Sunday, October 19, 2014

What Keeps the Amish Society and Religion Intact

Many guests to the Millersburg, Ohio Barn Inn Bed and Breakfast ask the question, "What keeps the Amish religion and society intact?"  The Amish are a distinct cultural and religious folk society with both social and psychological characteristics they hold in common.  It is a society that is based upon deliberate and willful choices by members to join in a union of agreement to a specific Ordnung.  Their society is maintained by harmony that is ennobled by folkways, mores, traditions, and religious beliefs.

Amish Barn Raising
The German word "gemeinschaft" aptly describes the Amish.  "Gemeinschaft" is an association of individuals who maintain common sentiments, tastes, and attitudes; a society characterized by a strong sense of community, identity, close personal relationships, and a strong commitment to tradition.

Early Amish Homestead in Holmes County Ohio
 Because there are so many facets to this society, it would be impossible, in one post, to give little more than an introduction to this subject.  The Amish are both a society and a religion.  All of the Amish, irregardless of their sect, are distinctive in maintaining a doctrine and practice of nonconformity to the world.  The primary scripture verse on which their religion is based is a verse from Romans 12:2  "...Be ye not conformed to the world...."  Reference is also made to the verse; II Thessalonians 2:15  "Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle."  My husband and I embrace these same scriptures, but define them differently than the Amish do.  We would describe the kingdom of God as a spiritual kingdom, fought in a different way.  Referencing the second verse, we believe the Apostle Paul was speaking about a tradition of faith, not how great grandpa harvested his crops.

Amish Farmer Holmes County Ohio

 Undoubtedly there are numerous reasons why the Amish are maintaining their numbers and see continued growth.  I will present some ideas here.

1)  Many are happy and content to stay Amish.  They enjoy their common bonds, fellowship, and see their church as the true church of Jesus Christ.

2)  They might feel like they are betraying their forefathers if they were to leave.  There is almost never an Amish church service where they do not mention their forefathers, those who, during the Reformation, gave their lives for the sake of Christ.  Always stressed is, "Honor thy mother and father."  Those contemplating leaving suffer many stern admonitions from those around them.

3)  The Bann und Meidung.  These words in English mean excommunication and shunning.  In English, the Amish do not use the word shun, but rather "Avoidance."  The meidung, or shunning is applied in different ways depending on the church, the community, and/or the family.  Some shunnings are dictated by the church, other shunnings (avoidances) are mandated by the family. The Bann (or Bonn as the Amish call it today) has, since the 1600's been the source of many divisions within the Amish and stricter Mennonites.  The bon is an effective way of dealing with the nonconforming member, thus removing him from social relationships and community status.  No longer does this person have influence on the church, thus aiding the church to remain socially isolated from the erring one.  Additionally, there is great influence by the majority.  It would be socially unacceptable for a member to defend the "Erring soul."

Examples of things an Amish person could get excommunicated for:

a) Attending a more liberal Amish or a Mennonite church.

b) Attending revival meetings or Bible studies and not making a confession for it.
c) Noncompliance to church rules, which could be almost anything.
d) If they commit an actual Biblical sin and refuse to repent.

My husband, who was raised Amish, says, that while he was never told this is so many words, he believed that if he ever left the Amish, he would be condemned to hell.

For more information and DVDs visit American Experience.

Submitted by Loretta Coblentz
October 19, 2014

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