Amish?

amish
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amish PHOTO: JoAnna Miller with one of her teenage daughters (photo credited to Lewiston Tribune)

There is a story making the rounds on the Associated Press wire today about an “Amish family” in Idaho (my fellow Amish-researcher colleague Erik Wesner was talking about this on Facebook page…only so many Amish stories to discuss so we do overlap topics on occasion:).  But, sheesh, I’d say the reporter pulled like taffy the definition of “Amish” to it’s absolute limit.  The article is about the Miller family who felt the westward pull and moved to Libby, Montana.  I’ve been to Libby and it’s sort of the last sizable settlement before a yawning “no man’s land” in the Koocanusa region of the Canadian border and NW Montana hinterlands.  While we didn’t visit any of the plain people in Libby, I did ask about them in Rexford and the Old Order Amish there said they didn’t consider the Libby settlement to be Amish.  “Oh those are Mennonites down there,” is what one told me.  Although the  Associated Press article makes it sound like it’s a group that perhaps was Old Order at one time but – as some Amish churches do – evolved in their religious thinking to become a progressive plain church instead. I think the Millers sound like a fine family and I think what they are trying to do is admirable, but I think calling them Amish is kind of stretching it…maybe?  I’m not sure that the family ever referred to themselves as “Amish” or whether the newspaper did that to sort of draw interest (I can almost assure you if this story didn’t have the “Amish angle” the Associated Press would not put it on their wire).  Because of the loose church structure it can be difficult to define Amish.  I sort of use “home worship”, adherence to plainness, use of horse and buggy, non usage of electricity among other factors to formulate whether someone is Amish.  But that’s just me. The church in Bergholz, Ohio, in my opinion, has abandoned their Amish faith because they lashed out violently with the beard cutting attacks. Pacifism is a pillar of the Amish faith.  I’m not sure whether, in my opinion, the Millers fit the definition of Amish.  What do you think? Does it even matter?  Click here to read about the Miller family.

 

 

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The Discussion


  1. Ok… here’s where it does matter: To the people who are serious about their Amish Faith and what makes them AMISH and separate from the world. This is serious stuff. I moderate a group on Yahoo where people can come and ask quesitons about The Amish, Mennonites, and Anabaptists and I blog on this as well. What people take for granted, like bangs, pleats, dress length, fabric, hair length, beard, mustache or no, can divide a congregation. I’ve also known people to *claim* they are Amish because they are simplistic, yet they have no concept of Non-Resistance, or the structure that created the Amish. It’s probably annoying to those who take their faith, and their heritage seriously. Just my two cents…

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    • Kelly,
      Welcome….I think your points are well articulated and I was hoping someone would weigh in with a more theological take on it than I…..Yes, it is serious stuff…there are Amish churches that divide sometimes over the most seemingly trivial issues to outsiders, but to an Anabaptist it’s everything…..I think there are some basic “litmus tests” one needs to pass before claiming they’re Amish, just the same as someone claims Catholicism or Lutheranism as their faith – Kevin

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  2. Well, we do some of those, too, but we’re not Amish. I “look” Amish but in fact we aren’t officially Anabaptist, although much influenced by that theology and Plain. No, not Amish. May have been in a past generation, but not now. Amish-ness is more than declaring oneself simple-living and ready to give up television, or even adhering to a low-Protestant faith system. (Amish are, in theology, closer to Eastern Orthodox and Anglican than they are to Baptists, Prsbyterians, and evangelicals.) It is a Two Kingdom way of life which most people don’t really understand.

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    • I would say that the Amish are Anabaptists, and they’re theology was closer to Scripture than the Catholic/Anglican/Orthodox and more radical than the Protestants like Lutherans and Methodists. They were of the pietistic breed, with the Hutterites, Mennonite, Moravians, etc.

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    • Susan GIll says:


      I am very interested in your statement that states the Amish or more like Eastern Orthodox or Anglicans. On the surface that seems an odd comparison, but honestly the first time I attended an Old Order Mennonite church service, despite the severity of the interior , I felt that there was something more akin to a liturgical service rather than an evangelical one. Would you be able to elaborate on your stance? Most people do not realize that Amish or O.O. Mennonites have no history in pietism which has influenced most Protestant evangelicalism. They certainly have no connection to the more fundamentalist Christian movements that began in the 19th century. One thing that struck me as profound was that the worship service, although devoid of any ecclesiastic paraphenalia, used a hymnal where the same hymns have been sung since the 16th century.

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  3. lougender says:


    Kevin, I agree with your questioning of the perceived need to call anything “Amish” that seems like any rejection of modern technology. I saw an article in the Yahoo news today referring to a young man’s experiment in giving up Twitter, Facebook, email, or any other form of electronic communication as “the Amish Project”! He didn’t give up cars or TV or electricity — just the social networking! Such a hardship!!

    http://news.yahoo.com/90-days-without-cell-phone-email-social-media-015300257.html

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  4. I would almost lean towards a Beachy Amish persuasion, but then again, I think being Amish is more like being a Jew – it’s not just a religion either. At least not in my opinion. The religious aspect does seem to be off, so I wouldn’t say they are OO Amish for sure, but I feel they can still be considered Amish by birth. But then I am not Amish, so have no idea if they would agree with me or not.

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  5. Susan GIll says:


    To be Amish necessarily means to be in community with fellow believers. The family in the article could not possibly be Amish because they are lone rangers, something Amish or even O.O. Mennonites are not. The Amish faith is one which adheres to certain rules, meidung, in order to guide believers down a path that to adherents, leads to a more Biblically based life. When you are baptized in that faith, you make a covenant with God and the church (the body of believers) that you will live in a certain way, set down by the elders, designed to maintain that essential separation from worldly things. This way of life is one in which the individual is dependent on the community for existence.

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