Just back from Lancaster County.  We had a good discussion the other evening at a cookout with some English and Amish friends.

Youth issues, clothing, and church standards were among the Amish-related topics on the table.  All accompanied by fire-grilled hot dogs, heirloom tomatoes, and S’mores and fresh berries for dessert.  Hard to beat that.

Talk at one point turned to the question of why Amish people decide to be Amish.  It seems to me there are really two parts to it–two decisions.  There is a choice to join the church.  Then there is the choice to remain in it, or leave.

Some things suggested that may play a part (in no particular order):

  • Fear of the Bann
  • A sense that one’s heritage is valuable
  • Not wanting to disappoint parents
  • Religious conviction
  • A fear of going to hell

An English friend who has done much research with the Amish observed how strong, for some, the parental motivation seems to be.

Some parents would simply be devastated if children turned away from the church. This can have a big influence on their sons and daughters.

He also said that fear of hell is something one might see in plainer groups. The Amish present seemed surprised to hear this offered as a reason.

No grand conclusions were reached.  Though I’ve never worn the shoes, I’d suppose any of these factors, or some combination of them, could play a role.

Thinking about it later I came up with a few more you could probably add to this list. It also seems any and all could work in both parts of the decision–the joining, and the staying or going.

One of the young Amish ladies wondered, concern clear in her voice, if being Amish isn’t just something that we’re used to.  Do we really know why we live the way we do?