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The Amish - Referat

Basic Information

The Amish are a Christian religious group. Their members settled in America chiefly in the 18th century and ever since they live in a very traditional way on their farms. They believe that God has called them to a simple life of faith, discipline, dedication and humility.

They live in urban areas. Initially they settled in Ohio, but now they are found in 30 states as well as Canada. Ohio has the largest Amish population, followed by Pennsylvania and Indiana. There exist about 1800 communities in the red zone

It’s not unusual that an Amish family has got 7 to 10 children. And that’s why their population has risen from about 5,000 in 1920 to almost 300,000 today. The Amish see the population explosion as a blessing from God.

The Amish are not a single unit. There are four main groups — the Old Order, the New Order, the Beachy Amish and Amish Mennonites — and of course there are also many subgroups with different rules.

The groups differ in matters of dress, language, forms of worship and the extent to which they allow modern technology to impact their lives. The New Order and the Beachy Amish dress much like their "English" neighbors and they also make use of "worldly" conveniences, such as cars, electricity and telephones. In contrast to them the Amish Mennonite and Old Order are very conservative and restrictive.

The Amish speak three languages. They speak English at school, Pennsylvania Dutch at home, and High German when worshipping. So for example hymns at their religious services are sung in German.
The Pennsylvania Dutch is a dialect of High German and has nothing to do with “Dutch”, but with “Deutsch”. The language has a very different pronunciation than current German and has been influenced by the English of surrounding populations.

Amish History
The story of the Amish community begins with the 16th century Reformation in Europe, when the Anabaptist movement created the three "plain" communities: the Amish, the Mennonites and the Brethren. The Anabaptists believed that only adults should be baptized, as they know the difference of right and wrong. The Amish community arose in 1693 from a schism in the Mennonite church by followers of Jakob Amman, a Swiss bishop.
In the early 18thcentury the Amish arrived in Pennsylvania and Ohio to escape religious persecution in Europe and to find land to farm.

Amish Lifestyle
Amish wear plain clothing. Some groups are restricted to black and white while others allow muted colors. Colors like pink are forbidden. Thereto I will show you again a section of the TV show. Jewelry, printed fabrics, buttons, zippers, belts and even gloves are banned.
Amish women wear dresses. Their hair is worn in a bun on the back of the head. They wear caps over their hair to show their respect for God.
Amish men wear broad trousers, suspenders, solid-colored shirts, black socks and shoes, and straw hats. With the beginning of their marriage, the men get the typical beard.

Religious Tradition
Perhaps the most famous aspect of Amish social life is "Rumspringa," which means "running around" in Pennsylvania Dutch. At the age of 16 Amish teenagers are allowed to give up the Amish life and see what it is like in the outside world. They can dress however they like, mix freely with non-Amish people, get an apartment, party, and basically do whatever they want. And then in their early twenties they decide if they want to join the church and if they choose to be baptized, there’s no way back. They have to make a confession of faith and agree to follow the order of the Amish community. This order is called the Ordnung. It’s an unwritten tradition that spells out expected behaviors and regulations. Church members who break the commitment are excommunicated and "shunned." That means they are cut off from their family, all their friends and associates. One of the girls in “Breaking Amish” is also shunned and she describes her experience. Shunning is also often called Meidung.

Amish children typically only attend school through eighth grade, mostly at private schools. There is no option to attend modern public school, nor a higher education institution.
Each school houses an average of 30 students. That’s also the reason why most schoolhouses only have one room.
In class the children learn the only the basics like reading, writing, geography, mathematics, English and German, because the “Amish” think that all other subjects not necessary for their children. So science isn’t taught at the schools there.
Teachers are typically single Amish women who are chosen by local parents so they didn’t even study.
Because the Amish believe that classroom learning represents only half of the knowledge they need as an adult and therefore the children typically receive "education by doing" once a week. The boys learn about farming and the girls about homemaking.

Amish Family Work Roles
Duties are clearly divided by gender role in the Amish home. Men are the head of the household and usually work on the farm, with women helping from time to time, if needed. They are also mainly in charge of financial matters, while women do the cooking, washing, cleaning, etc. Children grow
up identifying with the parent of their gender. Boys tag along behind their father, and girls stay indoors to help their mother. Men and women accept these roles as given to them by God, with the mindset that women are subordinate.

In the last years there’s been a shift. Increasing numbers of the Amish earn a living in non-farming occupations. Many of them have their own stores in which they sell clothing, furniture and crafts not only to their Amish neighbors, but also to non-Amish and tourists. They also form construction crews that build houses and other buildings for non-Amish and they also work in factories and shops.
Of course the tradition of farming still exists and it is still a lot more exhausting than for example here in Germany, but there is a progress. Some Amish groups permit new farm equipment on the fields to increase productivity.

Progress and technology
I have to quotes of Amish men to this topic.
“Progress doesn’t mean better!"
“We don't want to stop progress, we just want to slow it down”
I already mentioned that there exist differences between communities. Some of them allow modern technology - of course only restricted - while others don’t.
Why do the Amish reject technology?
The prohibition refers to the Bible that says that everything that God created is perfect, that you should not change anything and you shall not get too comfortable.
And another reason is that they don’t want to integrate into the surrounding society.
People often mistakenly think the Amish use nothing modern. But that’s not right. Most time it is just the ownership of modern things that is forbidden, not the use of them.
So for example Amish are not allowed to have a phone, but in their neighborhood there are always public telephone booths which the Amish can use.
Amish are not permitted to drive cars but are allowed to hire outsiders to drive them. They believe there is a difference between "controlling technology" and "letting technology control them".
Progressive communities already use bottled gas, refrigerators, stoves and water heaters. To light their homes and shops, the Amish utilize gas lanterns.
Despite the progress they still use horse-drawn buggies.

Photographs are prohibited as they accentuate individuality and call attention to one's self. Moreover, the Amish believe that photographs offend the Bible because it says that you shall not make any image of yourself or anything else on earth. That’s also the reason why their dolls do not have faces. They also do not want others to take photographs of them. Of course that often leads to conflicts with visitors.

Conflicts and Problems
No opportunities
If Amish decide themselves against the church, it’s very difficult for them to integrate into society. They didn’t have a normal childhood and not much freedom. For example they are not allowed to use bicycles, because their parents are afraid that they could drive to far from home. The Amish church only allows non-motorized scooters. They have few opportunities because of their education.

Medical help
The Amish don’t want to receive medical help. Recently there has been a dispute over the medical treatment of an Amish girl with leukemia. The chemotherapy was very painful for the girl and that’s why her parents fled with her and deprived her of the therapy. In an interview they said that they are now using “natural stuff” and that it will help her as much as the therapy if it’s God’s will. But the doctors say that the girl could die within a year without the medical treatment she needs.

Genetic disease
Many Amish have a genetic disease like Autism or the maple syrup urine disease. There is also a high infant mortality rate. The reason for the disorders is that the Amish have the same ancestor and with that a limited gene pool.
It comes to intermarriage and genetic mutations. These disorders and childhood deaths are seen by the Amish as God’s will. They refuse to undertake any form of genetic testing prior to marriage which would ensure that they are not related to their potential wife or husband.

Highway accidents between motor vehicles and Amish buggies are a concern to many. These accidents are terrible and one-sided. There are many victims. In 2014 alone there were more than 100 accidents and mainly young people lost their lives.

And now at the end a question for you:
What do you think about the Amish lifestyle? Would you like to try it out?

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