Pennsylvania Dutch Country is host to hundreds of Old Order Amish and Mennonites, also referred to as the “Plain People.” Times have changed, but the lifestyle of these special people has changed very little. They place their families and the farms which provide their livelihood as top priorities in their lives, and their lives are dedicated to the word of God.
The Amish believe that the Bible is the Word of God, and they take the scriptures very seriously. The reason they continue to stay apart and maintain their simple lifestyle is because the Bible commands them to separate themselves from the things of the world. To them, worldliness in the form of television, automobiles, telephones and in many cases even electricity, can introduce destructive influences into their homes, their communities and their lives. They feel these things can keep them from being close to God.
In Lancaster today, there are over 25 different Amish, Mennonite and Brethren church groups. Though beliefs may differ somewhat among different traditions, the main principles of family unity and adherence to God’s commands are still foremost. The newer order of Amish are more lenient toward what is allowed in their homes than the old order.
The old order do not permit the use of tractors in their fields, although they do use modern farm equipment, as long as it is pulled by horses or mules. They also do not own or operate automobiles. The reason for this it that they believe that cars provide easier access into the ways of the world. Although, they do not drive or own cars, they do occasionally ride as passengers.
The other reason that the Amish do not allow cars into their communities is that they believe that everyone in their community is equal, and to own cars would be a status quo symbol that might elevate the status of the owners of cars over those who do not own them.
Even though many people may think that the Amish have backward ways, the fact is that since 1960, the Amish population in Lancaster County has almost tripled.
The Amish rely on one another for help in a crisis, socialization, and daily business. They also have their own one-room schoolhouses which host children from elementary level up to eighth grade. Amish worship services are held every other week in someone’s home.
The Amish remain a very private people and even though they are used to the invasion of tourists into their peaceful communities, they still have certain rules concerning tourist behavior that they adhere to. One of these is picture taking. They believe that to take a recognizable picture of someone is forbidden by the Bible because in essence the person taking the picture is creating a graven image.
Amish communities live by a code of conduct that is called the Ordnung. The Ordnung regulates private, public and ceremonial live. The Ordnung is an unwritten rule or understood behavior by which the Amish are expected to live. The details of the Ordnung may vary across certain districts and communities.
Both the Amish and the Mennonites are committed to the principles of peace and non-violence. They do not believe in killing and will not join into military service, or support war efforts.