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This is one of the most “cultured” societies in the world, with strong protestant-religious beliefs, which defines every aspect of their lives. Regardless of age, occupation, civilization levels, daily occurrences, all individuals of this culture must follow provisions in the Ordnung; a form of written or spoken Amish rules, strictly.
One unique thing with this community is that, as compared to other world communities, which alter their life orientations or patterns; for conformity with technological or scientific changes, this community pays little attention to such changes.
It is important to note that, although this community’s practices adhere strictly to the provisions in the Ordnung, there is a great variation in its application as one moves from communities bounded with this culture. For example, sections of communities within this culture embrace the powered battery concept, something that other communities oppose on religious grounds.
It is also crucial to note that, all the practices of communities that embrace this culture have some symbolic importance, as far as this community is concerned. This is because; almost every concept and practice within this community must conform to specific religious beliefs, which nobody can alter or change to suit personal needs or any changes occurring in other global communities (Kraybill, 2001, pp. 1- 14).
The Amish People
This community has existed since time memorial as one of the groups, which make the Mennonite group of denominations; primarily the Anabaptist. One primary feature, which differentiates this group from other world cultural groups, is that, to this group technological advancement and scientific innovations are passing concepts hence, of little significance to this group’s daily living.
In addition to looking down on technological innovations, this group embraces the concept of simplicity and respect for God in any undertaking, which members of this community may involve themselves in. Historically, this religious group originated from Europe; Switzerland, although with migrations due to many conflicts, this group spread to the United States, where they first settled in the state of Pennsylvania.
With increased popularity of the group and growing populations, the group expanded to other sections of the American continent and Canada. Presently, this group is in more than twenty-one states, which include Illinois, New York, Mississippi, Maryland, Minnesota, Indiana, Tennessee, and Michigan (Lancaster Country Information Center, 2010, p.1 and Coblentz &Williams, 2002, pp. 9-15).
To be a member of this group one has to undergo a series of initiation ceremonies, which start with baptism; mostly occurring between age sixteen and twenty-five. It is important to note that this stage is very important to this group in that, it defines individuals’ commitment to the Amish faith. Another significance of this stage is that, it guarantees an individual the freedom of getting spouses from within the Amish group.
After this initiation step, an individual can participate in all religious functions, which mostly occur in districts; officiated by a church leader believed to be a God descendant called the Bishop. After baptism, this religion dictates that all individuals must orient themselves to the teaching in the Ordnung whereby, any member of the church who goes against its provisions must be remorseful for their sins hence, seek reconciliation with God, failure of which will lead to excommunication.
As concerns clothing; as provided in their religious laws, the community permits only the wearing of plain clothes, a factor that leaves many wondering about this community, due to its staunch religious orientation and the nature of their survival mechanisms (Hunter, Kershner & Starback, 2005, pp. 1-4).
Apart from rejecting any concept associated with scientific innovations for example, power and electricity, vehicle and communication devices, biblical provisions of this community prohibit the participation in military activities, and acceptance of governmental incentives for example, provision of insurance covers.
Any critical evaluation of concepts related to this religion clearly indicate that, this community has adopted very strict practices; which its members must adhere to, purposely as an isolation or differentiation mechanism from other world cultures.
For example, in their funerals, contrary to the common practice of using services of funeral parlors and the analyzing one’s life history, this community’s interment program involves the encouragement of its believers on the concept of end-time resurrection in the deceased’s home hence, making it an arena of strengthening convictions of its faithful ones (Wise, 2010, P.1).
It is important to note that, currently communities obeying this cultural orientation embrace different bible interpretation orientations primarily because, currently some communities have embraced some technological innovations for example the use of electricity and other communication devices for example, telephones. Contrary to this, there exist another groups that is very rigid in conforming to global changes hence, terming communities, which have embraced such technological advancements as hypocrites.
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Apart from the church, another main component of this culture is the family. As any other society where cultural beliefs and the nature of social behavior shapes any communities way of life, this communities has a set of standards, which communities that adhere to these culture must follow.
As Kraybill (2001, p.80) argues, this group’s family practices differ very much from other world family practices. That is, unlike other families where children grow in different environments determined by different school settings, this community guards members of its families from external influences, a factor that differentiates behavioral patterns of children belonging to this society and children from other societies.
The Amish Families
The family is one of the most respected institutions in this society. This is because; majority of family practices are important components for shaping individuals’ behaviors.
Acceptance of individuals into this community’s family means that, one has accepted to conform to the seclusion principle, which is the main differentiating factor of this community’s families from other families belonging to surrounding cultures. As compared to many American families, where majority of families live in isolated homes, the case is different in the Amish communities primarily because, more than 95% of individuals of these communities live in clustered settings.
In addition, members of each family must stay in single-family units, which have many resembling features; a fact many associate with the lack of technological tools. On the other hand, it is important to note that, as dictated by their religious rules, all families must maintain strong family ties hence, making the settlement pattern to be a single property settlement (Kraybill, 2001, p.81).
Like any other society, the assignment of age and gender related roles are a common phenomenon in this society. To this society, childhood development is a four-stage process, which includes baby, small kids; commences from the walking stage to the onset of schooling, scholars; children of age 6-15 years, and youthful individuals; any age starting from the mid teenage stage to the time an individual begins a personal family.
As concerns the division of social powers within this society, there is gradual increase in this form of authority as an individual advances in age, a fact that members of this society associate with the increase in responsibility and experience.
On the other hand, this society respects the elderly in its societies whereby, to show such recognition, the society has special reserved houses for the old men and women of this society. In almost all communities that embrace the olden ways of family life, rules dictate that, all children must adopt the same chores as their parents hence, eliminating chances of children getting in touch with practices not bound by the Amish tradition (Hoffmann & Ritter, 2010 , pp. 311-312).
Although one main principle defining practices within this society is respect, the concept of gender imbalances is very prevalent in this society not only between male and females, but also between females of different age groups. That is, this society bestows on men more expressive and action power as compared to their female counterparts, a fact that limits the girl child’s potentialities.
Such powers are prevalent in almost all communal activities, ranging from the simple church responsibilities, to the greater family duties; it being the primary building block of most churches. In addition to such powers; which the community has bestowed on males within this community, the elderly women and men also have more say on community and church issues, something that originates from the notion that, with increased responsibility and life experiences, individuals are gaining more wisdom.
One primary factor, which makes the gender differentiation concept concrete, is the nature of family organization patterns prevalent in this community.
That is, communities embracing this culture have ordered their families using gender-segregated mechanisms whereby, such segregations depends on the power bestowed by the community and church on different members of the society; depending on their varying personalities. It is important to note that, the church has extreme effects on any practices adopted by the family, for it is the main determinant of the nature of rules followed by most families (Kraybill, 2001, p. 82).
In terms of role assignment, women are there to offer support on male initiatives, although in some communities the scenario is different in that, some men work hand in hand with their wives in supervising farm work. As concerns the upbringing of children, the family as a single unit has a responsibility of ensuring children develop the required societal ethical standards and values.
Therefore, this makes it necessary for both men women to share the responsibility of upbringing children and making sure that they acquire such values (although variations occur in some communities, whose family practice follows the olden community practices). On the other hand, as dictated by the Amish church doctrines and teachings, at all times, regardless of the situation, women have the obligation of respecting their husbands’ directions, by primarily embracing the submission concept.
In addition, to ensure that the Amish community achieves desired level of submissiveness in women, majority of families limit women from venturing into full-time occupations, a fact that constrains their occupational abilities; hence, making them homemakers. Majority of women who are homemakers in this society involve themselves in gardening activities whereby, most endeavor to maintain family lawns and gardens using physical means (Kraybill, 2001, pp. 83-85).
In addition to role assignment, there is a great variation in civic powers between male and females of these societies primarily because, although this community allows women to participate in voting on religious business gatherings, such powers are limited when it comes to most communities’ command structures. That is to say, women’s power in this societies’ are limited due to the fact that, they cannot serve as ordained members of the clergy nor can they take positions of vie for positions in special societal boards.
It is important to note that, although this is case in most Amish societies, the scenario is changing as more women have ventured into the commerce world hence, making men to appreciate their contribution in some important societal decisions. Another important fact that is worth noting is that, although women have ventured into commerce, still the gender issue is very prevalent, due to the currently existing business ownership differentiated patterns.
That is, most business owned by women include grocery shops, craft works, and food eateries and industries, something that contrasts with majority of men’s business, which include heavy metal work industries, construction industries , and other business that require application of more energy (Nolt & Kraybill, 2004, pp. 27-52).
To the Amish people, marriage is not all about having a romantic relationship but rather, it involves the sharing of responsibilities in the endeavor to achieve an affectionate, enduring, and lifelong partnership.
This makes this community to have very strong family ties among its members; a fact that makes the community to base its head count on the number of families, rather than the number of persons in such families. In addition, in common community scenarios, the marrying age bracket ranges between 9-25 years, whereby such marriages must occur between only individuals bound by these culture.
Siring of children is a great product of any marriage venture and at all times, couples must endeavor to maintain vows, which they made in church to avoid fights that may result in breaking of such respected religious values (due to fear of gradual excommunication from the society) (Hostetler, 1993, pp. 147-159 and Kraybill, 2001, pp. 86-87).
When it comes to the size of families, there is a common belief that, God bestowed on humanity the power to sire, hence following this notion, majority of individuals in this society have large families.
Such large families are not a problem to individuals embracing this culture primarily because; this culture prohibits the use of instruments and activities the church considers worldly for example, extreme schooling, any forms of games, and some types of clothes hence, minimizing many costs associated with child upbringing. Instead of schooling, children in this society are supposed to commence working as they reach five years, whereby their duties change with age hence, the value placed on children by this society.
It is important to note that, with current changes in some Amish society’s lifestyles, currently some communities allow the schooling of children up to the eighth grade, after which the family orients them to farm work and other economic initiatives, aimed at enhancing individual families’ status and viability; economically.
On the other hand, obedience is one primary concept, which all parents and preachers must ensure they instill in children. Failure to follow such teachings leads to corporal punishment, a fact that makes many children brought up in this society to be very submissive (Tuberman, 2010, p.1)).
In conclusion, the Amish culture is one world’s unique cultures with distinctive features that differentiate it from other world cultures. This is because; although many societies undergo transformations in terms of lifestyle as new scientific or technological advances enter the world, this society still holds the its olden biblical teachings.
Such biblical teachings are main determinants of the family lifestyles and cultural practices, which all members of this society must follow. To this group of individuals, the church and the family are primary building blocks of their existence hence, the nature of respect accorded on them.
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