John Yoder helps manage a Facebook community with over 8,000 members dedicated to learning about and discussing the Amish way of life. Here, he addresses some of the most common questions about the Amish.
Q: What is the biggest misconception about the Amish?
This will vary, depending on whom you ask. The misconception I hear the most often is that they don’t pay taxes. They teach and practice that taxes should be paid in full. They even pay all public school taxes, even though they run their own government-approved, parochial schools, which are 100% funded by the community. They receive no government funding for their schools. They do, however, have a legal exemption certificate for social security tax, which also waives benefits. They generally take care of their own elderly relatives.
As for the rest of the world, there are Amish who will cheat on their taxes in order to save money, but that is not approved by the church.
Q: What is the most challenging thing about being Amish?
Physically, the most challenging things I faced included working in the fields with horses and cutting firewood without a chain saw. (We had a buzz saw powered by a gas engine, but cutting trees and cutting them into poles to haul was done by hand saws.)
Q: What is the most difficult thing about living without electricity?
Converting electric driven machinery (table saws, drill presses, and other equipment) to belt-driven and to set up our engines to run it.
Q: Amish country is a huge travel draw – do the Amish mind the curiosity the Englisch have about them?
We were taught to try to answer questions respectfully, but to not get into deep conversations with Englischers. I would say we didn’t mind at all.
Q: Can anyone become Amish? How difficult is the process?
Some communities discourage outsiders from joining, while others welcome it. One of the first requirements is to learn the language and wear the proper clothes.
John Yoder was born in 1976 into an Amish community in Tomah, Wisconsin. Raised in the same Old-Order community he was born into, he married at age 20, and his first daughter was born in the same house he was born in. After moving to three different Old-Order Amish communities, his family decided to leave behind the Amish way of life.
The Yoders have nine children and make their home near Beeville, Texas. John pastors a small home-church and owns a commercial roofing business. He helps manage a Facebook page dedicated to answering questions about the Amish in an open and respectful environment.
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