Commenter: “Amish are NOT Christian”

From time to time I draw attention to the more eyebrow-raising comments we get here on the site, or on the YouTube channel. They might contain very strong and certain claims about the Amish, or shine a light on popular misconceptions.

For example, there was “Utterly NOT an Amish Home!“, or “Why are the Amish using plastic packaging? I am so disappointed.

Photo: Cindy Seigle

Today’s entry is from an anonymous person who has made a number of disapproving comments on the Amish – and seems to very much dislike the group. In one of them he states that he’s “lived in Pennsylvania Deutsch country ALL MY LIFE. 65 years.”

So I wanted to take a look at this commenter’s thoughts on a video I did entitled “Do Amish read the Bible?

As I’ve said before, this is not about picking on someone, it is about responding to some common claims that I feel are wrong or distorted. Almost all of the things this person claims are things I’ve seen again and again over the years.

I’ll also admit that I have some probably misguided hope that if I do enough of these types of posts, it will discourage “bad” comments – though I doubt it!

The Claims

The commenter starts by disparaging a book I quoted from in the video. It feels like some throat-clearing axe-grinding. Then on to the meat of the comment:

You are also wrong. 1. Amish “read” from an antiquated Bible written in Old German. A dialect they, themselves, No longer understand. 2. If anyone is caught reading from an “English” Bible, they face excommunication. Because it teaches “Salvation by Grace, Through Faith”. Whereas they are derived from a dark-ages superstition-based religion of pre-destination, and salvation by strict adherence to the “Ordnung”.

Oddly, their Ordnung (ordinances) is an unstable set of rules. Petty, nit-picking absurdities, which varry from community to community. A given rule gets you into heaven in one church district, but sends you to burn in hell, in another church.

Yet our Bible says (in 9 different verses I found) that God is “NO Respecter of Persons”. (Which means he can NOT treat people differently.) It also states he never changes … there isn’t even “the shadow of turning” with God.

Amish are NOT Christian.

So to take a look at some of these claims. Is there any truth here, or at least grains of it?

Photo: Jim Halverson

The Amish & the Bible

1. Amish “read” from an antiquated Bible written in Old German. A dialect they, themselves, No longer understand.

Well, as I covered in the video, Amish read mainly from both English and High German Bibles. A common Bible has both the King James Version in English on one page with the corresponding text from the Martin Luther High German on the other. In general, Amish read in English far more than in any other language. Go into an average Amish home and the vast majority of books and publications you’ll find there are in English, including religious and religious-related texts.

Now, in some communities the amount of reading and discussion of the Bible may be more limited compared to others. But does the ministry in some churches discourage Bible reading outside a church setting altogether? Perhaps…or just Bible reading with say an “evangelical” approach? This brings us to the commenter’s point #2:

English-German Bible common among the Amish

2. If anyone is caught reading from an “English” Bible, they face excommunication. Because it teaches “Salvation by Grace, Through Faith”.

This is the old trope that for the Amish, an English Bible is some sort of contraband. If that is the case, I know A LOT of Amish that are currently risking excommunication for having such contraband. And in such a case, I myself would be a secondary party to that excommunication, having sold hundreds of Amish families English-language Bible story sets and Bible encyclopedias.

amish horse wall photo
The NIV Application Bible, Family Bible Library set, and other “contraband” in an Amish home

There’s also the oft-repeated idea here that Amish can only understand the Bible through the filter of the church leadership. Now in some churches there may be more of that attitude. Organized Bible study of the type common in evangelical Christian settings is not encouraged in most Amish churches.

Amish reading of the Bible is generally less about discovering a personal interpretation of the text (aligning with Amish emphasis on community). One reason for that is that Amish may see what comes from this approach as prideful (eg., a person claiming they are privy to special interpretations that others cannot see).

But Bibles are not contraband, and many Amish families read from them on a regular basis (I’ve been there to witness it and take part often enough) and have regular Bible-based family devotions (Beside the Still Waters is one such publication used by some Amish).

The Ordnung

The commenter then takes on the Ordnung (in short, the church-specific rules that guide Amish daily life):

Whereas they are derived from a dark-ages superstition-based religion of pre-destination, and salvation by strict adherence to the “Ordnung”.

I’m not sure where the “pre-destination” concept is coming from. It’s not an accusation I recall seeing levied often if at all against Amish.

Now I’m not a religious historian so I don’t want to get too far in the weeds here. But Anabaptism emerged around the same time as Calvinism and at least one prominent figure of Calvinism (Uldrich Zwingli) was associated with or sympathetic to the Anabaptist movement at one point. However they are different and Anabaptists did not espouse predestination. In fact there were often clashes between Mennonites and Calvinists (for example, over hundreds of years in the Netherlands).

Furthermore most Amish today would not assert that they know their eternal fate. There are a relative handful of Amish (though perhaps growing beyond just New Order Amish) who would claim assurance of salvation. But for most Amish, the traditional view is that their eternal destiny is unknown, and they abide in a “living hope” of salvation.

There is also the misguided suggestion that salvation comes from adhering to the Ordnung. There are likely a decent number of Amish people who believe this to varying degrees (probably, more often seen in the more conservative churches). However that is not generally seen as the foundation of salvation.

Adherence to the teachings of Christ is at the root of Amish belief. Amish people also believe that they are not the only ones who can make it to heaven. Non-Amish people can too. Again, there may be the more fringe beliefs of some individuals of churches out there, but that’s not the general Amish approach to salvation. More from the commenter on the Ordnung:

Oddly, their Ordnung (ordinances) is an unstable set of rules. Petty, nit-picking absurdities, which varry from community to community. A given rule gets you into heaven in one church district, but sends you to burn in hell, in another church.

The Ordnung of a given church changes over time, to a degree reflecting the will of the community. Potential changes emanate from the church itself and are voted upon twice yearly by members, though church leadership (bishop) does have control over what issues are considered.

Photo: S.I.

Though it should be noted that with over 2,000 church districts, and without a top-down controlling body like in other Christian denominations, there are naturally going to be some dysfunctional situations. But the commenter views the Ordnung as “unstable”. Another way to look at is as reflecting the need for change and a willingness to do so.

Are there messed-up situations where Amish individuals believe, and/or teach their children they will “go to hell” if they leave the church or break certain rules? And is this the way of things in general in certain communities? There have certainly been some loud public accounts alleging that by Amish-raised people, for example. But again I refer to the common theme in this post of being careful about blowing up specific situations to apply to “the Amish” as a whole.

Photo: Jim Halverson

The commenter is also again tying adherence to the Ordnung to eternal salvation. The phrase “Petty, nit-picking absurdities” reveals lack of understanding for the existence of the varied rules. Some of those are based in a respect for tradition (e.g. buggy-top color or beard length), with some being concrete pragmatic restrictions with a larger purpose (e.g. steel wheels on tractors to discourage road use and possible backsliding towards acceptance of the car).

Are the Amish not Christian?

In closing, the commenter ends with “Amish are NOT Christian.” In my view, this type of statement (“group ABC is NOT Christian”) seems to assume some sort of divine knowledge and certainty beyond what man is capable of.

My first sense on seeing this comment was that this person may actually be former Amish. He likely had a bad experience, and that understandably colors his biases. Former Amish in my experience can be some of the most disparaging towards “the Amish” as a whole (though certainly not always).

However, the comment about living in “PA Deutsch” country strikes me as one that a non-Amish outsider would make. If you look at other comments, it’s clear this person is quite angry at “the Amish” in general. Which brings me to another point.

One thing that still surprises me is the easy bigotry people seem to harbor – and freely express – towards Amish and other Plain people. It is on some level still acceptable to label the Amish as a group in ways that would never be permissible applied to other religious, ethnic, or cultural groups.

The other thing that often happens is the common move of taking a limited example and applying it to all Amish. I think there are probably some grains of truth that the commenter came upon from his interactions over the years with Amish. But they were then blown out of proportion to build a distorted picture of “the Amish”.

So if you stuck with this long analysis until the end, let’s hope whoever this is finds some peace. In any case, I think the comment provides a nice opportunity to examine some aspects of Amish belief. Your thoughts welcome as always.

Get the Amish in your inbox

Join 15,000 email subscribers. No spam. 100% free

    Similar Posts

    Leave a Reply to Mary McGeechan Cancel reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    39 Comments

    1. Karen

      "Amish Not Christian"???

      Wow, first of all, I feel very sorry for this uninformed man acting precisely the opposite of how a Christian should act. I realize there are some very difficult Amish orders who may teach things we do not understand, but all are practiced because that is the way they believe it will lead them to heaven and why should we judge them? The number one aspect of the life of an Amish person is to get to heaven, so I would say that above all, they try to live good Christian lives. Do they fail? Sure, but so do I, ever single day. I find it doubtful that this man grew up among the Amish for if he did, he would not have this attitude.

      I was born and raised in Wisconsin. My dad owned and operated the largest blacksmithing and horseshoeing company in the world until his passing. I grew up having the Mennonite and Amish farmers at my dad’s business and they often attended blacksmithing and horseshoeing picnics with us in the summertime. Many of my young friends were Amish and we had a ball playing together. The adults were friends with my parents and they respected us and we respected them.

      I find it sad and shallow that this man could make these horrible assumptions about people he clearly does not know. It never mattered to the Amish we knew that we were Catholic and never mattered to us that they were Amish. We were then and still are today all trying our best to live the lives God wants us to live.

        1. Michael Donovan

          When a man decides to interpate without research

          Its with gratitude this lady corrected some healthy issues,
          That poor man needs spiritual guidance, but first he must atone for his ignorance thus,ask god for forgiveness.
          We all hope for salvation but must await our turn.
          We cannot comand salvation.

    2. Mike

      NOT??

      If the Amish are not Christian, I don’t know who is.
      They should be an example to Christians (and not only) around the world to follow.
      Just my humble opinion…

      1. Susannah

        You cannot judge salvation

        All the Amish we know read the King James Version of the Bible…confess Jesus Christ as their lord and savior, and have a deep hunger to serve HIM…they have a lot of questions as well as seek to live Godly…..which is more than the person who instigated…Hummm creating strife…..isn’t that from Satan!! Just sayin

    3. Lisa Collins

      Response to Amish are NOT Christian

      I was very interested in your response and want to thank you for taking the time and willingness to explain. Your are knowledgeable and your responses have taught me. I cannot understand anyone being prejudiced against the Amish. If you don’t want to be part of a religious order leave it but no need to insult the followers. Thank you.

      1. Glad you thought so Lisa. Amish are human and not perfect, but unfortunately the prejudice against them as a group is not uncommon. I would guess it often stems from unpleasant personal interactions which then get blown up.

    4. Lolita Yoder

      Christian Amish

      My parents grew up Amish. I was the first in my family to graduate from public school and go on to college and earn my CPA. My paternal grandfather was an Amish bishop, highly respected and sought after for his preaching. There are many elements of the Amish culture that are cult-like. But, there are many God fearing Christians as well. I would recommend watching the ‘Breaking the Silence’ YouTube series to learn a general understanding of the Amish and their spiritual priorities.

      1. Lena

        Christian Amish

        I’m in complete agreement with @Lolita Yoder. The ‘Breaking the Silence’ series is a wonderful eye-opening series. there are indeed many Christians amongst the Amish that feel called to live out their faith through staying in the Amish church. but just like “Englishers” they are humans living in a fallen world, and the Amish are a very diverse group, so generalizations are rather risky. there are some ideas in some Amish Ordnungs that are limiting to the personal growth of faith for an individual. the Ordnung is claimed by the Amish to be based off of Biblical teachings, but the danger has instead arisen of adhering to man-established traditions, which is repeatedly rebuked in the Bible. Just like “English” churches, you go to different ones and hear different ideas and teachings, but they all stem from the same religious philosophy. the job of the church is to ultimately unite to stand for their beliefs in a broken world, no matter their nit-picky differences, and exemplify the love of Christ. But also the Ordnung is a means the Amish use to be very conscious about what things of men they allow into their lives, which is following the command of being “in the world, but not of it”. no church has everything figured out, and no individual does either, but the Christian task is to love others as yourself and show them the love of Jesus, including the Amish. Many things can be learned from any situation when approach with a principled, yet open-minded, standpoint.

      2. Kal

        Very true. There are some sincere believers among the Amish and in some communities or even within families, very cult-like aspects. I know what it is to be Amish and feel like I was a true Christian then what it’s like to leave and find true Christians outside of the Amish. There are good and bad people wherever we go and in any church.

    5. Judy Miller

      I don’t know what turnip this person has been living under; I live in Lancaster County in a very Amish populated area; I am in a minority as I am English. I have one of the few cars in about a 3 mile radius. I guarantee you my neighbors are Amish through and through!

    6. Larry Simon

      Defending for the faithful in Jesus

      I enjoy reading about faith in Jesus and how it affects our view and behavior. Amish like all people of faith have complex understanding about Jesus, God’s word, and how we respond to the Lord and interact with others inside and outside of the family of God (the church). If our faith is head knowledge only without behavioral response we demonstrate how small is our faith. If our life actions do not show our love for and trust in Jesus our Lord and Savior, then this also indicates little faith. There always is a perfect balance between faith and works that no one can ever do perfectly. Even so we should strive to be loving and caring to others, including their relationship with God. Amish have always been an example to me of striving to bring together their faith and works. Thank you for defending their attempt to live and honor the Lord Jesus Christ.

      1. Tracy Stout-Powers

        Ugh

        I just spent a wonderful week with a lovely Old Order Amish family in Lancaster County. They do read the Bible, they are Christian. I’m from Tennessee. The family I stayed with said there are a lot of locals that have a problem with the Amish. They may be tired of getting stuck behind a buggy or blame them for the tourists that clog up the roads. I don’t know, I just wish people could understand that the Amish and their culture should be cherished!

    7. Abner Schlabach

      So, so sad

      What an ignorant, judgmental, self righteous person!

    8. Jonny

      Commenter Violates an Important Bible Verse

      The commenter violates Matt 7: “Judge not lest ye be judged.” It’s a frequently misused verse. But it means “Do not put yourself in Gods place to judge human hearts and their salvation.

      From the NIV
      “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you”

    9. Ann Morrill

      Same old same old bigoted nonsense

      These anti-Amish claims are the same as the anti-Catholic claims I have heard and they are all wrong, for your reasons stated above. As an example, assurance of salvation is a relatively recent belief among Christians and it remains a bone of contention among different groups. From my historical studies of theological development I think whether an individual believes it or not is a sign of how early their group deviated from Catholicism, as assurance of salvation was always considered to be the sin of presumption, as it is presuming to know the mind of God. But what of it? As others above have said, we are not to judge others as God will surely judge us. And as we can’t know the mind of God we certainly can’t know the state of another person’s soul.

    10. elaine

      amish are not christian

      this man has way too much time on his hands.
      how about taking some of it and volunteering in an environment where he could be of service to others and experience the sweet grace of God.

      1. Yea I kinda feel sorry for the guy (comment was anonymous but I’m assuming it’s a guy). Lot of rants about Amish, Mennonites. Some people have a lot of anger in them for whatever reason and unleash it on easy targets. Sadly I think it’s not that uncommon.

    11. Jeremiah

      Amish, scripture, and Ordnung

      A recent (October 2022) Mennonite Quarterly Review article about Amish interpretation of scripture which touches on their construction and use of Ordnung (church standards) is titled “Reading, Interpreting, and Applying Christian Scripture in Amish Communities” and is freely available on the MQR website at the following address: https://www.goshen.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/75/2022/09/5PetrovichFinalFormatOct22.pdf

    12. Leana A Mari

      You may get a different answer for each one you ask

      I find the comment to be over generalizing. There is a spectrum in that community and it depends on who you ask. Even in a solid church setting, you get diverse answers. It is true of any denomination. Take a Protestant church in general. You get people that are raised in it but have no personal relationship with God. They just go through the motions. They would adapt to whatever they were raised in just the same. Even in a more Evangelical church setting, there are plenty of ‘bad apples,’ we cannot assume that all are saved. It is a personal thing. It does require a personal consent and decision, which must be based on what the Bible says about being a Christian since that is the authority on the matter. What we say means diddly squat. We can’t make up our own rules that work for us either. I share the gospel and encourage that people read the Bible for themselves. The Holy Spirit calls to each heart and some hear and respond, some only hear, and some don’t even hear. We can’t push them through the door. We are told to judge all things in the Bible, but in the right way. The motive must be love and the goal the good of the soul of another.

    13. Being Christian having faith

      Wow interesting. Appreciate all the concerns and comments. Keeping my thoughts short. First ordung just set of rules just like all the other church’s having guidelines second even not reading any Bible you know right from wrong, love or hate, good or mean, etc. and I see clearly the Amish people and their community are of love, faith, of good nature to everyone. The love they have for just their way of life shows me peace and harmony with themselves and their community is enough to see clearly they are religious and Christians believing in God’s way not man’s.

    14. Guest

      Thank you

      That was a thoughtful analysis, especially since that guy is an all-caps old fogey ranter and troll! Christ would tell him, get the log out of your eye, quit making others a victim of your dysfunction. What kind of pathetic bully picks on the Amish online?

    15. J.O.B.

      Its possible this person had a few negative interactions with the Amish.

      So it might sound really bad. But there could be real reasons why they are unhappy with the Amish BUT doing a really “poor” job of explaining why.

      I’ve seen Amish and Mennonite lie, cheat(financially and relationships including marriages). Walk with their nose in the air(literally) when refusing to apologize for a wrong. And other things as well.

      So I have mixed feelings on them. Ive seen the good and the bad.

      I can’t defend this individual since I don’t know what’s going on with this person. But I can say that some Amish and Mennonite have, well, made me angry a few times.

    16. FanOfYou

      Amish are not christian?

      So, the commenter doesen’t seem very christian to me. Because he is guilty of the mortal sin of pride. 😉

    17. FRANK V VATTELANA

      This and that!

      I have had many interactions with the Amish and sadly many believe in works for salvation. One individual expressed he depended on God’s grace which I was happy to hear but it is true that there is a mixture of people who depend on works and not trusting in Christ alone.

      1. Robert Sparkman

        Sounds accurate

        That would be my opinion too, Frank.

    18. Mary McGeechan

      Brilliant work Eric

      Much appreciated your response!
      Keep up your writing on this subject!!!
      From an Amish fostered child.

    19. Candice Cannon

      Excellent answer to a cranky persons rude comment. My mom taught me early on, if you have nothing nice to say then be quiet. He probably should concern himself with his own witness and salvation and stop judging them.

    20. Marilyn

      I just don't get it

      Living among several Amish communities and enjoying the benefits of having Amish folks as friends and neighbors, I just don’t get this weird fascination that some English people seem to have with what the Amish “can” and “cannot” do. It’s none of my business how an Amish family chooses to worship or live any more than it is a Southern Baptist or United Methodist family’s business how I choose to worship or go about my daily life. I just don’t get where all this thinly veiled hatred — yes, I will use the word “hatred” — comes from. It’s like some people are trying to catch their Amish neighbors out somehow — trying to point out some perceived inconsistency. To what end, people? Don’t want to obey the Ordnung?? Fine — don’t join an Amish community. But there’s simply no reason to skulk around bad-mouthing a group of individuals who choose to dress or talk or worship in a way that you don’t understand. I just don’t get it.

    21. Robert Sparkman

      Leave it to the Lord

      I was a member of a cultic organization from age 22-32.

      I was raised in the organization from childhood.

      Some Christians would deny that my belief was legitimate, but there’s no question in my mind that my commitment was to Christ and not to the organization.

      As far as the Amish, I spoke to an Amishman who was working on my roof once. He told me he was Amish because that was the way he was raised. That was simply the only reason he gave me.

      Other ex-Amish friends have told me they don’t think their Amish family members are saved and worry about them. My family members who work with Amish people tell me it’s a mixed bag. Some are Christians and some are not, judging by their actions.

      Since I am “Calvinist”, I believe God is in control of each person’s life and works within it to bring them to faith and to create the works he wants. I will talk to people about faith, but I don’t think it’s up to me to regenerate them. And, I wouldn’t be surprised if a good number of Amish are believers.

      It would be the LGBT affirming “Christians” that are “woke” I don’t think are saved. They are in direct rebellion to clearly stated teachings of Scripture.

    22. Court

      I actually found the person’s comment to be true, and I found your article to be true too. The fact is, there’s many different branches of Amish. This person’s description seems to fit stricter Amish groups, but your description seems to fit more of the New Order, or perhaps some Old Order Amish groups. There are Amish groups that are born-again believers who read English Bibles and such. But the Schwarzentrubers are another story (my husband having grown up in that group, I hear a lot from him and his family and visit the area quite often, including visiting family that is still Amish). Reading the English Bible is indeed highly discouraged by them and can lead to excommunication. They do almost all of their reading and preaching in High German, which they don’t fully understand. And that’s one reason why reading of an English Bible is discouraged. When they read it in English they understand it, and when they understand it they come to faith in Christ, and when they do that they get a lot visits from the preachers and eventually get excommunicated. Their salvation really is based on “if I’ve lived the best Amish life I can, maybe, just maybe, God will decide to save me, but I can’t know for sure”. The rules really are nit-picky and burdensome and change from church to church. There’s so much they don’t know about Jesus or the Bible. And they live in bondage to every sort of sin, many of them being full of anger, abuse, and sexual sin. My husband and most of his family, including his parents and other families in the community came to faith in Christ and found freedom from their own sins. But they were forthwith excommunicated. All of them tell me that Schwarzentruber Amish are not Christians (“Christian” being defined as a believer in the saving sacrifice of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins).
      But I also know and have worked with lots of other Amish people (of other groups) that are believers in Christ, walking in freedom, joy, and love. So it really comes down which group, and which individual you’re talking about.

      1. Lizzieann Troyer

        My Amish growing up

        Good job Court, you explained the difference between the groups very well, based on my experience, growing up in the Wayne/Holmes Co. Ohio area. I had cousins in the Swartzentruber church but went to school with the most liberal of the Old Order Amish. We were in-between and all got along well as children.

    23. Jeffrey C Masters

      Hmmmmm.....

      What a sad comment from someone who obviously thinks they know far more than they do. A little time spent in an Amish home would do wonders to reduce the level of ignorance shown by this poster. My Amish friends read from English language bibles all the time.

    24. Bilyea

      I am more concerned about the bird flying over the house in the one photo; why do amish have darpa bird drones??

    25. Lizzieann Troyer

      My Amish growing up

      I think you did very well to correct the imbalance, of the critic you addressed above. There are many different levels of Amish churches that I grew up with, and the most strict traditional ones could largely come under this critic’s assessment, based on what I saw and heard. Then there are the very different more liberal churches that I was always impressed with how much more kind, loving, understanding and flexible they could be. Those are the ones that don’t even shun me now that I have left the Amish, as the groups I was with could not accept my confession of faith that I am saved by grace through the blood of Jesus. But those ministers are not accepted in full fellowship with the ministry in the more traditional churches I came out of, because they don’t shun everyone these groups excommunicated.

      I was never part of the most traditional group, so our family did have an English Bible which I read through on my own. We were really only encouraged to read a chapter or so in the Bible every other Sunday in-between our bi-weekly church services. To read German was emphasized after we were a little older, like age 10 or 12. My teachers did a good job teaching us German every Friday afternoon so I understood a lot of it. I loved the German songs as well as when we were allowed to sing in English at times, in school.
      I am thinking of getting together a website and channel to help keep the Anabaptist background alive. In searching to confirm what I learned through the songs etc. I found your site and I hope it’s ok to put your links out? You tell it very well, and I would love to talk to you if you would like. You are welcome to e-mail me.

    26. Randell

      Amish are NOT Christian

      “Bravo” Eric for your response to the absurd statements made by mostly non Amish outsiders.
      As you so aptly mentioned in your article, there are many “communities” that may have slightly differing rules “ordnung” between them. That does not make them Un-Christian, just as there are many Christian Churches that also interpret some teachings differently. That does also not make them Un-Christian.
      The Amish value rural life, manual labor and humility all under the auspices of living what they
      interpret to be God’s word. Above all, in today’s world we should applaud their respect fellow man, abhorrence of violence, greed etc. They are certainly Christian!

    27. Dana

      Knows everything

      This is what happens when you come across someone who knows everything, but in reality knows nothing, especially about the Amish

    28. Danton Pace

      FLAT EARTH

      Im curious wether the Amish support Globe/Planet Earth (flying thru Outer space at 66,6000 miles per hour) or if they stick .with what the Bible actually says…No planets,globes,solar systems,or outer space and earth never moves..ever,it is fixed,established.I expect the Truth,whole Truth and nothing but the Truth from my minister.Im a born again Christian,non denominational.I havent found a denomination supporting the flat earth truth.They support a Star Trek deception,End time deception.