Amish Shunning Rules
Amish shunning rules are immensely fascinating to the outside world, but what exactly are they and how does shunning work?
The Amish have a unique culture, rich with many do’s and don’ts. If a member of an Amish community willingly violates agreed-upon rules, they may be shunned by the community.
What does that mean precisely?
This article will discuss what shunning is, why it happens, and what happens when a community member is shunned.
What this article covers:
What Is Shunning?
Shunning involves a painful separation of a person from their community. A person is no longer allowed to eat or take rides with the other community members. They’re not even allowed to give people gifts anymore.
Generally speaking, they’re not included in any community activities.
Despite popular belief, the person isn’t cut off entirely. The community will still converse with them and give help where absolutely necessary.
Although the exact procedures vary amongst different Amish sects, shunning is widely considered key to maintaining the integrity of the Amish church.
The Amish live in close-knit communities where each member relies heavily on social support from its members.
Because of this, being shunned can take a massive toll on a person. It’s difficult for someone to survive without the support they’ve grown accustomed to, and shunning can also make it nearly impossible for a person to earn a living.
Many Amish families earn income by selling crafts, such as wicker pie carriers, large easter baskets, or vintage wooden bread boxes as their profession. However, according to the Amish shunning rules, no one is permitted to do business with a shunned person, therefore it’s likely they’ll lose their source of income.
This is what makes shunning so effective in keeping the community together and ensuring everyone sticks to the agreed-upon community rules.
Why Does Shunning Occur?
Amish shunning rules have biblical roots, and as Christians, the Amish attach great importance to them.
It’s easy for outsiders to misunderstand the reasons behind shunning. Rather than a punishment, the Amish see it as an act of love and concern for a member of their community.
To understand Amish shunning rules completely, let’s first look at Amish culture.
The Amish are known for their focus on simple living and family-orientated life. Their lives are governed by certain Amish lifestyle rules known as Ordnung.
They enjoy craftsmanship, value humility, use little to no technology and wear plain dress.
All of this is done in strict accordance with Ordnung. Even their Amish baby dolls are created faceless to reduce the emphasis on beauty.
With these values embedded deeply into their culture, it’s essential that community members adhere to Ordnung.
If a person strays away from tradition and deliberately breaks the community rules, they’re at risk of being shunned.
What’s The Purpose of Shunning?
The Amish practice shunning out of concern for a person. By shunning someone, they hope to get someone to see errors in their behavior, change it and return to the community.
They want to enforce someone’s commitment to God by encouraging acceptable behavior.
Moreover, they also wish to protect the community from harmful outside influences. By enforcing Amish shunning rules, they remove the person and their negative influence on the rest of the group.
When Does Shunning Occur?
Amish shunning rules can appear rather tame in comparison to other groups who painfully cut all ties with an ex-member.
This is because Amish shunning rules state that shunning is a last resort. Before shunning, the community will often discuss the problem, hoping that the person will confess in front of the bishop or the community itself.
After confession, the person may be temporarily shunned, for up to 6 weeks. Afterwards, the status quo returns, and all is forgiven.
It’s actually rare for a person to be shunned from an Amish community. Yet, it’s still an intriguing topic for an outsider.
Let’s delve into some of the reasons why a person may be shunned.
Reasons for Shunning
Amish rituals and traditions are rooted deeply in Christianity.
Therefore, if a member of the community commits a sin mentioned in the Bible, it’s likely that they will be shunned.
Sins like fornication, adultery, stealing, and lying are all offenses worthy of shunning.
This is to discourage other members of the community from committing the same sin.
Leaving the Community
This one varies amongst different Amish groups, but shunning can occur when a person leaves their church.
In some communities, it’s perfectly acceptable to leave one community and join another like-minded church. In this instance, shunning would not occur.
However, some communities regard this negatively and would shun the person for leaving.
Breaking the Community Rules
As mentioned, Amish communities center around Amish Ordnung rules, which refers to the set of community rules or guidelines that its members live by.
The rules include what kinds of clothes people can wear, which recreational activities they can partake in, which technologies are permissible, and even Amish bedroom customs.
The Amish review Ordnung rules twice each year. If there’s something the community wants to change, church leaders may allow it temporarily and eventually change the rules.
This is, in fact, a rare occurrence, as most people agree on the rules and don’t wish to change them.
The Amish are sometimes called “Plain People” which is usually a nod to their plain dress.
One of the Amish rules for women is that they must wear modest, simple, and plain clothing.
They typically own 4 dresses and are simple colors including brown, black, blue, green, and burgundy. They may have additional church dresses of similar style and colors.
Amish men wear black suits and pants.
The Amish adhere to this rule because they believe beauty is unimportant, and vanity is unwelcome.
If a person chooses not to wear this agreed-upon wardrobe, it’s a notable offense.
Amish women don’t cut their hair and must wear a prayer covering when they are outside. Men also have simple haircuts and their wives usually cut their hair for them.
Although violating this rule probably wouldn’t result in an immediate ban, continued defiance might do so.
The community would first attempt to resolve the matter by discussing it openly with the offender and encouraging them to change their behavior.
Using Banned Technology
Another defining characteristic of the Amish is their resistance to the use of technology.
They prefer to stick to basic ways of living and don’t typically allow televisions, radios, cars, or electricity.
For that reason, if a person uses a particular technology, they may be at risk of shunning.
This is mainly to protect the rest of the community from what they see as a harmful outside influence.
It’s worth acknowledging that different communities allow different technologies. New Order Amish, for example, allow moderate electricity, and some permit telephones in their homes.
So, in these communities, people wouldn’t be shunned for using this technology as they haven’t broken any rules.
Running for Government
Not being allowed to enter politics is more of a blessing than a curse, some might say.
Ordnung strictly forbids running for government. The Amish practice nonresistance, which prohibits force against others. Being part of a government is included here.
A person would be shunned for participating in any political race.
Marrying the Wrong Person
Arranged marriages don’t exist in Amish culture. However, they’re expected to marry within the same community.
If someone chooses to marry an outsider, even if it’s someone from a different Amish community, they may be shunned.
This is because the Amish want to remain close communities and limit potentially harmful outside influences.
Getting a Divorce
While the rest of the world is experiencing a divorce epidemic, the Amish are remaining true to their vows and committed to their relationships.
If a couple does succeed in getting a divorce (which is only allowed in extreme circumstances), it’s likely they’ll both be shunned.
This may be to set an example to other members of the community and deter them from seeking a divorce, too.
Violence or Confrontation
The Amish are also known for being peaceful and non-violent people.
Because they believe in Christian Pacifism, they don’t engage in military service.
An act of violence is likely to result in immediate shunning and it would be nearly impossible to rejoin the community.
Amish shunning rules are remarkably complex and vary between different Amish groups.
Individual churches decide on the grounds for shunning in their community. While some communities are incredibly strict, others are more lenient with their views toward shunning.
It’s worth noting that only a member of an Amish community can be shunned. Outsiders, children, and those who have not been baptized into the church aren’t eligible.
While it seems as though there are lots of reasons a person might get shunned, it’s important to remember that it doesn’t actually happen that often.
The Amish are typically happy with their lives and agree with the Ordnung rules that they live by. Simplistic living, craftsmanship, and humility are virtues that could do the rest of us a world of good.
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