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The Squeamish: Influences from Quakers, the Mennonites, and the Amish 


What are Quakers? Quakers are Friends! Members of the Society are both called, “Quakers” and “Friends.” Quakerism was first noticed in 1650, when George Fox seemed to be “trembling at the word of God” while he was on trial. Justice Bennet, the Judge at the trial, called George Fox and everyone who followed him “Quakers.” The label was accepted, because like early Christians, the Quakers were trembling under the strong fervor of God. Quakers are also called, friends,  as this is the choice word used most often to describe themselves. It comes from John, 15:12-14:
This is my Commandment, that ye love one another as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man that this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
It is believed among Quakers, that the first step to learning is to hear the truth and understand it. The most stunning characteristic of Quakers Workshop is that of listening and being open to the prompting of divinity from any source. It is believe that after judgment comes conviction and with conviction comes the ability to live with the truth. This process is believed to be so hard that no one person can do it on their own. Daily Devotionals are very important for Quakers, resulting in the formation of many prayer and study groups. Because of this Sunday Worship is not an isolated event, but instead a culmination of the entire week’s spiritual work. 

Evolution of Quaker Worship

There are two ways for Quakers to Worship the Lord, unprogrammed and programmed meetings. Unprogrammed meetings are conducted in silence. Silence isn’t perceived as an end of communication itself, but rather a way towards worship. The mind is full of external stimuli, thoughts, and refuse. This must all be calmly put aside and self-reflection must be conducted to decipher why some anxieties seem important over other things. This process is known as, “centering down,” but this must this analysis mustn’t go on too long, for worship isn’t supposed to be full of psychoanalysis. Once you’re learned how to center down, one can easily put worries and concerns aside and concentrate on finding your individual self in the one eternal Self.
The way to finding oneself within the eternal Self is through prayer. Quakers use a range of prayer from short-repeated prayers to mantras. All prayers, however, show include adoration, gratitude, and love. You can also use passages from Psalms, incidents in the life of Jesus, or sayings of spiritual leaders. 
Programmed Meetings are similar to Protestant Worship Services. In these meetings, hymns are sung, groups prayers are spoken, readings from the scriptures take place, and sermons are delivered. As the programmed meeting evolved, membership doubled within the Quaker Population to these meetings while attendance at the unprogrammed meetings declined. Through the evangelical teachings of Quaker, Joseph John Gurney (1788 -1847), the theology of the Cross or Jesus’ death as redemption for human sins, was accepted into Quaker Belief. Early Quakers did believe that salvation came as a gift from the Holy Spirit, this just altered that a little bit.  Also out of this movement came a strong Quaker Missionary. Missionaries were sent to Jamaica, Palestine, Kenya, and “elsewhere.” Elsewhere is what we now call third world countries.

The Sacredness and Simplicity of Quaker Life

The Sacred always lies within each member of the Society, it is because of this that the profane can easily infuse with people, but the Sacred can counter that force just as easily. This is why Quakers believe in religious acts and experiences should be lived out daily, and just not during worship meetings. There is a huge importance placed in the inward faith of each person. Early Quaker belief was founded on no ritual, baptism, marriage vows before a minister, and no fixed sermons or prayers. Everyday is holy to the Quakers, not just determined Religious Holidays. It is important for Quakers to experience God in everything that they do.
Honesty is also revered among Quakers, as they know they can hide nothing from God, and if they can hide nothing from God, they should hide nothing from themselves. This idea of life is called the Testimony of Simplicity. Simplicity starts among the family, stressing that communication and language is the basis for a good human relationship. Quakers believe that everyone is equal before God, and because of this, they often to not use titles, status, and other pitfalls of social preference.  Quakers view God’s creation as a gift and it’s a privilege to enjoy it.

The Mennonites[2]

Mennonites were founded as a group of Christian Anabaptists and named after a man named Menno Simons. Unlike the Quakers and Amish, the Mennonites are more directly associated with a denomination; because of this they feel they share several points of faith with other Protestant Churches. First, they believe in the Supreme Deity as a spiritual and all-knowing being. They also believe that God is found in three forms, The Father, The son, and The Holy Spirit, or the Trinity.  Finally they Believe that God is loving in nature, and that his mercy can be felt by all of those who accept it.  The Also believe that Jesus, the Son of God, is the way, the truth, and the life. To accompany both God and the Son of God is the Holy Spirit, which is the source of new life.

Where Mennonites Differ from Protestants

The first point of difference is what the Mennonites call, “Believers Baptism.” While more popular today, they Mennonites practiced this form of Baptism in a time when it was considered heresy and during a time when most of society considered it a danger to the world as a whole. Mennonites believe that infants and children below the age of responsibility are innocent and that their salvation was granted through Jesus’ sacrifice. Their study of the New Testament assured them that Baptism did not regenerate the soul, but instead acted as a seal and testimony of a believer’s personal faith and repentance. This resulted in the Mennonite belief that only adults who believed should be baptized.
Mennonites also practice Voluntary Church Membership as a result of Believer’s Baptism.  Membership in the church was believed to be for people who voluntarily confess their belief in Christ as their Savior and only those who confess that belief. The also practiced the dismissal of members who broke the seal of their baptism. This strict discipline resulted in close-knit brethrens.
Separation of Church and State and Nonresistance also became very important in the lives of the Mennonites. Mennonites acknowledge the secular state as a legitimate governing body whose purpose was to maintain civility among the country, but that its duties were solely secular. Related to this was the practice of Nonresistance. Mennonites never went to secular law, but adjust any difficulties among themselves, choosing to suffer injustice rather than sue in the judicial court system. Mennonites also practice the Non-swearing of Oaths.
Finally, Mennonites have their own relation of the New and Old Testaments. They believe that the while both testaments are divine and the word of God, that the Old Testament in purely preliminary and preparatory for the New Testament. The New Testament, for Mennonites, is alone the only authoritative source for the Christians’ faith and practice.

The Simplicity of Mennonite Life

Like Quakers, the Mennonites also believe in a simple life. In fact, it is said that those who do not believe in God, often find ways to distract and complicate their lives. Most Mennonites believe this is even truer as our society focuses on technology and fast-paced lifestyles. Mennonites base their simple life in the trust filled and simple belief that God is the father and that the Mennonites are all his children.

Simplicity in Religious Life

Worship for the Mennonites is quiet and unobtrusive. All worship services are simple and free from any type of display. Buildings used for Mennonite Worship are plain and often referred to as Meeting houses. In the beginning, the ministry was comprised of lay ministers and preachers rather than pastors and clerical officials.

Simplicity in Economic Life

For the Mennonite Community, hard work and saving are a primary Christian and religious obligation. Mennonite leaders will often restrict the occupations of their community to those that will directly contribute to the brotherhood itself. Also, surplus capital among members are often used for helping community members who are young and starting out in life, and these gifts often come free of interest charges. Mennonites practiced simple sharing and mutual assistance in case of need to battle the destructive power of extreme wealth and poverty.

Simplicity in Dress and Behavior

Mennonites mandate simple forms of dress. This in one way battles the idea of status and wealth among the community in times of economic wealth. Often, it is forbidden to wear jewelry and any type of ornamentation. Mennonites insist on simple, economic, and inconspicuous clothing for their members. The also have the same mentality when it comes to social behavior. For Mennonite Communities, the pleasures of family, friends, and home are stressed. Commercial and   professional entertainment is not participated in, and isn’t seen as belonging in the simple Christian life of the Mennonites.

The Humble Life

For the Mennonites, the humble life is reached through the simple life. To Mennonite, they are created by God and are dependent on God for their very existence.  This inspires the Mennonites to want to be humble at heart for their Creator, and this starts with the simple Christian lifestyle free from the distractions of the world around them.

Separation from the World and How They Do It

Mennonites believe that many Christians find it easy to adopt their beliefs to an ever changing modern world. Mennonites see these changes in their beliefs as proof of weak and immature Christians who fail to life through Christ’s standards, but instead live through the standards of those around them. This has resulted in Mennonites often forbidding close relationships and business associations with people outside of the community. There are many devices used to maintain a separation between the Modern World and the World of the Mennonites. These include topics already mentioned such as simple dress and lifestyles. Also, some communities still use German as their primary language in homes and services. The main device, as seen by Mennonites, comes in the form of Nonconformity to the modern world.

The Amish[3]

Even with its strict and simple lifestyle, Jacob Amman thought that the Mennonites Community had become too lax in its discipline. This resulted in Amman leaving the Mennonite Community and forming his own, with the hope of restoring some of the earlier practices that the Mennonite Community was founded on.

Some Early Rules of Conduct

1.      No brother shall engage in any large buying, building, or other large business or give himself to any unnecessary profiteering and usury without the counsel, foreknowledge, and consent of the brethren and elder.
2.      Tobacco, smoking or snuff-taking and such-like evil practices shall be stopped.
3.      All the young men who take off their beard with a razor shall be warned and admonished that if they do not stop, they shall be punished with the ban, as likewise those who cut the hair off the head according to worldly style. 
4.      All those members who leave us and join other churches, shall be recognized as apostate according to the Lord’s Word and his ordinance, and shall be separated and recognized as deserving the ban.
5.      Whoever transgresses the rule of shunning out of weakness or ignorance, can be reconciled by confession before the congregation that he has erred; anyone who transgresses intentionally but who is not stubborn about it when admonished, must make a full confession, but whoever stubbornly refuses to hearken to admonition must be excommunicated too. 
6.      Immoderate sleigh driving or excessive driving of other vehicles shall not be allowed, and neither those decorated with showy to two-tone colors as too often has happened.
7.      Concerning excess practiced among youth, namely those taking liberties to sleep or lie together without any fear or shame--- such things shall in no way be tolerated. If such things take place without the knowledge of the parents… the parents themselves shall no go unpunished.
8.      Decided not to allow attendance at worldly conventions, fairs, or annual fairs, or to take part in them, or to enroll in worldly insurance companies or to erect lightning rods on our buildings.
9.      Do not use so much English Talk, but it may be used when English folk are still around. No English singing is to be used at youth singings.
10.  Do not have your picture taken.

Some Rules regarding Dress

  • 1.      Only one suspender, plain black, is allowed.
  • 2.      No Zipper Clothing
  • 3.      Blouses or Shirts bought in stores may not be worn unless pockets and collars are removed first.
  • 4.      Do Not Use Sleeve Holders, to not comb your hair parted.
  • 1.      Do not make the caps so small, but keep the large enough to cover the ears, And do not make bonnets so small.
  • 2.      Do not make such broad pleats in the dressed or such broad hems.
  • 3.      Do not comb your hair high on the head.
  • 4.      Do not wear jewelry for pride. Do not use lace around the skirts.
  • 5.      There shall be no flowered oil clothes. Do not wear short dressed and light stockings which show bare legs.

Excommunication and other Punishments

Minor Offenses

Minor offenses often included disobeying a church rules, examples of this include sitting for a photograph or cutting your hair in a way that was not allowed. Often, people who broke smaller church rules were punished in the form of a public confession. This consisted of the accused person going before the congregation and “confess a fault.”  Often, disciplinary problems were not dealt with until near Fall or Spring Communion Services. For the Amish, Closed Communion is practiced, meaning that the church has to be completely pure and united. To prepare for communion, two weeks before the service each individual would be asked three questions, “Do you have peace with God?” “With your fellow-men, so far as possible?” “Do you desire to participate in the communion service?” At this time members were allowed to confess a fault. If they did not, and it was later revealed that they had broken a rule, a common form of punishment was to deny them into the Communion Service.


Confessing a Fault and Denial of Communion were the first two steps of punishment. The third was excommunication.  This was only used for open violation of moral law. Members up for excommunication were notified and not allowed to attend the procedure that would determine their fate and a member of the Amish Community. If someone was excommunicated, the members of the congregation were told to practice “Shunning” rigorously.  Once excommunicated, no one was allowed to eat with the person. One main practice, was that the members of the church were required to show him every act of kindness, but could not receive any favors or thanks in return.  An excommunicated member could be reinstated, but only if he was able to prove that they had repented and reformed.  Usually, most excommunicated members wished to die until their reinstatement was granted, as they were being rejected by man and God.

The Typical Kitchen of an Amish Woman

The epicenter for Amish life and families is the Kitchen. In the kitchen, there is the table, on which everyone eats. Typically this is left bare, but occasionally one can find a table clothe. Dishes are heavy china, while utensils are stainless steel, never silver. Sometimes, plain single blind drapes can be found, usually only blue or green, but older houses do not have curtains at all. Stricter communities use coal stoves and kerosene or oil lamps. However, more liberal communities allow the use of propane or natural gas, so of which is made on their farmland. Most women love flowers and one can often find little patches around the house. Also, one can find painted cans with flowers in the windowsills of the kitchens.  Amish women are also usually very fond of Apple-paring parties. Much happens in the kitchen of an Amish home, for example, the women make most of their own clothes. They also read Bible Stories in German to little Children in the Kitchen.

Health and Medical Practices of the Amish

A History of Staying Healthy

In the beginning, it is said that with all of the manual labor and hard work of the Amish people, that they could naturally fight off common colds and minor diseases. They believed that by working so hard in the field and outdoors that their bodies developed a natural resistance to such illnesses. However, due to disease-spreading insects such as mosquitoes and houseflies, the Amish were often exposed to diseases such as malaria, typhoid fever, yellow fever, small pox, and tuberculosis. Often entire families would be wiped out by these contagious diseases and they would travel from one colony to the next. 
The Housewife often acted as the physician of the family. She would have a chest full of her own remedies for chest colds, soar throats, earaches, and commonly blood tonics used to give older men a boost of energy and health.  These cabinets often contained herbs and teas such as: catnip, peppermint, spearmint, sassafras, sage, hops, pokeberry, and garlic.  Along with these herbs and teas, bark and roots from different plants were often boiled together. It was often believed that every plant had some value to human consumption if you knew the right proportions.
Medicine Men also roamed the countryside, smoothing talking housewives into buying their “cure-all” medicines. Most of these medicine has some value, but what value it had was usually little to none. By the early 1900’s the government required that all medicine being sold had a label with the ingredients and what portion of the bottle was alcohol.

Amish and Modern Medicine

Most Amish and Mennonite groups to not oppose modern medicine. Their readiness to seek health services varies from family to family. Nothing in the Amish understanding of the Bible forbids them from using modern medical services, including surgery, hospitalization, dental work, anesthesia, blood transfusions, etc. They do believe, however, that good health, both physical and mental, is a gift from God and requires careful stewardship on the part of the individual. With few exceptions, physicians rate the Amish as desirable patients: they are stable, appreciative, and their bills will be paid. They do not have hospitalization insurance, but they band together to help pay medical expenses for anyone of their group who needs financial assistance. A designated leader in the Amish community is given responsibility for their mutual aid fund.
Health care practices vary considerably across Amish communities and from family to family. Many Amish use modern medical services, but others turn to alternate forms of treatment. They cite no biblical injunctions against modern health care or the latest medicines, but they do believe that God is the ultimate healer. In general, the Amish are less likely to select high risk or expensive medical interventions than mainstream society. The use of modern medicine varies greatly from family to family and group to group[3]
Compared to the non-Amish, Amish people are less likely to seek medical attention for minor aches or illnesses and more apt to follow folk remedies and drink herbal teas. Although they do not object to surgery or other forms of high-tech treatment, they are less inclined to use heroic life-saving interventions, and are reticent to intervene when their elderly face terminal illness. They are, in short, more willing to yield to the mysteries of divine providence.
In addition to home remedies, members often seek other forms of unorthodox medical treatment. Their search for natural healing often leads them to vitamins, homeopathic remedies, health foods, reflexologists, and chiropractors. Some seek the services of special clinics--in Mexico and elsewhere--that offer treatments, especially for cancer, that are not authorized in the United States. Several Amish entrepreneurs operate health food stores that cater to the Amish as well as to their non-Amish neighbors. Numerous outsiders who market homeopathic treatments and questionable cure-all products seek to entice Amish customers.
Amish health habits are shaped by many cultural factors---conservative rural values, a preference for natural antidotes, a lack of information, a sense of awkwardness in high-tech settings, difficulties accessing health care, as well as a willingness to suffer and lean on the providence of God.

The Main Differences between Amish Medical Practices and Christian Scientists

While the Amish people believed that God was the Ultimate Healer, they still sought out medical help from outside sources and from within the home or community. Christian Scientists believed that healing came from personal revelation. If one was ill, it was often due to the fact that they had fallen away from Jesus, and they weren’t living their lives through him. They felt that when they rediscovered Jesus and had personal revelations they would experience a break-through of power and light in their own lives. When this break-through happened they would have the power to heal the sick. [7]

Interactions with Outsiders

The Amish appreciate any nonthreatening relationships with outsiders. They understand the purpose of secular government, and believe that it should, in words spoken by Menno Simons, “punish the evil, to protect the good, and to administer righteous justice.”  Amish people often will buy staples, such as flour and sugar, from “outsider” stores. On the other hand, Amish Colonies often open up little shops to sell goods they make in their own homes, such as bakeries, furniture stores, and quilt shops. They can also be seen roofing someone’s house. However, these interactions are to gain a strong economic base for the Community and family, when it comes to things like helping non-Amish neighbors with tasks such as harvesting, they made only assist in times of emergency.

[1]Information from _What is Quakerism? A Primer by George T. Peck
[2]Information on Mennonites came from _Our Mennonite Heritage by Edward Yoder
[3]Information on the Amish came from _Amish Roots edited by John A. Hostetler
[7_]Information from _America Religions and Religion_ by Catherine L. Albanese.


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