer no opportunities for them to sell their carpentry, crafts and other skills?
Other parts of the show showed positive parts of their community, including those Amish who came together in forgiveness even after those horrible murders of their young daughters at an Amish schoolhouse, and the cohesiveness of a community working together.
"After the shooting deaths of five Amish girls a year ago today in Nickel Mines, Pa., the Amish community offered forgiveness for the shooter and his family. USA TODAY talked with Steve Nolt, who co-wrote the new book Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy (Jossey Bass, $24.95), about what America could learn from the Amish.
Q: What did you learn about the Amish understanding and practice of forgiveness while you were writing this book?
A: One of the main things I learned was how central forgiveness is to Amish theology and really to their whole values system.
The Amish believe in a real sense that God's forgiveness of them is dependent on their extending forgiveness to other people."That definitely was a positive example, even as the Amish parents of the victims reached out to the family of the man who murdered their children.
Definitely there are aspects of the Amish life, that are very hard, with no modern conveniences which includes a lot of hard physical labor but one can ponder if they are more wise in placing more importance on other things rather then "being of this world". They are self sufficient and never lack for fellowship within their group.
However their religion definitely includes things many of us would not agree with, such as the Ordnung, where they must make a vow of obedience to their way of life:
"The Amish blueprint for expected behavior, called the Ordnung, regulates private, public, and ceremonial life. Ordnung does not translate readily into English. Sometimes rendered as ordnance or discipline, the Ordnung is best thought of as an ordering of the whole way of life ... a code of conduct which the church maintains by tradition rather than by systematic or explicit rules. A member noted: The order is not written down. The people just know it, that's all. Rather than a packet or rules to memorize, the Ordnung is the understood behavior by which the Amish are expected to live. In the same way that the rules of grammar are learned by children, so the Ordnung, the grammar of order, is learned by Amish youth. The Ordnung evolved gradually over the decades as the church sought to strike a delicate balance between tradition and change. Specific details of the Ordnung vary across church districts and settlements."
— Donald B. Kraybill , The Riddle of Amish Culture
There is extreme adherence to tradition, and not all tradition is biblical, in other words, there is nothing in the Bible that forbids the use of electricity even if we can see the wisdom in not being so tied into the modern world. Legalism and adhering to a perfect code becomes the Amish way taking people away from salvation via grace. Some of the rules are unusual, Amish can ride in other people's cars, but not use their own, this made as a rule to preserve their way of life but funnily enough reminds me of some aspects of modern Orthodox Jewish life, where one cooks dinner the day before because no one can turn on a stove during the "sabbath". There have been those who have come out of the Amish world, detailing why they left including the false theology. The tradition of "Shunning" where Amish people are told to never talk again to one who has left, is one painful part of this picture.
Rumspringa is another part of Amish culture, where their youth are allowed a degree of freedom, oddly far more then the Duggar children and young adults. During the Amish Experience show, they had groups of Amish youth where some had stretched "freedom: further then others. I also watched this show on National Geographic where Amish young people on Rumspringa were taken to England. "Amish on Break" As I watched that show, one Amish girl really stood out to me, she refused temptations not out of self-righteousness but her love for God. Perhaps she was one who truly had been born again despite the false traditions and teachings, but sadly most of her peers saw Rumspringa as an excuse to sin. I can understand Amish parents wanting young people to not have "forbidden fruit" syndrome regarding, cars, radios, etc, for the rest of their lives should they join the church and avoiding over-sheltering, but Rumspringa, is another non-biblical tradition.
Years ago, when I was young, my parents took me on many excursions to see Amish settlements, I saw at least three different ones, some were more touristy then others but then there was the time, our car broke down on some back dirt road, and Amish people offered my parents their bicycles to go get help for our car because they had no phone and we were too far away from a corner phone. It was interesting to see their way of life, and how different it was though definitely idealized for tourists and the like.
I personally know someone who is ex-Amish, he is an acquaintance, but have been to his house, while he had electricity, he went without a phone, grew food from scratch and canned his own food and lived a very basic frugal lifestyle.
Even if I do not agree with the Amish church and its traditions, there are some aspects of their lives to be respected. I do believe overall it is a false church, but understand why the Amish are such a fascination in American culture.
So tell me what do you think of the Amish?