To answer Tulsi's question about my Father being Amish, and to answer a few other questions I've received about "what is Amish" and "what do they believe", I've decided to post what I *do* know... I have never been Amish, so I don't profess to know all about it. But I used to question my cousin Cheryle a lot and her mom, Lorene when I'd go and visit on their Amish Farm. Also, I wrote a religious Thesis on the Amish when I was in college many moons ago. Today I'll share a little bit of their Religious Beliefs & Background, and next time I'll share more about their Cultural Beliefs and way of Living. The lines do blur a little, as I have mentioned the religion governs their way of life. But here goes... (and Dad, feel free to correct any mistakes).
Is Amish a religion, a culture, a race or ethnicity, or What?
Amish is a Religious Culture. Meaning, they use religious beliefs to govern their life... but more so than in the way that perhaps other religions do. Amish is an Anabaptist religion (Amish, Hutterites, Brethren, Mennonites, etc.)
Amish are of European decent, thus are Anglo/Anglo-saxon.
16th century Anabaptists rejected "modern" Christian practices such as wearing wedding rings, taking oaths, and participating in civil government. They lived a more literal interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount and Believer's baptism. However, all other major Christian denominations during that period saw baptism as necessary for salvation - including infants, and declared it wrong to delay baptism until the child had reached a certain age. Anabaptists believed that baptismal candidates need to make their own confessions of faith, and therefore refused infant baptism.
This is the main reason they were persecuted the 16th & 17th centuries by both Roman Catholics and Protestants. Many of these Anabaptists were persecuted and martyred for their beliefs. Those who survived attacks migrated to Southern Germany and parts of Switzerland. .
Menno Simons, a Catholic priest from Holland, joined the Anabaptists. From his teachings, he created a loyal flock of followers who were named Mennonites.
Jacob Amman, a Swiss bishop, broke away from the Mennonites and his followers were known as Amish. Ammann had views such as the wearing of the untrimmed beard, uniformity in dress, foot washing and prohibition of attendance at services of the state church.
Persecutions did not cease and many Anabaptists fled to Russia while others continued to Southern Germany. From Russia some went back to Germany and then the United States while others went from Russia to places like Paraguay.
Amish are NOT Quakers. Many people confuse the Amish or Mennonites with the Quakers. They are not Quakers, but I can see why they might be confused. Groups of Amish and Mennonites settled in Pennsylvania during the 1720's.. Obviously their European exodus was in search of Religious Freedom, as in most religious movements from Europe to the United States at that time. But why Pennsylvania? Well, the majority of the population of Pennsylvania at that time were of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). The Quakers were tolerant of other religious beliefs and would not persecute them. Similarly, the Friends, also opposed to violence and killing, were killed and persecuted by the Puritan settlers. (The Quakers settled in the Pennsylvania area in the mid 1600's to maintain a holy experiment in living in peace centered in the city of Philadelphia (city of peace).) The Amish knew this and decided to settle nearby in Lancaster County, PA.
In accordance with the teachings of Jacob Amman, old-order (traditional) Amish still abide by this simple-living, non-modern way of life.
It is very rare for someone who is Amish to marry outside of the church. If someone chooses not to be baptized in the Amish faith, normally they do not marry someone that is. Once they join church, it is also extremely rare for them to leave. This is an ultimate sin, because if you were old enough to proclaim your faith in Jesus Christ and are baptized, it was *your* choice (unlike an infant). When you are baptized you are not only professing your Faith in Jesus Christ, but you are covenanting to live the Amish way of life. So, if living an Amish lifestyle is not in accordance with your personal beliefs, then it is better to not be baptized than to be baptized and fall away.
Is my father still Amish? No.
My father knew from an early age he would not stay Amish and therefore was never baptized in their church.
He did however meet my mother who was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS). They were probably around 18 or 19 at the time. He took lessons from the LDS missionaries while he and my mother dated. If I remember correctly, they dated for about a year. In studying out the LDS religion, he felt a lot of "gaps" were filled (questions answered). He married my mother and was baptized into the LDS religion. My parents are both still very active in the LDS church.
In studying for my Thesis Paper, I found many similarities between the Amish and the LDS (Mormons). This was very interesting to me.
There is the whole persecution aspect; being driven from one place to another, tar & feathering, and even Martyrdom. This is similar to the early days of the LDS as well.
Like the Amish, LDS believe that one is not ready for baptism until they reach an age of accountability. Additionally, baptismal covenants are made and believed to be sacred.
Amish ministers are "Lay" clergy. LDS Bishops are "Lay" clergy. In the Amish faith, just as the husband is head of the household, Jesus is the head of the Church. "Within the church members are those who are assigned special duties to minister and serve the needs of the congregation. They do not believe that one member is more important than another, but that everyone has a certain duty to perform for the flock. Some duties require personal care to the members who cannot care for themselves. Others are in the service to serve the Word of God. In between, there are other positions for members. Those not in a position of an office are equally important in the congregation." (Who Are The Amish?) The LDS believe that every member plays an equally important part of the ward as well. Members are given various callings to teach or to lead the singing, etc. and some of course are called to be Bishops or High Priests. LDS also believe that Christ is the cornerstone of our religion.
Amish are divided into "districts" based on geographic location and attend church in that district. LDS are divided in to "wards" and "stakes" based on geographical locations.
Amish practice the law of tithes as well as contribute offerings to care for their own. LDS practice the law of tithing, and additionally practices fast offerings and has instituted other welfare programs.
Both Amish and LDS believe in the Creation. Both believe God then sent His Son to redeem them from becoming eternally lost. Both believe the Savior was conceived in the Virgin Mary through the Holy Spirit to be born in the house of David. Both believe in the resurrection.
I remember at the time of my report thinking it was interesting how there were many parallels and similarities between the Amish and the LDS.
Anyway... Stay tuned. Next week I will post more about the cultural aspect. Hope I didn't bore you all to sleep :)