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Religion across America: part 1?

We have been exposed to the infinite realities of religion in America and how many communities are fundamentally based in their religious ties. The groups we have come across, historically, all left their home countries for greater religious freedom, (like those on the Mayflower) and have formed communities throughout our vast nation. We have met (and slept on the lawns of some) the Amish, The Amana, and Mennonites to mention a few. In a few days, we will meet the Mormons! Here we come Southern Utah!

The Amana are a group of religious dissidents from mainstream Germany in the 1700s. They advocated reflection and prayer and the individual voice. They were persecuted, although they preached no conflict. They lived communally and shared their resources and property, living off the land and each other. They are known in American History as the “largest religious communal society.” However, during the Great Depression, communal sharing inhibited personal achievement. They decided to maintain strong community ties and the church, but private endeavors were highly encouraged as well. Now, they are open to tourism, which is most likely their largest economy, both from actual tours and sales of Amana merchandise, (like AMANA Refrigerators!).

Although the life and culture of the Amanas has become quite dependent of “foreign interest,” (i.e. tourism), the Amish are another group that is only starting to leave their tight knit communal workforce in order to propagate their economies.

The Amish, the most common being German Amish, of whom we have seen in multiple states are truly a sight since prior, I have only heard about them in passing or in text books. Originating from a schism in the church, this population now resides in many of the states we have passed through. Pennsylvania and Indiana are the two states most commonly referenced when speaking about the Amish, but we have seen more of them in Iowa, where the shoulders are purposely made wider to accommodate for Amish traffic. However, bike tires and the tires of the wagons are quite different in size and the extra wide shoulder was unpaved, filled with gravel. The further we went into Iowa, we encountered more and more Amish land, traveling on country roads in the south. In these small towns, the Amish were respected by the communities and even traveled on the main road. No farmer or local that we spoke with felt resentment towards the Amish; they did express though, that many of the Amish communities were reaching out and working beyond their immediate communities.


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