Friday, December 03, 2004

My first and last post about the Amish

Posted by AmishThrasher at 1:43 pm
Amish people
Amish people:
Look closely and you can see an amish thrasher in the barn.
Like most websites, I have a counter. One of the perks of having a counter from Bravenet is that it lets me see how you guys got here: was it someone who typed '' straight into the browser (in other words, someone who I've pestered into coming here - to which I say thanks!) or did you get here by clicking a link from another site - say, a search engine.

The reason I'm typing up this post is because I've had some people coming here doing research about the Amish; literally looking for a blog by an Amish person, or a blog about the Amish. Well, for the record I'm not a Mennonite with a Mac, and this blog doesn't have a whole heap to do with the Amish. The reason for this blog getting it's title is because, for most websites which ask for a 'nickname', I use (some variation of) Amish Roadkill or Amish Thrasher.

A question I've had a number of times is 'why'? The answer is - mostly - because it's sort of funny in an ironic way. And (in both cases) there's also a double meaning).

Take 'Amish Roadkill' - the idea of someone whose religion is generally against technology being killed by it. The message of it is that technology is unavoidable. The double meaning is also a fairly obscure pro-wrestling reference. A few years ago, there was a pro wrestling fad, and (for better or worse), given I have cable TV, I watched. There was a federation around at the time called ECW, or Extreme Championship Wrestling (which has since gone out of business). At one stage, they had a wrestler named Amish, and a wrestler named Roadkill, and while I'm usually at work when wrestling is on TV these days, the nickname does have a slight tribute built in.

'Amish Thrasher' also has 3 meanings. A thresher is a piece of farm equiptment that takes wheat, and separates the grains from the stalks. You'll note at the link that "The thrashing machine, or, in modern spelling, threshing machine, was a machine invented by Scottish mechanical engineer Andrew Meikle for use in agriculture". Like I said in my heading, I started this blog about a year ago to deal with music, and this blog is like Amish_Roadkill's thrasher - it 'thrashes' out the good in the music industry - and the truth - from the bad. The second meaning is related to thrash metal, which I started listening to in high school. A 'thrasher' is someone who plays - or listens to - thrash metal. In a sense, this blog is thrashing the music industry for thrash; that, linked to the idea of a mennonite who plays thrash metal. And the third meaning is related to the thrasher bird. "Their common name describes the behaviour of these birds when searching for food on the ground: they use their long bills to 'thrash' through dirt or dead leaves". Whether you preffer the metaphor of this blog being a piece of amish farm equiptment that sorts good from bad, or being like a bird from 'Amish country' (near Pennsylvania, USA) that sorts food from dirt and leaves, it's one description of what I wanted to do with this blog.

Here's some pictures of a thrasher (or thresher):

An Amish Thrasher.

A Curve Billed Thrasher from Lancaster County (Amish Country).

Dave Mustaine: Thrasher.

So for anyone who asked where the name comes from, now you know.

But don't worry, if you came here looking for information about the Amish, I will help you out. But this is probably the first, and last, post that will deal with the Amish. First, a quick piece of background info:

The Amish are a denomination of Anabaptists related to the Mennonites, most of whom are noted for their avoidance of modern devices such as automobiles and electricity.

Next, a little history on the amish:

As Mennonites, the Amish are descendants of the Anabaptist followers of Menno Simons (c. 1496–1561). Simons was a Dutch Roman Catholic priest, who was converted in 1536 and baptized by Obbe Philips. The Amish movement takes its name from Jacob Amman (c. 1656–c. 1730), a Swiss Mennonite. Amman felt that the Mennonites were drifting from close adherence to the teachings of Simons and the 1632 Mennonite Dordrecht Confession of Faith. Much of the laxity was in the area of shunning excluded members, also called the ban. The ban meant believers would terminate contact with a non-conforming member of the Mennonite society. Amman insisted upon this practice, even to the point of a spouse refusing to sleep or eat with the banned member until he/she repented of his/her behavior. This strict literalism brought about a division of the Mennonites in Switzerland in 1693, and led to the establishment of the Amish branch of Mennonites. Some Amish began to migrate to the United States in the 18th century and many settled in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Other groups settled in or spread to Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, and even into Canada. During the 1860s, conferences were held in Wayne County, Ohio concerning how the Amish should deal with the pressures of modern society. The Amish eventually split into several divisions, partly a result of the decisions of these conferences.

And here's some more info on the amish (and their lifestyle and beliefs):

The avoidance of items such as automobiles and electricity is largely misunderstood. The Amish do not view all technology as evil. Technologies can be petitioned for acceptance into the Amish lifestyle. Twice a year the church leaders meet to review items for admittance.

Electricity, for instance, is viewed as a connection to the "English" (the outside world). The use of electricity also could lead to the use of household appliances that would complicate the Amish tradition of a simple life. However, in certain Amish groups electricity can be used in very specific situations. In some groups, for example, it has to be produced without access to outside power lines. Twelve-volt batteries are acceptable to these groups. Electric generators can only be used for welding, recharging batteries, and powering milk stirrers. The reasoning behind the twelve-volt system is that it limits what an individual can do with the electricity and acts as a preventive measure against potential abuses. Most twelve-volt power sources can't generate enough current to power worldly modern appliances such as televisions, light bulbs, and hair dryers.

Most Amish families speak a version of German known as Pennsylvania German at home. The commonly-used term "Pennsylvania Dutch" comes from a corruption of "Deutsch", the German-language word for "German".

Dress code for some groups includes prohibitions against buttons, allowing only pins to keep clothing closed; other groups allow members to sew buttons onto clothing. The Amish are noted for the quality of their quilts and for their farming efficiency.

The Amish do not believe that a child can be meaningfully baptized. Amish children are expected to follow the will of their parents in all issues, but at the age of sixteen they come of age and may lead a lifestyle of their own choice. In fact, in some communities they are permitted to try out the "English" lifestyle of the outside world for a few years (the period of rumspringa (running-around), as shown in the film The Devil's Playground), so that they can make an informed choice to be baptized and join the church for life. Some 10% choose not to join the church but live the rest of their lives in the society at large.

One must be careful when trying to understand the Amish lifestyle. Each community may be slightly or even drastically different from another community. When describing details on dress codes, lifestyles, etc., a careful writer will note the specific community being discussed. Most so-called facts regarding the Amish actually do not apply to all Amish communities.

The Amish as a whole are beginning to feel the pressures of the modern world. Child labor laws, for example, are seriously threatening their long-established ways of life. Amish children are taught at an early age (by modern 21st century standards) to work hard. Amish parents will supervise the children in new tasks to ensure that they learn to do it effectively and safely. Unlike many a supervisor at a modern factory, Amish parents know if a child is competent and safety conscious. The modern child labor laws conflict with allowing the Amish parents to decide whether or not their children are competent in hazardous tasks.

Like the Mennonites, they also shun insurance, seeing misfortune as "God's will". When accidents do strike they rely on their church and community for support.

Finally, a comment on 'Amish country' (I made a reference to it earlier):

The Amish reside in close-knit communities in 22 states of the United States as well as Ontario, Canada. The largest concentrations of Amish in the United States are in Holmes County, Ohio and Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. By state, the largest Amish population is in Ohio, and the second largest in Pennsylvania. There are an estimated 100,000 Amish in the United States in all groups, and another 1500 in Ontario, Canada

Finally, if you want to find out more about the amish people and their religion, go here: