She's a college Religious Studies major. I hope professors and other "experts" teach that today's Amish are diverse.
Although Amish may have religious exemption status from some U.S. laws, to me Amish is a culture driven by its Anabaptist heritage. When I speak at schools, churches, book clubs, libraries, or in radio interviews, etc., I emphasize these two points. And I love speaking to audiences, so invite me when your group wants more cultural literacy.
Since I love answering questions, I emailed this curious student. Part of my reply included:
"The ones I know and help are of the conservative orders on the spectrum - Swartzentruber and Old. The Swartzentrubers do not offer Rumspringa to their youth. I don't think Old Order speak of Rumspringa either. The two choices a teen has is
- sneak out at night to enter a forbidden life or
- remain Amish, "settle down" and join the Church
I continued my reply, "Here's another step, Amish parents and leadership pressure 18-20 year-old youth to join the Church. In these conservative orders, only Church members are allowed to marry, vote, and have hope of going to heaven. Baptism is the preamble to Church membership."
Interesting to note: pressuring Church membership is opposite of one of their Anabaptist tenets. Anabaptism teaches that baptism should be an adult's choice - no pressure. In the Amish culture, adulthood begins at 21-years.
Often outsiders see the Amish life as simple. I like what Mennonite author Doris Janzen Longacre observed, "The trouble with simple living is that, though it can be joyful, rich, & creative, it isn't simple."
Want proof? Here is a Cliff's Notes of complex Amish hierarchy. There are
- Orders (more than 20) from no technology to white-buggy to black-car Amish
- Settlements within each Order, in various locations and states. Each settlement has a
- Bishop who implements his personal sternness/leniency
- local churches under the bishop. Each church may have differing rules
- family* like us, families are different. Members of the same Amish family might conflict on their shunning practice, which creates division within a family.
I explain some of the complexities and answer curious audience questions when I speak on the Amish. When one library asked me to speak, I shared clothes from my ex-Amish son-in-law, Harvey. The fascinated crowd moved up close. They wanted to touch the handmade items and his sister's kapp.
Question: What other stereotypes have you heard about the Amish? Help me debunk some myths by adding your favorite in the comments. Thanks for liking to learn!
8/28/15 Update - yes, my book BEYOND BUGGIES AND BONNETS: SEVEN TRUE STORIES OF FORMER AMISH is available on Amazon, where it's among Amazon's Best Selling in culture/tradition books!
You can get an autographed copy from me; mail $17 (U.S.only) check or Money Order to PO Box 1032, MV, OH 43050. I'll sign and send it to you ASAP.
I always have copies to sign and sell at my speaking engagements.
(C)Copyright, 2014. Brenda Nixon