Shunning is controversial, but helps uphold Amish society
- For the Amish, shunning only happens among baptized members. Youth may bend or break rules during Rumspringa, though Amish parents do not necessarily condone or encourage such behavior. But in practice, some Amish youth buy cars, wear ‘English’ clothes, and so on.
- If they cross the line too blatantly, they may get a ‘talking-to’, but they won’t be placed under the Ban. That’s simply not how it works–you cannot shun a non-member.
- When you are baptized, though, you make an adult commitment and that entails acceptance of the consequences if you violate the church’s Ordnung, which you’ve agreed to follow.
- Amish communities handle shunning differently. Some are very strict about it. Others less so. Typical aspects of shunning include not being able to share a meal at the same table (those in the Bann may eat at a separate table) and not being able to directly transact business with members in good standing.
The burden of social avoidance
Talking with Amish in the Bann, you can often sense the burden. Some have likened the experience to becoming a ‘non-person’.
The Amish say they shun out of love for the errant member. They want him to see his mistakes and return to the fold.
Others see shunning as key to the incredible growth the group has experienced. As a social check, the idea of diminished relationships with your whole social world is a pretty strong motivator.
Today, around 80-90% of Amish children choose to join the church. The Amish population doubles approximately once every 20 years.