How do we live?
How do disciples of Jesus Christ nurture their faith both as individuals and as God’s chosen people in the midst of a world that is hostile to them?
This pressing question is answered by Christians through the centuries and around the world in very diverse ways. What is the shaping between Gospel and culture?
Anabaptist (rebaptizer) Christians believe the fundamental tenets of the Christian faith. See their Dordrecht Confession of Faith (Mennonite, 1632) which was adopted April 21, 1632, by a Dutch Mennonite Conference held at Dordrecht, Holland. Distinctive beliefs include believer’s baptism, brotherhood, non-resistance, authority of the Bible and separateness including God’s headship order and women’s headship veiling.
The Amish emerged from the Mennonites in 1693. See The Amish – From Old World to New for a helpful shorter history of the Amish and Mennonite Christian traditions, covering: The Anabaptist Forefathers; The Amish and Mennonites Emerge; From Europe to America; Conflicts in Modern Times. In general what differentiates the Amish from Mennonites is the way each chooses to ‘be in the world but not of it’.
It is the distinctive lifestyle choices of the Amish seeking to separate themselves from worldly temptation and the destructiveness of immorality, Godless spirituality, individualism, pride and selfishness that attracts our attention. [Note: this article complements Amish Encounters No.1]
Living neither in monasteries nor walled exclusion zones but in farms dispersed among the wider non Amish community, they focus their energies upon the discipleship of their children in the context of a local church district of about 25-35 families. This enables the Amish community to worship, work, visit and live together in simplicity. Their family is their mission field.
How is Amish faith held? – it is held theologically and culturally by ‘Gelassenheit’– ‘self-surrender, resignation in and yieldedness to God’s will’ and in a process of socialization from cradle to grave. Life is lived with family and has home at the centre and under the authority of a defined, dedicated and supportive church community. A community which is preserved by its clear and guarded boundaries, nurtured by its humility, modesty and informality, and cultivated by its social life of church, family, home, school, work and recreation.
How do the Amish stay ‘separate’ from the world?
MOST AMISH –
- Use horse-drawn carriages and farm machinery
- Exclude phones, radios, television, from homes
- Reject electricity supply (use bottled gas, batteries, generators)
- Hold group worship services in homes of church members
- Complete formal education at eighth grade
- Wear uniformly plain style of clothing
- Speak a distinct dialect at home, worship, in community
BY WAY OF COMPARISON, MOST MENNONITES –
- Drive cars
- Use commercial electricity
- Own telephones, radios, televisions, VCRs, computers
- Worship in church buildings called ‘meeting houses’
- Are active in evangelism and mission work
- Promote higher education
- Wear contemporary clothing
- Speak the language of the people among whom they live
‘AMISH MENNONITE’ is a more recent Anabaptist group that is neither exclusively Amish nor Mennonite. This is the group that we were privileged to worship with on Sunday and a family with whom we enjoyed visiting and lunch. See my blog post ‘Amish Encounters No.3’.
The Conclusion of an Anabaptist pamphlet resonates with my own hope:
It is our hope that this brief message gives you a better understanding of the Mennonites and Amish. More importantly, we would earnestly encourage you to seek wholeness through Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)