The Fractured but Functional Amish Church

The Worldwide Amish Church is Not a Monolithic Culture

What Does This Mean?

First, the “Amish Church” has fractured throughout the centuries into many distinct Amish churches known today as “orders.”  Each of these Amish subcultures possess their own social templates known as the Ordnung.  Even the Ordnung within a single church order is constantly shifting and reformulating itself.  Individual families, which attend the same church district, may think and act in a variety of ways that can end at odds with one another.  As much as the Amish sometimes appear to disagree among themselves, they all adhere to the two linchpins of their faith. The first is ‘obedience to the church and its anchor, God’s word’.  The second, ‘separation from the world,’ is key to avoiding an unending chase after the constant advancement of technology. This allows them to maintain focus on what is pleasing to Jesus.  Beyond these basic tenets, to generalize about the Amish church would be foolish.

Each year millions of tourists descend upon Holmes County, Ohio, and Lancaster, Pennsylvania. They wish to capture, at least for a sunny summer day, a piece of America’s mythologized past.  They have come to soak up a certain feeling, maybe even purchase part of it for their urban porch, and then leave. They now “know” the Amish, and can return home to tell their circle of acquaintances all about them.

Many visitors come home from “Amish country” to take part in conversations that lead to the assumption that the Amish community is a bastion of hypocrisy. Before doing so, do these tourists even consider whether the Amish they met are Beachy Amish, Swiss Amish, Nebraska Amish, Weaver Amish, New Order, Old Order, or possibly even Swartzentruber?

An hour in one direction you may see an Amish man in the field, farming with a tractor on steel wheels. However, the Amish in our settlement are not allowed to let a tractor sit in their yard, even while storing it for a non-Amish friend!  The Amish in our community also use a handy battery operated devise that I will always be thankful they introduced me to.  The LED headlamp (Boruit Headlamp Work Light is a good choice) is a tremendous convenience when you live out away from streetlights. It is also a wonderful safety accessory for their young people who walk down the sides of the road at night wearing dark clothing. Other settlements may not allow this device.  In our settlement the Amish are allowed to have gas lights and indoor bathrooms in their homes, and might as well be Lutheran according to some of their less modern brethren from a neighboring settlement to the north. 

Although there may be vast differences in lifestyles among the different Amish orders, they all share in an adherence to their tenets: ‘obedience to the church and its anchor, God’s word’ and ‘separation from the world.’  For this reason you can be at ease that they don’t judge a non-Amish person for driving an automobile or wearing a shirt with buttons.  If you haven’t taken an oath to their exact church, they assume you are attending to the matters of your own soul as they must attend to theirs. How Refreshing!

To learn more about the distinct orders of the Amish and other interesting facts, consider picking up a copy of one of my favorite books, Plain Secrets: An Outsider among the Amish!



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