I admit it! At first, I generalized this practice. Thought I understood. Then I discovered how complex the practice is among Amish. Just as the Amish cannot be generalized, shunning is broader and deeper than most outsiders think.
In my December 12 post It's Sad. Breaks my Heart, I share about a married Swartzentruber Amish man who is desperate to leave. He's held by fears - intimidating consequences to himself, his wife, and kids. As a Church member, he and his family must be shunned for leaving the fold.
A new runaway, Harvey, joined us on Christmas Day. This Harvey is 21-years-old and had joined the Amish Church early - at 17-years.
Consequently, by leaving he is entirely shunned - by his family and Church, which includes the entire settlement.
"I'm the first one to leave my settlement," Harvey told me. His dark hair already cut short. His dimples and politeness, "yes, M'am," irresistible to this Mom.
"Aww, I'm sorry," I replied to him, putting my arm around his shoulder for comfort.
So what happens when a member in the settlement
- talks to,
- eats with,
- rides in a car driven by,
- takes an object directly from the hand of a former member?
Now this is the way it's supposed to be. But what's suppose to happen and what does can differ. Some "rebel" Amish will still talk to a shunned person.
What about those who leave - like Mosie, our son-in-law Harvey, Josh, Monroe, Sarah - and they haven't joined the Amish Church?
Technically, they aren't shunned - their name isn't on the list - but, family members may choose to shun for a period of time. Rolling your eyes in confusion yet?
In the higher - progressive - orders such as New or Beachy Order Amish, it's a misconception that individuals who decide against baptism and Church membership are automatically shunned. For the most part, if a person chooses not to join, his/her decision is accepted (though not approved of) and the family/settlement accepts the individual. If the individual joins the Church and then leaves, he/she *may* be shunned as a last resort. More probably, it'd be a verbal disapproval or condemning look.
Amish say they'll welcome the wayward back. Even if shunned. As long as that individual makes public confession and apology.
When asked what about the Amish they wish would change, overwhelmingly all the ex-Amish I know said, "Shunning."
See more about this painful practice in PBS TV's The Amish: Shunned. I know the PBS producer and she told me all about this sequel to her first documentary in which I, Mosie, my daughter, husband, and Harvey appeared at Levi's birthday. Also read my friend John's blog, amishshunnedandfree.
What do YOU think about this practice? Does it have Biblical grounds? Could you shun your child if you believed he/she was turning away from your perception of Truth? Leave your comment or story below in the "Comments."
(C)Copyright, Brenda Nixon. 2014.