A little boy runs home after returning home from school. He knows in a few years he will no longer be attending the school, but taught at home by his parents. His homeschooling will help him from staying away from controversial ideas and it will teach him important values that his family and community share. For now, the boy will spend the rest of his day helping his father in the field and caring for livestock around the farm. He knows he will later have the ultimate choice to stay and be baptized in the Amish church or choose a “corrupting” lifestyle of a modernized American world. The children of the community are, in fact, the future of the Amish population. By understanding the children within the Amish society, a person will comprehend the culture and religion by looking into the daily life of an Amish child while recognizing they are not much different from other cultures.
By starting from the beginning, one is able to comprehend the Amish society more thoroughly. The foundation of Amish culture centralizes itself around Martin Luther and his protest against the Catholic Church back in 1517, which led to the Protestant Reformation and the Radical Reformation. A small group started to criticize the early infant baptisms and childhood Mass. According to Donald B. Kraybill, a distinguished college professor of sociology and religious studies, the rebellious group known as Anabaptists, believed that baptism was meant for obedient adults who were willing to devote oneself to the literal and radical teachings of Jesus Christ (3). Therefore, the Anabaptists exposed the belief of adult baptism.
The Anabaptist movement birthed three groups during the Reformation, one being the Swiss Brethren, which the Amish take its roots. The founder of the Amish, Jacob Ammann, was the Anabaptist leader in Alsace, and is where the Amish take their name from (Kraybill 6). It is uncertain when exactly the first Amish immigrants arrived in America, however during the eighteenth century immigration for the culture peaked in 1727 and 1770 (Kraybill 8). Many of these immigrants came to America for religious freedom from persecutions in European nations. An expert on the Amish culture, born but not baptized into the faith, is John A. Hostetler. He had stated that the persecutions of the Anabaptists occurred in early European history: the Anabaptists were arrested, tortured, exiled and even put to death (Hostetler 27). Because of this, the Amish and other sects of the Anabaptists fled Europe and came to the America.
Along with their intricate background, the Amish have an interesting belief system. Wendy Strauch-Nelson, an Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, stated, “Their life is based on five central principles: separation from the world, voluntary adult baptism, the maintenance of a disciplined church-community, the practice of shunning, and a closeness to nature” (14). Amish live by these basic five principles even though others may not know much about the culture other than the separation from the world and disciplined church-community. While growing up in an Amish community, the child appears sinless to the eyes of the family. The children, therefore, are considered sinless because they do not know the difference between right and wrong (Hostetler 157). Because of this reason, the parents must teach the Amish’s moral ideals onto the children hoping that they will choose correctly. Voluntary adult baptism undoubtedly becomes one of the principles that many tend to overlook within the Amish religion. The history and basic understanding of the Amish culture is necessary when focusing in on the complex society that Amish live. However, it is the period between their childhoods to early adulthood that will be most beneficial to look at while understanding that the Amish society is not at all as trivial or primitive as one may perceive. Children in the Amish