28 Junie 2018 ~ 2 Kommentare

The Amish: A remarkable and admirable people

Geskryf deur Nigel Naylor

A few overseas commentators have said that some Afrikaners and Orania are a bit like the Amish.

Everybody has heard about the Amish, who are known for their horse-and-buggy way of life. Those strange people in America who have many wives? (Wrong: This is such a common misconception. People get this confused with the Mormons.) These are such different people. The Amish are among the most easily recognizable peoples in North America.  For some, they may seem a living remnant of a bygone era, or a people stubbornly clinging to outdated ways. But who are they and why are they so “strange”? What makes them like this? But most importantly, what lessons can we take from them are implement for ourselves?

One of my beliefs is that one should be curious and see what one can learn from other people. There might be something of great value. This is certainly the case of the Amish. Stephen Covey says in his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: “Seek first to understand (others) before you will be understood.”

But let us get down to the REAL facts (and not “fake news”!) If there was a beacon of light in a world gone mad, this is them:

Strong Faith

  1. If ever there was a group of people with strong Christian beliefs and are prepared to live by these beliefs, this is them. I do not know of any group of people who have done this. Many in the past died for their beliefs.

 

  1. Quite a few were burnt at the stake for their beliefs. This shows you how strong their faith is. They had the chance to save themselves by renouncing their faith, but they would not.

 

  1. They are pacifists. They have forsaken ALL violence, even to defend themselves. So, they went to their deaths gracefully and with dignity.

 

  1. Because of their non-violent beliefs, they do not have moustaches as they see this is a symbol of European militarism.

 

  1. Forgiveness is a strong element of their faith. The most extreme example is where a mentally unbalanced gunman killed and injured a number of Amish girls, and then turned the gun on himself and committed suicide. The Amish community forgave the gunman and even supported his family and attended his funeral. This is known as the e 2006 West Nickel Mines School shooting at Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. There is move made about this called Amish Grace and you are thoroughly recommended to watch it. I do not know of anyone who has watched this move and who has not had a tear in their eye.

 

 

 

Strong Growth

  1. There are nearly 251,000 Amishpeople in America and Canada, according to Ohio State University researchers. That’s more than double the estimated population in 1989 of about 100,000. Researchers estimate the population will double again to half a million within about 21 This study was done in 2012. They are one of the fastest growing groups in the USA, albeit off a low base.

 

  1. Much of the growth has to do with the fact that more Amish children are staying with the religion and starting their own high-fertility families. This is now over 90%

 

  1. The Amish live in small groups of 20 or 30 families known as settlements. In 1990, there were 179 settlements in the U.S. By 2012 there were 456, including a handful in Canada.
  2. As the number of settlements has grown, so has their geographic reach. The Amish have traditionally lived in places like Lancaster County, Pennsylvania or Holmes County, Ohio. Now they are spreading to other parts of the country, from New York to Missouri, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma and even one South Dakota. The move to the West and the plains states is only just starting. But the strongest growth is on the east coast, such as Maine and New York. The growth is being directed by where property values have fallen dramatically. Changing agricultural economics are also driving a lot of Amish to new territory. As farmers leave their farms or sell them off, sparsely populated rural areas become prime real estate for the Amish.

 

Strong Agriculturalists

  1. The Amish have strong agricultural skills and it is part of their history that they were sought as good citizens by countries who welcomed them with open arms.
  2. Agriculture is their preferred occupation and because of this the Amish are a rural community people.
  3. The Amish have large families and the children work on the farm from an early age. From about 13 years of age the children have significant responsibilities on running the farms. So they learn solid practical skills.

 

Strong way of life

  1. Their way of life is driven by their belief in the Bible and particularly 1 John 2:15-17:

On Not Loving the World

15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

(New International Version)

  1. This society believes that the pathway to heaven is paved with modesty. Amish believe that a person must be separate from the world, forsake self-interest and humbly submit to the authority of the church. This is the only way to be righteous in the sight of God. Any show of pride is sin and must be avoided. Thus, there are no elites in Amish society. Individualism and pride is avoided.
  2. They have standard dress codes and behaviour codes that everyone follows. There are even codes for the style of their horse-drawn buggies. There is no ornamentation in their homes and few possessions and that those required for living, as anything else is deemed ostentatious. This is so that they remain “plain”.
  3. They avoid the negative influences of the outside world by living apart. They do interact with the outside world but do not adopt the outside world customs and behaviours. (People outside of the Amish community are known as “The English”.)
  4. For this reason, they have a very distinctive dress code. They have “plain” clothes. Humility is one of their core values and thus do not want to “stand out” by having fancy clothes and jewellery. The Amish are also known as the “Plain” people.
  5. Also, they use only own labour. This is aided by their large family size and the help of the community. They are well known for their craftmanship
  6. They believe in the judicious and appropriate use of technology. They do not phones in their homes as this can be distractive but do make use of outside pay phones. For the same reason they do not have TV’s. (Stephen Covey says that indiscriminate viewing of TV “is like having a sewerage pipe into your lounge with the value open” and he was not even Amish! Please note that these are quite extreme views. TV’s are a blessing to many people, especially the elderly who are not mobile and would be otherwise cut off from the world. But everything in moderation …)
  7. They also retain their independence so that they do not have to compromise any of their values. For this reason, they do not want to be dependant upon any grid such as electricity, water or communication grid over which they have no control of that they cannot do without if “push comes to shove”. They DO use electricity, but only from their own generators. An example of this is milking machines and refrigerators.
  8. They only horse drawn vehicles. But you also find some anomalies: have a horse drawn agricultural implement but where the implement itself is powered by either petrol or diesel engine … it looks quite strange but there you have it! The reason for only using horse drawn power is three-fold:
    1. It slows down the pace of life
    2. They are in control
    3. It limits your capability and thus keeps you humble. (i.e. Your farm size will be dictated by what you manage with a team of horses … This is in aligned with the principle of “Enough for your need but not your greed”

They do accept lifts in motor vehicles and use public transport in times of emergencies.

  1. Have a strong community spirit and this is demonstrated best in what is called “barn raising” where the whole community comes together to build a barn for someone.
  2. The help of neighbours is a core value. They do help the “English” neighbours in times of disasters by physically helping them to rebuild homes if destroyed by disasters.
  3. They do not have pensions and medical aid. They cope by having the three generations living together and by the community helping financially where necessary. Thus, they do not have insurance (this follows a biblical interpretation of not “being unequally yoked”). This also makes one more cautious in life if you do not have insurance cover. (Please do not go and give up your medical aid and all your insurance cover after reading these statements)
  4. They do not believe “in going to law” to settle disputes. They prefer to settle this within their communities and with the help of their leaders/elders. But sometimes the community has had to go to law to fight government legislation that negatively impacts the Amish way of life. The Amish have won the right to have their own schools. (There is constant pressure from some bureaucrats to get the Amish to conform and send their children to normal schools). Often, they Amish decline to fight legal matters but then outside parties sympathetic to the Amish go and fight the legal battle for then without being asked to do so.
  5. The Amish believe strongly in education, but only provide formal education through the eighth grade. They are exempt from state compulsory attendance beyond the eighth grade based on religious principles. The Amish do not undertake formal higher education. The teachers in the Amish schools are often the older girls who themselves only have a grade eight education.
    Education is a very controversial subject have but the Amish believe that it is appropriate to their society and their beliefs in modesty and humbleness. [1]
  6. In an Amish community you cannot volunteer to be leader … you have to be “called”. They mere fact of volunteering will disqualify you.
  7. They are very cost conscious, often preferring home births and traditional medicine where appropriate. But they will use modern medicine when it is called for.
  8. The Amish require that both parties to a marriage be baptized within the church. Due to the structured nature of Amish culture, allowing mixed marriages would threaten to destabilize Amish society.  Most Amish youth become baptized between the ages of 18-22, after which they are likely to get married. In rare cases, an outsider may join the Amishin order to get married to an Amish person.  Amish do accept converts, though they generally do not proselytize or encourage outsiders to join. It has also occasionally happened that a married Amish individual has left the faith while the spouse has stayed behind.
  9. However, the pressures of modern society are changing the way of Amish live and many of the youngsters are finding it harder and harder to obtain land to be farmers and are having to resort to other forms of occupations. There is strong pressure from the younger generations to start using cars, tractors, computers etc. Sometimes some Amish my leave the community and join their sister-faiths such as the Mennonites who are less strict over these matters
  10. They distance themselves altogether from politics.
  11. Order is maintained by a practice called “shunning”.[2] This is where everyone avoids you. In a society where violence is forsaken this is a very effective way of disciplining people. The offender soon comes right or leaves the community. Crime is virtually non-existence in their community.
  12. They pay their taxes diligently and but not accept any state subsidies that they are entitled to as they deem it unfair enrichment and a form of dependence.

 

Amish Origins

  1. Amish roots are in Europe, though none live there today. The Amish are a product of the Protestant revolution in Europe. In the early 1500’s a group of devout Christians in Zurich, Switzerland developed a set of beliefs counter to both the state Catholic church as well as the Protestant groups that rebelled against it. Among other beliefs, this group felt strongly that individuals should be baptized as adults, not infants. They also believed in a Scriptural doctrine of non-resistance, which would prevent them from doing military service or any other acts of violence. Due to their belief in adult baptism, this group was given the derogatory name “Anabaptists”, which literally means “rebaptizers”.
  2. Early Anabaptist history is bloody. Anabaptists were seen as undermining the power of the State church. For their threatening beliefs they were persecuted—captured, tortured and in some cases killed—and were forced to worship in secret. Over time they found refuge in various locations throughout Europe, including parts of Switzerland, France, Germany, Holland, and even as far east as Poland and Russia. In Europe they developed methods of farming to make the best of the poor-quality lands they were forced to inhabit, and in the process developed a strong agricultural reputation.

 

Conclusion

To a lot of Americans, and the greater world, the Amish are a distant light of sanity in a world overwhelmed by consumerism and materialism and individuality. This is a check and balance and a pointer to an older, quieter, calmer way of life, where people are control of their lives. They would feel very uncomfortable if the Amish were not around. To many South Africans they see Orania and the Afrikaners in the same light. Orania has a strong drive to build craftmanship and other skills

Obviously, this way of live is impossible for many as too much sacrifice is called for to achieve this. But there are small steps that we can start taking is inch slowly towards a saner way of life. But Oranians are very similar in many ways such as: Value education, strong ethics, strong desire of independent (e.g. off the grid) and prospering by own labour, solving problems within the community and avoiding going to law, cost consciousness, modesty, no consumerism or materialism. Both groups are very strongly agriculture based, and this gives them a major advantage for food security.

There are a number of significant differences. Biblical scriptures are open to interpretation in several ways. The Amish have chosen a very specific interpretation and it works for them. However, in Orania there is a wide diversity of interpretations and is a much more “open” society. The Oranians value higher education which is actively encouraged and promoted. Although there are no elites in Orania, individualism is a trait of Afrikaners. The younger generation in Orania are quite modern in their outlook. There are no restrictions such as dress code and use of technology. Rather, there is an encouragement to get off the electricity grid. The Amish are probably the best prepared Western society for a post fossil-fuel future. Orania is the best such prepared community in South Africa … the implementation of this is decades ahead of any other modern community.

Our “hats off” to the Amish and to Orania for their achievements!

[1] http://www.exploring-amish-country.com/amish-education.html

[2] http://www.exploring-amish-country.com/amish-shunning.html

 

 

 

Deel/Stuur

2 Reaksies op “The Amish: A remarkable and admirable people”

  1. Afrikanus 2 Julie 2018 at 21:49 Permalink

    “They are pacifists.”

    This particular one certainly does not fit the Afrikaner when historically they were in charge of their own affairs. They were one of the toughest adversaries for the British empire back then, and in more recent history during the Cold War they had one of the most effective armies in the world in terms of its manpower component (thus according not the size and extend of the hardware, like for example the superpower USA or the Soviet Union), according to some observer second to the most efficient army of the world of the previous century, namely WWII Germany. That is something that belongs in the record books – but that you will not read in popular readings on the Cold War, were the war starts with Vietnam and ends with Vietnam and lightly touches on Europa and the Berlin Wall, but Africa south of the equator hardly gets any mention.

    • Willem Fourie 5 Julie 2018 at 01:20 Permalink

      Inderdaad, ons was die hoogwatermerk van beide die Ingelse- en Sowiët ryke


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