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Unit 1.11 – Return of the Amish

Congratulations to everyone who got the results they needed today. And to those of you who did not, here’s a nice easy unit of questions to ween you back into studying. (Sorry, get yourselves an ice cream or something!)

Difficulty: Easy

Time: 6 minutes


The following is an extract from Alleluia America! – An Irish Journalist in Bush Country, by Carole Coleman

Almost three centuries after their arrival from Europe in a small group of a few hundred, there are now about one hundred and fifty thousand Americans living the Amish lifestyle – twenty-five thousand of them in this corner of Pennsylvania. The Amish are descendants of the sixteenth-century Anabaptists, a religious group formed in Europe. “Anabaptist” means to be opposed to the practice of infant baptism. As they see it people should join a church when they are young adults and in a position to reject or accept membership for themselves. The original Anabaptists were the Mennonites, followers of a former Catholic priest called Menno Simons, but in 1693 in Switzerland, a new group called the Amish split from the Mennonites, claiming the latter had become too lax in enforcing certain rules. The Amish believed that errant or lapsed church members needed to be shunned until they had repented and come back into compliance with the strict rules that govern how they live. Like many groups remaining outside of the mainstream European religions of the time, the Amish suffered persecution and in the eighteenth century some moved to the United States. They settled on farmland in Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska and in Pennsylvania, where Willian Penn’s experiment in religious tolerance had begun. Eventually they too disagreed over rules on how to live their lives and split into a number of smaller groups, including the New Order Amish and Beachy Amish, who are more liberal than the Old Order.


1.             Which American state is the journalist most likely writing from?

  • A            Nebraska
  • B            Ohio
  • C            Pennsylvania
  • D            Missouri



2.             For what reason were the Anabaptists opposed to infant baptism?

  • A            Baptism was a sacrament of a religion which they didn’t believe in.
  • B            They believed babies should be allowed choose whether or not to be baptised.
  • C            Because it was unnecessary.
  • D            It forces infants into Christianity before they are old enough to decide for themselves.


3.             The word “errant” (line 10) is closest in meaning to:

  • A            erratic
  • B            unusual
  • C            misbehaving
  • D            adventurous


4.             The purpose of this paragraph is to:

  • A            Explain how the Amish came to exist in America
  • B            Compare the Amish lifestyle with that of the typical American
  • C            Highlight the difference between Old and New Order Amish
  • D            Illustrate why the Amish were persecuted in 18th century Europe
  • 1: C
    Line 3; “…this corner of Pennsylvania” suggests that the author is writing from within Pennsylvania. References are made to other states which the Amish settled in but there is no implicit connection between the author and those locations.

    Line 5 onwards; “As they see it people should join a church when they are young adults and in a position to reject or accept membership for themselves.” Answer D is simply an inversion of this statement. Babies are not in a position to reject or accept membership for themselves. The rest of the passage discusses the troubles the Mennonites had with other sects of Christianity, but is not ultimately not needed to answer the question.

    The meaning of the word ‘errant’ here is derived from context. From lines 10 – 12 we can infer that an errant church member is one who is not ‘in compliance with the strict rules’ of the Amish. The closest word for describing someone like this is one who is misbehaving, therefore the answer is C.

    Answer B is wrong because there is no reference to ‘typical Americans’ in the piece. Answer C is wrong because the New Order Amish are not even mentioned until the last line, and the differentiation provided between them and the Old Order is brief and vague.
    Answer D is wrong because the piece does not explain in any significant detail why the Amish were persecuted – only briefly suggesting so on the basis that they were outside mainstream European religions.
    Answer A is therefore correct. The piece could accurately be described as an historical account of the origins of the Amish in America.

    Gamsat Sample Questions

    May 22, 2012

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