The Amish community, while often recognized for their distinctive lifestyle and attire, is also characterized by unique theological convictions. These beliefs shape their communal interactions, personal choices, and the very fabric of their daily lives.
Amish beliefs focus on Gelassenheit (i.e., submission, humility), fostering a simple, community-centered life. They practice nonresistance, advocating peace over conflict. They uphold adult baptism, highlighting informed commitment, and employ shunning as a means of preserving community integrity.
What do Amish people practice separating from the world? How is the value of submission expressed in Amish communities? What is shunning and why is it controversial? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.
Also, compare the Amish with other churches on the Christian Denominations Comparison Chart.
Amish People Value Separation from the World
The Amish practice of separation from the world is one of their most distinct values, rooted deeply in their interpretation of biblical principles. It is their way of fulfilling the biblical commandment from Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world…”
They view this principle not as encouragement but as a directive to live in the world without adopting worldly values or practices.
This means eschewing many aspects of modern society, including technology and fashion. This is seen in their refusal to use electricity from public utility lines, reliance on horse-drawn transportation instead of cars, and choice of traditional, plain clothing.
The intention is to discourage individual vanity and pride and to foster a sense of community and humility.
The principle also translates into a strong sense of self-sufficiency and community interdependence. Amish families and communities often grow their own food, build their own houses, and run their own schools.
They intentionally limit interactions with the wider society to avoid undue influence and preserve their way of life.
It’s crucial to understand that the degree of separation can vary greatly among Amish communities. Some may adopt more modern technologies for practical reasons, such as using propane gas or diesel generators.
But in all cases, the guiding principle is whether these technologies will enhance their community life or risk diluting their values and traditions.
This separation from the world is not just about living a simpler life, but it’s also a profound statement of faith. It’s their way of concretely expressing commitment to their beliefs and dedication to their community, setting a clear boundary between themselves and the influences of the broader society.
Also, see What Do Mennonites Believe? to learn more.
Gelassenheit (Submission) in the Amish Tradition
At the heart of the Amish belief system is the principle of Gelassenheit, a German term that loosely translates to “yieldedness” or “submission.”
While it is a complex concept with no direct English equivalent, it essentially embodies the virtues of humility, simplicity, and community-mindedness.
Gelassenheit is about submitting one’s will to God and the collective will of the community. It encourages individuals to put aside personal desires and ambitions in favor of the needs and welfare of the community.
This principle underpins the cooperative spirit of Amish society, driving mutual aid, shared work, and a collective approach to decision-making.
Manifested in everyday life, Gelassenheit is expressed in the Amish devotion to manual labor, their avoidance of modern conveniences, and their distinctive, modest dress code.
These practices serve to discourage vanity, pride, and individualism. In its place, they promote a sense of equality, unity, and interconnectedness among community members.
The Amish commitment to simplicity in all aspects of life is a key part of Gelassenheit. By eschewing materialistic pursuits and luxuries, they aim to prevent distractions from their spiritual life and maintain their focus on God, family, and community.
This simple, unencumbered lifestyle allows them to nurture their relationships and live out their faith more fully.
Gelassenheit also influences how the Amish interact with the wider world. Their emphasis on humility and non-resistance guides their non-confrontational stance towards the outside world and their decision to live separately from it.
It forms the basis for their pacifism, their avoidance of lawsuits, and their practice of forgiveness and reconciliation.
To the Amish, Gelassenheit is not just a cultural characteristic or a lifestyle choice; it is a spiritual discipline and a path to salvation.
It represents a conscious and conscientious commitment to live according to the teachings of Jesus, as interpreted through their Anabaptist heritage. As such, Gelassenheit stands at the very core of the Amish identity and way of life.
Also, see What’s the Difference Between Amish and Mennonite? to learn more.
The Amish Are Committed to Nonresistance
The principle of nonresistance is central to the Amish understanding of Christian discipleship. Based on Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:38-42), Amish communities interpret the call to “turn the other cheek” quite literally.
Nonresistance is understood as an absolute commitment to pacifism and the avoidance of any form of violence or conflict, even in self-defense.
This belief extends to all areas of life, leading the Amish to be conscientious objectors, refraining from participating in military service. They also typically avoid involvement in law enforcement, litigation, or any other situation that might involve the use of force.
To the Amish, responding to aggression with love and forgiveness, even in the face of personal harm, is a powerful testimony to their faith.
In a broader sense, nonresistance also underpins a commitment to live peacefully with others, both within and outside their communities.
It promotes a culture of forgiveness and reconciliation, encouraging members to resolve disputes among themselves without recourse to the legal system. This also reinforces the autonomy and cohesion of their communities.
However, the practice of nonresistance does not mean that the Amish are passive or avoidant when it comes to social issues. They actively strive to live out their values within their communities and in their relationships with outsiders.
While they may not participate in conventional forms of social activism, their commitment to peace, justice, and simplicity is often expressed through acts of charity, stewardship of the land, and mutual aid within their communities.
It’s crucial to understand that this commitment to nonresistance is not merely a lifestyle choice or a cultural tradition for the Amish. It is, instead, a deeply held religious conviction, seen as an essential part of following Jesus’s example and teachings.
Also, see Are There Any Black Amish? to learn more.
The Amish practice adult baptism, similar to many Anabaptist groups. They believe a person must be old enough to understand and freely commit to the faith before being baptized.
|Believer’s Baptism||Infant Baptism|
|Definition||Baptism that takes place after a person has made a personal confession of faith in Jesus Christ.||Baptism of infants or young children usually performed in the context of their being born into a Christian family.|
|Commonly Practiced By||Baptists, Anabaptists, Pentecostals, and most Evangelical and nondenominational churches.||Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and some mainline Protestant churches like Lutherans and Presbyterians.|
|Scriptural Support||Often cite passages like Acts 2:38 and Acts 8:12, where baptism follows belief in Jesus.||Often cite passages like Acts 16:15, 33 where whole households (potentially including infants) were baptized, and Colossians 2:11-12, comparing baptism to Old Testament circumcision.|
|Symbolism||Symbolizes the believer’s identification with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus and their personal commitment to follow Him.||Symbolizes the grace of God extended to the person, marking them as part of the Christian community, often linked to the covenant promises of God.|
|Mode of Baptism||Generally by immersion, symbolizing dying with Christ and rising to new life.||Varies; can be by sprinkling, pouring, or immersion.|
|Age of Baptism||Usually teenagers or adults, after they’ve made a personal decision to follow Jesus.||Infants or young children.|
The Amish practice of shunning, known as “Meidung” in their Pennsylvania German dialect, is an integral part of their communal discipline. It’s seen as a tough-love approach towards those who have deviated from the norms of the Amish faith and way of life.
The purpose of shunning is two-fold. Firstly, it aims to maintain the integrity and purity of the Amish community by demonstrating the serious consequences of disobedience.
Secondly, it seeks to encourage the offending member to repent and return to the community. The hope is that the experience of isolation will lead the person to reflect on their actions and make amends.
Shunning involves social and sometimes economic exclusion. This can range from not eating at the same table, avoiding unnecessary conversation, to even refusing to do business with the person.
It’s important to note, however, that the degree and duration of shunning can vary widely among different Amish communities. Some may enforce very strict shunning rules, while others may be more lenient.
Shunning is not taken lightly and is typically a last resort after attempts at admonition or reconciliation have failed. It’s seen as a deeply regrettable, yet sometimes necessary, measure to uphold the community’s values.
It’s also not permanent. If the person shows sincere repentance, they can be welcomed back into the community.
Despite the apparent harshness of this practice, it is not intended to be punitive or vindictive. Instead, it’s seen as a form of tough love grounded in a commitment to the person’s spiritual well-being and the welfare of the community as a whole.
From the Amish perspective, the ultimate goal is not to cast the person out but to bring them back into the fold.
Also, see the 100 Largest Denominations in America to learn more.
Amish communities are very insular, which has led to much confusion about their habits and daily lives. From their rejection of modern technology and their old-fashioned clothes to their tight-knit...
The Amish are a Christian community, found mostly in America today, with roots in 17th-century Switzerland. Amish people are known for their appearance and simple lifestyle that rejects many modern...