What with being such a private, insular community, many people are curious about the Amish lifestyle and beliefs system. Leaving the Amish faith is extremely hard on any individual who decides to become "English" (the Amish term for everyone who isn't Amish), but, fortunately, ex-Amish stories have provided us with a fascinating glimpse into the Amish way of life. To put it simply, people living in mainstream America would consider Amish laws and punishments to be harsh, but it’s important to note that not all Amish follow the same rules. There is some bending and even breaking of typical Amish traditions. That being said, most Amish rules are laid out in the Ordnung – an set of guidelines that governs all aspects of an Amish person’s life. So, if you’ve ever wondered what it's like to be Amish, this list is for you.
While most people would call them bonnets, the white headdresses Amish women wear are known as “prayer coverings,” or a kapp. Underneath that prayer covering is a mane of long flowing hair. Amish women are not allowed to cut their hair. The justification behind never cutting their hair stems back to biblical passages in Corinthians I. But, they do not always wear their prayer coverings. They brush their hair either in the morning or evening. Sometimes, they will also let their tresses down at night when they are winding down with the family after a long day of churning butter.
When Amish teens turn 16, they can leave the community for a trial run of the English life known as Rumspringa, which translates to “running around.” During this time, teens can indulge in drugs, partying, technology, and pretty much anything that the Amish would consider a vice. While a handful of Amish teens choose to stay in the English world, the majority of teens on Rumspringa return to the community. However, once they return they must shun English living and devote their life to the Amish church. If they return, become baptized, and then decide to leave the community again, they risk being excommunicated.
While it is falling out of fashion in Amish communities, bundling - also known as "bed courtship" - is still practiced by some ultra-conservative Amish today. It involves a courting couple lying together fully-clothed in bed. While lying in bed, the couple are encouraged to speak to each other all night to become emotionally closer. While some Amish still practice bundling, the tradition originally stems from the Old Testament, and was mentioned in the Book of Ruth as a common Jewish practice.
Unlike some other Christian sects, the Amish don’t believe in baptizing children. They believe one must make the conscious decision to dedicate their life to the church before they can become a fully-fledged member of the community. The Amish broke off from the Anabaptists in Switzerland in 1693 to form a more conservative sect known as Ammann and settled in America in the 1730s. One of the core beliefs of the Anabaptists was adult baptism. Anabaptists “felt that baptizing babies could not be supported by Scriptures. They argued that sin entered the world with a knowledge of good and evil (Gen.3). Since an infant does not have this knowledge, it cannot have sin,” wrote Amish-born scholar John A. Hostetler.