AJ and the Amish
By A.J. Jacobs
During my year of living biblically, I made several pilgrimages across America. I wanted to embed myself in various communities that live the Bible literally in their own way "“ from Hasidic Jews to evangelical Christians. I also invited religious people to my house. I think I'm the only person in American history to out-Bible talk a Jehovah's Witness. After about three hours, he looked at his watch and said, "I gotta go."
One of my first trips was to Amish country in Lancaster County. My wife and I drove down from New York (I'm proud to say that I have absolutely no urge to make a double entendre when we passed Intercourse, Pennsylvania, which I see as a great moral victory).
To be biblically honest, I was a little leery of going to Amish country - the Amish have been a go-to religious punchline for so long, sort of the Carrot Top or Jazzercise of American spirituality, and I didn't want to fall into that trap. I didn't want to seem like I was mocking them.
In the end, I'm glad I went. I learned a huge amount and got to experience the beauty of the Amish culture. Plus, I got to hear an Amish joke told by an actual Amish person, which was a pleasant surprise.
Here are five Amish facts I learned during my year:
- If you browse websites about the Amish, you'll often see a lot of pictures of the backs of their heads. The Amish follow strictly the second commandment "“ you shall not make graven images. And they are also concerned with appearing vain. So they don't like their faces photographed. They compromise by showing the back of their heads.
- Amish have beards in accordance with Leviticus, which forbids the shaving of the corners of your beard. But they do shave their moustaches. The moustache was thought to have military associations by the early Amish, who came over from Switzerland in the 18th century.
- The Amish do tell Amish jokes. My wife and I stayed at an Amish man's house, and he told us one. (Note: Please lower your expectations. The Amish are working with some pretty tight constraints here). Okay, here goes:
The joke and more Amish facts after the jump...
Q: What happened when the Mennonite man married the Amish woman?
A: She drove him buggy."
The Amish perform a foot-washing ritual, in accordance with the New Testament's John 13:5, which says "If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example"¦"
- Amish sports are the quietest sports in the world. Here's what my wife and I saw as we were leaving Amish country.
"I spot a cluster of about 30 buggies. We pull over to see what's happening. We have stumbled onto an Amish baseball game. Many discourage competitive sports. But here are 18 Amish teenage boys, their sleeves rolled up, their shirts and suspenders dark with sweat. Julie and I watch for a long time. These kids are good, but something is off about the game. I realize after a few minutes what it is: This is the quietest baseball game I've ever seen. No trash talk. No cheering from the parents in the stands. Near silence, except for the occasional crack of the bat. It is eerie and peaceful and beautiful."
PS Thanks for all the great comments on my first post. You make me commit the sin of pride!
>>Click here to purchase AJ's new book The Year of Living Bibilically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible today.