Why do people leave the Amish?

Charles Hurst and David McConnell identify two main reasons in An Amish Paradox, their study of the Amish in Holmes County, Ohio.  According to the authors, these are “the desire for fewer lifestyle restrictions”, and “the desire for a more intense religious experience.”

Ex-Amish have created a number of venues which provide support to former members.

The Former Amish Reunion (FAR), a support group run by an ex-Amish woman, holds a twice-yearly picnic.  The group “tends to attract ex-Amish who are sympathetic to the theology of born-again Christians,” explain Hurst and McConnell.

Former Amish have an internet presence, with a number of web sites providing forums for contact and discussion.  Other organizations, such as Mission to Amish People (MAP), or Lancaster County-based Charity Christian Fellowship, act as spiritual and practical stepping stones out of Amish society.  Some organizations are controversial among Amish, who feel that they use aggressive methods to recruit individuals away from the Amish church.

Former Amish cluster in communities in which they find cultural familiarity and practical support.  The Columbia, Missouri ex-Amish community featured in the National Geographic special “Out of the Order” is one example.

In the new clip below, Columbia ex-Amish mentor Mose Gingerich explains how individuals make the transition from Amish society.  He also makes a return visit to his Wisconsin community. “One Amish community’s pretty much the same as the next,” says Mose, comparing settlements in Wisconsin to one in Missouri.

But as Hurst and McConnell document in An Amish Paradox, Amish communities can in fact be quite different–in everything from technology to beliefs about salvation to how they approach shunning.

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