Hutterites - Religion and Expressive Culture
Religious Beliefs. Hutterite religious beliefs are the major force shaping their values and behavior. Hutterite religion follows Christianity, with some significant differences in belief and practice. The major difference is the Hutterite belief that humans can be "saved" or "returned to God" only through communal living in a Christian community. The universe is seen as composed of a heaven ( Himmel ) and a lower part composed of earth ( Erde ) and hell ( Ort des Gefangniss). God is seen as omnipotent.
Religious Practitioners. The head preacher of each Colony is responsible for all aspects of colony life. He is supervised by his colony church and other colony head preachers in his Leut. Head preachers are always men and only baptized men may vote on colony issues and select leaders. The head preacher is assisted by an assistant preacher.
Ceremonies. The evening church service is an integral part of Hutterite life. Services are led by the head preacher and involve the singing of hymns, a sermon, and prayer. Sunday services are somewhat more involved and elaborate, and in many colonies Sunday is a day of rest and no or little work is performed. The major annual spiritual event is Holy Communion, taken by all baptized men and women on the day after Easter. Church attendance generally requires the wearing of special church clothes. Baptism at about age nineteen for women and from ages twenty to twenty-six for men is the most important rite of passage for Hutterites. It signifies adult status, is a prerequisite for marriage, and often creates closer bonds between the now-adult children and their parents.
Arts. Traditional crafts such as pottery making and decorative sewing have now largely disappeared, though clothing style is an important indicator of Leut identity. Sports and dancing are virtually absent, and individual hobbies tend toward productive activities such as electrical wiring. Singing is the central expressive activity. Hutterites sing in church, at school, at home, and during group activities. There is a rich and varied repertoire of songs and hymns.
Medicine. Medical care is largely free of religious content and physicians are routinely used. Hutterite chiropractors are used by both colony members and outsiders. The Hutterites have been the object of intense study by mental health Researchers and display an unusually high incidence of affective psychoses and low incidence of schizophrenia when compared to other groups and the U.S. population in general. The Hutterites also display a culture-specific disorder called Anfechtung, characterized by a feeling of having sinned. Treatment is through talk with the preacher, prayer, and confession, usually producing a cure.
Death and Afterlife. Death is seen as the step leading to paradise for those who have lived a faithful life. Burial usually follows three days after the death and is preceded by a wake and an in-gathering of colony members and baptized Members of other colonies. The communal life provides emotional support for the family of the deceased.