Amish in Illinois – Frequently Asked Questions

Amish Buggy in the FogWhat language do the Amish speak?
If you have ever visited the Illinois Amish country and Arthur, Illinois you may have noticed that the Amish people speak a language other than English. The Amish all speak a language called  Pennsylvania Dutch which is a dialect of German similar to that used in northern Germany.  The children are all raised in a household speaking Pennsylvania Dutch and are later taught English when they start school.  All Amish church services are also given in Pennsylvania Dutch.

Why is woodworking so important in the Amish community?
The Amish folks are strongly family and community centric, and wood working provides them an opportunity to make a living inside their community as their population expands, and available ground for traditional farming gets ever tighter. With a relatively small investment a young Amish family can set up a small specialized wood shop, at home, on the farm, and with attention to detail create pieces of very high quality. Often they procure necessary supplies and components from other Amish shops, circulating the dollars within the Amish community.

Why do the Amish not shave their beards?
In the Amish culture men stop shaving their beards when they become married. The beard is mentioned quite a few times in the bible.  A long beard is the mark of a adult Amish man.  The Amish do steer clear of mustaches, though.  Throughout history the mustache has been used in the military tradition and is forbidden to the Amish.

I was under the impression that the Amish don’t believe in using
cars yet I see them in cars and vans all the time.  What is their
actual stance on motorized vehicles?
Over the years many of the Amish have come to accept some modernization as a means to meet the standards of living.   The Amish believe that owning a car would separate the Amish community by inequality and would be used to show status of wealth and power.  Because of this the Amish had little hesitation in the decision to not allow ownership of motorized vehicles.  Because the Amish have family members spread out throughout the country though, the Amish have found it acceptable to hire drivers to allow them to visit distances that they just could not travel by horse and buggy.

Will the Amish visit a doctor’s office?
The majority of the Amish faith do not oppose the use of modern hospitals and many Amish family in the Illinois area visit modern doctors.  The Illinois Amish make use of many medical services  such as blood transfusions, surgeries, modern medicine, and dentists.  The Amish do believe, however, that the body and good health is a gift of God and that it is up to the individual to take care of it.  The Amish also do not have insurance and therefore must rely on the community to band together to help with emergencies.

Do the Amish pay the same kinds of taxes that non-Amish pay?
Amish that are self employed or employed by other Amish in the Amish custom furniture industry do not pay Social Security taxes.  They believe in self sufficiency and that the Amish families should take care of themselves and help other Amish families in need.  The Amish do, however, pay real estate, state and federal income taxes, county taxes, sales tax, etc.  Also, if they are employed by a non-Amish employer in Illinois social  security is paid for them.

Can I join the Amish religion?
The short answer is “Yes” an outsider can join the Amish church. Most people than have grown up with modern conveniences find that they cannot make the transition to the lifestyle that the Amish live. Giving up electricity, cars, and other modern conveniences proves to be to difficult for most.  Also, you must be able to put in the time and live among the Amish to prove that lifestyle has been changed and that the person life is ready to make the dedication to the Bible that is needed.

Do the Amish look down upon those that are not Amish?Amish Buggy in the Illinois Winter
The Amish have chosen to live their life the way that they do and have deliberately chosen what is and isn’t allowed in their lifestyle.  The Amish do not believe in passing judgment on outsiders.

Why do Amish houses not have electricity?
The Amish culture in Illinois values simple lifestyles and self-sufficiency over comfort, convenience, and leisure.  They also believe that having electricity will lead to other temptations that come
with connection to the rest of the world.  They do not believe that the electricity itself is evil, just the deterioration of church and family lifestyle that can come as a result of it.

Why are we not allowed to take pictures of the Amish?
It all stems from Exodus 20:4: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.”  Because of this the Illinois Amish people would prefer that visitors to the Illinois Amish country not take their photos.

Amish information received from the Amish Illinois website.