Many of the European Christian settlers who colonized North America were fleeing religious persecution in their home countries in order to begin anew in the New World. About a century after the first Pilgrims arrived here, according to PBS, another Christian group arrived. However, unlike the original (as well as later) settlers, this group, originally from Switzerland, did not fully integrate itself into the new society. Instead, they kept to themselves and retreated inward into their own communities, eschewing outside influences and focusing solely on simple living and the betterment of their own micro-society. Today we know this Christian group as the Amish.
These days, modern American society largely fails to understand this group. They’re viewed as quaint, almost like living tourist attractions, for their simple agrarian lifestyles and their steadfast avoidance of most modern conveniences. However, there’s another aspect to life in the Amish community that is often overlooked: they also refuse to serve in the military, for two main reasons.
The Amish are steadfast pacifists
Though many Christians have no qualms about serving in the military, perhaps seeing fighting and dying for one’s country as part of a higher duty to God, the Amish don’t see things that way, according to the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. Instead, they point to the Bible’s teachings about humility and forgiveness, and therefore eschew all forms of violence. That means they don’t fight with each other, they don’t sue in court when they’ve been wronged (because involving the authorities could involve the police, which could in turn inform violence), and if their neighbors are hostile, they’ll simply move instead of risking physical confrontation. Serving in the military, which at the very least would involve training to use a gun, is right out.
This refusal to serve has resulted in Amish men of draft age being conscripted into other kinds of service, according to PBS. For example, in World War II, Amish men who were drafted were put to work in hospitals or doing forestry work instead of being conscripted into the war effort.
Serving in the military means submission to modern society
A second reason the Amish avoid military service comes from their larger goal of focusing all of their efforts on the life of their own community, rather than outside society. If Amish were to join the military, they would have to leave their community and would instead be a part of regular society, which is something this group tends to avoid.
This avoidance of outside society is at least partially why the Amish have developed an image of quaint, technology-avoiding agrarians. They don’t drive automobiles, for example, or connect to the electric grid for these same reasons. Similarly, this avoidance of connecting to outside society is why the Amish don’t file lawsuits, don’t vote, don’t hold elected office, and won’t serve on juries, according to the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. Similarly, Amish communities have butted heads with state officials when it comes to enrolling their children in public schools. For example, as Ohio’s Amish Country reports, Amish children in that state are only required to send their children to school through 8th grade.
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