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The Amish are often portrayed in our world as being opposed to doctors, hospitals, and modern medical care. This is simply not the case. While the Amish may have cautions about certain practices and are concerned about the level of engagement that government programs require, there is nothing in their religious teachings or traditional tenets of faith against the medical field and medical practices.
The Amish, like many other Christian groups, ultimately feel that all healing comes from God. If God uses the doctors and the medical field to bring about that healing, in the end the honor for that healing still belongs to God. And while much prayer is enjoined, faith healing has never been a strong element among the Amish. They also believe that good mental and physical health is gift from God and requires careful stewardship in both prevention and treatment.
Home remedies and traditional folk practices exist among the Amish, as it does in nearly every other rural subculture. Some of these practices may be traced back hundreds of years to medieval European practices which were brought to America and retained as part of the Amish world. As with many other people the Amish believe that good food, vinegar, honey, and other natural foods have stood the test of time and assist the healing and nourishing of the body. Chiropractic care is often highly rated and there are many professionals who have Amish clientele.
With this perspective and focus there are those members of the community who have gravitated towards some of the non-traditional and perhaps even questionable practices in holistic and naturalistic fields. Cancer clinics in Mexico, springs and mines in the Americas, and many forms of herbal, weight loss, and supplemental programs; some of which are built on multi-level marketing schemes have found a ready and receptive audience among the Amish.
Yet most Amish respect the medical professionals and support them in a variety of ways. In the greater Holmes County area, Amish serve on hospital, clinics, and medical practice boards of directors. Most of the local hospital and doctor's offices have hitching rails and provisions for Amish clients and patients.
The largest portion of the Amish also participate in a church aid plan that provides assistance in payment of medical bills for their members. To date they have paid millions of dollars in bills, with no default. Because of their payment and their unwillingness to sue over supposed medical malfeasance the medical profession has learned to appreciate and engage the community and often makes special provisions for their Amish patients.
Because of the Amish focus on community and their views of mutual aid, a sense of place and belonging allows them to assist each other and in times of trauma and sickness extend assistance and emotional aid to each other. In their mind this allows for physical healing to happen in the context of community and support. And in cases where physical healing does not happen and disability and death occurs, the community is also there for the family and people affected by the events and cycles of life and death.
If you wish to learn more about the Amish, or Amish practices and their place in history, plan a visit the Amish & Mennonite Heritage Center. The Center offers guided tours of "Behalt" - a 10 ft. x 265 ft. cyclorama oil-on-canvas painting that illustrates the heritage of the Amish and Mennonite people from their Anabaptist beginnings in Zurich, Switzerland, to the present day. Behalt means "to keep" or "remember." The Center is open Mon-Sat 9:00-5:00 and is located near Berlin, OH at 5798 County Road 77, Millersburg, OH 44654. Please call (330) 893-3192 for more information or to schedule a group tour.
Marcus Yoder was born to an Amish family in the heart of Amish Country. His family later moved to the Mennonite church where Marcus takes an active role in preaching, teaching, and writing. He is the Executive Director of the Amish & Mennonite Heritage Center. In his thirties he decided to return to school and has a BA in history from The Ohio State University and a MA from Yale. He enjoys reading and writing and spending time with his wife, Norita.