The Amish People
Our RV travels have taken us through Amish/Mennonite communities in
Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. We have always found the
simple and hard-working lifestyle to be fascinating and thought we would
share a few interesting bits of info we have picked up along the way.
Both groups trace their roots back to the Anabaptist movement in Europe at the time of the Protestant Reformation.
The Mennonites are named after Menno Simons (1496-1561), a Dutch
Anabaptist leader who had left the Roman Catholic priesthood in 1536.
His writings and leadership united many of the Anabaptist groups, who
were nicknamed “Mennonites.”.
The Amish began as a small group along the southern Rhine River
and in Switzerland who broke off from the Mennonites. Their name comes
from their founder, Jacob Amman, who felt that the Mennonites had
drifted away from their original beliefs and practices.
Starting in the early 18th century, many of the Amish migrated to
the U.S. Most of the members who remained in Europe rejoined the
The two churches have similar beliefs concerning baptism,
non-resistance, and basic Bible doctrines. They differ mainly in some
practices and interpretation of the Bible.
So, what are some of the practices of this lifestyle?
About the Amish
- Old Order groups all drive horses and buggies rather
than cars, do not have electricity in their homes, and send their
children to private, one-room schoolhouses.
- They may appear stuck in time, but it really a
matter of being very careful about change. They will tend to reject new
ideas or gadgets that conflict with their desire to lead simple, quiet
lives with a strong focus on family, community and their faith.
- A landmark 1972 Supreme Court decision exempted Old
Order Amish and related groups from compulsory school attendance beyond
8th grade. It is worth noting however that the Mennonites have high
schools, colleges, and seminaries in North America. And many Mennonites
and progressive Amish do attend high school and even college.
- The decision not to hook up to the electric grid
is in keeping with their desired separation from the world. By not
using electricity, they avoid temptations and negative influences on
their church and family life.
- They do use gas. Gas lanterns and lamps are common. Bottled gas is used for water heaters, stoves and refrigerators.
- The plain, yet distinctive clothing is an expression of their faith, encouraging humility and separation from the world.
- An Amish man does not shave his beard after marriage.
- They believe in pacifism and non-violence.
- Self-employed Amish do not pay Social Security
tax. They do pay Social Security tax if employed by non-Amish
employers. They do pay other taxes (property, federal income, sales
tax, etc.). In turn, the Old Order seldom collect Social Security,
Medicare or Medicaid benefits.
- They may choose to use modern doctors and
hospitals. This is a decision that varies across families and is based
on circumstances. Generally, each family takes care of their own, with
the assistance of the community if needed.
- Be mindful that Old Order and Mennonites forbid
having their picture taken. This is based on the second commandment
Exodus 20:4: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any
likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth
beneath, or that is in the water under the earth”.
If you have never spent any time in the countryside of these
people, or visited the interpretive centers that teach about this simple
lifestyle, we recommend it as an intriguing and enjoyable experience.
Read more about Elkhart Indiana, which is near the Amish country. Or learn about the Pennsylvania Dutch and Lancaster in combination with a trip to Hershey PA.