The Amish are as much a part of American history as the Catholics and the Puritans, yet to many the Amish still hold an air of mystery. The first 21 Amish families arrived in America via a ship named the Charming Nancy in the mid 1700s. Over the next 50 years 3,000 Amish migrated to America in search of religious freedom. Today, the Amish population in the United States continues to grow steadily. As the Amish population expands many Americans may come into contact with the Amish more often, so understanding their core beliefs can be helpful.
The Amish are Protestant Christians, but some of their beliefs differ markedly from those of other Protestant groups. One major point of difference between the Amish and other American Protestants is their strong belief in the importance of community to individual salvation. Unlike many Christian groups that place the burden of salvation on holding an individual relationship with Jesus Christ, the Amish believe that it is boastful to claim a personal relationship with God. Rather, they believe that salvation comes from participation in a community of believers. To maintain cohesive daily practices among members of the community, the Amish abide by the Ordnung, or a written code of conduct. The specifics of the Ordnung vary from community to community.
The Amish separate themselves from the secular world as much as possible to keep their communities pure so that they may receive salvation. Rather than seeking help from outside their communities in times of crisis, the Amish rely on a biblical principle of mutual aid, wherein church members are obligated to help each other. It is because of this principle of separation that the Amish avoid modern technology. Modern tools such as cars and home telephones are believed to weaken dependence on their neighbors, weakening the community as a whole.
The Amish believe in the nuclear family structure, with one woman and one man who are married and raise children together. The Amish practice traditional gender roles. They believe that women should be subordinate to their husbands. Husbands are generally responsible for providing the family with financial stability, while wives are in charge of maintaining the home and raising the children. In some cases wives run home-based businesses, such as small shops and gardens, but they almost never work outside the home. Although husbands are regarded as the spiritual head of the household, wives play an important role in fostering spirituality in their children.
The Amish believe in the importance of leading a peaceful life. Striving for pacifism is carried on outside of their communities and in their interactions with the secular world. The Amish do not serve in the military, participate in secular politics, or initiate legal battles. In exceptional and rare cases the Amish may obtain outside lawyers to interact with the courts on their behalf, but only as a last resort.
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