The Amish community is a conservative Christian group committed to following a simple lifestyle. They believe in living separately from the "world," and to do so, they dress plainly, avoid technology, and limit their interactions with non-Amish people. The community is close-knit and works together to help each other out.
The lifestyle of the Amish in America may seem strange to outsiders, but it’s worked for them for centuries. Their dedication to isolation and commitment to traditional family values have prompted some to question if the Amish are a cult, but it's a robust and thriving Christian sect. This means it follows all of the basic tenets of Christianity, including punishing those who break the rules.
But how does Amish law deal with those who break the rules? What is the Amish way of handling criminals and punishment? This article provides comprehensive coverage of the Amish legal system, and how punishments are meted out.
What this article covers:
Amish Laws and Punishments
The Amish legal system is based on the Ordnung, which is a set of rules that guide everyday life. These rules are unwritten and passed down from generation to generation. They cover everything from how Amish people should dress to how they should conduct business. Breaking an Amish Ordnung rule is considered a serious offense.
The Amish believe in forgiveness, but they also believe in consequences. Offenders must make things right with those they've harmed and take responsibility for their actions. There are two main types of punishment in the Amish community: shunning, ex-communication.
Let's discuss each form of punishment in detail:
Shunning is the most well-known form of Amish punishment. It's a way to separate the offender from the community and make them realize the error of their ways. When someone is shunned, they're cut off from all social interaction. This includes family, friends, and even business associates. Shunning can be temporary or permanent.
Some of the more common Amish rules that can lead to shunning are:
- Gossiping: Amish people believe that gossiping is a sin. If you're caught gossiping, you may be shunned.
- Drinking alcohol: Drinking alcohol is against Amish values. They believe that it leads to sinful behavior. Therefore, if you're caught drinking, you may be shunned.
- Using technology: In the Amish community, you find kids playing with Amish dolls, not video games. People's homes have file boxes and storage baskets for shelves, not computers. The Amish believe that technology leads to sin and corruption. Therefore, if you're caught using technology, you may be shunned.
- Not attending church: Amish people are required to attend church every Sunday. They read Amish bible verses just like Christians do. Failing to attend church can lead to shunning.
- Inappropriate dressing: The Amish laws for women dictate that women should wear conservative clothing. This includes long dresses, bonnets, and aprons. Men, on the other hand, should wear plain clothes without any flashy embellishments. If you're caught dressing inappropriately, you may be shunned.
Remember, shunning reminds the wayward of their religious duties and the importance of Amish traditions. It's a way to get them back on track so they can live a good Amish life.
According to the Amish teachings, therefore, those who are shunned are still considered members of the community. They're just not allowed to participate in social activities. Shunning is seen as a way of motivating offenders to change their ways and repent for their offenses.
Personal communication doesn't stop just because someone is shunned. Family members may still send letters or gifts to the offender. But there's no face-to-face interaction allowed. The goal is for the offender to realize the error of their ways and change their behavior.
Excommunication is a more serious form of punishment than shunning. It's a way of permanently removing someone from the Amish community and is consistent throughout every type of Amish community. When someone is excommunicated, they're no longer considered Amish. They're not allowed to live in Amish settlements or participate in any Amish activities.
Some of the more serious offenses that can lead to excommunication are:
- Murder: The Amish believe that taking a life is the ultimate sin. If you're convicted of murder, you will be excommunicated from the community.
- Rape: Just like in modern society, rape is seen as a serious crime in the Amish community. Those convicted of rape will be excommunicated.
- Theft: Stealing is a serious offense in the Amish community. They believe in hard work and work together to achieve their goals. They are largely autonomous, farming their own lands to produce traditional Amish food and producing their own goods for sale to the outside world. Theft throws off the delicate balance that has been struck for hundreds of years. Those caught stealing are excommunicated from the community.
- Child abuse: The Amish believe that children are a gift from God. Those who abuse children will be excommunicated from the community.
Excommunicated members are not allowed to have any contact with the Amish community. This includes family, friends, and business associates. Excommunication is permanent, and there's no way to be reinstated into the community.
This form of punishment is seen as a way of protecting the community from those who have committed serious offenses. It's also seen as a way of protecting the innocent from those who might do them harm.
How Do the Amish Punish Their Children?
While the Amish are committed to loving and providing for their children, they believe it's their responsibility to raise their children in a good, Christian home above all else.
Discipline starts at a young age in Amish homes and is viewed as an integral part of Amish culture. Parents and elders use the biblical concept of "spare the rod, spoil the child" when disciplining their children. They believe that children need to be disciplined in order to learn right from wrong.
Corporal punishment is a common form of discipline in Amish homes. Boys are typically disciplined more than girls. This is because boys are seen as being more likely to get into trouble.
In Amish schools, teachers are also expected to use corporal punishment when disciplining students. This form of discipline is seen as a way of teaching children to be obedient and respectful. Although we largely consider the Amish people German, children are expected to learn English in school and must take their studies seriously. Though the Amish speak Pennsylvania Dutch predominantly, children must learn English to communicate with the outside world when necessary.
While corporal punishment is the most common form of discipline in Amish homes, it's not the only form. Parents may also use verbal and emotional forms of discipline, such as scolding or shaming. These methods are usually used for minor offenses.
A community governed by rule of law is a cornerstone of any society. From the information above, it’s evident that the Amish have a well-developed system of rules and punishments to maintain order.
While some of their methods may seem harsh to outsiders, they go a long way in preserving the Amish way of life.
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