Page 10 - Amish Voice - September 2012

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The Amish Voice 10
Having a plain background myself, I tend to
spend a fair amount of time studying the
ways of the plain Amish and Mennonites.
One of the primary definitive cultural beliefs
maintained by the plain people surrounds
separation from the world
. In fact, while
studying our rich culture, I discovered that if
you look past that one particular belief, the
average plain person isn’t different from any
other person alive.
Because adherence to separation from the
world is central to the Amish and Mennonite
religion, my studying involves asking a lot of
‘why’ and ‘what’ questions to learn more:
“Why do plain people shun contact with the
world?” “What does the average plain person
believe defines ‘the world?’” “Why does the
plain community think separation from the
world is so central to God’s command-
ments?” And so on...
In this column I’m going to share some of
the information I gleaned from my stud-
ies. This isn’t meant to be an all-inclusive
study of the plain people; rather it’s a
study of how and why these plain people
cling so hard to their long held and most
important tradition of separation from the
In order to establish a foundation for this
study, we’ll briefly need to revisit the
roots of our ancestors. It’s important to
note that a lot of the current Amish traditions
are actually a continuance to Jakob Am-
mann’s core beliefs, and if it were not for
Mr. Ammann, we’d likely not have a modern
day Amish denomination.
In 1693, Jakob Ammann took issue with
Swiss Mennonite leaders Hans Reist and
Benedict Schneider over what he saw as a
lack of overall discipline in the Swiss Breth-
ren congregations. This lack of discipline
was exemplified by the lapse of the ban (or
meidung) against those who violated ethical
rules after being baptized into the Church.
The disagreement over the practice caused a
rift between him and Hans Reist; which re-
sulted in Ammann's congregation splitting
from the Swiss Brethren. Those who fol-
lowed Jakob Ammann became known as the
Highly influenced by Dutch Mennonite be-
liefs, Ammann insisted on the implementa-
tion of the 1632 Mennonite
Dortrecht Con-
fession of Faith.
He rejected modern clothing
and established strict regulations concerning
apparel. He increased communion from once
to twice per year; and instituted the practice
of feet washing in connection with commun-
ion; which was not practiced by the Swiss
Later, Ammann regretted the schism and
made several attempts to reunify his group
with the Mennonites. To show his regret for
the disunity he had caused, Ammann offered
to ban himself from his own congregation.
However, despite his own admissions of
being rash and overzealous, he would not
give up the belief of strict shunning.
Amish lifestyle today is dictated by the Ord-
nung, which differs slightly from community
to community, and, within a community,
from district to district. What is acceptable in
one community may not be acceptable in
another. Groups may separate over matters
such as the width of a hat-brim, the color of
buggies, or various other issues. These rules
tend to be put in place as some new thing
comes into the world, or when some disunity
crops up, resulting in a new rule in an at-
tempt to solve the problem.
Today there are hundreds of thousands of
Amish living in America and across the
world. Scattered as they are, each group
maintains a uniform desire to be separate
from the world in order to fulfill their inter-
pretation of the Bible. Interestingly, the
world has an intense interest in the plain life-
style, believing it to be peaceful and idyllic
due to the
slow pace of life. This is
only logical when you think about it, howev-
er, since everyone that doesn’t know Christ
is going to have an empty heart which can
only be filled with peace and fulfillment by
Christ Himself. It is our belief that these var-
ious groups of Amish and Mennonite people
could yet bring about a great revival among
all unbelievers. Because the world is watch-
ing the plain people, this could all come
about as these plain people start openly con-
fessing Christ as their Savior.
In order to fully understand
separation from
the world,
we’ll need to define the word
‘world’. It’s important to note that the Amish
and Mennonite definition of the ‘world’ is
relative to their surroundings. For example, a
plain person living in the United States
would classify as ‘worldly’ anyone whom
acts and dresses as an unbeliever does
here in the United States. In another coun-
try, the plain person’s lifestyle would
need to change in order to remain separate
from the ‘world’ situation in that particu-
lar country.
The Amish Ordnung maintains that all
clothing should be plain and dark colored,
whereas Mennonites are ok with clothing
with a pattern if it is small and not very
obvious. Essentially, what has happened
is that the plain people have established a
dress code according to their own standards.
This becomes obvious when you consider
the fact that if God would have ordained a
particular dress standard, Christ would cer-
tainly have been our model. It’s most inter-
esting to note that an Orthodox Jew male
clothes himself very similarly to a plain
Amish or Mennonite man, for many of the
same reasons. This is a strange similarity
considering that orthodox Jews do not pro-
fess Christ, rather loving their own
Fortunately, we all, including plain people,
have many scriptures which clarifies the true
purpose of the scriptures, including John
(Search the scriptures; for in them ye
think ye have eternal life: and they are they
Separation From The World (P-1)
—by J. Martin
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