Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Running Around

The Amish are the modern-day Pharisees.

Hmmm...that seems like a judgmental statement doesn't it? Just the word "pharisee" conjures up a picture of hypocritical, self-righteous, excessively pious people; people who love to follow the rules by the letter but totally miss the heart of them.

I may be wrong in my comparison, and I realize it's a bit of a blanket statement that obviously wouldn't apply to all Amish, but I'm reading the book "Rumspringa" by Tom Shachtman and the similarities seemed to jump off the pages.

For instance:

"The unwritten list of them [rules], the ordnung, covers everything from the number of pins that an Amish woman may use to hold together her dress to the directive to defer to men's judgment in all-important matters to what constitutes improper fraternizing with the opposite sex."

They legislate the number of pins used to hold together a dress?!? How can this possibly be important? It seems so similar to all the rules the Pharisees made up, in addition to the moral laws given by God.

One girl remarked that her parents seemed more upset about her wearing jeans than about her going to parties.

Their practice of "Rumspringa" is also very interesting to me. This begins when a person turns 16 and lasts until they decide to be baptized and join the church. Technically the period is "to give youngsters leave and ways to find an appropriate mate. The community's expectation is that, upon completion of the courtship task, a young Amish couple will end their Rumspringa by agreeing to marry and concurrently making the commitment to be baptized."
That's technically what it's for, but many young Amish take the opportunity party wildly, getting drunk, smoking, doing drugs, etc. They go out on Friday, usually with English friends, and do not return home until Sunday night. It seems the attitude among many of the adults is that young people need to "get it all out of their system" before they can settle down to the traditional Amish life. Technically, because they haven't been baptized, they are not subject to the rules yet, and so this is all ok.
The letter of the law not the heart - go be wild because you haven't been baptized yet, but tomorrow when you are baptized, those things will be wrong.
Of course, not all young Amish behave this way - a lot simply go out with friends and enjoy some time away from their parents, having fun but not seeing the need to engage in rebellious behavior.
So, I don't know, maybe for some of them they need to try everything before they can make the decision to join the church. I understand that they want their youth to come to the church of their own free will, but perhaps the choice would not be so difficult if their rules were not so stringent.
I guess they are probably just trying to keep the world out of their lives, and maybe having a list of rules makes it easier for them. Keeping things black and white, allowing no "grey" areas, makes it easier to see if you're on the right path - you can check off the do's and don'ts and see how you're doing. There are no difficult decisions to make because the Order has already established a rule for just about every behavior.
I imagine the more I read the more I will learn about the "why" behind their way of life and there will be good things to it as well.

No comments: