The portrait of some community could never be really separated from the personal feelings and ideological paradigm of the researcher. It takes a real courage to step into the unknown and to be free from social influences. Only then, one could be able to come out with the constructive observations about someone or something.

The cultural and religious magnitude of the world we live in is dynamic and has an impact on our daily lives and thoughts. We are predestinated to be stuck between what we really believe in and what we are supposed to believe in. Everything that is a little bit different from the box of majority is labeled as strange, weird or bizarre. In spite of it, there are always those who oppose the rules, who find their own universe of happiness within this miserable.

Have you ever heard of Amish people? Even if you have heard of them, I can bet it is mixed with tabloid information, random news picked up from the street gossip or even academic perspective that dies in boredom. The Amish deserve to be described just the way they are, specific and unique identity.

The Amish should be considered as a group of traditionalist Christians with Swiss origins of Anabaptism. The expert for religions like to think of Amish community like about Mennonite but they are not the same. Their history is pictured with the history of schism in Switzerland, when the one part of the believers decided to follow Jakob Ammann and Alsatian Anabaptists. Those people have been named as Amish and they have immigrated at the beginning of 18th century to Pennsylvania, to save themselves from the official religious terror. Their homeland now is between Pennsylvania, Ohio and Nebraska and everyone who is outside their community is Englishman. That has nothing to do with race, nationality or religion. For Amish people, the world starts and ends up with Amish culture.

They speak special dialect of Swiss German, known also as Pennsylvania Dutch and they keep rising records in their population boom. That does not surprise at all when we think of the fact that the average Amish unit has more than six children. Just for a comparison, the Amish population increased by 120% in recent years and the US only 23%.

What is happening behind the surface of Amish isolated community? It is stated that they are very peaceful people that live their lives in plain ways, far away from technological progress and imagination of urban existence. The protagonists of healthy and green style of life will do not miss a chance to worship the Amish people for an extraordinary diet, physical activity and overall great health state that comes from their agrarian rhythm. However, even with the pure Amish, the things are not so perfect. They do not suffer from stress and many others modern diseases but they do suffer from the issue “Founder effect” that disturbs the gene pool. The 200 families and about 250,000 people from them could lead us to the genetic disorders and mutations among the newborns. Many cases of inbreeding have caused rare medical cases that are still totally unknown to the science: „Given their private nature, the general public has rarely had the opportunity to witness the disorders ravaging the Amish. However, at least one man born Amish has risen to worldwide stardom, all on the shoulders of his congenital disability. Actor Verne Troyer is one of the shortest men in the world. He stands at just 81 centimeters (2’8″) tall, shorter than the average three-year-old child. Troyer is a cultural phenomenon, due to his role as ‘Mini-Me’ from the Austin Powers franchise. Troyer suffers from a genetic disorder called cartilage-hair hypoplasia. Despite his tiny stature, Verne was never treated with kid gloves by his family. According to Verne, they ‘never treated me any different than my other average sized siblings. I used to have to carry wood, feed the cows and pigs and farm animals’.”

Our Amish community is maybe safe from homicide and killing appetites but not from sexual sadism, pedophilia and incest records. They are known as people who do not practice violence but they had their bad boy. Edward Gingerich suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and he was the monster of the group but he was never really the part of the Amish identity, especially not with his episodes of full madness. Nevertheless, Gingerich was responsible for murders while many others are responsible for sexual rape and pedophilia and still covered by the silent content of this patriarchal community. The bitter taste of sexual abuse is never exposed and even if it is, the committer is only banned for six weeks from the church. When he feels sorry for his sins, he is back to the circle. I simply call this hypocrisy. The man-oriented group will never insist on the punishment because it naturally favors the men and they will not go against men. In the case of Chester Mast who has been sent to the external legal authorities, it was only about punishing for absence of respect for internal rules rather than for sexual misuse of his cousins.

The fascinating thing about them is that they do live simple lives, without benefits of the developed world. No technology, no cars, no medicine and no school but either way, they will not impose their opinions and faith on others who have different perspectives. They have their own understanding of religion that claims that the relationship with God must be defined through the hard work and life out of the world full of sins. They do not believe in salvation but in the right actions that could bring us close to God. The strict rules of dressing within the Amish people as well as the mental framework of certain behaving make us think that there are borders among members but still there are lot of evidences of free sexual relationships, even among the youngest, although it is prohibited before and encouraged after marriage. As I mentioned, the society sometimes closes its eyes for many kinds of sins. At the end, they are just people who do not let their children to play with normal dolls but with faceless dolls. Why? Because only God can make people and all people are the same for God.

The most disturbing moment about the Amish is not their separation from ours principles. It is their indifference towards animal cruelty and their practice of animal abuse. The God’s people are not so holly when it comes to the destiny of other creatures. The worst are their Puppy Mills, so called puppy-breeding factories. They misuse dogs to the maximum because they count on selling them as a livestock to the public. The vast majority of poor dogs live in terrible and inhuman conditions so the produced cubs are sick, deformed and unhappy. The animal welfare fighters inform the public about the source of cute puppies in pet shops but almost none thinks of the hard road those poor animals had to survive. When they do not bring profit, they are euthanized and because of Amish bad treatment of dogs, the Lancaster County, Pennsylvania is the puppy mill capital of America. In Ohio, for example, the Amish people organize the dog auctions. They do not literally abuse the dogs but they do treat them as an object and not as living creatures. The same applies on farm animals that have been seen only as a source of food on the table. The horses pay the highest price of being exploited as a transport mean. The Amish do not accept the government’s suggestions or rules so they do not organize their animals and farm in the appropriate way. They have a long journey ahead, to learn how to live in good way not only in godly way.

Their set of rules that they do practice is not the matter of subject as long as they do not disfigure the ethical standards of the modern society for the sake of their own hypocrisy. They have all rights to live as they want but they do not have right to deny the animal welfare and environmental policy of the ecosystem they take part in. We do not need religion to tell us what is right or what is wrong but we do need moral and compassion, as individuals and as the community. The Amish should not be an exception in this case.





  1. Thank you, Sarah, for shedding light on this very interesting topic !

    Sometimes, Amish people go to the city and they are dressed differently and behave differently. It’s always intriguing to see that !

    You mentioned, in your article, how there are sins within the Amish community. This is often the case in secluded areas or enclaves, as people are far from reach and they are isolated, which renders sexual sins and incest some of the prevalent problems in such places. Further, additional health problems are a natural consequence of inbreeding !

    The same is true of West Virginia in isolated areas, which you have written about as well in one of your articles, where people inbreed and also have incest occurrences! One can readily see the parity between those societies as to incest !

    A very educational and well-written article, Sarah ! Thank you !


  2. Sarah’s provocative and elucidating article reminded me of the controversy associated with the release of the film ‘Witness’ (1985): the film was not well received by the Amish communities where it was made (i.e. in the north-east of The United States of America). A statement released by a law firm associated with the Amish claimed that their portrayal in the film was not accurate. The National Committee For Amish Religious Freedom called for a boycott of the film soon after its release; citing fears that these communities were being ‘overrun by tourists’ as a result of the popularity of the film, and worried that ‘the crowding, souvenir-hunting, photographing and trespassing on Amish farmsteads would increase’. After the film had been completed, then Pennsylvania Governor Richard Thornburgh agreed not to promote Amish communities as future film sites.

    As Sarah exclaims in her article, Amish populations have higher incidences of particular medical conditions; including dwarfism, Angelman Syndrome and various metabolic disorders, as well as an unusual distribution of blood types. The Amish represent a collection of different demes or genetically closed communities. Though the Amish do not have higher rates of genetic disorders than the general population, since almost all Amish descend from about 200 18th-century founders, genetic disorders resulting from inbreeding exist in more isolated districts. Some of these disorders are rare or unique, and are serious enough to increase the mortality rate among Amish children. The Amish are aware of the advantages of exogamy, but for religious reasons marry only within their communities. The majority of Amish people accept these as ‘Gottes Wille’ (i.e. God’s will): they reject the use of preventive genetic tests prior to marriage and genetic testing of unborn children to discover genetic disorders. However, the Amish are willing to participate in studies of genetic diseases. Their extensive family histories are useful to researchers investigating diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and macular degeneration.

    While the Amish are at an increased risk for some genetic disorders, researchers have found their tendency for clean living can lead to better health. Overall cancer rates in the Amish are reduced and tobacco-related cancers in Amish adults are 37% and non-tobacco-related cancers are 72% of the rate for Ohio adults. The Amish are protected against many types of cancer both through their lifestyle and through genes that may reduce their susceptibility to cancer. Even skin cancer rates are lower for Amish, despite the fact many of the Amish make their living working outdoors where they are exposed to sunlight. They are typically covered and dressed by wearing wide-brimmed hats and long sleeves which protect their skin.

    Treating genetic problems is the mission of The Clinic for Special Children in Strasburg, Pennsylvania, which has developed effective treatments for such problems as maple syrup urine disease (a previously fatal disease). The clinic is embraced by most Amish, ending the need for parents to leave the community to receive proper care for their children; an action that might result in shunning. Another clinic is The DDC Clinic for Special Needs Children, located in Middlefield, Ohio, for special-needs children with inherited or metabolic disorders. The DDC Clinic provides treatment, research and educational services to the Amish and non-Amish children and their families.

    People’s Helpers is an Amish-organized network of mental health caregivers who help families dealing with mental illness and recommend professional counselors. Suicide rates for the Amish are about half that of the general secular population.
    The Old Order Amish do not typically carry private commercial health insurance. A handful of North American hospitals (beginning in the mid-1990s) created special outreach programmes to assist the Amish.

    Though not forbidden, most Amish people do not practice any form of birth control. They are against abortion and find artificial insemination, genetics, eugenics and stem cell research to be ‘inconsistent with Amish values and beliefs’.

    Gradually, things are progressing among the Amish communities…


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About Sarahowlgirl1982

I am a master of Political Sciences, with special focus on Security Studies, Islamic Counter Terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction. I enjoy discovering and commenting things which are " in the air" but still not spoken.I also do like science writing and planing to move myself into the pure science journalism !