Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
December 14, 2011
The Amish Way of Life
The Amish culture is fascinating to me, because it exists in our own country, and our own communities, but yet it is not an integral part of our mainstream society. Although the Amish culture exists in our own backyards, The Amish have distinct gender roles, cultural beliefs and values, and their own way of handling sickness and healing.
As in many cultures, the Amish people have very distinct gender roles. This means that men and women have certain tasks and traditions that are separate for each gender, and as a rule, these tasks are not performed by the other. The Amish father is responsible for providing for his family through farm work or by employment in the local community. Many Amish men are working away from the farm [because of] the declining availability of farmland. Many Amish men work as carpenters, masons or laborers in factories. Some have home based businesses such as furniture making, harness repair or the shoeing of horses. Amish culture teaches girls to serve and please others such as their parents, husbands and relatives. An Amish wife is identified by using her husband's name, eg. Eli Katie means Eli's wife, Katie. The social life for an Amish woman is centered around church, funerals, quilting bees, baking, barn raising and frolics (Lemon, 2006). Unmarried young women often find work in shops and restaurants owned by "English" (the generic term for non-Amish persons), or in housecleaning services (Cates, et al 2006). It seems that women would rebel against the lack of personal identity this culture allows them, but since they are raised and taught this to be normal, it is rarely questioned. Amish beliefs and values contain aspects that are the same as mainstream society, but much of their attitudes and beliefs are very unique. The Amish culture is said to be a branch or denomination of the Christian religion. For example, rather than being Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, etc, the community is Amish. They base their beliefs on the Christian bible, however all Amish communities are not the same. There are subgroups that compose the Amish Culture. There are four groups of Amish: Swartzentruber (ultra conservative), Andy Weaver (conservative), Old Order (conservative), and the New Order (less conservative). Today the Amish stand somewhere between the parent body, the Mennonites, and the four subgroups. The New Order of Amish attempts to balance distinctive rituals and practices against accommodations (Lemon, 2006). The Old Order is the most visible of Amish groups. They are the ones you notice right away, when in public because they are identified by their plain dress and use of horse and buggy as primary mode of transportation. It is imperative to the Amish beliefs that they be separated from the rest of the world. Also, their main beliefs include loyalty to community and family, rather than loyalty to themselves individually, a commitment to physical labor, humility when interacting with others, and recognition of and commitment to the church as the main authority in their lives. They, like other religions, believe that life on earth preludes heavenly rewards. They may grieve death, but they also rejoice in the promise of eternal life (Cates, et al, 2006). Another curiosity, as reported by William Schreiber in 1960, was that unlike American weddings being held on Saturdays, the Amish always held their weddings on a Tuesday or Thursday, and the wedding season for the Amish lasted from early Fall until late Winter, and did not extend into a leap year (Schreiber, 1960). Some things that make the Amish vastly different from the mainstream Christian practices are, that the Amish leave school after the eighth grade. They don’t believe any further education is necessary. Also, they have the same internal tensions and conflicts as those...