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The Differences Between Mennonites and Amish

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Who are the so-called “Plain People”? Without sufficient insight and research, one might presume the Amish and the Mennonites to merely be interchangeable terms for a group that is essentially one in the same. This assumption is, no doubt, an incorrect perception. Although expressed in very different ways, both share a commitment to nonviolence and desire to live simply. In fact, the Amish broke away from the Mennonites, who were believed to be too liberal for the Amish’s penchant. The two diverse factions share numerous similarities; however, the Amish and Mennonites do not look eye to eye on certain beliefs and values regarding modern technology, apparel, urban civilization, punishments, commitment to the church, education, or occupations.

For instance, the idea of technology is generally rejected by the Amish but adopted by the Mennonites. The Amish fervently refrain from the use and possession of any form of electricity or technology; henceforth, this people group tends to use horse drawn buggies for transportation (Whose education?). Technology’s ban amongst the Amish community subsists because the modern influence is said to interfere with the purity of one’s faith (Amish and Mennonites). Essentially, the Amish mindset perceives modern day technology as the prime connection to the world’s evil nature that is considered to so easily entangle one into believed immoral conveniences and temptations. In fear of the destruction of the capability to practically support life, the Amish forbid that which could devastate family life and community unification in any tactic possible. Simply speaking, smaller is better, and less is more (Religion Facts). Mennonites, on the other hand, are more tolerate of technology and understanding of its accommodating purposes than the Amish faction. Unlike the Amish, this group believes that the outside influence of technology can strengthen their pious beliefs and assist them in enhancing their servitude to God. Although the Mennonite people allow innovations such as simple automobiles and electricity generators, they are, nevertheless, selective in choosing what technology is acceptable. For example, radios and television sets are not considered customary. Merely, the Mennonites use technology only when they can carefully and properly control it (Amish and Mennonites).

One chief reason the Amish and Mennonite people are often mistaken to be the same religious group is because of both their archaic, stark apparel. Without proper knowledge on the subject, the difference between the two groups’ clothing is practically indecipherable. Mennonites believe clothes should be relatively simple, but still, the Amish abide by a much stricter dress code (Amish and Mennonites). Distinctively, the Amish derive their self-made clothing style from that of European peasants during the seventeenth century. Refusing the pressures of the world, this group of people utterly resists change and straying from tradition. The plainness illustrates the immense prominence of humility within Amish communities. For example, Amish men are routinely adorned with broad-brimmed black hats, dark suits, solid shirts, and black socks and shoes. Customarily, the women regularly wear bonnets, long dresses, shawls, and black shoes and stockings. Astoundingly, Amish women never cut their hair but modestly twist the locks into a secured bun (Religion Facts). Both religions intensely scrutinize clothing. Much like the Amish mentality, Mennonites consider an appearance to mirror the soul. In the case of women particularly, dress requirements are set by each other, their men, and by their ministers. Obedience to the dress code indicates willingness to submit to the control of the church. Typically, the proper dress for a Mennonite, almost identical to that of the Amish, consists of neutral-colored articles of clothing and basic head-coverings for the women (Deviance,3&12). The Amish and Mennonites certainly disagree when it comes to their dwelling location and involvement in urban civilization. Despite seeing the Amish make routine trips into the local town, the Amish typically live in complete isolation. Their tight-knit community encourages the sectarian virtues of thrift, good work ethic, devotion, and mutual goodwill. In the world, yet apart from it, the Amish are never involved in politics, voting, or military services (Religion Facts). The Amish forbid the attainment of a higher education amongst its people and instead suggest careers in which the men and women remain in the home or on personal farms. They do, in fact, heavily rely on their land labor for community survival (Amish and Mennonites). Mennonites, on the other hand, have a higher level of interaction with society. Throughout the twentieth century, Mennonites became deeply involved in the social, educational, and economic world around them (Britannica). By prompting revolutionary changes in their life and thought, this faction emphasizes higher education and encourages occupations outside of the home and farm, especially promoting their own colleges and seminaries (Amish and Mennonites). Being more modern than the Amish, Mennonites tend to be involved in international ministry opportunities and activities. Instead of absolute removal from society, Mennonites find a way of intermingling with the world through religious works of witness and service (Britannica).

Living a counter-cultural lifestyle, the Amish use shunning as discipline those in offense to the community according to the Ordnung, an unwritten code of behavior that governs every aspect of life (Religion Facts).

The Mennonites and the Amish do share common historical roots within the Anabaptist lineage of radical reformers, but today, it is important to recognize they are obviously two distinct Christian groups. With their many similarities in simplicity of faith come various strong disagreements on the matters of cultural principles, dogmas, clothing, modern developments, chastisements, religious obligations, edification, and overall livelihoods. Primarily, the differentiation between the Amish and the Mennonites is not necessarily the beliefs but instead, the level of application toward the belief in what is considered just in the eyes of each separate religion.

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