*David has published a followup Little Lesson on this subject that can be viewed here.
Are Amish people Christians? You may or may not be familiar with the Amish depending on where you live in the United States and in the world. They live in about half of the states of the United States and there’s about 250,000 Amish people total in North America. They also live in Canada and some even in Central America.
They are growing, but they’re not growing because people are joining them. They’re growing because, generally, they have large families and there’s probably going to be a half a million Amish people in North America within about 20 or so years.
So, they’re hard to miss. They live mostly in rural areas. They are characterized by their very plain dress, somewhat plain living and that they shun a lot of modern technologies including cars, so you’ll always see them driving their black buggies along the roads and highways in the settlements and the communities where they live.
It’s always, for the most part, in rural areas because that fits their lifestyle the best. Now I know something about the Amish, not only because I’ve studied them and I am fascinated by them. They’re part of a larger group of Anabaptist that trace their beginnings back about 400 years ago in Europe. But I have personal friends, fairly close personal friends, I might add, who are Amish. As I’ve gotten to know them over the last few years, I just have grown to love and appreciate them so very much because the ones that I know anyways, ones I know fairly close, are very sincere and they have, I believe, a genuine faith. Now, let me start off like I’ve started off our other little lessons where we’ve asked the same question about other groups.
What is a Christian? Okay. Because we’ve got to define our definition first of all, and in my humble opinion, as I’m reading the Bible, a Christian is anybody who believes that Jesus Christ is the divine son of God. You got to have that. Okay? Bare bones minimum, and I would say that faith has got to be evidenced by some degree at least of obedience to the commandments of Christ.
That’s my definition of what a true Christian really is. As I have looked at the lives of the Amish, of course, if you look at anybody close enough, you’re going to see flaws, and those of us who have logs in our eyes ought to be careful in looking at the specks in other people’s eyes, right? Right. That’s why we have to be very careful when we’re looking at the Amish because a lot of their practices are rooted in biblical belief.
Now, I don’t believe that all of them are, because of course you can’t find anywhere in the Bible that says it’s wrong to use modern technology, and the Amish stayed right with technology for the first few hundred years of their existence.
It’s only in about the last hundred years or so where they’ve parked and just said “we will go no further.” Oh, I might also add, all the rules and regulations and those things which regulate Amish lifestyle and behavior. It varies from Amish community to Amish community. There are some that are, well, there’s lots of different groups, groupings of Amish. They’ve split only God knows exactly how many times, but they’ve split over mostly lifestyle debates and disputes. Is it okay to have buttons or should we be using straight pins to put our clothes together? Because some groups have felt that it’s wrong to use buttons.
Some groups will have allowed cell phone usage, some no. So it varies from group to group, and something else that’s not often known about the Amish amongst those who are outsiders, is that they’re moving around quite a bit, at least the ones in the community where I know, where I’m familiar. They’re often moving to other communities, and although they never say it’s because “I liked the rules their better,” one cannot help but wonder if that isn’t a driving motivation, at least behind some of them, in their restless wanderings from community to Amish community.
So are they Christians? Well, just because you’re Amish doesn’t mean it doesn’t guarantee you’re a genuine Christian anymore than saying “I’m an evangelical Protestant” guarantees that you’re a genuine Christian. You have to believe in Jesus, and you have to genuinely believe in Jesus, and there’s got to be some evidence.
It’s got to show up in your daily life. That is certainly true amongst all the Amish that I know personally, but I have to confess that there’s some that I’ve met, not that I know well, but the question has entered my mind, do they really believe in Jesus or are they just in the Amish culture, so therefore they’re conforming to the Amish culture, but not out of a heart love for Christ.
I know some former Amish people who left their Amish group and got some persecution because of it, because the Amish practice shunning, and that’s a means of discipline in order to win people back into the fold. If somebody strays, all of their family members and all of their friends will shun them to some degree, and it brings social pressure on them to think about what they’re doing, and to hopefully reel them back into the fold and into conformity.
In that way I have mixed feelings about it because it kind of reminds me of a lot of cults that I’ve run into over the years and how they control their people by that big social pressure, and by telling their adherents, “If you leave us, you’re leaving the Kingdom of God, and you’re not going to go to heaven.” I don’t know to what degree that is conveyed to wayward Amish folks, but, it’s still in that same kind of category of pressure.
Oftentimes when Amish leave the Amish movement, they stick with the Anabaptists and they’ll wind up being Mennonites. Of course, the Mennonites have split in a lot of different ways over the years, and just like the Amish, there are more conservative, there are ultra conservative, and there are medium brand Mennonites, and then there’s the liberal Mennonites. Among the Amish, there’s those same spectrum of conservatism and liberalism and there is a little bit of flux going on even within the various orders.
Again, every old order Amish community is not the same because they have different rules and regulations that they follow. So, If you know any Amish people, chances are, you know some good folks, some honest, hard-working, family-oriented people who love God and are doing their best to serve him with a clear conscience. Maybe in my next little lesson I’ll just go a little bit for about some interesting things about the Amish that I have observed and uncovered over the years and that might be of interest to you. Alright. Thanks so much for joining me on this little lesson, hope to see you next time. God bless you.