Friday, November 4, 2011

Fun Friday Facts #15: Amish Edition

This week for Fun Friday Facts, I'm going to blog about the Amish, because I've always been fascinated by them. Besides, they've come up in conversation several different times with several different people recently, and that's got to be a sign, right?

From God.

In any case, it's not like they're going to read this, is it?

1) The Amish are descended from a 16th century religious movement known as the Swiss Brethren. The Brethren were one of the many Protestant sects that formed during the Reformation. Like the Brethen, the Amish are Anabapists, which means they don't get baptised as babies, like many other Christians do. Instead, they believe in adult baptism, on the grounds that the person to be baptised should be old enough to make an informed decision about the matter.

Makes sense to me.

For most Amish, baptism occurs between 16 and 25 years of age. They must be baptized in order to get married, and they're only allowed to marry other Amish people.

2) In the 18th century, many of the Amish emigrated to North America. They did this to escape persecution and religious wars, and to make better lives for themselves. They settled down first in Pennsylvania, but later began to disperse throughout the American South and Midwest. The French and Indian War, also known as the Seven Years' War, provided some motivation. Many Amish communities were assimilated into the general population by 1860. Those who remain identify as either Old Order Amish, who are very traditional, or Amish Mennonites, who are a bit more progressive.

Pictured here. ~ Gilabrand

3) Due to their Swiss German roots, the Amish continue to speak a dialect of German known as Pennsylvania Dutch. They speak High German during church services, which usually occur in a community member's home. They learn to speak English at school, which they typically attend in schoolhouses run by the community. Most Amish finish school in the 8th grade, and don't go on to high school or university. Children who require additional training, such as in a trade, may receive it from their parents or another community member after finishing their basic education.

4) Contrary to popular belief, the Amish do take some advantage of modern technology (as you may have noticed in that picture up there). While most Amish communities place severe restrictions on the use of electricity, telephones, televisions, radios, and the like, these decisions are usually made democratically on a district-by-district basis. Some communities are more strict than others, but many Amish use telephones, computers, electricity, and other modern conveniences when necessary.

For instance, many Amish sell their farm produce and handicrafts to the general community for a profit. They'll normally contract with local non-Amish friends to do the actual selling, but some communities will use computers and telephones to organize business deals. While Amish women usually make most of the clothing for themselves and their families, there are some things they may prefer to buy. These things include socks, underwear, work gloves and hats.

An Amish family might accept a car ride, but only if the journey is long enough to stop them going by horse-drawn buggy. They wouldn't make a social phone call, but they might use the phone to notify their family members if someone becomes ill or dies.

They also ride around on these. ~ Ad Meskins

5) Unlike some religious orders, the Amish do take advantage of modern medical care. They're pretty much all descended from the same group of about 200 original immigrants, so genetic diseases that are are rare in the general population occur more frequently in the Amish one. Thanks to the Amish and their detailed geneologies, doctors have learned a lot about many genetic diseases, including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and dwarfism. They've even come up with effective treatments for some previously deadly illnesses, such as maple syrup urine disease.

That is seriously a real disease, you guys.

6) Also contrary to popular belief, the Amish do pay taxes. They pay most of the same taxes as any other Americans, except for Social Security taxes. In 1961, the IRS decided that the Amish weren't required to pay Social Security taxes, since it's against their religion to buy insurance or accept government benefits. The exception became law in 1965.

Since the Amish don't buy insurance, they pay their own medical costs. If a member of the community needs medical treatment, the others will generally pitch in to help. According to this website, many Amish seek major procedures in Mexico, where it's cheaper.

"Amish in Mexico" sounds like an excellent feature film. ~ Jorge Martinez

7) In many Amish communities, teenagers over the age of 16 are allowed a period of relative freedom known as “rumspringa,” or “running around.” During this period, they're allowed to fraternize with non-Amish teenagers, go on dates, drive cars, wear modern clothes, drink booze, and all that fun stuff. They're not baptized yet, so they don't have to adhere to the strict religious rules that adult Amish follow. They're supposed to use the time to explore the outside world, so that they know what they're getting into if they decide to become baptized and make a lifelong commitment to the Amish faith. Most Amish teenagers sow their wild oats and then settle back down to the quiet life.

"Mexico wasn't that great, really." ~ Ernest Mettendorf

8) Most young Amish don't date, as such, but they are given plenty of time to socialize with eligible bachelors and bachelorettes in the community, or in nearby communities. Many Amish are fully aware of the dangers of inbreeding, and will try to find marital partners from other communities in order to avoid it. Socializing among the Amish occurs in the evenings, after the farm work is done, and on Sunday, after church. Picnics, barn raisings, baseball games and other activities give young Amish people time to get to know each other.

While it's apparently not cool for a young Amish lady to let her sweetie escort her to events, it's okay for him to take her back home again, even if it's already dark and they're alone. A young man may visit a girl at home, but only late at night, after her parents are in bed.

I don't care what the Internet says, I don't believe that. Not one bit.