Pros and cons of growing up Amish

Discuss

81 Responses to “Pros and cons of growing up Amish”

  1. BubbaFett says:

    She might be surprised to learn that regular “English” kids don’t have many rights that their parents don’t let them have. It’s a crazy ol’ world.

  2. Antinous says:

    But dderidex,

    You live in a closed society, too. All our lives are a web of imposed cultural assumptions. Were you given the choice of circumcision or not? Could you have had a Bar Mitzvah? How about attending a mosque as a teenager? Was being gay presented to you as a valid option by your parents and community? Your argument is just an assumption that your culture is the norm. As always, real abuse should be stopped, but you’re arguing for a nanny society.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Rumspringa is fascintating, isn’t it? There’s also a great documentary called “The Devil’s Playground.” If you are at all interested in the Amish, you should definitely get it.

    From what I know, the word “escape” sort of strikes me as funny as well. And *of course* there’s a lot of inbreeding. It’s not like the Amish recruit. What do you expect?

  4. nprnncbl says:

    I started reading this thread last night, and found the comments nearly as upsetting as the story itself.

    zio_donnie#13: but how you people can say that living like this is normal?
    pduggie#19: Nobody is.
    Disturbanist#22: Obviously, living like the Amish is not normal.

    Well, it is to the Amish.

    zio_donnie#13: thank god that at least here in europe we are slowly getting over the religious freedom taboos. slowly we are moving towards eliminatig religion from civil institutions relegating it in the personal sphere. the french eliminated the head scarf in schools, the spanish will soon bannish the crosses from school rooms and more nations are moving towards this direction.

    And now I understand why religious freedom was such an important factor for Europeans fleeing to America in the early days. Why you then go on to mention Scientology, which has so little to do with the topic, is purely inflammatory. If Scientology=Amish in your eyes, I don’t know why I’m bothering to respond.

    Pipenta#17: “When can I breed my wife again?”

    I’m sure you heard terrible stories, and I certainly don’t agree with the sentiment of that question, but keep in mind that these are the words of someone whose first language is Amish, not English.

    zio_donnie#30: incest is bad because it increases the chances of passing a genetic difect to the next generation.

    Zuzu#42 distinguished between incest and inbreeding, and it’s worth emphasizing that inbreeding refers to a genetic phenomenon, while incest refers to sexual abuse, specifically by family members. You come across sounding like sexual abuse is only morally wrong because of its deleterious genetic effects.

    dderidex#25: an adult making that choice prevents their child from ever having the same choice, even as they become adults.
    dderidex#36: Whether you believe our society provides all the choice it should or not, you can hardly argue (with a straight face) that it provides LESS choice than the alternatives.

    What if my choice is to have grown up Amish? I didn’t get that choice; did my parents wrong me? I think Antinous#35 is not suggesting we have less choice, which is obvious, but that we have different choices. What makes one set of choices better than another?

    Yoder#45: I don’t know how you legitimately give children a “choice” of cultures.
    Zuzu#55: If you truly want to give children a choice of cultures, figure out how they can be best outfitted with these tools of autonomy.

    I have to agree with Yoder here; because so much of culture is not something we consciously practice, learn, or teach, I don’t think it’s possible to provide a true choice of culture. However, I also agree with Zuzu, that we should provide our children with the tools of autonomy.

    zio_donnie#32: btw i would like to add that as a medic i hate the jehowa witnesses

    The truth comes out: you hate them. I don’t agree with JW, and I’m not sure where I stand on their (or Christian Scientist’s) refusal of medicine, especially pertaining to children, but I don’t hate them.

    zio_donnie#32: talking about “normal” and “respectable” religion beliefs

    And who decides? Not you, I hope; I don’t want to think about who else you might hate.

  5. nehpetsE says:

    speaking of cynicism, did anyone else go to Torah Bontrager’s home site?
    http://www.tkbventures.com

    her bio is impressively impressive.
    (i’d like for it all to be true… she is wicked hot.)

    Torah Bontrager escaped from the Amish when she was 15 years old. She literally left during the middle of the night, without telling her parents, siblings and friends good-bye. Eleven years later, Torah graduated from Columbia University in New York City with a degree in Philosophy, concentrating on Tibetan Buddhist philosophy under the auspices of Dr. Robert A.F. Thurman.

    The typical Generation Y’er, Torah has never been satisfied with traditional career climbing. Some of the things she’s done so far are mastering the English language (her mother tongue is Amish), earning an airplane pilot’s license at age 18, visiting 20 countries, learning several languages, winning a national hand modeling contest, translating and adapting Tibetan folktales into children’s stories and delving in art, music, film and multi-media production.

    Some of Torah’s current projects are training in boxing for the 2010 Golden Gloves and visiting every country and territory in the world, including flying into outer space (hopefully on Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic spaceline).

    Most importantly, now that she finally graduated, Torah feels it’s time to utilize her experiences and blessings and give back to her fellow Amish by creating a bridge that will help Amish youth/adults who don’t wish to practice the Amish religion to more easily and successfully transition into mainstream America.

    In conjunction with this, she wants to bring more awareness to the general public about what goes on behind the scenes within the Amish so that the Amish (especially women and children) have a better chance at being offered the assistance and resources that they need, whether that’s improving their lives as practicing or non-practicing Amish.

    Torah is twenty-seven years old.

  6. dderidex says:

    “As always, real abuse should be stopped, but you’re arguing for a nanny society.”

    That only holds if I’m presenting ‘my society’ as the only option. I’m not. Your points are valid, but while it’s true…

    “given the choice of circumcision or not? Could you have had a Bar Mitzvah? How about attending a mosque as a teenager? Was being gay presented to you as a valid option by your parents and community?”

    …is not as ‘open for discussion’ in our shared ‘popular culture’ as they could be…can you really argue that someone growing up in this society has LESS of a chance to make these decisions than someone growing up Amish? (I mean, heck, I understand even infant circumcisions is becoming less popular ‘over here’)

    Whether you believe our society provides all the choice it should or not, you can hardly argue (with a straight face) that it provides LESS choice than the alternatives.

  7. Halloween Jack says:

    error404: In America, we tell that joke about the Southern Baptists.

  8. noah says:

    I’m surprised to see skepticism here about her claims of abuse. There’s been a lot of reporting on this issue in the past five or so years. Here’s a nice, long article. There’s also been in-depth series reporting by papers in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, though I don’t have time to look those up now…

  9. Flying Orca says:

    “Why, for instance, does culture A prohibit cross-cousin marriages, and culture B encourage them; or why do some cultures proscribe all cousin marriages, and some allow all cousin marriage?”

    Property rights and strategic alliance. It generally hinges on whether goods are inherited through the mother’s line or the father’s, and the presence or absence of dowries.

  10. bwcbwc says:

    @#13, #22, etc.

    “Not normal” can be good or bad. Incest is not normal, but neither is genius. While sexual abuse is now a hot-button issue in mainstream western society, the cover-ups and deferral to authority that still occur in isolated religious groups like the Amish existed in mainstream society as recently as the 1980′s and 90′s. If the Amish are averaging about 150-200 years behind most other social and technical changes in mainstream society, this is one area where they may be forced to adapt more quickly. The catholic church was in denial for so long it’s unfair to demonize the Amish for progressing more slowly on the issue, given their deliberate choice as a society to resist “unnecessary” change.

    A lot of the values the Amish teach are “green” values that will be very useful to mainstream society in the years to come. Self-sufficiency, minimal use of technology and a supportive community are values that mainstream society will have to adopt as actions to take in the face of global warming.

  11. avar1ce says:

    Negatives of being raised Amish: You are dumber than the average Christian.

  12. Takuan says:

    ahhh,”more ignorant of some things” perhaps

  13. Anonymous says:

    The “Old Order” Amish practice rumspringa, whereas “New Order” Amish and Mennonites don’t. (In addition to slightly different attitudes towards technology, the New Order Amish and the Mennonites are more religious, while the Old Order are more socially conservative.)

    Please don’t think that rumspringa is some kind of escape clause; the teenagers are basically left to their own devices without any kind of modern education or acclimation to the outside world. While most Amish teens don’t go through the kind of experiences you’ll see in “The Devil’s Playground,” many do experiment with drug and alcohol abuse. Some don’t get the chance to return at all.

    All sorts of physical and sexual abuses do occur in Amish communities. The majority of Amish men aren’t violent, but those who are receive a pass from the community in the name of keeping the family together (no matter the cost to wives and children). It’s not unheard of for Amish communities to smuggle families over state lines to avoid prying authorities.

    Finally, don’t think that the Amish are pacifists. Technically, they’re not opposed to war, they just think they shouldn’t have to fight in them. If the government wants to go overseas and kill people, then the Amish are very glad for the rest of us to do the fighting and dying (which has made them a fairly strong GOP voting bloc in Ohio and Pennsylvania).

    Despite the negatives I’ve discussed, I don’t feel that the Amish are a particularly bad lot — narrow-minded, yes, and adhering to a cultural code that threw out most of the Renaissance and ignored the whole of the Enlightenment — but they’re no better or worse than any other cramped society. This is changing, especially as traditional Amish crafts like cabinetmaking require people who can handle CAD software and e-commerce, and as a small number of Amish families become rentier capitalists. Their way of life is becoming at best a curiosity, at worst a theme park.

  14. Rick. says:

    When are we gonna hear from some Amish people on this subject? Speak out, Amish!

  15. ROSSINDETROIT says:

    @38 AVAR1CE:

    Negatives of being a narrow minded snob: Your commenting history makes you look like a douche.

  16. nprnncbl says:

    @Zuzu #74: I’m sorry for the complete misunderstanding; it was zio_donnie#30 that I was criticizing, not you. I was citing your comment to reinforce the distinction between incest and inbreeding, and point out the error in zio_donnie’s comment. I know you’re not condoning rape, and I’m sorry if that’s how I came across.

    I think we’re on the same page here, and you bring up a lot of interesting points.

    In fact, I’m generally quite interested in your comments and find myself either in general agreement, or learning something new. Thanks for that!

  17. planettom says:

    If movies have taught me anything, it’s that attractive Amish women often leave their communities and get romanced by F-15 fighter pilots.

    “‘Tis a fine barn, but sure it ’tis no pool, English!”

    http://www.tv.com/video/1yDgKyYl9SXpiUzHJDZjoSx8r_tGJlqB/erecting-a-pool?o=hulu

  18. GregLondon says:

    me@72: Murder, for example, is something I greatly frown upon. So is assault and battery, and rape, and so one and so forth.

    waterhouse@73: Nobody’s arguing against that. But the state deciding what a kid is going to be raised to believe is several steps too far.

    If you’re not arguing against it, then you went several steps too far when you summarized people’s positions with the strawman: “I think men with guns should force everyone to act the way I do

    Unqualified blanket statements like that are, well, blanket statements.

  19. buddy66 says:

    A great deal about the Amish is admirable. They are not without millions of sympathizers and well-wishers. It would be difficult to lead such a disciplined life, but I would do just about anything for Kelly McGillis.

  20. Waterhouse says:

    Question: Do the people in this thread that want the government to take away Amish kids a la FLDS think that the environment in an Amish community is worse than that in the inner-city? And if not, should the government take inner-city kids away from their parents to place them in comfortable, mainstream, middle-class white homes, so they get the advantages of growing up in the superior culture?

  21. buddy66 says:

    @#42 ZUZU: “What’s really (intellectually) interesting to me are the countervailing phenomena of genetic sexual attraction and the Westermarck effect. I’m fascinated by interplay between genetic evolution / sexual selection and social evolution / evolutionary psychology.”

    Me too. The Westermarck effect argues for a genetic tendency not to breed with our nestlings. Such an aversion must therefore have been selected. If so, the siblings without this gene must have bred out through recessive attrition, leaving a largely sibling-averse gene pool. The evolutionary advantages in practicing exogamy are obvious. The further away from matching recessive genes, the better the stock. But how far away before a cultural prohibition (taboo) is invoked?

    No taboo is necessary, or ever created, for a non-practice. A taboo is to prohibit an act, or acts, from happening, acts that have, could, or might happen. Should we assume that sibling-averse genetic hard wiring is not universal enough to ensure the absence of sibling sexual intercourse, and therefore must be prohibited by taboo? That must be the case, otherwise there would be no reason to prohibit it and there would be no taboo. It must have been invoked early on, before its benefits were understood, by the aversives over the deviants. Very early on.

    Thus the incest taboo was born as a cultural device shoring up an atavistic imperative in need of reinforcement, right? Its extension, with all the curious and various manifestations throughout our history, becomes a cultural phenomenon explainable only in terms of culture. Natural selection kick-started the definition of incest, and culture now drives it. What a wild ride.

    Thanks for reviving my interest in Westermarck.

  22. buddy66 says:

    Is anyone saying that incest is sanctioned by the Amish? Does anyone know what their definition is? Some cultures have pretty strange incest taboos that don’t seem to make much sense, at least from a biological standpoint. Why, for instance, does culture A prohibit cross-cousin marriages, and culture B encourage them; or why do some cultures proscribe all cousin marriages, and some allow all cousin marriage? Surely the Amish don’t allow siblings to marry. That’s never allowed except symbolically, as in the case of ancient Egyptian royalty, as a way to keep the wealth in the family. So what is it with Amish incest?

  23. zuzu says:

    Some cultures have pretty strange incest taboos that don’t seem to make much sense, at least from a biological standpoint. Why, for instance, does culture A prohibit cross-cousin marriages, and culture B encourage them; or why do some cultures proscribe all cousin marriages, and some allow all cousin marriage?

    Additionally, it’s important to remember the distinction between incest (a social taboo) and inbreeding (which can increase the occurrence of recessive traits in offspring, including many genetic diseases — i.e. a genuine medical risk).

    What’s really (intellectually) interesting to me are the countervailing phenomena of genetic sexual attraction and the Westermarck effect. I’m fascinated by interplay between genetic evolution / sexual selection and social evolution / evolutionary psychology.

  24. retchdog says:

    #48,49 et al.: Of course, we need to consider that more accurately, this is a lifestyle with some non-zero chance of rape/abuse and that it is not encouraged nor evenly distributed among the population. To be rational, this needs to be compared to other societies; not to a utopian rate of zero. Even if there is an increase from the American average, perhaps the Amish still come out favorably against other alternative-technology social structures.

    Let’s not even consider the horrible possibility that the low levels of rape among the mainstream “civilized” are due in part to an unsustainable and inequitable use of resources.

    Or, to generalize your sarcastic statement: “Despite the odd bit of rape, being human is great!”

  25. Preston Sturges says:

    As the Amish interact more with the outside world, we are hearing a lot more about child and animal abuse. They make considerable money off animals that are treated very very cruelly. Isolated groups like this breed sadism. Nor are they immune from rural drug trade.

  26. Micah says:

    I’m not at all convinced that sexual abuse is inherently more endemic to the Amish than anyone else (be they religious or not).

    I think the problem is that in many hierarchical societies that are completely centered on religion (whether they be Amish or ultra-orthodox Jews or fundamentalist Muslims or fundamentalism Mormon or Roman Catholic priests) there is a tendency to cover up for people in power when such abuses do occur, which makes it more difficult for victims to ever have justice compared with modern, secular society. There also seems to be so much shame associated with anything sexual that the supposed pursuit of sexual purity leads to an unhealthy obsession with sex on a societal level. It’s a bizarre paradox.

    It’s really quite fascinating how many parallels there are between disaffected Amish youth and the disaffected youth of other similar societies, like ultra-orthodox Judaism.

    As for the rumspringa debate, my understanding is that different Amish groups have different practices, and that while some allow their kids to do whatever they want during rumspringa, for other groups rumspringa is a non-event (if it exists at all). There was a very interesting television documentary recently about Amish teens on ABC that I happened to catch, and it included footage of a group of ex-Amish kids picking up a new escapee in the middle of the night.

  27. Waterhouse says:

    By the way, Mark, do you remember Hit & Run’s coverage after the FLDS raid in Texas? I remember reading a comment there where someone joked, “How long until they raid the Amish?” Based on some of the sentiment I’m seeing in this thread, I’d say some time within the next ten years.

  28. Disturbanist says:

    @#10 – That’s completely false about the Amish and pacifism. They are pacifists. The vast, vast majority of Amish do not vote at all – especially in presidential elections. In Lancaster County, PA where Bush won by 70,000 votes in 2004, only a few hundred of them came from Amish voters. That’s only 0.02% of Republican votes in the most heavily populated Amish county in the Country. It was a county heavily targeted by Republican volunteers who went around deceiving Amish folks and telling them that Bush was “the Christian” candidate.

  29. zio_donnie says:

    but how you people can say that living like this is normal? or that parents have the right to keep their kids out of school isolated in middle ages conditions? how do you justify that there are fellow citizens that in the name of religious freedom use corporal punishment and see incest as the most normal of things? being politically correct has gone wau too far in the States IMHO.

    if you live in a civilized society you must respect certain rules that don’t come from a totalitarian state but from centuries of human evolution. religion is a personal thing and it should be respected but not to the point to keep kids out of school or permit those shenanigans. i mean everyone hates the muslim purists for obbligating women to wear a burqa etc but when it comes to some crazed wife beater child molesting christian sect the same people start blattering about religious freedom.

    thank god that at least here in europe we are slowly getting over the religious freedom taboos. slowly we are moving towards eliminatig religion from civil institutions relegating it in the personal sphere. the french eliminated the head scarf in schools, the spanish will soon bannish the crosses from school rooms and more nations are moving towards this direction.

    oh scientology is illegal in most EU nations btw. their freedom of cult b**it propaganda didn’t help them much here. they are labelled as a con scheme as they merit.

  30. Antiglobalism says:

    Amish win on the communitarian values but lose on the dogmatic conservatism. They’d need an injection of realism and then they’d be fine.

  31. Xopher says:

    Waterhouse, which people are you talking about? I don’t see that anyone has explicitly said the government should take the kids away, FLDS style. (I’ll grant you that one or two people appear to be implying that, but most people who’ve brought the idea up directly have done so to denounce it.)

    And the Amish don’t have anything like the persistent pattern of reported abuses the FLDS have. The Amish don’t routinely expel teenage boys just because there are too many boys for the old men to have six 14-year-old wives each. The Amish aren’t run by a single cult leader who is a convicted rapist.

    I think more evidence of a widespread criminal conspiracy would certainly be required. And people in this thread have already informed us that the Amish community this escapee describes is quite different from the ones they’ve known.

  32. Antinous says:

    Everyone exists within a culture. The Amish stand out because they are a tiny minority with radically different values. I can’t say that I think that the dominant culture in the US is in a great position to throw stones at other cultures.

  33. dderidex says:

    “Please don’t think that rumspringa is some kind of escape clause; the teenagers are basically left to their own devices without any kind of modern education or acclimation to the outside world.”

    It’s worth specifically noting this point. While the option to “leave and never come back” alongside the caveat “but you never get to talk to anyone you grew up with, or any family, ever again” is open to other religions that control this kind of ‘closed-door’ attitude (JWs, some Mormon sects, etc), the Amish find a way to make it worse.

    Really, imagine dropping someone who never used a cell phone, computer, the internet, even television – into the modern world without a single lifeline. Even if you take aside our society’s nature to somewhat distance itself from obvious ‘outsiders’…assuming they WERE welcomed with open arms into the outside world, they simply lack the means to integrate themselves.

    So, when finally given the choice of ‘you can stay in that strange world that doesn’t welcome you, you don’t understand, and you can’t fit into…forever…with no ability to contact your friends or family again…or come back to us and leave all that behind to never be thought on further’

    …well, it’s pretty much a given why their ‘retention rate’ is so high.

  34. Pipenta says:

    A woman I knew used to live in eastern PA and worked for an OB/GYN. Saw things that were not pretty. I’ll spare you the stuff that would require a unicorn chaser, but I think it is summed up by this question she overheard an Amish farmer ask the doc after the farmer’s wife had survived a particularly rough delivery:

    “When can I breed my wife again?”

  35. Ernunnos says:

    #21,

    I’m ex-Mennonite. (Black-car, mom was horse & buggy, and I spent vacations with the grandparents in Lancaster, PA, using an outhouse and going to bed by lantern light.) And many elements of Torah’s story ring true, although it’s a lot light on details. But I’m having way too much fun looking at my childhood through the same distorted glass as a bunch of internet hipsters to try to fill it out myself. It goes really well with bourbon. (Turns out my inbred teatotaling ancestors gave me genes for a good Germanic liver.)

  36. Takuan says:

    it is important to preserve the Amish culture intact. Without their quaint folkways and ancestral knowledge, we will be without a source of hepatitis/HIV free transplant kidneys and other essential organs.

  37. The_Epicarrion says:

    The paternal and condescending tone many people take with other cultures such as The Amish is annoying. It’s always easier to find fault when examining another subculture. There is no excuse for abuse of any kind but it pervades all walks of life. So why is it considered unique in this case? Would it be acceptable to make a statement such as, “Christians are overly materialistic. That’s just because they’re simple folk who don’t know better. Tsk. Tsk.”

  38. sirkowski says:

    People are skeptical of abuse amongst religious conservatives…? Just because the Amish renounce what some might perceive as the evils of modern society doesn’t make good guys out of them.

  39. Keeper of the Lantern says:

    That whole thing about the Amish disdaining modern technology is a lie, perpetrated by the Amish themselves. I have proof that they have actually mastered nuclear fusion and are hogging the technology for themselves. They also apparently have universal OC-768 to their homes, via an Amish-only hypermedia network.
    Amish R&D is apparently decades ahead of the rest of the world, and they await the day when we ‘English’ stumble, and then they will rule the world openly.

  40. pduggie says:

    #13 “but how you people can say that living like this is normal?”

    Nobody is.

    “or that parents have the right to keep their kids out of school isolated in middle ages conditions?”

    Children have a RIGHT to 21st century technology? The Amish are a culture. There are amazon tribes in Brazil that want to live as hunter gatherers. Should the brazilian government round them all up?

    “how do you justify that there are fellow citizens that in the name of religious freedom use corporal punishment”

    Corporal punishment was the default method of child rearing for the last several millenia. If some europeans decided they didn’t like it in the 60s, that doesn’t mean everyone has to jump on board.

    “and see incest as the most normal of things? ”

    No, that’s bad, and nobody’s defending it. (there may be cousin marriage, but that traditionally isn’t incest)

    “being politically correct has gone wau too far in the States IMHO.”

    You want to ban corporal punishment (spanking) and you accuse the US of PCism?

    “if you live in a civilized society you must respect certain rules that don’t come from a totalitarian state but from centuries of human evolution.”

    Like freedom and parental rights over their children? Wow. Non sequitur.

    ” religion is a personal thing and it should be respected but not to the point to keep kids out of school or permit those shenanigans.”

    The belief that religion is a “personal” thing only is a particular religious belief that no all religious people share. If you define their religion as personal only, it’s no longer THEIR religion.

  41. Waterhouse says:

    #64: The people who are saying that Amish kids have to go to school (I assume they mean a public school, or a “private” school with a government-set curriculum, so they’re taught the right things) through 12th grade, and can’t be allowed to work on the farm, and can’t be subjected to corporal punishment, think the government should back up those rules with force. Which means that if an Amish family doesn’t comply with the government’s ideas about how their children should be raised, they get taken away by the state, because the state doesn’t approve of their religion and culture. They don’t say that explicitly, but when people are calling for a law to enforce their cultural norms they rarely phrase it as, “I think men with guns should force everyone to act the way I do,” even though that’s the practical meaning.

    I’m also getting the sense that you think the FLDS raid was justified, in which case you should really read Jacob Sullum’s coverage of the case for Reason. His most recent article is here:

    http://www.reason.com/news/show/127379.html

    The rest of the series can be found by searching through the site, but that article is a decent summary.

  42. dderidex says:

    I’d better add a caveat to my post above. This is a ‘pet peeve’ area of mine:

    I was born and raised JW, and in one of the major hubs of Amish and Mennonite villages in the country (NE Ohio/Western PA). So I have a better-than-average idea for an ‘English’ person about Amish culture (I’ve been to a LOT of Amish doors, and spent no small amount of time in Amish houses – they like to talk, if nothing else). On the OTHER hand, I also have a great deal of bitterness against the type of ‘closed communities’ they and I were raised in. So many, many missed opportunities, and makes any activity or career path you decide on as an adult ten times harder than someone who grew up in ‘normal’ families.

  43. zuzu says:

    I don’t know how you legitimately give children a “choice” of cultures.

    What scares parents shitless more than anything is children with autonomy.

    Parents will time and again withhold computers, cars, money, even some forms of education (e.g. knowledge of biological evolution)… anything that’s a tool of independence from said parents.

    If you truly want to give children a choice of cultures, figure out how they can be best outfitted with these tools of autonomy. A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer provides a wonderful sketch of what could be possible. I think this must include both critical pedagogy (apart from public school authority), and an asset management trust that teaches and enables children from an early age to grow their pitiful allowances, holiday money, and part-time job income, into real wealth for independence — furthermore to buy the tools parents might forbid, such as a personal laptop with unrestricted Internet access.

  44. ROSSINDETROIT says:

    Please consider than unlike most discussions in this blog, very few of the opinions stated here will be from first hand information.
    We did have some Mennonite commenters in a previous discussion about proselytizing, and their input would be most welcome now.

  45. Disturbanist says:

    @#13
    Obviously, living like the Amish is not normal. If it were normal, most people would be living like that.

    The education Amish receive from living on a farm and being self-sufficient could arguably be more useful than the “education” we receive in public schools. The state does not have the right to our children.

  46. Yoder says:

    I’m born-and-raised-and-still-Mennonite (more or less) – I grew up in Amish country, and I’ve driven behind a lot of buggies.

    Previous comments have (with varying degrees of sensitivity) pointed out a very real conundrum inherent in the Amish separatism, and the accommodations a lot of government agencies make to it – exceptions from school attendance past eighth grade, child labor regulations, etc. On the one hand, elements of Amish culture seem valuable, and worth preserving. On the other hand, it’s one thing for adults to chose a particular lifestyle, but entirely another to bring children up into it. On the third hand (which may or may not be the gripping hand, I don’t know how you legitimately give children a “choice” of cultures.

    One example of an attempt at accommodation: There are organizations that aim to bring the benefits of modern medicine to Amish communities, while still respecting their culture. My grandfather was involved in setting up a “birthing clinic” for Amish women, which was completely modern, but aimed to be more comfortable for them than an “English” hospital.

  47. OM says:

    “Most importantly, now that she finally graduated, Torah feels it’s time to utilize her experiences and blessings and give back to her fellow Amish by creating a bridge that will help Amish youth/adults who don’t wish to practice the Amish religion to more easily and successfully transition into mainstream America.”

    “…When interviewed, Torah’s father at first only replied ‘I have no daughter!’ before his wife politely and self-effactingly reminded her husband that his comment was a Jewish epithet and not a traditional Amish one. The father then retorted ‘mox nix which cheek is turned, both will still be burning in Hell!’ and went back to churning the day’s quota of butter.”

  48. nigel1965 says:

    Here’s an observation. Mainstream society is often to blame for the closed societies of groups like the Mormons, the Jews, and the Amish. The Mormons were chased from state to state in the east, and then chased into the western desert. The Jews were also chased all over Europe, and then Hitler attempted to eradicate them. The Amish were also chased out of various European nations, and eventually fled to the U.S. So, after centuries of systematic persecution, a group feels it’s safest to live together, work together, marry each other, and do business with each other. Then, the outside world starts pissing and moaning about closed societies.

  49. Pipenta says:

    I’m thinking about that thread a while back that followed the report of the isolated tribe in Ecuador (or was it Peru?).

    People seemed to lean more towards “preserving” that tribe’s isolation than they do with the Amish. I wonder why? Could it be that it is easier for many folks to actually empathize with a white kid living in the USA, and find his or her situation intolerable or questionable. But it is okay for people of a distant ethnicity living in an exotic jungle far away?

    Theme park or nature sanctuary, protected culture or (as Tak so wickedly puts it) potential organ donors?

    I think folks should get as much choice as possible in how they live their lives. I think family life is of questionable value if you have no choice and cannot escape from it. And I think that goes for everybody.

    I can’t get into this wanting to “protect” oppressive cultures.

  50. dderidex says:

    “Children have a RIGHT to 21st century technology? The Amish are a culture.”

    And education. And health care.

    Yes, they do. Absolutely, and unequivocally. And if your ‘culture’ amounts to ‘denying our children the same level of education and choice most of the rest of the country enjoys’

    If you want to have a Luddite, ultra-conservative, super-religious culture that welcomes any adult who is happy to adhere to your rules, that’s cool – you know, whatever floats your boat, I honestly don’t care. But you CANNOT allow children to be raised like that, as an adult making that choice prevents their child from ever having the same choice, even as they become adults. Someone who has lived 20 years without ever seeing a computer, cell phone, or TV is going to find it very difficult, if not outright impossible, to become gainfully (well, legally) employed in the ‘outside world’ to support themselves. And that is just in today’s world – as the rest of world advances in technology at a breakneck pace, and these groups stay at a fixed point in the past, it will only become more and more difficult.

  51. ROSSINDETROIT says:

    When are we gonna hear from some Amish people on this subject? Speak out, Amish!

    We have heard from them. You will as well when you read #31, 43, 45.

  52. Takuan says:

    the Amish support neither Microsoft nor Apple. They must be expunged.

  53. Waterhouse says:

    #67: Of course they have an agenda, but the facts they use to support their argument are all verifiable, and mostly come out of court documents related to the case. If their agenda came into play on the FLDS issue, it’s only that they distrusted the government’s claims implicitly from the beginning – the rest of the public caught up a little bit after, when week after week passed by without the government finding any evidence of abuse, despite having access to every child in the community for all that time. That after all that the government wasn’t able to find enough evidence to charge anyone is the strongest argument that they were in the wrong, and people who believe that you have to have evidence before taking action, like the law says, were in the right.

  54. bubbleman says:

    For those of you claiming there is no more abuse in these closed societies than elsewhere, you really have no idea what you are talking about. Wherever women and children have no rights, they have no voice. And it is taboo, thus very rare, to go outside for assistance. Think again.

  55. Antinous says:

    dderidex,

    What you’re saying is that everyone has to be like you. I support intervening in cases of abuse, but otherwise how is what you’re saying different from white Australians stealing aboriginal children to raise them in a ‘civilized’ fashion? If they’re not breaking the law, how is it your business?

  56. ROSSINDETROIT says:

    @25 DDERIDEX
    I had hoped nobody was going to take a little misinformation, add a bucket of ignorance and go running off into xenophobia territory hyperventilating, but you did it.

    You don’t know who or what you’re talking about. Ask yourself just how much you know about Amish and Mennonite cultures to be making such sweeping and inflammatory statements. Damn little I’ll bet.

  57. buddy66 says:

    @#13
    ‘Obviously, living like the Amish is not normal. If it were normal, most people would be living like that.’

    I think we live the way we have to live, and we can only choose in a limited way from a small set of options. Mankind’s greatest illusion is that it has free will. Besides, what in the world is ‘normal’?

  58. zio_donnie says:

    @ pduggie

    “or that parents have the right to keep their kids out of school isolated in middle ages conditions?”

    Children have a RIGHT to 21st century technology? The Amish are a culture. There are amazon tribes in Brazil that want to live as hunter gatherers. Should the brazilian government round them all up?

    Yes children do have a RIGHT to the best that humanity can offer like it or not. the amazon tribes you refer to are cut out of civilization not out of respect for their culture but out of guilt or worse out of scientific interest. let THEM decide if they like malaria and crude meat after they are given a choice. and even if they do prefer their ways what do you do if they start to die from an epidemic? let them die or give them some penicilin even if they don’t like it?

    “how do you justify that there are fellow citizens that in the name of religious freedom use corporal punishment”

    Corporal punishment was the default method of child rearing for the last several millenia. If some europeans decided they didn’t like it in the 60s, that doesn’t mean everyone has to jump on board.

    i assume that beating your kids is your idea of parenting. “corporal punishment” is not about a simple spank but about the leather belt treatment or worse. the fact that it was used for several milenia is no excuse. we used to burn witches or torture people for millenia, should we keep it up in the name of tradition?

    “and see incest as the most normal of things? ”

    No, that’s bad, and nobody’s defending it. (there may be cousin marriage, but that traditionally isn’t incest

    see i don’t intend normal as “moral”. incest is bad because it increases the chances of passing a genetic difect to the next generation. pharaohs and medieval kings didn’t know it but we do.

    “being politically correct has gone wau too far in the States IMHO.”

    You want to ban corporal punishment (spanking) and you accuse the US of PCism?

    as i already pointed out “corporal punishment” isn’t about spanking. google for corporal punishment in english schools before the 60′s or read the article that talks about a 10 year old that has to search for a piece of wood with which hera mother will beat her up. my accusation stands. you don’t ban crap like scientology of bizzare and barely legal cults because you are afraid to be accused of religious intollerance.

    The belief that religion is a “personal” thing only is a particular religious belief that no all religious people share.

    well here you lost it completely. in a multicultural society religion MUST be personal or every sect will claim different rights based on it’s beliefs. and you fail to remember that not all of us are religious.

    a secular state provides rules of mutual respect in order to maintain peace. among the most important rules is that you are not allowed to impose your religion on me and that your religion cannot go against the law or the costitutional rights of noboby even if this nobody is your child.

  59. Xopher says:

    Amish-the-language is enough like German that I can understand bits of it. For example, ‘rumspringa’ sounds like it literally means “jumping around,” which sounds to me like a fairly sensible recognition that teenagers need to be let out of the box for a while at some point.

    DDeridex 16, 33: I’m amazed that no one has taken note of this and formed an organization, or petitioned a local government, to place these kids with “English” families…normal ones, not ones that let their kids run wild; and work on integrating them. If they leave the community for their rumspringa, the outside community can make it as real a choice as possible.

    If one exists, I’d be interested in throwing them some money.

    EpiCarrion 54: No, it wouldn’t be acceptable. But in most cases it would be accurate.

    Ross 56: Well, we’ve heard from Mennonites and former Amish. The people who are still committed to the Amish way of life are not here, by definition. Which means, without in any way discounting the contributions made by any of those folks to this thread, we need to have a caution: the people who are living the Amish life are not here to defend themselves.

  60. buddy66 says:

    @#77 hRUWPW7V

    Thanks for your story. Very interesting stuff. Good luck to you and yours.

  61. cajunfj40 says:

    ZUZU @#55: If you truly want to give children a choice of cultures, figure out how they can be best outfitted with these tools of autonomy. A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer provides a wonderful sketch of what could be possible.

    The “Diary” from that book was wonderful. I’d like to have read some more about the Chinese girls who got more “primitive” versions of that diary to find out how different that version was, and how much linkage it had to the “main” diary. While I think it would be a good tool for children in general, thinking about giving one to my own daughter bothers me. On the one hand, I want to give her the best chances possible to become an independent, autonomous, thoughtful, kind, etc. human. On the other hand, I want to be the one who gives her those chances, I don’t want to rely on a book to do it for me. It seems like a cop-out on my obligation as a parent. (In the book, the original “diary” was meant for the daughter IIRC of a wealthy man who couldn’t/wouldn’t/otherwise didn’t spend enough quality time with her as a parent. At least he recognized his own failings and tried to do what he could/knew how to do to remedy the situation.) On the other other hand (hey, who put the mutagen in my coffee?) I doubt whether I’m fully qualified to do so – heck, I’m not even sure what it *means* to be fully qualified in that regard. That old “It takes a village” meme seems to have some roots.

    A very big positive for the Amish way of life is how strong a community they appear to form, and how cooperative they at least seem to be within that community. (Have to add the qualifiers, I’ve never knowingly even met someone Amish.) Barn-raising is an example that many people know about. Neighbor needs a barn? Everyone who’s able shows up to help and up it goes. Contrast that with isolated Suburbia (Rush’s Subdivisions comes to mind. “Conform or be cast out!” /shudder/ [insert memories of teen-age angst here]) and see which model looks better on that particular score.

    We could do with a bit more “community” here in the US in general. (says the guy who doesn’t really know his neighbors at all, and who lives in the residential part of a city…)

  62. Waterhouse says:

    #67: For some reason another comment I made to reply to you isn’t going through. Anyway, if you don’t like Reason, try USA Today:

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2008-06-01-texas-agency_n.htm

    I think that when situations like this arise, the laws that are meant to prevent government abuse need to respected. You need to have credible evidence before you take a child away from their parents, and you can’t take all the children in a community away based on one alleged case of abuse. You can not arbitrarily round up everyone in the neighborhood and sort it out later. And remember, the entire case was predicated on a phone call that turned out to be a hoax. This case is a prime example of why assumptions and prejudices can’t be used in lieu of evidence.

  63. Waterhouse says:

    Nevermind, there it is.

  64. error404 says:

    Oddly I seem to recall that the Aisrstream trailers were originally built with an Amish worker force.

    I don’t doubt the inbreeding rape and incest of the group.

    When ever you get a isolationist religious sect this sort of crap invariably occurs.

    The same happens on the Islands surrounding scotland, which are a bastion fro the Free Prespyterian Church of Scotland, other wise known as the Wee Free.

    Very few Surnames out on the Islands.

    The Wee Free Chanin up all the swings and roundabouts in play parks of a Sunday.

    As the old joke runs in Scotland.

    Why are the Wee Free opposed to making love standing up?

    It might lead to dancing.

  65. Nivalsj says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t Amish teens given the chance to leave and come back? I’ve never heard of such terrible abuses happening in the Amish community.

  66. J Random Scribbler says:

    Re #21: Good point, there will not likely be any first-hand information on this particular topic.

    That said, I grew up Mennonite, and had Amish relatives. We didn’t have a lot of contact with them growing up, so I’m certainly no authority, but I do have more personal experience than most Internet users can claim.

    One of the most overlooked thing about the Amish is how much variety there is among different groups. This goes beyond the formalized denominations like the Old-Order and Beachy Amish; you might find that one local congregation allows the use of a motorized tractor as long as it’s kept in the barn and used only to power equipment through the PTO shaft, while the neighboring one allows no use of tractors at all but does allow cell phones.

    This also applies to the Rumspringa, as someone pointed out above. Some congregations have it as a formalized tradition, while others just loosen the rules for their kids for a few years, and presumably others might not allow anything like it at all. Some congregations will permanently shun their children if they don’t join the church after their teenage years, while others will retain contact. I don’t have enough information to say which is the most common, but please be wary of assuming that the stories sensational enough to make it to the media are the norm.

    I haven’t read any of the books or seen any of the documentaries referenced above, but if any of them claim that all Amish are the same, they are wrong. There are very few doctrines held by all Amish; to my knowledge, the only ones are pacifism, non-participation in government, local control, and reluctance to adopt new technologies.

    Unfortunately, this does tend to make Amish communities into closed societies, and any closed society is more likely to contain abuse. It would not surprise me at all to see statistics showing the rates of various kinds of abuse higher among the Amish than in society in general.

    On the other hand, I have a hard time believing that abuse is the norm among Amish communities. Torah Bontrager’s family is far more likely the exception than the rule.

  67. zio_donnie says:

    btw i would like to add that as a medic i hate the jehowa witnesses (spelling?). when they bring them to the hospital they are only trouble. i live in italy and for long they were allowed to have special bracelets which declared that for their beliefs medics were not allowed to use human blood for transfusions and the like. actually some of them sued doctors for transfusing them (saving their life) and they won on civil courts. thankfully this is not the case anymore. in case of emergency the DOCTOR decides. so i ask you as presumably civilised people. do i have to seve a life or respect some bizzare medieval religious practice? what if the patient is a teenager that came in the emergency room after a car crash and his parents refuse to agrre to treatment?

    talking about “normal” and “respectable” religion beliefs. don’t ge me started on this, since i’ve seen brave doctors PAY for saving a life and with carreers ruined because of the trials.

  68. OM says:

    “anyone who’s not Amish is “English,” no matter what language or culture he/she represents”

    …From the Amish Times, 9/11/01:

    “English terrorists blow up World Trade Center”

  69. GregLondon says:

    “I think men with guns should force everyone to act the way I do,”

    Murder, for example, is something I greatly frown upon. So is assault and battery, and rape, and so one and so forth. And the state has my permission to enforce my views in those areas.

    With guns, if need be.

  70. hRUWPW7V says:

    I fall in a strange category called “Amish Mennonite”, or “Beachy Amish”, as one previous commenter alluded to. I’m somewhat disconnected from the “Amish” world described here; although the first language I spoke was Pennsylvania German (aka Pennsylvania Dutch, or I assume the “Amish”–I’ve never heard it used as a noun naming a language before–above), I’ve largely lost the ability to speak that language–though I can still understand a fair amount of it. Graduates from my church’s parochial high school have gone on to become farmers and housewives…and to graduate from Cornell and Yale.

    My grandfather was a preacher in an “Old Order Amish” church in my mother’s childhood, and many of my extended family are still “classically Amish”. My mother wears a “head covering”, as do most of the women in our church. She is a writer and teacher, holds a B.A., and reads widely. Her experience and philosophy may tend toward the more “progressive” among women in our particular church, but she’s certainly not an extreme outlier: other female church members’ vocations include medical doctor, university prof (thinking of two different people), midwife in a third-world country, etc. Each of those I’ve listed works in a different country…in fact, each on a different continent.

    Amish and Mennonites both fall under the broad category of Anabaptists, a minority religious group who found themselves rather unpopular among the other religious players during the era of the Reformations. Today, that label covers a wide spectrum, from theology and practice far more progressive than the American mainstream to groups that forbid “slow-moving vehicle” signs on buggies because they’re overly “worldly”.

    Many of the negatives that commenters have pointed out do strike home, even for someone who’s grown up in my strange “no-man’s-land”, and are a target for reformers within the tradition today. The weight of culture, religion and tradition *can* become a stifling dead weight, and can putrefy into the kinds of things Bontrager describes. As one commenter pointed out, the Amish have tended to turn inward–perhaps due in part to the fact that for quite a few years near the formation of the culture, association with “outsiders” had an unfortunate tendency to end in being tortured to death.

    I resonate with a number of the “positives” that Bontrager mentions, and can think of examples of each of the negatives she enumerates. However, I’ll also echo what a number of other people have said: the Amish will rip most “boxes” you build to contain them to shreds. One of my friends grew up in a fairly conservative Amish church; his parents made good friends with hippies (yeah, this dates him) learning to “live the simple life”. After completing his Yale education, he retains a decidedly “Amish” demeanor, working in an agriculture-related occupation–but maintains broad interests. While growing up, his reading diet was broad and deep. David Kline is an Amish author (possibly BB-worthy in his own right). Though I (unfortunately) haven’t read his writing, an Amazon review that calls him “a modern counterpart” of Thoreau seems consistent with what I’ve heard of it.

    So…yeah. I won’t try to make any utopian claims about Amish culture; Bontrager’s story and others do all too well a job of pointing out how it can go way wrong. However, I propose that the Amish, and related groups, /do/ have something to offer the world–that radical nonconformity, pacifism (“effecting peace”, in personal as well as national interactions), and a philosophy of actually trying to live according to Jesus’ teachings are, on net, beneficial elements to have in society. And, yeah…the abuses need to be dealt with. Even there, though, the definition of “abuse” can vary somewhat. There is, of course, the issue of corporal punishment (I believe I on net benefited from its use–and no, it didn’t turn me into a violent hothead nor a psychopath). And, there’s the issue of education–one where I, in my paternalistic zeal to convert my Amish friends to the “right” way of doing things, wish education were much more valued. And yet, I can’t see any particular justification for using coercion to increase education levels (another commenter’s point about inner-city kids is well taken). Besides…there *are* the examples of my Yale-educated friend (who read widely while still “hardcore” Amish), of Kline, and of other free-thinkers and autodidacts operating within the Amish tradition. When compared with “the man behind the curtain” of our educational system (witness an excellent article in The Atlantic in http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200806/college, or The Phantom Professor at http://phantomprof.blogspot.com/, or Ken Robinson’s TED talk), there seems little evidence that an extended compulsory education would necessarily provide greater value than the alternatives.

    Anyway…just a rambling discourse from a random sort-of-Amish occasional BoingBoinger, but an encouragement to get to know some of the philosophical and theological underpinnings of the culture before you dismiss it outright as an archaic, menacing system. Anabaptism is a set of ideals that’s picked up a lot of cruft (some of it fairly toxic) over the centuries, but I think even many BoingBoingers (who I’m assuming not to be an ultra-religious group overall) could actually find a fair amount of stuff in it to agree–or at least to sympathize–with.

  71. wrenling says:

    The Amish are definately isolated communities. I don’t doubt some of what she said did happen, but she is also talking about experiences before she was fourteen years old.

    I knew a couple of people in my early 20′s who had decided to not go back to living with their families, to not “be Amish” after their year outside of the community. They were from Pennsylvania Amish groups, which, perhaps are very different than the ones she was describing.

    (And the cynic in me does find it disquieting that the timing of this is after the FLDS raids in Texas).

  72. Waterhouse says:

    Murder, for example, is something I greatly frown upon. So is assault and battery, and rape, and so one and so forth.

    Nobody’s arguing against that. But the state deciding what a kid is going to be raised to believe is several steps too far. If, as some people have said, the government should allow the Amish to practice their lifestyle only if they’ve been raised “normal” and decide to be Amish when they’re adults, isn’t the implication that the Amish can never have (or rather, raise) their own kids?

  73. zuzu says:

    @60 NPRNNCBL

    Zuzu#42 distinguished between incest and inbreeding, and it’s worth emphasizing that inbreeding refers to a genetic phenomenon, while incest refers to sexual abuse, specifically by family members. You come across sounding like sexual abuse is only morally wrong because of its deleterious genetic effects.

    I think the sexual abuse you’re referring to is… sexual abuse (i.e. rape). I’m not intending to condone (or condemn) voluntary incest, which is why I circumscribed it as a social taboo.

    But in this Amish context, I think we’re assuming that it’s scenarios such as fathers raping their daughters. Rape is clearly a problem for so many reasons that we could easily have another 100-comment thread of its own about it.

    Inbreeding is problematic insofar as the genetic diseases they cause… but this too is a more finessed issue vis-a-vis reproductive rights. For example, I remember not too long ago that the deaf community was active on the subject of family planning / genetic screening for deafness in their offspring, which rehashed the whole “is deafness a feature or a bug?” dilemma among the deaf. (c.f. cochlear implants) Or, another similar issue would be those people with Asperger’s Syndrome and the debate of whether all people should be “neurotypical” to be “healthy”; again, “disease or merely difference?”

    The field of reprogenetics is essentially rehashing the old debate about positive eugenics (more like Planned Parenthood and less like Nazi pseudoscience). We self-direct our evolution everyday with the use and invention of new technologies — particularly drugs. However, our popular anti-science culture seems particularly unequipped to tackle these new ethical questions. In fact, most people seem to be in a kind of future shock as it is… either “clinging” to conservative superstitions (i.e. religion) or passively subscribing to a kind of blithe nihilism in response to it.

    …which I think brings us back to the Amish rejection of “fancy” technology.

  74. Stefan Jones says:

    #1: The Amish are a diverse group, and not all of them have that “let ‘em loose” adaptation.

    My parents have Mennonite friends and by a sort of transitive property Amish friends. There are all sorts of things about the Amish that aren’t widely known:

    There’s a lot of inbreeding, and consequently more disabled kids that you’d expect.

    They may not have cars, but they charter busses so big groups can go to out-of-state funerals.

    My parents recount seeing a barefoot Amish girl hand-distributing powdered pesticide.

  75. Patrick Dodds says:

    @34 – the pros / cons imbalance struck me too – a bit of self-reliance vs. rape? Erm, let me think about that for a moment.

  76. BadKittyM says:

    Not all sects of the Amish have the ‘go see what the outside world is like’ option as teens, from what I understand.

    Courageous young lady. I hope she gives herself some growing time, as any recent convert to anything (or escapee from something) tends toward a very intense period of adjustment.

    She could have been describing my own life growing up, and I was raised Catholic. It’s wise to remember that she is relating HER personal experience, not the experiences of all Amish young adults. It’s not the religion or lack thereof…abusive people occur everywhere, and income, social standing, culture and religion do not automatically mean one is or is not a good or bad person. That falls to one’s personal choices of how they deal with those under their sphere of influence.

    It will be interesting to read part 2.

  77. dderidex says:

    “What you’re saying is that everyone has to be like you.”

    No, what I’m saying is that everyone should have the choice to ‘be like me’ if they want to.

    The problem with being raised in ‘closed societies’ is that the first thing that is taken from youth IS this choice. (And, as I commented RE: the practical effect of the Rumspringa, a ‘choice’ that is not really a valid option is no ‘choice’)

    “I had hoped nobody was going to take a little misinformation, add a bucket of ignorance and go running off into xenophobia territory hyperventilating, but you did it.”

    I really hope I don’t come off as ‘hyperventilating’, but I do feel strongly on this point. As I mentioned above, I was in one of these ‘closed societies’, and so do have a personal (and, yes, emotional) stake in this discussion. Further, as I noted above, I also lived near – and tried to proselytize – Amish communities, so I’m afraid my comments aren’t quite the ‘bucket of ignorance’ you are suggesting. Granted, I was not raised Amish, so am not speaking with absolute authority, and some misinformation may creep in. I was, after all, trying to convert them to MY religion. And as SCRIBBLER notes in #31, it’s basically impossible to speak ‘with authority’ on all of the Amish as a collective entity, anyway, as they aren’t.

    But I know, from the exposure to the (minor, in comparison) ‘closed society’ I was in growing up, the damage such can cause…and can only imagine the difficulty faced by those in so much more limiting a way of life.

    Again, I’m not arguing that we turn all Amish into contributing members of 21st-century USAian society. Merely that we find some way for their children to actually be given a meaningful choice, which they do NOT have now.

    Personally, I think the comment in the article mentioned along the way:

    “Most importantly, now that she finally graduated, Torah feels it’s time to utilize her experiences and blessings and give back to her fellow Amish by creating a bridge that will help Amish youth/adults who don’t wish to practice the Amish religion to more easily and successfully transition into mainstream America.”

    …is a FANTASTIC idea, and should get our support.

  78. refusei says:

    Nivalsj – it’s called rumspringa – the time during the teenage years when they’re allowed to partake in English activities like driving, drinking, etc. As opposed to religions like Catholicism, where the major rites of initiation are performed ritualistically and at a young age, the Amish put a lot of emphasis on making an informed decision on which community they prefer – Amish or English.

    I’m skeptical of the “escape” connotation here – she’s free to leave during Rumpspringa, she could just never return to the community. They have a remarkably high retention rate for a group that allows and even encourages their youth to experiment with freedoms even English families don’t usually allow.

    There’s a great book and accompanying documentary about it, both called Rumspringa

  79. acx99 says:

    Summary: despite from the odd bit of rape, being Amish is great!

  80. jimbuck says:

    If you’re being abused, raped, etc…. call me crazy but the pros are irrelevant.

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