August 7, 2013

Any good sources on the Amish?

I want to write about the Amish, but I've noticed that most of what I thought I knew about them isn't quite right. For example, I long assumed they had a rule that they wouldn't use technology not mentioned in the Bible, but that doesn't seem to explain their rules well at all.

Does anybody know of some insightful studies of the Amish, especially focusing on population, economic, and marital questions?


Anonymous said...

Jesus H Christ, can we please just leave the poor people alone?

If you start writing about them, then that's going to put them on the radar.

PS: There's a guy who posts over at AoSHQ, named "AmishDude":

I think maybe he left the farm to become a physicist, or somesuch?

Anyway, if you could make contact with him, then he might be able to give you some good insights.

Anonymous said...

I'm no expert, but this looks worth consulting:

Anonymous said...

Fullerton train station...go talk to them :) I always used to see Amish there.

Anonymous said...

I have no references, but I'll quote my brother who lives among them in central Wisconsin. He hates them.

When the Amish move into a rural community , the local economy drops. They don't buy much gas, groceries, nor tractor parts, so some of those stores close. They strip out the electricity in their farms, the property values drop, so less property tax revenues for the schools. They don't take time to clean up to go to the bank nor grocery store, so they stink of manure. Their horses poop while parked outside the grocery store, it rains, and the manure slides down the street.

Anonymous said...

Anecdotally, Mr. and Mrs. Yoder are among the richest families in our poor city of 150,000. By all outward appearances, they've got money out the wazoo. They bailed out of the Amish lifestyle and got rich in the upscale trailer park ownership biz.

Anonymous said...

Steve Sailer is going to put them on the radar, and they'll never regain their peace!

Re: good sources, maybe ask Paul Gottfried. He's located in Amish country.

David F. said...

*Amish Society* by John A. Hostetler.

I've read it and highly recommend it. The author was raised Amish but eventually had disagreements with the community and left to become a Mennonite and eventually a sociology professor. It's both intimate and scholarly, and has a good history of the remarkably contentious history of the Amish strain of Anabaptism.

SF said...

My farmer relatives in Iowa say if you hire one for day labor, they always want a ride there and back. They can't own or drive a car but can ride in one.

Anonymous said...

You may have seen this already, but here's piece on Amish hackers.


Anonymous said...

A few things I think I know about the Amish (but might be wrong):

* The religion is one of those Swiss Calvinist derived religions, but it first was adopted (by relatively small groups, a few hundred?) in Alsace. Europeans and others will probably tell me (correctly) that I'm all wet, but to a first approximation Alsace (the upper Rhine valley) seems to have been culturally at this time somewhat "lowland Switzerland".

* Alsace was literally ground zero in the Thirty Years War and had largely been de-populated by the end of the war. By the end of the war there were widespread reports of Donner-party survival cannibalism of the dead. Significant immigration into Alsace from Switzerland occurred as Alsace was re-settled, including by the preacher after who the religion is named. The original small groups in Alsace pooled all their possessions commune style.

* Each congregation decides what technology to allow. My impression is that each technology is evaluated independently on whether it will hurt keeping the community together. One result is that in practice it's as if they don't want to be dependent on any technology that would make them non-self-sufficient. They want to be able to feed themselves. No critical dependency on technology not within their ability to sustain within their own community.

The wikipedia claims "Modern technology is used selectively by the Amish for fear that it may weaken the family structure. If any equipment does not maintain principles of Gelassenheit, it is banned. Anything which could promote sloth, luxury or vanity is strictly prohibited. Because 120v electricity connects to the outside world..."

Gelassenheit seems to be about maintaining Amish character:

"Gelassenheit is seen in all of the following aspects of Amish life:

Personality: reserved, modest, calm, quiet
Values: submission, obedience, humility, simplicity
Symbols: dress, horse, carriage, lantern
Structure: small, informal, local, decentralized
Ritual: baptism, confession, ordination, foot-washing.

— The Riddle of Amish Culture, Donald Kraybill, 1989."

The implicit rules of each community are the Ordnung.

* Amish do a lot of light manufacturing and are okay with using pneumatic controlled machinery (compressed air) and fluidic logic. Compressed air must be considered a technology that can't easily be centrally controlled.

"How the Amish Use Power Tools", March 4, 2013, Rachel Feltman, Popular Mechanics:

"No Amish person will use tech powered by standard electrical grids (it has to do with not allowing outsiders to have influence over their lives and families)."

Zoink said...

In addition to the more famous Amish, Western PA, Ohio, Michigan and Indiana have all sorts of less-strict German Mennonite groups that wear Amish style clothing. They also have large families, and can often be seen taking minivans to discount grocery stores.

Related interesting fact: Pennsylvania and Ohio have the two largest white rural populations in the United States, despite only being the 5th and 7th largest states overall. Unlike some larger states like Texas and California, these states' non-metro areas are covered by prosperous small farms (especially since the big ag price run-up of 2006-2008) and small towns. Driving through, you encounter one quaint small town with a 2 block downtown area after another, sometimes under 10 miles apart.

Anonymous said...

Kevin Kelley (of Wired fame) has a chapter or two on the Amish and their relationship to technology in his book "What Technology Wants." The thrust is that they aren't total luddites, and they have a few people experiment with a new technology to see if it actually strengthens (or weakens) their values and social cohesion.

Anonymous said...

The Amish have their own canon of Amish martyr songs, the Ausbund, maybe that helps cultural continuity:

"The Ausbund is the oldest Anabaptist hymnal and one of the oldest Christian song books in continuous use. ...

The oldest melodies are from the 13th and 14th centuries. ..."

Anonymous said...

They're fond of rape:

ben tillman said...

They definitely hitch-hike.

Anonymous said...

I've spent some time with the Ohio Amish, and their general rule about technology seems to be that it can't be connected to any centralized source, ie: they can use battery powered flashlights but won't have electric lines going into their homes.

I've also seen them use electric forklifts and even drive diesel trucks in a local factory that ironically produced buggies, wagons and horse-drawn plows... I think it's ok for them as long as they're not driving out on a public road.

They're actually open to adapting to new technologies. What their leadership typically does is to allow a trial period for whatever it is and then afterwards they hold a vote. If even one person objects to allowing a certain technology it is banned. They did this with cell phones for example.

Anonymous said...


Amish are a subsect of Mennonites. The Mennonites and the similar group Church of the Brethren are the subject of an interesting study by Stephen Longenecker, "Outsiders and the Mainstream." The geographic focus is the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, in some ways a southward extension of Pennsylvania. (But not entirely, sort of a hybrid of Tidewater VA influences and PA).
If I recall correctly, Longenecker's premise was these groups had strong martyr ideologies, which made sense in Europe where they were persecuted. But when they got to America, a land of toleration, it caused a crisis. How to differentiate themselves? Some of the dress codes date from this time.

Someone here said the Amish are Swiss Calvinists. They are not. Calvinism is a very different sort of Protestantism. I was raised Brethren, but have had interactions with Calvinists and Baptists. They are different. The Amish are Anabaptists. Thanks to increased numbers of "secular" Mennonites and Brethren going Evangelical as part of cultural mainstreaming the differences have been muted, but traditionally it was a very different type of religion from Calvinism or Anglo-Evangelicalism.

Paul Gottfried has much to say about contemporary Brethren that, alas, I can't disagree with. They've gone full on Leftist. This is a departure from old-fashioned removed from this world attitudes they used to have.

Anonymous said...

One other note, those cats are often loaded. They never spend their money. I knew a guy who was an investment advisor to Mennonites in Western VA, MD and PA. They are cautious, but savy. They also act as corporate, extended-family investors. Not the atomized Anglo-Saxon model.

Anonymous said...

You can watch the documentaries Meet the Amish. I really liked the Amish kids, well mannered and brought up well.

Frau Katze said...

Extremely inbred, high rate of horrid recessive gene disorders. They won't go for pre-screening to prevent inadvisable marriages, they won't do abortion.

"Amish and Mennonites exhibit certain rare diseases uncommon in other populations. These include Ellis-van Creveld syndrome (a type of dwarfism), glutaric aciduria, Crigler-Najjar syndrome, and maple syrup urine disease. Some illnesses are so uncommon that they are unique to these communities (such as Troyer Syndrome or Amish lethal microcephaly), or rarely seen elsewhere.

Some groups of Amish may exhibit diseases more likely to be seen in the general public, but at a higher rate. These include cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy and deafness in some communities."


Dave Pinsen said...

I was looking for an old WSJ article about how the Amish pay for health care, "How the Amish Drive Down Health Care Costs", but it was behind a pay wall (if memory serves, the answer in a nutshell: travel to Mexico for non-emergency treatment; pre-negotiated rates with local hospitals for emergency treatment. Those hospitals gave Amish a bit of a break because the Amish generally don't sue when one of their patients dies). While searching, I found this, which might be helpful: Elizabethtown College Center for Amish Studies.

Sweating Through Fog said...

A book on how an Amish community reacted to the 2006 killing spree at one of their schools:

Anonymous said...

The Amish In Their Own Words is a good resource.

One thing that comes out from it is that they're often fighting the same cultural battles as the rest of society, just a few ticks to the "traditionalist" side.

eah said...

Everything I know about the Amish I learned by watching Witness.

Anonymous said...

It's no tech that interferes with their dependence on one another. There are several Amish docs on YouTube that are very informative

John Mansfield said...

I found the book Plain and Amish: An Alternative to Modern Pessimism by Bernd Langin quite interesting. It’s special value is that it is a German book translated into English; the German author had an instant credibility and intimacy with his subjects that an American could not. Langin wrote, for instance, that the Amish couldn’t believe that the Germans could have any culpability for World War II and figured the stories about Hitler had to be exaggerated propaganda. Langin has written several books about German colonies.

The Amish affinity for Germans is a bit funny given how persecuted they were in their old homelands until they fled to America. There is an iSteve immigration story in all of that.

Dahinda said...

The Amish in our area in Western Illinois use small gas engines to power tools like table saws and drills but they cannot use anything off the grid. They also have a communal telephone but cannot have a personal one. They are trying to avoid being "Worldly." Which is to say, they are trying to avoid anything that would make them be dependant on others and also to avoid the sin of pride. Avoiding the sin of pride also explains their clothes. Each congregation sets their own rules on this. The Amish in general are excellent at business and whenever one shows up to sell at any of the local farmers markets, all of the other non-Amish sellers will be driven out. They use the "sell to anybody but buy only from your own group" strategy to pool money in their community. They also take care of their own by coming together to build each others barns and houses etc. of course at no cost other than materials. I know an ex-Amish guy in our area (who is also a member of the local Gay community!) and he says that most of the shows on TV about the Amish, like "Breaking Amish" are just a bunch of B.S..

Anonymous said...

Amish Society by John Hostetler
On the Backroad to Heaven by Donald Kraybill and Carl Bowman

The second book also covers the Mennonites and Hutterites. The Hutterites live communally on gigantic ranches out in Montana, Alberta, Saskatchewan, etc.

The Amish reject entanglement with the world and the state. "Be ye seperate" saith the Lord. Hence no driver's licenses, no Social Security (they are exempt from the tax and the benefits), no Medicare or Obamacare. They don't use electricity because it makes them dependent on others.

DCThrowback said...

For an awesome way to learn how Anabaptism got its start, *highly* recommend Hardcore History hosted by Dan Carlin (my boy Dan from DC will back me up here). All of his episodes are good and "Wrath of the Khans" might be his finest.

Episode #48 is "Prophets of Doom" about the Anabaptist takeover of Muenster, Germany. Holy crap is it good. The Anabaptists get absolutely crushed, but man, their leadership kind of deserved it.

ps - Strongly eecommend HH as a regular listen as well.

Cail Corishev said...

Quite a few Amish have moved into my area over the last couple decades. At first they rode buggies to town, and a couple local stores even put in hitching rails for them. But once they got to know their neighbors, they started hitching rides everywhere, so you rarely see the buggies anymore.

The technology thing is a little hard to pin down, partly because it varies from group to group. The ones here, for instance, won't own a tractor (or other vehicle). But they'll hire an "English" (that's what they call non-Amish) farmer to come work their fields with his own tractor. They'll also go work for an English farmer and drive his tractor to make extra money. So the prohibitions don't always make logical sense, but in general they're a way to try to avoid getting too dependent on technology. It's really not about religion as much as it's about keeping themselves separate as much as possible -- but not so much that it interferes with production. Another example: they won't have a phone in their home, but they'll have one out in the barn for business purposes if the elders of the congregation allow it.

They're very focused on money; they don't do work that's not profitable. The guy who said they don't contribute much to the local economy was right. They're regular visitors to Wal-Mart, so while they benefit greatly from the interest in local food and "made-in-America" products, they'll gladly spend that money on foreign products if they're the cheapest.

To the extent that they're annoying, it's mainly because of the English around them. Everyone acts like they're special or magical or something and wants to do stuff for them. Neighbors arrange their own schedules so they can give the Amish a ride to town to get groceries. People who put local grocery stores out of business because one-stop-shopping at Wal-Mart was more convenient drive an hour out in the country to pay a premium for Amish strawberries. Amish-made furniture draws a premium, even though there's no particular reason to think it's any better than a local English carpenter would make, but the English guy could never sell enough to stay in business. It's all kinda silly, but true. An English carpenter could make more money if he grew out his beard, started wearing clothes without buttons, and told clients they'd have to come pick him up and drive him back home every day.

By the way, contrary to what many think, they do pay taxes (though there's surely a lot of "cash economy" going unreported, but good for them). What they don't pay is Social Security, because a group of them took that to the Wisconsin Supreme Court and argued that requiring them to be dependent on an insurance program that went beyond their community violated their religious beliefs. I say we should all adopt that belief, and starve the thing faster.

Cail Corishev said...

Since my last comment responded more to the comments than to Steve's interests:

The population seems fairly stable. I've never heard of anyone "becoming" Amish, and I'm not sure they even do that. But they have large families, so even though some of the kids leave the farm, they sustain their numbers. The ones who moved here from Pennsylvania said it was getting kind of crowded there, but then after a few years some of them went back, so it must not have been too bad.

To add to what I said before about the economics: they're kind of the photo-negative of illegal immigrants, in a way, and yet similar in other ways. Where people hire illegals because they want to pay less, they hire the Amish because they want to pay more -- but in both cases, the employer will claim it's because they do better work. Funny that. And in both cases there's a lot of working for cash under the table, and people being picked up and driven to job sites for the day.

The Amish are more self-sufficient -- they don't use the government schools (though their property taxes help pay for them) and they don't need food stamps. They stay out of the hospitals, probably because they don't do insurance, which is the only way to afford hospital care (you do see them at chiropractors where they can pay cash). So they aren't nearly the drain on the local economy that illegals are. On the other hand, as mentioned above, they don't contribute a lot back to it either.

Don't get me wrong: I'd rather live next to a hundred Amish families than one family of illegals. But it's an interesting comparison, because it demonstrates the dislike Americans have for American laborers -- they'll pay mestizos less or Amish more, because the last thing they want to do is hire an American for the going wage.

Anonymous said...

In my area, use of technology (cell phones, etc.) appears to be allowed for undertaking business with the English.

linsee said...

When my husband's parents had a summer home in Chautauqua, NY, they had friends who had a dairy farm near Jamestown. The owner of the dairy farm knew many of the Amish farmers in the area and thought very highly of them -- both as persons and as farmers.

Zach said...

Hostetler is a good source. There's a lot of nonsense about the Amish floating about.

Anonymous @ 8/8/13, 12:05 AM's comment about the trend of Mennonite groups morphing into generic Evangelicals is a good one -- I've seen that with my home area in NW Ohio.

David Kline is an agrarian writer who is Amish. (Loosely associated with Gene Logsdon, Wendell Berry, etc.) I have not read his books yet, but he might be of some help.

There is a book out there somewhere (currently in storage and my Google-fu is failing, unfortunately, so I can't give a better reference) which was written by a German author, whose home dialect was close enough to Amish Deutch that he could communicate in it. That's a good one, if you can find it (maybe someone else knows the title I am thinking of?)


Anonymous said...

I don't think anyone's yet gotten the history quite right. The Amish are a *splinter group* from the Mennonites, formed in Europe by Jacob Amman and his followers over (as is usually the case) disputes that now seem fairly trivial and are quite different from the present-day differences between the Mennonites and Amish.

Mennonites and Amish are both Anabaptists, which means that they have their roots in the radical reformation. The core tenets of early Anabaptism were adult baptism, pacifism, and political non-participation. The early Anabaptists thought they were manifesting the kingdom of God, and that everything else was the (mutually exclusive) kingdom of the world.

Today most Mennonites vote and many are otherwise politically active, but adult baptism is still important and most are pacifists. There's still a sense of the church rather than the state being the appropriate means for bringing about the kingdom of God, but the lines are fuzzier than they were for the early Anabaptists.

In these regards the Amish are (for better or for worse) closer to their historical forebears. Only about 10% vote (usually Republican), and their rejection of much modern technology and use of low German rather than English makes it easier for them to separate themselves from the world. Pacifism remains a central tenet of their faith.

The Amish tend to have high birth rates (I don't think they use birth control) and an impressively high percentage (around 90%, I think) of Amish children remain in the church as adults. One possible partial explanation of this is the common practice of rumspringa, during which an Amish youth leaves the community for a time to join the outside world. By the end of this time, most youth seem to be bewildered and long for the comfort and sense of their home community, and so come back to the Amish.

As others have alluded to, there are many genetic studies of the Amish, because, like Ashkenazi Jews and other groups, they have an extremely high intermarriage rate.

Just Another Guy With a 1911 said...

Steve, a couple years back I watched a show on UPN called "Amish in the City." Yes, I watched a reality show on UPN. I am sure there is some particular act of contrition to atone for that particular sin. No wait - research, that's it. Sort of like, how, American Ninja Warrior is a cultural Rosetta Stone for Albertosaurus. Anyway, the show probably could still be found somewhere on the net.

At its core, it conforms somewhat to the form of MTV's Real World, with "City Kids" and "Amish Kids" living together, and distinguished by a lack of endemic conflict, alcoholism, degeneracy and overall dysfunction.

I don't remember a whole lot about it other than the fact that the Amish "kids" (most were in there early 20's) seemed uniformly well spoken, thoughtful, bright, and not lacking in a moral compass, especially in contrast with their secular counterparts, which is why, I suppose, the show didn't last to long. (I would note: it does seem that alot of the "Amish" cast members were probably on the way out of the community at the time filming began, which would, I guess, only make sense. It seems that only one, Ruth Yoder, did return to the Amish).

Anyway, it is illuminating to check out the cast on wikipedia. It included, "Whitney, From Los Angeles, a college student at the time of the series. African American. Whitney's boyfriend had been killed in an unsolved drive-by shooting." Sigh. Oh well, at least the Amish Kids got to learn about the benefits vibrancy.

Now, reality TV is anything but, and it appears there are lots of anthropological tomes to consult in which to divine Sailerian insights on the ethos of the Amish community. However, you can learn a lot about someone through their children - although the lot on Amish in The City were clearly a self-selected bunch and, really, the show is less about the Amish, as, perhaps, a last outpost of Western/Faustian Culture (or at this point far along the path of decline an outline or adumbration of it), and more about how the particular obsessions of our decadent civilization, i.e., the Amish learn how great Gays and Blacks are, and that the Black Eyed Peas = love.

I also note there is also a show called "Breaking Amish" on TLC, which I have not seen.

Dr. Adam DeVille said...

The PBS "American Experience" episode on the Amish was well done and extremely fascinating:

In addition, several of the books I read and reviewed about the Amish are noted here:

Anonymous said...

Please don't. You and your followers contributed to the continuation of the Bush dynasty. You should not touch one of the few tight functioning white communities.

Anonymous said...

@frau katze

In my experience people who cry inbreeding tend to force 'enriching'the gene pool with NAM blood.

Let them have the genetic disorder. Better than NAM genes.

Fatebekind said...

There were two Wired magazine articles about their use of technology:

Anonymous said...

The Amish America blog is excellent and the writer is pretty good about responding to questions.

To Cail, the Amish population isn't stable. It doubles about every 20 years or so because of their high birth rates.

The Amish birth rate has diverged, somewhat, among sects. The more mainstream and progressive sects have seen their tfrs fall from around 7 to around 4-5. But there is also a growing minority of ultra-conservative Amish (Swartzentrubers, the "Swiss Amish," some other groups) whose tfr is holding steady at around ten.

Regardless, they'll be booming for a while yet.

Anonymous said...

No one has mentioned the Puppy Mills.

Anonymous said...

But it's an interesting comparison, because it demonstrates the dislike Americans have for American laborers -- they'll pay mestizos less or Amish more, because the last thing they want to do is hire an American for the going wage.

Cail, I generally enjoy your comments, but this one is leaving me scratching my head. If the Amish aren't American, who is? Do you mean "English"? But why should we favor the "English"? Ethnically many of them are further removed from many of the commenters here than the Amish are. Culturally the Amish are pretty removed from most of us, but for the most part that reflects more poorly on us than them. So whence the favoritism for non-Amish?

Anonymous said...

At least one person is confused on this. American Amish refer to non-Amish American as English. Don't know exactly why, but they do. Sort of like how Mormons call the rest of us, including Jews, gentiles. It's just what they do.

And while they are pacifistic, the Amish do believe in self defense. Their doors generally do not have locks, but behind every kitchen door is a shotgun. And every male child old enough to lift it can fire it. (Don't know at what age they teach the females.) And there are some very well to do Amish. According to one source I heard from once, once on a blue moon the PA state police find an abandoned car in Amish country belonging to a known home invader from Philly or another major city. And he's never heard from again. They don't involve the police in internal matters if at all possible. That would include them defending their home and family. The police are left with nothing to investigate. With no reported crime, and no missing person report, well, they've got an abandoned car.

And while they avail themselves of modern medicaine, that apparently doesn't include vaccines, at least in our local Amish community. Had a discussion with a public health nurse recently bitching about avoidable deafness in Amish from measles.

From recent history, PA state police had to perform really serious crackdowns to force some of the more recalitrant Amish communitites ebfore they finally gave in and placed electric lights on their buggies. In that case public safety trumps religious beliefs. It doesn't yet for vaccines. But lot's of other's go without childhood vaccines (Thanks to Jenny McCarthy and other idiot celebs) so they are not alone in that.

The Amish don't have one unifying set of rules, which makes it confusing for a lot of non-Amish. Each community has it's own set. Even locally, oftimes I have to explain to some people from the larger nearby city that Amish and Mennonites are not the same. What is occasionally jarring- there are a few black Mennonites in our area. Any time they walk into our local big box store, there are a lot of doubletakes and strained necks as people turn to see if they saw what they saw correctly.

Anonymous said...

"Extremely inbred, high rate of horrid recessive gene disorders."

Somewhat regarding this the wikipedia article on the Amish notes:

"While the Amish are at an increased risk for a number of genetic disorders, ... their tendencies for clean living can lead to a healthier life. Overall cancer rates ... are 60 percent of the age-adjusted rate for Ohio and 56 percent of the national rate. ... tobacco-related cancers ... is 37 percent of the rate for Ohio adults, ... non-tobacco-related cancer is 72 percent. The Amish have protection against many types of cancer both through their lifestyle—there is very little tobacco or alcohol use and limited sexual partners—and through genes that may reduce their susceptibility to cancer. ...

The Amish are conscious of the advantages of exogamy... genetic disorders can be avoided by choosing spouses from unrelated communities."

Anonymous said...

What is occasionally jarring- there are a few
black Mennonites in our area. Any time they walk into
our local big box store, there are a lot of doubletakes
and strained necks as people turn to see if they saw
what they saw correctly.

Here's a pic of an interracial Mennonite couple...

Chugger said...

I think they can use technology but in general can't own it, and when they do use it, they have to do things to make it uncomfortable or a real bitch to use it.

For example they can use phones, but they have to be located well away from their property, maybe a couple of miles away. They can ride in vehicles, but if they own a vehicle, it can't use rubber inflatable tires as the ride would be too smooth and comfortable.

Basically they want to make it so you won't use technology unless you really need to, and will rely more on family and friends.

Luke Lea said...

re: Amish and Mennonites

FWIW I recently learned that a lot of my ancestors were Pennsylvania Dutch who, on closer inspection, turned out to have been Mennonites. Reading up on the sect I was surprised to learn that early on, when the sect was new, they were proto-Quakers in that the two groups got along and welcomed each other into their churches. They were opposed to infant baptism (hence were called anti-baptists) and pioneered the idea of separation of church and state. They suffered persecution during the Thirty Years War and many emigrated, first to England, then to New York and Philadelphia ("German Town").

It was only after they had been in the U.S. for a while that the sect split, the surviving branch giving us the Amish-lite sect which we think of as Mennonites now. Many of the rest converted to Quakerism. But, then, that sect split too into conservative and liberal branches. The conservative branch is still out there but we don't hear about them much.

Zero said...

So how are the rules regarding the Amish and Obamacare? Are they going to be forced to sign up if they don't have insurance (which should be damn near all of them); if not then why not? If its a religious exclusion, then others could get off on religious exclusions, and this could get even messier and even less just for the regular guy on the street. Has anyone actually completely read through the entire Tolstoy novel that it is to find out?

Dahinda said...

I used to commute by train to work in Chicago and for some reason Union Station was always filled with Amish people. My favorite memory of this was once an older Amish couple, in full Amish garb, were standing by the Canal Street entrance when it was something like 10 below zero outside. The automatic door opened and a big gush of wind came in and blew hard against the Amish couple. The husband then loudly told the wife "God dammit it's cold!!"

Anonymous said...

I think the most interesting thing about the Amish is not the Amish themselves (typical strange religious cult) but the American reaction to them. There are no Amish in Europe - they were persecuted to the point where there are none left. The Amish were from an area that was devastated by the 30 Years War and after that they wanted nothing to do with the military or fighting. They won't even put buttons on their clothes because military uniforms had (brass) buttons. Americans were largely willing to leave them alone and accommodate their wishes for over 200 years now and the Amish have been fruitful and multiplied as a result. Contrast this with the way religious minorities have been treated in Europe.

Cail Corishev said...

Cail, I generally enjoy your comments, but this one is leaving me scratching my head. If the Amish aren't American, who is?

Sorry if I wasn't clear. I'm talking about the way many Americans (not Amish) have a total disdain for other ordinary American workers these days. Especially in manual labor jobs, but now it's showing up in desk jobs like programming. Americans will happily declare that you can't/shouldn't hire ordinary Americans for many jobs because they're so lazy, greedy, stupid, or whatever.

So they'll hire illegal immigrants and pay them less while bragging about how hard they work. Or they'll hire Amish (yes, they're American, but separate enough that they don't get lumped into the same stereotypes) and pay them more while bragging about the quality of their work. Somehow both of those groups are thought to provide good, quality workers; but you'd be a fool to try to hire ordinary Americans for the same jobs -- if any bothered to respond to your ad, they'd suck anyway.

So, in the minds of many Americans, tiny Amish communities that educate their kids without the benefit of schools or computers or Education degrees reliably produce honest businessmen who build the best furniture and grow the best food. And Latin American countries where most kids don't make it to eighth grade and a third of the people are illiterate (in their own language, let alone a second one) reliably produce honest laborers who will do an excellent job with the drywall in your new home. And yet the USA, with its average 12 years of school at $10K or more per year and college loans and trade schools, can't reliably produce either one, or anyone else of much economic value.

And if that's not illogical enough, the same people who will make that argument with a straight face keep sending their kids to American schools -- you know, the same schools they claim can't produce a decent drywall mudder who will show up on time every day. If they really believed their own anti-American-worker rhetoric, wouldn't they at least start homeschooling and get rid of their kids' electronics like the Amish?

Cail Corishev said...

The Amish tend to have high birth rates (I don't think they use birth control) and an impressively high percentage (around 90%, I think) of Amish children remain in the church as adults.

That probably owes a lot to the fact that husbands and wives stay together and stick to traditional gender roles. There was a study (I think of Catholics, but it might have included other Christian churches) that found that kids pretty much followed their dad's lead: if Dad went to church every Sunday, most of the kids grew up to do the same, and what Mom did had little effect. But if Dad stayed home, most kids dropped out by adulthood, even if Mom took them every week.

The Amish worship at home or in small groups, but the men lead, so it's not surprising that most of the kids follow suit as they get older.

Anonymous said...

And while they are pacifistic, the Amish do believe in self defense. Their doors generally do not have locks, but behind every kitchen door is a shotgun. And every male child old enough to lift it can fire it.

Because the Amish are diverse I'm wary to speak for all of them, but what you have said here -- that the Amish believe in self defense -- is not true for most Amish. I would expect that most Amish use their shotguns for shooting or scaring off animals. (I know personally Mennonites who do not believe in self-defense but own and use guns.)

On non-white Anabaptists: globally, most Anabaptists are probably non-white. The DRC, for instance, has the second largest number of Mennonites in the world (after the United States). Pretty rare for the Amish, though, because they don't proselytize.

Anonymous said...

Looks like the self-defense I mentioned earlier may not be true of all Amish. Indeed most. But the story I mentioned of abandoned cars in PA Dutch country still holds... Again, all Amish communities have their own rules on behavior and technology. Don't know at what point the rest of the Amish rise up and say "Hey, you're not Amish anymore." There's no central Amish authority to do that. Also no priesthood per se. The elders of the community determine the rules.

I will also mention that my son had a roommate in the Army who was Amish, When he showed up in the unit, my son was singled out for the assigment. Because he had not taken his adult vows as Amish, he was still welcome back home, despite his profession.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, field work in sociology and social psychology specializes in clever methods directed at trivia safe from PC attack. The most useful, practical, well-informed information on the various (necessarily) rural Amish communities in the Mid West probably will come from retired rural sheriffs or their deputies, as well as from adjacent non-Amish farmers. To comprehend Amish rules, it is necessary to understand the basic dynamic of their belief system and way of life. They have been resolutely devoted to living within Nature and not at war with Nature; of living with devotion to enduring spiritual/psychological realities and not to physical enhancements and luxuries--i.e., to living in integration with the traditions and experiences of their forbears.