I spent a few hours this week in a series of classes about Amish culture. There’s an Amish settlement a few miles from where I live in Kansas. They also live in multiple places I’ve visited in recent years from Ohio to Iowa.
The overriding concept is the idea that the community is the most important thing. The good of all takes precedence over the individual needs and wants.
The class was taught by an ex-Amish gentleman, and there was another ex-Amish man in the class. Both of them left because they wanted an education. The Amish don’t believe in formal education beyond the eighth grade.
It was really fascinating to learn about a culture that I see from afar regularly, but have no intimate knowledge of. It’s something I like about living here. Occasionally you’ll be in a line and someone will come up to another person in line to say hello and before you know it, they’re speaking German. I don’t understand a single word of German, but I find it fascinating how people easily switch from one to the other. I learned in this class that most ex-Amish say they’ll always think in “Dutch,” which is actually German. (Pennsylvania Dutch is actually a reference to Deutsch, i.e. German.)
Multiple people asked about shunning, and he did talk about that a bit. He also asked the older gentleman to talk about his experience of being disciplined by the church when he was younger. He was never shunned, but he was disciplined for something he did that was wrong. The bishop came to see him, then he confessed in the church, and everyone stood up and he knew they forgave him. Something I would have missed if the instructor hadn’t mentioned it that this forgiveness, like so many things in Amish culture, is visible. That theme kept repeating.
By the way, if you’re wondering what this gentleman did that required discipline, he went to see a movie. While that may seem harsh to us, it’s important to keep things in line so they maintain their culture.
It was an interesting couple of days. It gave me some insight I’ve been missing.