The origin of the Amish can be traced back to the Europe Protestant Reformation period in the 1500s. During this period, the focus of most Christian believers was to find a way back to the purity of the church as described in the New Testament. Naturally, some reformers rejected certain concepts.
One concept that wasn’t accepted by a certain group of reformers, which later came to be known as Anabaptists, was the notion of infant baptism. The Anabaptists believed that infants should not be baptized. Instead, only adults who acknowledge the faith should be baptized.
In the 1536, Menno Simmons, a young catholic priest based in Holland, joined the Anabaptist group. He published several writings which were widely read by several Anabaptists groups, who later started calling themselves the Mennonites.
In 1693, a group of Mennonites who disagreed with some concepts and teachings, including the concept of accepting back members who had initially been shunned after they repent, split from the group.
This group of people led by Jacob Amman, believed that unrepentant members should be completely shunned by all church members.
This group called themselves the Amish. Their name was derived from their leader’s name, Jacob Amman.
Persecution of the Amish and Mennonites
The Amish and Mennonites have faced persecution throughout their history. In Europe, both group faced persecution from protestant and catholic authorities who believed them to be radicals and heretics.
They believed that the Amish and Mennonites were a threat to political and religious order. This persecution forced most of them to leave their homes.
Most Amish migrated to North America in the 18th century in the hope of escaping persecution. At the time, North America was dominated by English-speaking protestants. Since most Amish spoke German, the local viewed them as outsiders.
Additionally, they faced pressure to assimilate to the American culture. For instance, in 1955, the state of Wisconsin passed a law requiring all children to go to school until they turned 16.
The Amish, who were against this law because they only believe in religious education, refused to abide by the new law.
This led to some of them being jailed or fined. Eventually, the Supreme court ruled that the Amish had a right to practice their religion without interference from the state, and the law was done away with.
Despite the many challenges, the Amish have managed to uphold their faith, culture, and unique way of life. They have since established different Amish communities and still maintain their organization, core values, beliefs, and culture.
Today, most Amish are found in the states of Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania.
Ohio has an Amish population of approximately 60,000, Pennsylvania approximately 70,000 Amish residents, and Indiana has approximately 30,000 Amish residents.
Other states where you are likely to find the Amish include; Missouri, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Illinois, and Tennessee.
Core values of the Amish culture
The four core values of the Amish culture are family, faith, simplicity, and community.
Amish value family and the time they spend together. They work together, eat together, go to church together, and go to community events together.
Their dedication to each other extends to older family members. You would find several generations of an Amish family living under one roof, so it is easier for them to raise the children and take care of aging members of the family.
The Amish culture is faith-based. Their religious beliefs require them to live morally upright lives of dedication and discipline.
The Amish attend church services each week to renew their faith. Members are also baptized as a sign of commitment to church rules.
The Amish take pride in living a simple life, free of external influences. This ranges from the way they dress, usually in simple plain fabrics, to shunning modern technology.
The Amish are 100% dedicated to their communities, which offer a unique and desirable support system. They go out of their way to use their skills to help each other whenever the need arises.
Amish way of life
Although different Amish groups are guided by different sets of rules depending on the district they are in, their way of life is pretty much the same. The Amish live in small communities and generally have a separate way of life.
They grow their own food, rear animals for their meat and make their own clothes. With changing times, some Amish have been forced to diversify to cater for their needs. Other than farming and rearing animals, some of them work in small businesses making leather goods, sheds, indoor furniture, and garden furniture.
Individualism is shunned in Amish communities. They believe in the importance of community. The Amish also believe it is important to keep themselves separate from the ‘world’.
Their way of life is completely different from that of other Americans in most aspects including their dressing, education, travel, language, and work. They work together to help any of their members that is in trouble, which explains why they are never keen on accepting state benefits like insurance.
Simplicity and humility are also important to the Amish. In fact, they are known for their simple way of life and shun anything associated with pride of position, enjoyment of power, and self-exaltation.
Additionally, the Amish expect all members to be morally upright and committed to church rules. Those who break rules are shunned from the community until they confess their wrong doings and repent. They are thereafter restored to full fellowship and accepted back to the church and community.
The Amish are very strict on marriage, and they only marry fellow Amish. They do not believe in divorce either and have large families of 4-8 children.
Amish children don’t attend normal schools like other American children. They have their own special schools where they learn until they are 14.
Once they turn 14, they learn practical skills while working. Amish children that turn 16 are allowed to experience life outside the community for a few month or years.
During this period, they are not bound by Amish rules and pretty much have the freedom to do whatever they want. After this period, they are expected to decide whether or not they want to be full members of the Amish community.
Those who do, usually 90% of them, are baptized and become full members of the church. They get married shortly afterwards. Those who decide not to return to the church cease being members of the Amish community.
Why do the Amish limit technology?
One of the most distinct characteristics of the Amish is their aversion to technology.
They don’t use computers with internet access, don’t own cars (although they can ride in someone else’s car), don’t use televisions or radios because they believe their values will be corroded my mass media, don’t use electricity because they believe the ‘wires connect them to the outside world’.
Similarly, the Amish don’t use cameras because they believe that the Bible in Exodus 20:4 bans the making of graven images.
So why exactly do the Amish shun technology? The Amish avoid or limit technology because they are keen on preserving their unique way of life. Conveniences introduced by modern technology that would even remotely affect the adhesiveness of their community or change their way of life are rejected.
Amish leaders scrutinize new products, services, and practices to analyze whether they would make members of the community overly dependent on outside institutions, generate lifestyle changes that may hurt the community, or create tension between families.
They may recommend less dangerous technology to be adapted to fit the needs of the community. For instance, the use of electricity is banned in the homes but allowed in farm buildings.
The short answer to the question ‘where do the Amish originate from?’ is they originated from Europe. Their migration to North America was largely fanned by their mass persecution in Europe.
The Amish have, since the 18th and 19th centuries settled in various states in the United States and continue to practice their distinct way of life.