For a community founded on principles of simple living, a rejection of modern technology, and a reclusive existence isolated from the outside world, Amish life remains a pretty hot topic in mainstream society. From reality television to horror movies, the people of this cloistered community have become subjects of endless fascination within modern society, and Amish spectatorship is all but an American pastime. You may know the basics of Amish culture, but there are many surprising twists to this quiet lifestyle.
1. Happy Families Are All Alike… And So Are Inbred Ones
One byproduct of such a close-knit community: inbreeding. Descended from just 200 original founders, the Amish community today could use a little fresh blood. Due to this lack of variation in the gene pool, the Amish have much higher rates of genetic disorders and infant mortality. Yep, the Amish all are one big, happy family. Literally.
2. Rape Culture
Unfortunately, accidental incest isn’t the only sex crime taking place in the Amish community. Due to the intensely patriarchal tradition of the society, women and children are often victims of sexual abuse. Because these cases are rarely handled outside the community, it is impossible to know just how prevalent the issue is.
3. Leave Room for The Holy Spirit
Bundling is another bizarre sexual practice within Amish communities, except this one doesn’t involve actual sex. In this tradition, an unmarried couple is bound separately in blankets and laid on a bed together, often one with a board in the middle as an extra measure against touching. This practice is intended to promote intimacy without any sexual activity.
4. Move over, No Shave November
After their wedding, Amish men begin growing their beards…and they never stop. Married Amish men must allow their their beards to grow unrestricted, and the same goes for women with their hair. So next time your S.O. decides to go all out for Movember, just be glad this phase of your relationship will only last a month.
5. Shear Madness
Since beards are clearly a big deal, cutting someone else’s is one of the most severe transgressions an Amish individual can commit. Considered a hate crime, forceful beard-cutting is not infrequently used as a form of attack between Amish communities and is severely punishable.
6. The Amish OJ
The Amish may be a God-fearing people, but even they’re not immune to some darker chapters in their history. Edward Gingerich was the first Amish person to be convicted of homicide after brutally murdering his wife back in 1993. He was found guilty, but only served a five-year sentence due to mental illness. Unfortunately, Gingerich committed suicide by hanging in 2011.
7. Hold onto Your Hats
The Amish community actually consists of a number of subgroups that all have slight, seemingly trivial, differences in their beliefs and practices. For example, the Troyer Amish, a particularly conservative sect, split from the Old Order over a dispute about hat brims.
8. The Scarlet Letter
A is for Amish. Thought shunning died out with the Puritans? Nope, it’s alive and well in the Amish community, where one wrong step can leave you a Hester Prynne level outcast. If an individual goes against the traditions of the society by marrying outside the faith or partaking in modern life, they will be publicly shunned by the entire community, including their family.
9. Amish Country’s Next Top Model
Someone definitely on the shunned list? Kate Stoltzfus, now known as Kate Stoltz, the Breaking Amish star who left the community to pursue a modeling career. Stoltz has found success in the industry, starting her own fashion line and posing for Maxim in 2013.
10. Think Different
Another surprising Amish foray into modernity? The Amish computer. Reminiscent of the earliest days of computer technology, the desktop system doesn’t connect to the internet or play videos or music. Only performing a few basic word-processing and spreadsheet functions, the “computer” is accepted in many Amish communities.
While they may have begun a tentative flirtation with desktop technology, the Amish still prefer to do most things the old fashioned way, including burying their dead. Traditionally, it takes three days to dig the grave, during which time other community members pitch in by building the coffin or sitting with the (unembalmed) body.
12. Puppy Mill, USA
Puppy mills are another darker side of the Amish community, which owns around 20% of the industry in the US. The Amish consider puppies to be no different than any other form of livestock, and they are treated accordingly. Living conditions for these animals are often deplorable, and would be considered animal cruelty in many other societies.
13. Faceless Dolls
Amish children have toys just like other kids. Take a look at an Amish doll, however, and you might notice something a little off: they don’t have faces! In Amish tradition, only God can create people, and an attempt to recreate God’s work would be seen as sacrilegious.
14. Eighth Grade Graduation
Amish people don’t receive any formal schooling past eighth grade, after which they typically go on to pursue trades as farmers and craftsmen. While this approach may be practical in the Amish community, it leaves any individuals who attempt to leave the community with hardly any of the knowledge they need to succeed in the outside world.
15. Most Amish Children Choose to Stay in the Community… Or Do They?
Rumspringa is an Amish tradition in which young adults are given the opportunity to experience modern life, after which they must decide whether to remain in the community or pursue a life in the outside world. Surprisingly, the majority of Amish teens choose to remain with the community. However, if Amish children are given shockingly little education, how can they be expected to succeed outside of their communities? While young adults are technically given the choice to leave, it hardly seems like much of an option when you consider their restrictive background.