The Amish community continues to be one full of mystery to a lot of people. We continue to be curious about the way they live their life, and why. It baffles a lot of people’s minds that a group of people could live with little to no electricity and other modern conveniences. Unfortunately, people get a lot of their information from what they see on television or in the movies. This is a drastic mistake.
Hollywood tends to be a bit dramatic, so it is not a reliable source when you want to learn about a different culture. Even news channels are not as reliable, as they tend to show the extreme cases that are not the norm in any community. It is all about shock value. The TLC show, Breaking Amish, was one of the first to depict the Amish life, but I fear it has done more damage than good, because they are again showing a possibly scripted and dramatized version of what happens.
The Amish are a community of people who are Christians. We will learn more about them the further we go into this article, but we need to discuss the Ordnung. The Ordnung is an unwritten set of rules and regulations that guide everyday Amish life. It is comparable to how a devout Catholic would use the Bible as their reference for how to live their life. When an Amish person breaks any of the vows in the Ordnung, they are at risk of being shunned from the community.
The Amish are known for shunning members of the community, but why do they do it? What could a person possibly do to mean that they would be shunned by their entire community and people that they love? We looked to Amish America (www.amishamerica.com) to decode the Ordnung and find out just what it takes for a person to be kicked out.
15 What You Wear Means A Lot
The Amish are generally referred to as “plain people” and this can be due to their lack of technology and cars, but it also refers to how they dress. There is a ‘dress code’ of sorts for the Amish, and any straying from this can lead to shunning because it is breaking another testament of the Ordnung.
You will never see any patterns of flamboyant colours on the dress of either an Amish male or female. Their clothes are primarily made up of the colours black, blue, burgundy, brown or green. Amish men normally dress in plain black suits and pants. They do not use belts because those are seen as flashy, instead they use black suspenders. Amish women are equally simple. They have four dresses. One for wash, one for wear, one for dress and one for spare. They both have separate outfits for church, but they are just as simple and plain.
14 It Is Not Just A Hair Style
There are many ways to wear your hair these days, and most of the world is out flaunting the trendiest cuts and colours. You will not find this in the Amish community, because a person’s hair cut and style is yet another thing that is mentioned in the Ordnung. The Amish women are not allowed to display their hair. They are also not allowed to cut their hair.
They need to pin all their hair up and keep it underneath a Kapp, which is a prayer covering. This is again all due to not wanting to appear vain or conceited. It is all about being humble in the Amish community. When an Amish woman is at home just reading or lounging around, they will often let their hair down, but it is never down in public. The men do get their hair cut, but it is normally done by their wives on their front porch.
13 Let There Be Light!
If we look at what the Ordnung teaches the Amish, we can get a good idea of the types of acts that could get someone shunned. The purpose of the Ordnung is to uphold community. The Amish believe in rules and that it is essential for them to be followed closely in order to live in a safe and happy place.
The Ordnung prohibits the use of public electricity. This means that they do not allow their members to have any electricity that is run by a power company. This means that they are allowed to have items that are powered by individual electricity. So, while they can not have publicly supplied gas to run lights, they can power it with their own gas that they have acquired. This is one of the biggest things the rest of the world can not imagine. We take our electricity for granted, and most of us would fall apart without it.
12 Running For Government
A lot of people may see this a blessing and not a curse, but the Ordnung strictly prohibits anyone from running for Government. The Amish do not have much of a presence in politics. Most of the Amish do not vote, but some do. One campaign that stands out is when George W. Bush was running in 2004, he had a large amount of support from the Amish community. If we wanted to estimate if the Amish would be more Republican or Democrat, it would appear that they have more of a Republican view, as they are more conservative in their values.
The reason that the Amish are not allowed to run for any political position is because of their nonresistance belief system, which prohibits the use of force against others. This belief is at the root of almost everything the Amish believe in.
11 Adultery Is A Sin Everywhere!
There may be a lot of differences between the Amish community and others around the world, but the one thing we can all agree on is that adultery is bad, a sin even. Adultery in the Amish community is grounds for shunning, even though it is not listed in the Ordnung specifically. It is not listed because it is considered so bad that it shouldn’t even need to be listed for one to know that it is wrong.
The Amish review the Ordnung twice yearly before their communion service. During this meeting, the members are asked if they still agree with the Ordnung and the most common answer is always yes. If there is something that a member wishes to be allowed into the community, the church leadership may allow it temporarily to have a testing period before changing any of the Ordnung rules.
10 You Can Not Sue! (But, There Is A Loop Hole)
Unfortunately, Americans like to sue people. A lot of these cases are justified, but the culture of suing people has made it almost a stereotype about America to other people. Add in all the judge shows, like Judge Judy, and it is just made a lot worse. Suing people in a court of law is another thing that is prohibited in the Ordnung and could lead to people getting shunned.
The Amish are private people, and they prefer to handle all concerns within the community. So, while they can not take another person to a court of law, they can handle such matters within the community. They may have the head of the church act as “judge”. They want to handle the problems and concerns of the community among themselves. However, these concerns do not come up often, as the Amish are a staple of how well a community can get along with each other.
9 Not Just Basic Electricity
It is not just lights and other simple technologies that are not permitted, it is other novelties as well. They are not allowed to have televisions and automobiles as well. How would our kids react if we suddenly took away the TV? Sadly, in this world probably not well. The Amish do just fine because that is all they know. They grow up without these items that we rely on so heavily.
The Amish are allowed to power items in their home with solar panelling. Solar panels are becoming more popular in other areas of the world. It is a great way to use resources that are available to us instead of paying a corporation to do the same. It also is eco-friendlier. If you were to compare the carbon footprints of an Amish person and a non-Amish person, I would imagine the difference is outstanding.
8 Buggy Style
We know that the Amish do not use vehicles to get around, but they do have horse buggies. This is how they get around town, and there are rules on how their buggy should look. The Ordnung teaches that there is a very specific way that one should have their buggy, and any straying from that is a possible reason for being shunned.
A lot of people see the rules that the Amish have to follow as harmful. They state that it hinders their ability to be creative and express themselves. The Amish view it as the complete opposite. They state that by keeping their buggy style simple it helps prevent pride and envy among the members of the community. There is no room for vanity in the Amish community. The Amish believe that when obeying the rules of the Ordnung, they are demonstrating that they have a humble spirit, which is a true Christian way of living.
There are a lot of communities out there who still practice arranged marriages. This is slowly dying out, but it still exists. The Amish do not practice arranged marriage, but they do however have rules on who you can marry if you are Amish. If you are a baptized member of the Amish community, you can only marry another baptized member of the community.
Some see this as a form of arranged marriages, because you are confined to a set group of people you must choose from. Does the Ordnung ever change? It does change, but very slowly. The Amish value and respect tradition and are not as fast or willing to change what is working for them. The Ordnung can also vary slightly by district to district, so it is not uncommon to see different Amish practices in different living regions.
6 The D Word
Divorce is something that seems to be happening all over America, and it is. There are a lot of couples breaking their vows right this very minute, so with something being called an ‘epidemic’ happening how do the Amish feel about divorce? Well, the Amish take their wedding vows very seriously, and especially the part about ‘till death do us part.’ Divorce is something that just does not happen in the Amish church, and a couple who chooses to divorce is at risk for being shunned.
If an Amish couple does divorce (which is allowed in extreme circumstances), they are still not allowed to remarry until their ex-partner passes away. If and when their partner does pass away, they begin their next relationship in secret. The Amish take part in a courtship, and this courtship would be done completely by mail. Some couples never even see each other throughout the whole period of courting.
5 Warnings Are Ignored
The process of being shunned is not simple. It does not work as dramatically as you see in Hollywood. It is not a situation where someone is caught with their hair down and are immediately shunned, it just does not work that way. If a member of the community is seen violating any of the rules of the Ordnung, they will receive a visit from the church ministry. This could be anything from owning a piece of banned technology to wearing inappropriate church clothes.
The church ministry will visit the offending member and ask him to stop what he is doing or to put the technology pieces away. If they refuse to take these warnings to heart, then they could be shunned from the church. When someone is shunned, it does not mean that they are banned permanently. They can still rejoin the church after a confession and a waiting period.
4 If You Stray
While the Amish are Christians, there is one thing that sets them apart. They believe that baptism should happen in adulthood, when a person is old enough to make the decision for themselves. This contradicts what other some Christians practice, which is baptizing their members when they are infants. Neither is wrong, just different and based on what a singular person believes.
If a member of the Amish community decides to leave before they reach the age of baptism (which is between 18 and 22 years of age) they are not shunned, because that would go against their belief of your making your own decision. If you decide to leave the church and community after taking part in baptism, you are likely to be shunned. What is interesting is that church does not occur in a special building or temple. Church services happen every other Sunday and take place in a community members home.
3 Breaking The Virtues
The Ordnung is something that the Amish hold very close too. It is how they define how to live their life and what is important to them. If someone goes against any of the virtues or teachings of the Ordnung than they are at risk of being shunned. The teachings on the virtues of the Ordnung are quite simple. They all stress the importance of humility, obedience and simplicity. This can help explain a lot of the cultural practices among the Amish population.
They value humility, they are not vain people. Even their dolls that their children play with have no faces. They are dolls with a blank face because it takes them further away from vanity and thinking that beauty matters. Obedience is important to the Amish community, they take the commitment one makes to the church very seriously. A simple life is the life they lead, and sometimes I must wonder if that would not be the better way to live.
One of the things that the Amish are known for is being peaceful. They do not believe in violence and confrontation. Is that not something to be revered in this world today? An act of violence of harm to another person would most likely result in an immediate shun, and it may be hard to rejoin the Amish community. They own weapons for hunting reasons only, and there have been very few instances of massacres among the Amish community.
That is what made the Amish schoolhouse tragedy so much more tragic. These were peaceful people who were just going about their day in school, when an outsider decided to commit this tragedy. The Amish community was shaken, and given their stance on violence and harm, it is understandable. They avoid any involvement with the military because they don’t agree with war or wish to take any part in it.
1 Can We Just Mention Rumspringa???
I feel we need an entry about Rumspringa because that is one of the most misunderstood aspects of an Amish lifestyle. Rumspringa has been falsely portrayed in shows like TLC’s Breaking Amish. It shows a handful of Amish teens going to New York and just acting crazy. This is what a lot of people envision when they think of Rumspringa. This is not an accurate portrayal.
Rumspringa is a time in an Amish teen's life, usually when they turn 16 when they are encouraged to experiment and explore life outside the Amish rules and lifestyle. This is before they are baptized so it is without threat of shunning. This is the one time they can break the tenants of the Amish community. This normally entails a teen going to the local movie theatre or taking driving lessons. It is not as lavish as TV portrays.