There are many questions about the Amish Culture and even more answers. While the questions are only natural, some of the answers are less than correct and others downright misleading. Some are well meant, some make the Amish look better than they are and some worse. Some authors of books have done a fairly thorough research and others have done a good job of whipping up some exciting details. Having said that, here is my perspective on why there are Amish and why they live as they do.
It is a well known fact that the Amish trace their roots back to central Europe; Switzerland, Germany, Austria and Alsace-Lorraine to be exact. They were part of the so called Protestant movement beginning in the 1500s. They became known as Anabaptists or Wiedertaufer, because they were rebaptized on confession of faith, and rather than baptizing babies, the next generation was as mentioned, baptized on confession of faith as an adult.
Out of this Anabaptist faith came many different groups, some of this occurring as a result of splits and /or separations, as well as making the move to the New World (America). Among these are Mennonites, Amish, Hutterites, German Brethren, Old German Baptists, Dunkards and many more.
The Amish group started in 1693 as the result of a split between two Mennonite factions. Those following the Mainstream Mennonites are still known by that today; those that followed Jacob Amman were known as the Amish.
The most popular subject question asked by both Amish and non-Amish is, “Why did, or why do, the Amish people choose to live as they do?” There is no simple answer to this seemingly simple question.
The general Amish goal is to live a relaxed, slow paced life. By now it is evident that our forefathers had the foresight to realize that the more conveniences we have the harder we would have to work to keep up to pay for these. For instance, the car. The car allows one to travel much further to get a better job – to pay for the car. In the end, it will in many cases rob us of a little bit of the slow paced life. A lot of little bits add up to a big bit. The faster paced and hectic our life becomes, the less time we have to dwell on God and all good things. We can easily become aggravated, may “conveniences” seem to break down in very inconvenient times and places. Our forefathers seemingly realized that it would be better to do without the modern combine (as an example) so that neighborhoods would band together to cut, reap, shock and thrash grains; or modern construction equipment so that communities would band together and build a barn. This would keep expenses down as well as create a caring and sharing neighborliness. The system may not be perfect but certainly very effective.
As an example of a slow paced or fast paced life, let us consider the cell phone. They are mighty convenient in times of need and, as I see it, mighty troublesome in times of not. For myself, I need time to think, to concentrate and recuperate after a day’s work. At least for some folks, the cell phone wrecks that. There is no “time out”. I realize that communication is important, but I am not so sure we need to know what is going on all the time in all parts of the world. It appears to add up to stress.
That, then, is the reason for attempting to live a slower life, to remember our Creator, to be aware of our surroundings, to enjoy nature and to help one another.