Amish Series - Part 2

 

As promised, we are continuing with our Amish series. This week we are answering our reader’s questions. If you have not read Part 1 you can read it here. Amish series - Part 1


Q. I didn't think they (the Amish) were allowed to be photographed. Is this false? 

A. An often asked question. Some sects of Amish allow posing for photographs and others do not. Some of them own their own cameras and others have smart phones and take pictures that way. You almost have to know the individual before you know if they are allowed to have their picture taken or not. The Amish are aware of the outside world’s interest in them and most are resolved they will have their picture taken if they are driving up and down the roads and tourists are in the area with their cameras. I would suggest if you don’t know the person you are taking a picture of to give the Amish space and take their picture from afar.
Q. Can they wear any color they want?

A.The short answer is yes. The long answer is you have to understand the different sects of Amish and I refer you to part 1 of this series. The New Order and Old Order may wear any color and any shade but the more strict sects of Amish such as the Swartzentruber Amish may only wear dark colors.
Q. Do the children live with the parents after marriage?

A. If you are asking if they live in the same house and eat from the same table the answer is not usually, unless for a couple weeks or months until their house they will live in becomes available. In other cases a young couple might live in a second home on the property because they are taking over the farming or something like that. Many Amish places have two houses, one for the older couple and one for the younger couple. The younger couple will have purchased the farm or property from mom and dad at a reduced price and they will care for the older couple until they pass away.
Q. Tell me the history of the simple clothing and the darling bonnets.

A. I honestly do not know how it started. I imagine the patterns were handed down over the generations but at one point in our history possibly their style of clothing was stylish. These are questions we never asked our mothers and our mothers never asked theirs. We just knew this was what we were allowed to wear.

Q. Why no electricity?
A. Some Amish actually do allow electricity these days. I will refer you to part 1 of this series. Some of them use solar power and use electrical appliances and tools that way. The ones who use neither conventional electricity or solar power don’t want to let the outside world in. If they allow too many of the modern ways they will have less control over their younger generation from allowing other things and soon, they fear, they will lose who they are and what they stand for or against.

Q. If they serve meals out of their home and how much they charge?
A. There are a few ladies who serve meals out of their homes. You would have to ask each individual cook what their fees are.

 
Q. How wild do the youth really go on their rumspringe?
A. Since I’m no longer with the youth I can’t give you play by play details on exactly what they do, but from what I’ve heard from those still in the Amish some of the youth will do anything that the outside world does. There is some drinking, even underage drinking, some drug use and then there are those who dress English and go to the movies and bowling. It just depends on the particular group of youth you are talking about. The Amish might consider things their youth do as “wild” while it is normal activity for those of us living in the outside world.
Q. I know a man who used to be Amish, he is still close with his family. Is that typical or do they normally lose contact? Another asked, I thought you were shunned if you left the faith?
A. This is typical but everyone’s journey through shunning and leaving the Amish looks a bit different. It often depends on the sect of Amish you are coming out of. The Swartzentruber sect is harder on their members to keep distant from their stray-away family members. But even with them you will learn many will have some kind of contact with their family who chose to leave. Many times the church does not find out they have contact with their loved ones. The New Order Amish do not shun their members for leaving the Amish, so they remain close and the Old Order Amish often times will only shun for a period of time and then once they see the person has established themselves in a new church they will lift the shunning and relationships stay intact.
Q. What does the general Amish population think of the way they are being portrayed on reality TV shows?
A. Most of the Amish have not seen the shows, but they are well aware of them. I don’t think there is one Amish person who would say they like how they are being portrayed on television. My personal feelings are there are so many interesting stories of Amish leaving the church so why not do documentaries of something that is true and inspiring rather than make up stuff and sensationalize the true parts they are portraying.
Q. I actually really admire your simplistic approach to living. Do you ever feel isolated from the rest of the world? What's the biggest temptation confronted by the younger Amish generation?
A.I am no longer Amish so, no, I don’t feel isolated from the rest of the world. If I can speak for the other Amish, they probably also don’t feel isolated from the outside world. They rub shoulders with the outside world every day in so many ways. They do business, go shopping, go to the doctor/dentist, camping, traveling. Anything you do, the Amish do and so they are not isolated. The Swartzentruber sect of Amish is more strict about what they can do and how they do it. They still go shopping at Walmart, they just use their horse and buggy to go there. It might take them ten times longer than the ones who hire a taxi, but they still get to do things.
A. The biggest temptation is probably freedom. Wishing for more freedom than what any order of Amish provides them.
Q. Up until recent years there was virtually no cancer amongst these people.
A. Oh, how I wish this were true. As far back as I can remember there have been Amish with cancer. The Amish actually do not eat very healthy and have the same illnesses anyone else has. It is sad that folks put articles on the internet that are not true and use the Amish name to pull folks in to purchase what they are selling.
Q. Does domestic violence ever happen in the Amish community?
A. Yes, domestic violence can happen in the Amish community. It is few and far between but it can happen. There are Amish women and children who end up in safe houses from time to time. I know a young lady who volunteered at "Every Woman's House." It is a shelter for women to come to and be safe and while the young lady was volunteering there was an Amish lady who was being protected. Unfortunately, the Amish have the same problems as everyone else does. Human nature kicks in and sometimes someone fails. 
Q. Does divorce ever occur?  
A. Yes, from time to time a couple will divorce. It is most often the man seeks the divorce and wants out of the marriage so he can pursue another relationship. The Amish understand the Bible that divorce for some instances is okay but remarriage is taboo. There is a small percentage of ladies who find themselves with a similar status as "widow" when the husband chooses to divorce them and move away from the family. The church district the lady is in will help provide for she and her family. Sometimes the divorce lady is young enough and able to work part time or offer baby sitting or do quilting to supplement her income. Otherwise, the church steps in and provides financial aid, as little or as much as she needs. 
Q. Do women use Amish midwives for pre-natal care and childbirth? Are the midwives allowed to carry pitocin?  
A. Most Amish women are under doctor's care for pre-natal and childbirth but there is a small percentage of ladies who do use midwives. I have no idea the particulars of what a midwife carries, however. You would have to find someone who is a midwife to answer your question. 
Q. Does shunning still occur? If so, what offenses would merit it?
A. This is typical but everyone’s journey through shunning and leaving the Amish looks a bit different. It often depends on the sect of Amish you are coming out of. The Swartzentruber sect is harder on their members to keep distant from their stray-away family members. But even with them you will learn many will have some kind of contact with their family who chose to leave. Many times the church does not find out they have contact with their loved ones. The New Order Amish do not shun their members for leaving the Amish, so they remain close and the Old Order Amish often times will only shun for a period of time and then once they see the person has established themselves in a new church they will lift the shunning and relationships stay intact.
A. Offences that merit shunning? Being unrepentant of sins listed in the Bible and leaving the Amish church. It never looks the same though. Depending on the offence the repentant person is shunned for a period of six weeks and then re-established as a member of the church. This is a long and layered answer and you have to understand the various orders of Amish and what they see as sin and how they handle each of those sins. 
 
Thank you to each of you who have participated in this question and answer session. It has been fun answering them. If you have other questions you can send them my way and when I have enough of them I will put together another post. 
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3 comments

  • I really enjoyed reading the Q and A regarding the Amish culture. I knew all that “junk” on TV wasn’t true! I do have one question though….donAmish people believe on marrying within the same family and having children? Also, do Amish families believe in birth control or having as many children as God gives??

    • Sandra Belsole
  • I have so enjoyed reading about the Amish & their culture. I am wondering if you would ever feel like sharing some of your own experiences growing up or how/why you left the Amish. You are always a very smart & interesting lady & I appreciate you letting us into your world.

    • Andra Hamilton
  • Lena,
    I am the one who spoke with you on the phone in May and left the gift from my daughter, Kayla, near the door after hours. I hope that you received the gift.
    More than you receiving the gift, I have wondered how your mother is doing?
    Hope to see you at the Southern Living Fair in Atlanta.

    • LInda Decker