Amish Rumspringa

Many–most?–people who know a little about Amish view rumspringa as a time when the Amish church condones, if not encourages, young people to live it up and sow their wild oats, get the world out of their system, to see if they really want to join the Amish church or not. This false view is undoubtedly propounded by the “Amish fiction” genre of literature, as well as a TV documentary or two.

Saloma Furlong effectively dismantles this understanding. Anyone serious about understanding Amish culture needs to listen to what she says here. This section was particularly good–

The expectation that Amish parents and elders have is that their young people will become baptized members of the church. Parents are told that if they raise their children right, they won’t leave the Amish. The parents are also told that it is better to lose a child through death, than to lose a son or daughter “to the world.” Children are taught from the time they can understand the concept that because they were born Amish, God wants them to stay Amish and if they leave, all hope of their salvation will be lost. In other words, they will go to Hell if they leave. This belief is reinforced with fire and brimstone preaching in church.The guilt trap is set — for both the Amish parents and the young people.

The “choice” Amish people have about leaving the culture is much like the one about committing suicide – we know our whole lives that we have that choice, but the only time we think about it is when we are tempted to do so.

So, if you see an Amish young person blatantly defying Amish rules know that these are acts of rebellion — a far cry from being granted a free choice. I can assure you the parents or elders of the church are not encouraging this behavior.

I would also point you to a recent, excellent book, Growing Up Amish. I’ve encouraged our folks at Orwell Bible Church to read it, very good.

Amish Taxes

I often get asked questions from my friends and contacts about the Amish, and one of them is “do Amish pay taxes?” Yes, they do, but they are exempt from social security. If you’re more interested about it, read this.

On a different note, the Amish evidently also have their own “taxes” within their church district. Read on…

Each of the church districts in Somerset County has two trustees. They took care of all the donations when ever there was a hospital bill or another need in the community as well as taking care of the church and school expenses.

Every five years they took a month to visit every family to go over all their financial information to decide how much you had to pay in church taxes.  LV and I detested that meeting more than anything else. The bishop used to announce in church when they were planning to make their rounds and encouraged everyone to stay at home so that you would be available when they stopped in.

The head trustee in our district was a short pompous guy with a long scraggly beard. He strutted with an air of utmost importance at the job he had to do being in charge of everyone including the bishop.

The time had arrived that they were making their rounds again and we knew our turn to be interrogated would soon be here. I was only a few weeks away from having our baby and was in no mood to be stuck in the house with those men. LV made plans to take Sailor and me over to spend the day with my parents as soon as they arrived.

According to our plan LV gave me a ride to my parents and then hurried home to get the unpleasant deal with the trustees over. They had brought all their papers in their satchels and proceeded to need to know exactly how much money we had in the bank and in our pocketbook, how much debt we had and what we owned. The list of things they had that needed to be answered was ridiculous, it seemed the only thing they forgot to ask was how many rolls of toilet paper we had on hand.

So evidently Amish don’t exactly practice “free-will offerings.” You can read the whole post here.

Amish Doubts

Here is a snippet from a post from a former Amish detailing the doubts she and her husband began to have and their search for answers from their bishop–

Arriving at the bishops house he invited us into his study which seemed like only an over sized closet. We tried to tell him how we felt, all our feelings of doubt and fear that something was wrong. That the thought of eternity was terrifying.  He sat there and listened to everything. Once we were done talking he said that we really don’t have anything to be worried or concerned about because we were really good people.

We went home knowing that what ever it was that was bothering us was still there and now felt totally helpless on how to deal with it.

Every time we started having doubts and questions we now tried to suppress them and buried ourselves in our work and renewed resolve to be the best Amish people we could be. If the bishop didn’t have answers there was no where else to turn.

Leaving Amish Paradise

This looks like an interesting documentary by the BBC; I’ll have to see about finding it.

After watching this video, try to put yourself in the shoes of an ex-Amish–all your life practically everything was decided for you. Now, suddenly, you’re on your own. How do you make decisions? What do you choose? How do you know what’s right or wrong?

As we minister to the Amish around us, we need to be ready to give biblical answers and direction!

Separatism, Individualism, Culture, and…Clothes?

Erik Wesner at Amish America pointed my attention to yet another resource on the Amish and other Anabaptist groups (there’s been a lot published lately). This one is by renowned Anabaptist scholar Donald Kraybill,  Concise Encyclopedia of Amish, Brethren, Hutterites, and Mennonites.

Erik’s post includes a brief interview with Kraybill, and he asked a great question: What aspects distinguish more conservative Anabaptists from more “liberal” ones? Kraybill pointed to two key components, (1) how separated from the world they were, and (2) whether moral authority is vested in the group or the individual. Then Kraybill noted that one can tell how separated from the world they are:

In short: it’s about separatism and individualism. I see dress as the key indicator of where a group stands on the continuum. Churches which require a prescribed dress for their members are toward the traditional whole because dress signals a more separatist boundary with the larger culture.

There’s a lot that could be said here. One thing I think of is that the culture is distinguished by its clothing (or lack thereof!). From an application standpoint, a believer’s relation and commitment to Christ and His church or the world is demonstrated by one’s clothing. Am I concerned about keeping up with the latest trends and fashions? How is that demonstrated in what I spend money on? I could keep going….