Art, Culture, and the Amish

Say the word “CULTURE” and “ART” to people. Ask them what comes to mind. In New York City, people will probably say the opera or Metropolitan Museum of History. People might even mention Vermeer or Monet as favorite artists.

However, I doubt any of the people would mention Amish as great artists or being full of culture.

I beg to differ.

Every Amish farm (with the exception of one) that I have visited has been a work of art. In the spring and summer, flowers burst forth, adding color and life to the farms and houses. Sometimes, they will even embed household items into the flower designs. Clothes lines hang a reminder of the color associated with the Amish: purples, blue, green, and pink. Even the landscape around some of their out-buildings are creative and thoughtful.

Attend an Amish church service and listen to the hymns. They are songs that tell of stories, an indication of the advanced culture of these people. The songs were written hundreds of years ago and reminisce on the years of persecution that the Anabaptist followers endured at the hands of the state church (which varied, depending on the country that resided).

The definition of culture, a word which stems from Latin (cultura), is the improvement or refinement of oneself through education and/or ideals. Many times, being cultured comes with a heavy price. Websters Dictionary has several definitions which apply:

  1. the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations
  2. the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group;

Despite years of persecution at the hands of horrible, deceitful people who cared more for the coffers and control of their state church than the truth of Jesus, the Mennonites and Amish persevered. They have fought to preserve their culture and to pass it down to subsequent generations. Today, these amazing people are admired by many people who, in days past, might have belonged to the very groups that persecuted them. Today, we look back on those who persecuted with pity and, in some cases, anger.

Why did these self-professed “Christians” continually attack these peaceful Anabaptist followers who wanted only to worship God in their own way? They even enlisted others to do their dirty work of accusing the Anabaptist and burning them at the stake. Why? Was it jealousy? Was it obsession? Was there a hint of mental issues at the root of the persecutors?

We may never know. But one thing is for sure and certain…the Amish are to be admired for their ability to survive and flourish against amazing odds. I’m proud of my family heritage as European Mennonites that came to America in the early 1700s. And, what’s more, I forgive those persecutors. Nay, I feel sorry for them. They missed out on meeting some of the most amazing people and wasted an awful lot of time trying to destroy them.

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