Uncovering the Amish
Essay Preview: Uncovering the Amish
Report this essay
Uncovering the Amish I grew up in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The place where cows are free to roam and whoopee pies are a staple at every dinner. Every morning I wake up to the sounds of horse and buggies, the clicking of hooves on the pavement as they hit the road. It’s probably the best place to go to relax, so much space and beautiful views. However, when people think of Lancaster, they don’t think of the simple beauty like me, the only thing they think of is the Amish. Lancaster Pennsylvania contains the largest and oldest Amish community in the country. They first arrived in Pennsylvania in the 1720’s to escape persecution in Europe for being too conservative and emphasizing a separation from the non-Amish world. Although these ideas were looked down upon for being too harsh, the Amish still have not change their ways. Today, they continue to wear black simple clothing and refuse to drive cars or use electricity. At least, that’s what they want people to think. The Amish culture revolves around one single thing, the church. This church isn’t a single building, but passes from home to home every Sunday of the year. It is usually at a different house every time and all the people in the surrounding area cram inside the small farmhouse for a three-hour church service. Every Saturday night they have volleyball tournaments where everyone in the area participates in. This is their change to mingle and find someone that they would eventually like to begin to court. When they aren’t spending their time in church, the adults are working on their fields growing crops to be sold at the local market. The children attend school up to eighth grade where they learn only the necessities. They are taught in Pennsylvania Dutch, a dialect of German, they learn how to read and write. After completing the eighth grade, the boys begin farming or working at an Amish shop and the girls work at home doing laundry and the dishes. In the community, they follow the law book called the Ordnung. These are a set of rules set in place to keep order in the community and provide discipline to those who disobey. Although tourists think that this rulebook is strictly followed, this is not so. The Amish try to hide it but in reality, they rarely follow these rules. The tourists pay to see tours of this rare culture so to protect their income they choose to hide those who disobey the laws. To me, this different culture didn’t seem so different. These people that are treated like such aliens were the same friends that I would run around and play tag with in the back yard, or have family cookouts with. In fact, I didn’t know that there was a difference, until I heard what other people thought of them. The strict rules regarding electricity and not associating with the modern world were unknown to me. I began to believe that these “traditions” were more of an act than a lifestyle. As I got older their fake lives became more and more clear. Tourists flood the area to get a glimpse into the past but they’re really just looking into a mirror because these different people are really just like us. As old Amish traditions state there must be a separation from the modern world. To maintain this separation, strict rules are in place. “The rules include a strict ban on violence, always attending church, no picture taking or use of any electronic devices or electricity, limited education and the same clothing must be worn by everyone” (National Geographic Society). When people come to learn about the Amish, they believe that all of these laws are followed, but being brought up in the middle of this, I know the secrets that they aren’t willing to share. The Amish’s lives revolve around the church. It is mandatory for them to attend every Sunday. At the age of seventeen, the children must choose if they want to be a part of the church or not. If they choose to stay with the church, they are baptized and must remain in the church and abide by the rules for the rest of their lives. However, as old law states, if they choose to not stay with the church, they must be banned. The families are forced to shun their own children and never speak to them again. If anyone in the Amish community sees them outside they are forbidden to communicate with them. This is what the Amish want everyone to believe, but part of this legend is not true. If the children choose to not stay with the church they are sent out on their own, however they are still able to talk to their families. My friend Taylor has a father that was once part of the Amish community. When asked about her communication with her Amish family members, she said, “My family is in close contact with my grandmother. She is still a part of the Amish church but we are able to see her as often as we like.” This law on shunning that people view as strict is really not so strict. The Amish are also against any form of violence or having their picture taken. Amish farm stands all around my house have signs out front banning the use of cameras because their religion is strictly against it. People commonly associate with the Amish with the popular television show, Amish Mafia. In this show, Lebanon Levi and his three assistances work to protect the Lancaster Amish community. The show pictures Levi taking violence on others who threaten to disobey the rules or outsiders who cause harm to their community. Although the show seems believable, it is untrue. The idea that these Amish would allow themselves to be broadcast on live television doing something that is strictly outlawed seemed highly unlikely to me. To find proof that the show is made up, I traveled to the local farmers market, the location where Lebanon Levi works. I interviewed a man named Bailey Eisenberger about any interactions that he had with Levi. He stated that “ I have know Levi for years and he has never been a part of such a thing. He had always been a nice man who spent most of his days selling his crops at the market.” I feel that the show is merely an act to attract more tourists to Lancaster.
Uncovering the Amish