For most of us, the only thing we know about the Amish is they probably won't be reading this list. Banned from technology and electricity, the Amish live a secluded life away from other Americans (known to them as the English). Because of this seclusion, the average person knows very few facts about the inner workings of the Amish religion and culture.
The Amish religion began in 16th century Europe, when Anabaptist leader Jakob Ammann formed his own community after his conservative beliefs created a schism in the Anabaptist faith. His teachings defined the values of the Amish religion; he literally put the "Am" in "Amish". Since the religion's founding, the Amish have grown in numbers, practicing the principles of their religion in many of the same ways the founders did centuries ago.
Most Amish people ended up in America, in particular as part of the Pennsylvania Dutch community. There are also Amish communities in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, and Canada. But what do the Amish believe? In order to find out, let’s let the least Amish thing on the planet, the Internet, be your guide. Check out all manner of information about Amish beliefs, Pennsylvania Dutch beliefs, and Amish religion facts below.
The Amish Have a Lot of Babies
The Bible tells us to "be fruitful and multiply." The Amish took that advice to heart: the Amish population doubles every 20 years. While the rest of America averages about 2 kids per family, Amish families have 6 or 7. Not surprisingly, some of these births are plagued by genetic defects. Being a closed society, the Amish suffer from the "founders effect": founders of the religion were few and no one married outside the community, resulting in a a lack of genetic diversity in the Amish population. This, in turn, leads to genetic disorders.
The Ordnung: Unwritten Amish Rules Passed Down Through Generations
The manual that governs all facets of Amish society, the Ordnung, is less of a book than it is a code to live by. In fact, the Ordnung ("order" in German) doesn't sit on a bookshelf or in an Amish library, because it only exists in the minds of those who use it. The Ordnung outlines every rule of Amish life, from generalizations on how to practice religion to minute details about dress, carriage-design, and hairstyle.
Each district keeps its own separate and distinct Ordnung, evolved over centuries, and amended by church leadership on a gradual basis. Violating the Ordnung can result in shunning. All information from this list is defined by the Ordung. If it existed in physical form, it would have been the only research material required. Alas, it is passed orally from generation to generation.
Rumspringa Is a Chance for Amish Teens to Let Loose
One of the most well-known and fascinating tenets of the Amish religion, Rumspringa literally means "running around". When Amish teens turn 16, they get the chance to experience the outside world, to decide whether life in the Amish community is right for them. They're allowed to try things like cars, modern clothes, drinking, and drugs.
Rumspringa is also when young people start dating, with the intention of finding a nice Amish boy or girl and settling down. If Rumspringa drives someone to leave the church, they don't have to cut ties with family, because they have not yet been baptized as a full-fledged member of the religion, and will therefore not be shunned for leaving it.
Despite the belief in popular culture that Rumspringa is an orgy of depraved behavior, most Amish kids aren't doing blow off dead hookers. The typical Rumspringa experience is relatively mild, and almost 90% of Amish teens commit to the church as adults.
Like Other Anabaptists, the Amish Don't Get Baptized Until Adulthood
The Amish believe baptism shouldn't be a given, but rather chosen. As a choice, it should not to be made lightly. This is a defining trait of the Anabaptists, the religion from which the Amish derive. Anabaptist means "one who baptizes again".
Unlike religious groups that baptize infants, the Amish believe baptism should be a conscious decision and declaration to accept God. This is why no Amish person can be baptized before the age of 16, and why children are not considered full-fledged members of the Amish faith.