Daniel Weifu of Ohio is 52 years old. He has never driven a car, watched TV, let alone used a computer and smart phone.
Many years ago, Weifu once saw a movie, but he was ashamed to mention it in front of others: “I am not proud of having watched a movie.” He confessed, “Because I violated it. The wishes of the parents.”
Weifu and his wife have raised eight children, none of them have used any modern industrial products. The food is supplied by the family’s farm, and there is no electric facility in the house. The daily travel tool is still a carriage. The Weifu family is the epitome of the lives of countless Amish families.
As of 2017, there are approximately 250,000 Amish in the United States, mainly living in Pennsylvania. Traditional Amish people do not have to contact the outside world throughout their lives. They rely on farming to produce food to meet their material needs, reject modern facilities such as cars and electricity, and advocate a simple life of self-sufficiency.
In the eyes of the Amish people, there are two worlds that operate in parallel without interfering with each other: one is the Amish world that they stick to day and night, and the other is the secular world eroded by modern civilization.
Life in isolation
All aspects of Amish life are different from modern people who have experienced the baptism of industrial civilization. Amish women wear white soft hats from Monday to Saturday, and black hats on Sundays. The skirt must be at least between the ankles and knees, and must not be bright colors; men need to wear hats with a few feet of brim and vests when visiting. coat.
Cars and telephones are regarded as extremely destructive modern products and do not exist in Amish society. In their view, with the telephone, people no longer visit each other frequently; by driving a car, people can easily move to other places, leading to the fragmentation of the community. Therefore, they still use horse-drawn carriages to travel.
The carriage determines the distance the Amish can travel, and prevents population loss in many small towns, so that they are still preserved today.
There is no supermarket in the Amish community, no electricity facilities, and no hair dryer, dryer or oven. For the Amish people, isolation from modern technology can bring spiritual freedom to themselves. “Walking in front of a dazzling array of shops, this is a kind of freedom.” An Amish man said with emotion, “I don’t need to make a decision either, the church makes the decision for us-for me, this is also a kind of freedom. .”
This isolated group farming life began more than two hundred years ago. At that time, because they were contrary to the beliefs of the mainstream sect, the Amish could only hide and engage in underground activities. However, the current Amish people actively choose to be isolated from the world, more to protect their own values-to stay away from the materialistic and bizarre modern society, and to stick to their dedication to the Lord.
An Amish girl who did not want to be named frankly admitted that she also wanted a camera. “But I often think it’s not worth it. It’s not worth giving up everything for something I like.” She said firmly, “Owning these modern things makes me feel guilty, because it doesn’t help me to pursue my faith. .”
“Obedience is not easy”
The growth trajectory of each Amish is similar: the family is the school, the boy has worked with his father and brother since childhood, learning woodworking techniques and farmland planting; the girl is learning to do housework and cooking with his mother.
In addition, each community will also open its own school. Generally speaking, Amish children return to the family after finishing the eighth grade (ie, the third grade)-this is granted by the Supreme Court of the United States. In 1972, three Amish families were fined $5 by the local court for “violating the principle of compulsory education” for refusing to send their children to high school. They subsequently appealed. The Wisconsin Supreme Court held that the district court violated the freedom of belief stipulated in the First Amendment to the Constitution and overturned the previous judgment. The Federal Supreme Court upheld the review judgment.
Nowadays, each state has different regulations regarding the educational level of the Amish. Some states allow Amish people to educate their children at home, and some states only limit the minimum age for minors to leave school. As a result, some Amish children continue to re-enter the eighth grade until they reach the age of legal leave. .
The unwillingness to receive high school and university education does not mean that the Amish do not value education. In their view, education is important. Children must learn to read, read, and count, but all of this can be learned before the eighth grade, and more importantly, at home and their parents.
“Amish people worry that sending their children to public high schools will expose them to secular thinking and become emphasized individualism and self-interest.” explains Donald Quilc, an anthropology professor from the State University of New York in Potsdam. “They May leave the church and eventually lead to the demise of the Amish community.”
But not everyone can tolerate the long and tedious Amish life. The Amish who fled are called “dodge”, which means being removed from the church and cutting off all ties with the Amish society. Keeping in touch with people who “dodge” can also be seen as breaking promises to God. Therefore, many people who leave the Amish community cannot continue to contact their relatives for the rest of their lives unless they rejoin the church and return to Amish life.
Saram Furlong is a “dodge”. At the age of 20, she decided to leave the community where she grew up and head to the strange city of New York. Since then, due to her parents’ compulsion, she has returned.
“Amish people can’t say’no, they want cooperation.” She said, “but obedience is not easy.” Two years later, she left Amish society again and never went back. When the wedding was held, she invited all her relatives, but in the end no one attended, including her parents.
The 17-year-old Levi Schalt’s break with Amish society is even more determined. After experiencing the pain of his brother choosing to “dodge”, he waited for several years before telling his family that he wanted to leave. The younger siblings pulled the corners of his clothes and cried and begged him not to leave. The parents who had “lost” a child were both distressed and helpless.
“My father told me that if I don’t want to stay at home, he would rather I leave.” Schalt said calmly, “I don’t think all the rules are reasonable. For example, my father will always ruin me to play secretly. Mobile phones and radios.” But after leaving the Amish community, due to his low level of education, Schalt had to do manual labor at the construction site. He does not regret choosing “dodge”: “This job may not be what I like, but it allows me to move on-I think this is exactly what I need.”
How long can it last?
But more people chose to stick to it. A survey shows that 90% of Amish young people choose to be baptized after adulthood and join the church for life, which shows that most of them still decide to accept the lifestyle passed down by their parents and resist the temptation from modern times and the outside world.
In fact, these young people are not ignorant of the outside world-at the age of 16, the strict restrictions they face will be relaxed to a certain extent. Children are allowed to watch movies, have parties, and make friends from the outside world. After this, they generally face two paths: returning to the church and receiving adult baptism; or leaving their hometown.
“My friends and I always say that we just want stability. I think 14 miles from home is a long way, and I can hardly imagine being hundreds of miles away from home-it would be terrible and difficult.” An Amish girl said.
Amish people who have never been in contact with the outside world sometimes seem a little ignorant. Once someone from outside mentioned to them the contradiction between the United States and North Korea, an adult Amish asked curiously: “Is our country already in war?”
They never included themselves in the “secular world”, not only did they not use modern inventions, they did not read newspapers, did not join the army, and did not buy insurance. “They live in our world, but they don’t belong to this world.” commented Karen Weiner, an anthropology professor from the State University of New York Potsdam.
But as the power of the external world grows stronger, the impact on Amish society has become more and more violent.
There are approximately 250,000 Amish people living in the United States, and more than 20 million tourists visit the Amish community every year. As a result, Amish people have become more and more frequent in contact with the outside world. They started to operate small shops open to tourists, children secretly used social media, young people began to work in factories in the “secular world”…
Some people wore new jeans and shirts, Amish boys put on trendy hairstyles and began dating girls from the “outside world”. What the older generation of Amish worries seems to be beginning to surface-modern inventions will eventually completely destroy their beliefs.
For more than two hundred years, the Amish Church has used unique rules to separate the “two worlds” in order to prevent modern technology from eroding their values. “Amish has different values from the outside world. We choose to protect our own values.” said Daniel Weifu, who has never left the Amish community. “If we become lax or get too much contact with the outside world , These two worlds will become similar, and we will become like people outside.”
When asked what is the difference between Amish people and people in the secular world, an old Amish said, “Do you have a TV in your home? It must be. You think TV can make your life and family better. Is it? If not, we will throw it away, but you won’t. This is our difference.”
How long this difference can be maintained is still unknown.