I recently sat down with my friend Ben Riehl for a couple of extended conversations on a wide range of topics (more to come). Ben is Old Order Amish, living in Lancaster County. You might remember Ben from previous posts on Amish auctions and how he chooses a horse.
So in this clip, a YouTube viewer asked: “Do you know if the Amish believe they are the only true Christians?”
In reply to the question, Ben says “absolutely, most certainly not,” adding that “Amish people don’t believe that at all nowadays, in any type of practical or official terms.” However, there is a bit more to the story.
Ben explains that “at one time, it actually was official church policy – or an idea way, way, way back. It was one of Jakob Ammann’s ideas – that the Amish are the true church.” Jakob Ammann was the conservative Swiss Anabaptist leader from whom we get the name “Amish”.
Ben places this in the context of the times. “In Europe, in the 1600s, 1700s, everybody believed they were the ‘true church’. the Catholics believed it, the Protestants believed it. Everybody believed it about themselves. But here in pluralistic America, no, not at all.”
What about other churches?
I think you’ll enjoy the rest of his comments on this topic as well. I ask him a follow-up about other Christian denominations. Ben references Acts, as well as the apostle Paul, and the church being a body of many members. “That’s pretty much the way I look at other churches – is they have a particular strength that is good for the rest of humanity.” Ben gives the example of Pentecostalists, making a comparison with the more “marginal” Amish churches.
I also like what Ben has to say about people’s paths in life. “I am where I am because of things that were beyond my control. The good Lord put me here. This is the path that he ordained for me. Somebody else’s path is rather different. But that doesn’t mean that mine is better, and it certainly doesn’t mean that it’s worse. It’s just the way it is.”
There’s more where that came from in the video. I hope you find this of interest. Runtime 5:53.
Follow-up Question I wish I’d asked
Now, I have to admit that looking at this now, there is one follow-up question I wish I had asked Ben – on the (possibly) contradictory claims of some former Amish people. You have probably heard this before. It’s usually something along the lines of them being told that if they leave the Amish church, they will go to hell.
Assuming those claims are true (and I have no reason to doubt them), how does that square with Ben’s response? I have a couple of ideas here, but I’ll leave it for another time. Or better, maybe we will get a chance to ask this in a future conversation with Ben.
Update: Patreon is live!
The Amish America Patreon page is now live. That’s going to be the home of Amish America bonus content. If you liked this video, you can get the full one-hour-plus episode (“The Ben & Erik Show”) by joining here. Thanks for your support!