“The Amish: Shunned” on PBS

A new documentary film about the Amish is set to air next month on PBS, titled The Amish: Shunned. This has been described as a follow-up to 2012’s well-received The Amish.

From the description:

A poignant and penetrating look at what it means to be cut off from faith and family, The Amish: Shunned follows seven people who have chosen to leave their closed and tightly knit communities for the outside world, knowing that they can never return. Each has paid deeply for their decision. Estranged from loved ones, these former Amish find themselves struggling to make their way in modern America.

Interwoven with their stories are the voices of staunchly loyal Amish men and women who explain the importance of obedience, the strong ties and traditions that bind them together, and the heartbreak they feel when a loved one falls away. Through its sympathetic portrayal of both sides, the film explores what is gained and what is lost when community and tradition are exchanged for individuality and freedom. Produced, directed and written by Callie T. Wiser, The Amish: Shunned premieres on American Experience on Tuesday, February 4, 2014, 9:00-11:00 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings).

I’m supposed to be getting a preview copy any day now, so I expect I’ll have more to say then.  Any first impressions from the preview?

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    1. Nancy @ A Rural Journal

      I’ve added this to my calendar to watch. Thank you!

      1. Claire

        Just did the same thing!

    2. Robert Gschwind

      I will be interested to see how accurate this is and the slate PBS puts on it.

      1. Kate Diller

        "The Amish Shunned" on PBS

        I personally know both Elam and Rachel. I read Rachel’s blog and also read Elam’s comments. He is very passionate on this topic and other topics related to Amish life, but can present his opinions in an articulate, reasoned manner. Rachel is an excellent writer as well. I believe that in order to look at both sides of the issue you would do well to at least meet with Elam and Rachel.

    3. Slightly-Handled-Order-Man

      Mmmm, interesting, too bad I have to work that night 🙁
      Oh well, hopefully I’ll catch it in reruns or borrow the DVD.

      1. Christina Foster

        Never fear, PBS.ORG has an page for the American Experience and most of the recent shows are available to watch on-line. That’s how I saw the first show about the Amish which, I thought, was excellent. That being said, I do not know how long it takes for the show to turn up on the website after it airs.


    4. Debbie H

      I hope to watch this, I missed last years show.

    5. Naomi Wilson

      I am so disappointed that *this* is the follow up to last year’s documentary. How about a film that discusses Anabaptist faith and history in depth? Maybe a detailed discussion of kingdom Christianity and literal New Testament beliefs would not be politically correct enough for American Experience. Instead, “give the public what it wants.” Another dialogue to support all the romance novels and reality tv shows. No thank you.

      1. Casey

        I agree Naomi, but what sells is normally drama and unhappiness, find some folks who had a bad experience with a group and present it as the norm. People love to be critical. Now we can scream “hypocrites!” at the Amish and feel better about ourselves.

    6. Anne


      This sort of thing really is offensive to me. I’m sure the most extreme views/practices of the Amish will be brought forth as the standard for all communities (they are not), and as ever, we Americans are made to feel that our great god FREEDOM has been assaulted. How terrible! I predict they will erect a strawman of this Amish practice which is actually designed to bring loved ones to repentance(why don’t we remember that this is, after all, a Biblical practice?). The goal for the Amish my son joined is simply to hold those who say they belong to Christ, to his standards of behavior.

      In Ed’s community, people have been shunned for their sinful choices, like sexual misconduct with children; horrific indeed. Even then, the compassion that went out to the man who did this was palpable. He stayed in the community under close supervision. He was eventually turned over to the justice system and imprisoned, but his community continued to minister to him, making weekly trips to admonish, encourage, and pray with him. In another case, when a son left the family, they were very sad, but fellowship was not broken. They have continued in a loving relationship, and are glad to see this son attending church and growing in Christ,though in a nearby town. No, not all communities are this way, and we may not agree with the “rules” of a given community. But do we really think our god of “freedom” is a better way to live? When I look around at the culture we’ve created by serving this lesser god, I have my doubts…

      1. Liz Detrich

        Wonderful documentary

        I lived in Sarasota FL for many years and am more familiar with the Mennonite culture; that said, my husband and I found the documentary non-judgmental,informative and enjoyable. I walked away with a sense that the Amish community cared about the individuals who left and made attempts to demonstrate they cared. Afterward, my hubby and I had a nice dialogue on the meaning of community and how does religion as a whole inspire meaningful cooperation and safety in an unpredictable world.

        Regardless of what religion I follow, it is sad that their way of life and community is slowly disappearing, the Mennonites I’ve met are lovely, family-oriented and hard working people.

    7. Jenny

      “The Amish: Shunned follows seven people who have chosen to leave their closed and tightly knit communities for the outside world, knowing that they can never return.”

      That sentence intrigues me. I grew up in an area of Amish, and in our area “shunning” has a different meaning, it is not something one “chooses” to do. It is a form of punishment handed out by the church and community, and a last resort form of punishment at that. In our community even the shunned could usually return once they made amends with the church and community.

    8. Don Curtis


      I told Mark that there was going to be a program on shunning. He just rolled his eyes. He said, “If they want to do a program on the Amish why don’t they follow a group of Amish to a disaster site and watch them help folks clean out their houses or even build whole new houses for them.

      The entire premise of the program is wrong to start off with, according to Mark. “Shunned, never to return.” Mark said that if the folks who are shunned never return to the Amish, then that is their choice. They can return anytime that they want to. They just need to follow the Biblical way, which is to repent and make things right. They will be forgiven and accepted back.

      Also, shunning is not necessarily for a lifetime. Mark knows of cases where a church member has been given a “katza bann” {which means a short excommunication}of like two weeks to a month to give them a taste of being excommunication. He said this is especially used with youth who have messed up in some way. They are disciplined by the Church but the door is wide open for repentance and reconciliation.

      Mark said that there are two parts to excommunication. In German, excommunication is referred to as the “Bann.” It is the official separation of the transgressor from membership in the Church and participation in communion, etc. The other part of excommunication is the “Meidung.” Sometimes referred to as the “Mite.” This is the shunning part which includes separation from the erring one in daily life. The members in good standing are not to eat with the erring on, do business with them, etc.

      Mark said that in his community at large gatherings for funerals and weddings that those who are excommunicated are still invited but for the meals they are seated at a separate table from all of the Amish, usually with the invited English people.

      Those are Mark’s comments. I think I got it all and spelled the words right. I don’t know a word of German.

    9. Don Curtis


      Well, I didn’t get it all. Mark also wanted to explain that excommunication is only used as a last resort. It is used only after the ministers and other members have tried to exhort, reason, remonstrate with the erring one. When there is a refusal to repent then the church has no other option. Also, Mark wanted everybody to understand that the Amish use shunning and excommunication because that is the Biblical pattern laid out in the New Testament for dealing with erring church members.

    10. Lance

      The text of the Confession shunning article

      XVII. Of Shunning the Separated
      Concerning the withdrawing from, or shunning the separated, we believe and confess, that if any one, either through his wicked life or perverted doctrine, has so far fallen that he is separated from God, and, consequently, also separated and punished by the church, the same must, according to the doctrine of Christ and His apostles, be shunned, without distinction, by all the fellow members of the church, especially those to whom it is known, in eating, drinking, and other similar intercourse, and no company be had with him that they may not become contaminated by intercourse with him, nor made partakers of his sins; but that the sinner may be made ashamed, pricked in his heart, and convicted in his conscience, unto his reformation. 1 Corinthians 5:9-11; 2 Thessalonians 3:14.

      Yet, in shunning as well as in reproving, such moderation and Christian discretion must be used, that it may conduce, not to the destruction, but to the reformation of the sinner. For, if he is needy, hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, or in any other distress, we are in duty bound, necessity requiring it, according to love and the doctrine of Christ and His apostles, to render him aid and assistance; otherwise, shunning would in this case tend more to destruction than to reformation.

      Therefore, we must not count them as enemies, but admonish them as brethren, that thereby they may be brought to a knowledge of and to repentance and sorrow for their sins, so that they may become reconciled to God, and consequently be received again into the church, and that love may continue with them, according as is proper. 2 Thessalonians 3:15.


      1. Lance

        Shunning is tough love, something many cannot understand. There is to be no attempt at meanness, hatred, nor abuse. Not every Amish person understands why and how to practice this Biblical doctrine, so it may not be handled as loving and compassionate as it should be.

        This is a doctrine with a great deal of symbolism of the day of judgment. Everyone separate from God on judgment day will remain separate throughout eternity. But while we are alive, we can always repent and be restored.

    11. Anne, the mom!


      Great comments everyone, thanks for stating so clearly what is really the intention of “shunning”. We cannot expect PBS to get it right…most likely, they’ll never do one showing the love and grace offered by the Amish in the most extreme of circumstances. We all know stories about that!

    12. Valerie

      Sowing Discord Among the Brethren

      I think that a lot of former Amish I have listened to, believe that unless someone is in immoral sin, there is no justification for shunning/excommunication. Although the example in the new testament of excommunicating a member was because of his immoral sin, we have to remember that there is a sin that is on the ‘deadly sin’ list, Proverbs 6:16:

      Proverbs 6:16-19

      English Standard Version (ESV)

      16 There are six things that the Lord hates,
      seven that are an abomination to him:
      17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
      and hands that shed innocent blood,
      18 a heart that devises wicked plans,
      feet that make haste to run to evil,
      19 a false witness who breathes out lies,
      and one who sows discord among brothers.

      That vs 19, “one who sows discord among brothers”- I realize the importance is major priority, of “UNITY” in an Amish community. If a brother/sister is sowing discord among the brethren (which according to that scripture, God hates as well) then if the brother does not heed warnings, then the leadership is obligated to excommunicate to keep the unity in the commUNITY. Seems harsh but it is Biblical, and for the good of the community because one spark (disobedient member) can ignite a fire.
      I hope to watch it

    13. "The Amish: Shunned" Preview

      A few thoughts, having viewed the trailer and read your comments:

      -I can understand the reason for presenting shunning in this dramatic way from a promotional standpoint, though the stark “freedom or family” choice is one that I think quite a few Amish people would have a problem with.

      I am sure there is more nuance than what is implied by that line in the film, but it’s a strong and maybe even insulting implication to make, even allowing for the fact that taglines must be pithy (“Your Freedom or Your Family”).

      -The “never return” line in the description seems to suggest one can’t go back, make amends, and re-join church and family, which is not supposed to be the case (see Don/Mark Curtis comment above). That said, those who are excommunicated may very well *feel* that that’s the case.

      The opening comparison to stoning someone to death seems to be extreme, and misleading, if you believe that the door to return remains cracked open to you. But I do realize those are words spoken by a person who, I assume, has been excommunicated. I think it can be a really painful experience. Also there is the theoretical, just way that discipline is supposed to be administered. But there are also human personalities involved with weaknesses of their own (I think Lance implies something like this in his comment above on “not be[ing] handled as loving and compassionate as it should be”).

      This noted I’d like to see how things are presented in the film. The promotional copy says that it is sympathetic to both sides. I am sure that the harsh and dramatic picture given in this preview is meant to pull viewers in, probably by playing to their preconceptions of what shunning is. Hopefully having done that it holds true to the way it is described and presents both sides and maybe changes some preconceptions.

      -I think the first documentary PBS did was very professionally done, with a lot of Amish input. I imagine one challenge of this one was to present both sides in a balanced fashion. Those who are excommunicated are naturally going to be more vocal, and since they are no longer Amish, likely willing to tell their stories to the camera.

    14. Rachel

      Stop saying shunning is a 'loving' way to discipline

      The comments by some of you make me sick. I would imagine that each one of you has at some time in your lives chosen to attend a different church. If you are Amish this is an unacceptable decision, one that brings shunning.
      When I was a young girl my dad left the Amish church. He didn’t commit any gross sins, he just decided to leave. He got a car, something I imagine each one of you use on a regular basis. But the shunning wreaked havoc on our lives. Because my mother chose to stay Amish she couldn’t go with him in his car, so we very rarely went anywhere as a family. When we would attend family gatherings he had to sit at a separate table, once he was even offered his own tray of snacks rather than eating from the communal tray.
      Imagine a marriage where your church tells you that you can’t eat at the same table as your husband, you can’t go with him in his car, you can’t even share a bed with him. And this isn’t one of the ultra conservative groups, this is Lancaster County Amish shunning.
      My dad is not a Christian, and so some would say it is reasonable to shun him because he has left the faith, but there are devout Christians who also leave the Amish church who receive the exact same treatment.
      I understand that the Amish have many great virtues but that doesn’t mean that everything they do is wonderful. The Amish want to hold their ex-members accountable for supposed sins so how about you hold the Amish accountable for their shortcomings. I want each of you to seriously think about the people who chose to leave and how their lives have been altered forever by something you call ‘love.’ Is this how you treat those who leave your church? Why not, if it’s supposedly biblical? Would you treat your child this way if they chose a different church?

      1. Dirk

        Rachel you blame the church for what happened in your family and ask us to imagine a church where ,,,,,

        Well perhaps we should imagine a husband and father who puts his own selfish desires and pleasures before those of his family, a man who willfully and knowingly follows a path that will cause pain to his family. Your father raised Amish knew the consequences of his actions, yet he still chose to follow his own personal path irrespective of who would suffer for this.

        To blame the church is failure on your part to recognize and admit that your father did not care enough about his family to make the mature personal sacrifices required as a family man for him not to be shunned. He chose shunning and a car over family and church.

        Even after he was shunned your father could have repented, given up his car and worldly life, and returned to family and church, but he chose not to. His actions or lack there of, show what was important to him and what was not. So please stop blaming the church for the decisions your father made, he is the one to blame.

        1. Rachel

          Dirk, my life is too good to spend much time debunking your theories on the supposed selfishness of my father. But I am thankful that he sacrificed the way he did so that my siblings and I would not have to one day make the choices he did. His leaving was our greatest gift.
          It is a sad commentary that the Amish has such high retention rates because of the hostages they keep due to shunning.

          1. Dirk

            Rachel you appear clueless about the Amish and shunning, as shown by your comment that shunning is responsible for the high retention rate.
            Youth who do not join the church, are not shunned. One has to first be a member before one can get shunned.

            It seems you are taking your understanding of shunning from other non-Anabaptist churches that shun their youth if they will not join and assuming the Amish do the same. Do not confuse Amish who withdraw from their children who become worldly, based on the NT command not to associate with the wicked, for shunning. The one is non-binding and a personal decision and the other is binding and a church decision.

            A person who had a fear of being shunned because of error in their life, would be the last one to voluntarily join the church. One joins the church in a position where one believes one will not be shunned. The elders will not baptise someone today whom knowingly, tomorrow they must shun.

            So the correct reading should be – despite the deterring negative practice of shunning, Amish youth still join the church on masse.

            Pity your father’s gift to you was the result of a poisoning of your mind to the truth. Deep down I think you know this, which explains your misdirected hostility and bitterness towards the Amish for standing firm on an article of faith established in the Schleitheim Confession of 1527, and supported by your presence on a pro-Amish blog site. May the Lord save you.

            From the Schleitheim confession-

            Article II. We are agreed as follows on the ban: The ban shall be employed with all those who have given themselves to the Lord, to walk in His commandments, and with all those who are baptized into the one body of Christ and who are called brethren or sisters, and yet who slip sometimes and fall into error and sin, being inadvertently overtaken. The same shall be admonished twice in secret and the third time openly disciplined or banned according to the command of Christ. Matt. 18. But this shall be done according to the regulation of the Spirit (Matt. 5) before the breaking of bread, so that we may break and eat one bread, with one mind and in one love, and may drink of one cup.

            Article IV. We are agreed (as follows) on separation: A separation shall be made from the evil and from the wickedness which the devil planted in the world; in this manner, simply that we shall not have fellowship with them (the wicked) and not run with them in the multitude of their abominations. This is the way it is: Since all who do not walk in the obedience of faith, and have not united themselves with God so that they wish to do His will, are a great abomination before God, it is not possible for anything to grow or issue from them except abominable things. For truly all creatures are in but two classes, good and bad, believing and unbelieving, darkness and light, the world and those who (have come) out of the world, God’s temple and idols, Christ and Belial; and none can have part with the other.

            To us then the command of the Lord is clear when He calls upon us to be separate from the evil and thus He will be our God and we shall be His sons and daughters.

            He further admonishes us to withdraw from Babylon and earthly Egypt that we may not be partakers of the pain and suffering which the Lord will bring upon them.

            From this we should learn that everything which is not united with our God and Christ cannot be other than an abomination which we should shun and flee from. By this is meant all Catholic and Protestant works and church services, meetings and church attendance, drinking houses, civic affairs, the oaths sworn in unbelief and other things of that kind, which are highly regarded by the world and yet are carried on in flat contradiction to the command of God, in accordance with all the unrighteousness which is in the world. From all these things we shall be separated and have no part with them for they are nothing but an abomination, and they are the cause of our being hated before our Christ Jesus, Who has set us free from the slavery of the flesh and fitted us for the service of God through the Spirit Whom He has given us.

            Therefore there will also unquestionably fall from us the unchristian, devilish weapons of force – such as sword, armor and the like, and all their use (either) for friends or against one’s enemies – by virtue of the Word of Christ. Resist not (him that is) evil.


            1. Rachel

              Hi Dirk, it's me again!!!!

              I’m not sure why I keep feeding this train wreck but here goes.

              Dirk, I find it a bit amusing and also somewhat offensive that you would tell me that I don’t understand the Amish and shunning. I’m not an idiot and I know that Amish children aren’t shunned until they make the decision to join and then leave later on.

              There are many (actually most) people who join the church at a young age, and as we all know, teenagers aren’t always the best at making decisions. There is a reason that buying alcohol and cigarettes have age limits. There is a reason for statutory rape laws. And so it is only reasonable that at sometime later in their life they may realize that they still believe in God, they still have faith, but that their faith is no longer in accordance with the Amish church. I imagine most of us could say that over time our own faith has evolved in different ways.

              It is at this point that Amish people are ‘stuck’ for lack of a better term. Leaving the Amish church is very different from changing churches with other groups. Not only are you alienated from your church, but also your family, sometimes you are employed by other Amish people, so you also need a new job. You have only an 8th grade education, and while there are many brilliant Amish people, this lack of further education can hinder you in certain occupational pursuits. There are definitely people who would leave if it weren’t for the shunning that would occur.

              This is actually one reason why there are such great differences among Amish families even within one church. For example, Amish people with iPhones, computers, and other off-limits technology. It is easier for these people to disobey the rules and try to get away with it, then it is for them to leave and attend a church where they can have the technology they want.

              I’m not sure why you have such harsh words for my dad. You don’t know him and it seems strange to accuse him of selfishness based on one or two comments I’ve made. I think you mistook the frustration in my post to be towards the Amish who shunned my dad. That is not how I feel, rather my frustration was directed towards those who were trying to say that shunning is loving without understanding all the potential ramifications and how it affects those around a shunned person. I was frustrated that people who would very likely never use this method on their friends and family were justifying it.

              1. Annette

                Hi, Rachel.
                I’d like to read your blog that I saw another commenter refer to.
                I had planned to become Amish with the help of another Amish convert. However, things changed, as often comes of life. 🙂
                I don’t know if you want to share that over this website, but please know we’re not all judging you and your father here.

                1. Rachel

                  My blog

                  Hi Annette and thanks for your kind words. My blog is http://notthelifeidreamedof.wordpress.com/ I post about once a month more or less.

      2. Don Curtis


        Well, Rachel. You came on here pretty strong and that indicates that you are angry and in pain. You are directing that pain against us “we make you sick” and against the Amish.
        I am not an expert on the Amish. My son is the one who joined the Amish and still is Amish. But, I do know that you are not baptized Amish at birth. You must make the conscious decision to be baptized and join the Amish. I, also, know that no one is disciplined by the Church until they are baptized and a member of the Church.
        So, at some point in time, your dad made the conscious decision to confess that he knew Jesus Christ as Lord; that he promised to abide by the Amish Church and its rules; and that he would support the Church.
        Evidentially, he then married an Amish woman and started to raise a family. Later he admitted he was not a Christian. Broke his promises to the Church. Got himself a car and is leading a worldly life while still married to your mom who has remained steadfast to her promises she made before God and before the Church.
        The Amish Church in its Confession of Faith stresses discipline of erring members. Your father knew this. He joined this. At some point in time he agreed to it. Now he has come under discipline and you’re upset.
        What pains me is that if your Dad is not a Christian, the separation he and you are chaffing against now are as nothing compared to the pain and agony you will experience if he dies in his sins and is separated for eternity from other believers and from God.
        The Amish believe that the Bann is that last act of love they can give to an erring member. It gives them a taste of what eternal banishment from the presence of God will be like. Evidentially, you and your Dad haven’t gotten the point of that and I’m sorry. I will pray for you.
        It seems that in the present worldly culture no one wants to be held accountable for their decisions and behavior. Somebody else is always to blame. My son came from the outside and joined the Amish. But he joined willingly. Nobody forced him. And, he also knows, that if he leaves the Amish after having been baptized and promising to be faithful to Christ and His Church that he will be disciplined by being excommunicated and shunned. He knew this when he joined. He accepted it and agreed to it. I would be very disappointed in him if he left the Amish and then complained because they were disciplining him and accused them of being hypocrites. That’s how we raised our children. Take responsibility for your decisions and behavior.

        1. Rachel

          Don, I’m not going to address most of your comments. But I do want to make it clear that my father never complained about being shunned. I just wanted to make people aware of the cost to innocent victims by a flawed church policy. These are my complaints not my fathers.

          1. Lance

            Quite a fight y'all got going here....

            Rachel, you say your dad is not a Christian. That is too bad, if he is still alive, maybe God will move his heart and soul to repent someday. But, after reading what you have written, one has to ask, are you a Christian? If you are a Christian, have you forgiven the Amish for all that you and your family have suffered?

            I write this because the pain that is very apparent in your writing makes me want to ask you to talk with your current pastor/minister/priest about how you feel about what happened. It would seem to me that the way to getting rid of the pain begins with forgiveness.

            My intent here is not to condemn, offend, or blame you in any way. I only hope you the best in this life and am hoping that this will be received as someone trying to help, not add fuel to a fire, nor pour salt on a still festering wound.

          2. Ed from NY

            Hi Rachel. Thanks for giving us a real-world view on how shunning can play out within a family. All I can say is, both your mother and father must be incredibly strong (and stubborn!) people. Most couples would probably find some accommodation, like joining a different church or one person or the other would just keep quiet. Others would no doubt divorce. But both your dad and your mom held strong to their beliefs, while also, if I understand correctly, holding strong to their marriage and family.

            May I ask, did your parents find common ground in other areas of their life? Were they both respectful to the beliefs of the other in raising you, and understanding the choice of what to believe would be yours alone to make?

            I respect the Amish greatly and I understand that the bann is an integral part of their faith. But clearly, your testimony shows that any religion – including the Amish – is created and managed by men, not deity. I don’t think there is any one religion that is right for everyone.

    15. Carol

      Rachel, I commend you for “telling it like it is.” Some seem to have a very different definition of “love.”

    16. Julie C.

      Comment on "The Amish: Shunned" on PBS

      I agree with Rachel & Carol. I am imagining the shunning by the Amish to be very similar to the disfellowshiping by Jehovah’s Witnesses. They liken their’s to reprimanding a small child. But I think being on the end of the shunning or disfellowshiping, it feels & looks totally different then to us who are just intellectualizing it. I understood disfellowshiping in theory, but once I experienced it in real life… it is just wrong & ugly…but approved by the Church.

      1. Dirk

        Julie, every country, society, culture, religion, club, sports, army, business, family has its own rules and regulations. When one breaks the rules one will be disciplined, when one refuses to amend ones behavior and continues breaking the rules, things will get ugly.

        If it is wrong for a church to discipline its members who break the rules, then it is equally wrong for any other organization or government to enforce their rules. Long live Anarchy.

    17. Valerie

      Whose heart is not affected by Rachel’s family’s story? Truly it is a sad one and leaves us almost unable to find words to minister to Rachel’s heart-a broken heart, for her story is a sad one.

      That being said, we never hear all sides of the story most of the time, and oft we hear only the side of one who is hurting, and therefore it is impossible to ascertain what led to all the circumstances for shunning/excommunication.

      Many churches are not obedient to this particular passage by Apostle Paul:
      I Corinthians 5:11:

      1 Corinthians 5:11

      King James Version (KJV)

      11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.

      I can see that the Amish may have included in that list, other reasons to excommunicate-that passage does tell us not to ‘eat with such a one as this’ so that has to be where the Amish (who take the Bible literally) will separate a person while eating-they feel it is in obedience to that passage. In Rachel’s case, her mother desired to stay Amish-and father had left the faith, and every faith, so it seems the Church was using that scripture to hopefully reveal the father’s decision to leave the faith meant leaving the community. The Amish are so protective of others in the body being led astray-indeed many Amish ARE led astray. There are many gospels being preached out there and so the Amish church is almost ruled by fear-of losing their members to a sinful world.

      I hope and pray Rachel’s family is reconciled, and her father finds faith in Jesus Christ (I hope same for my own father!) and she has some valid concerns regarding those who have left to follow Jesus in a deeper way-and still are shunned-because it is not “Amish doctrine”. It’s just that usually those folks, try to bring others out with them, and the Amish are wise to this. The church at large-is in a sad state these days

    18. John

      When Jesus Christ was baptized, be was immersed in moving water. When Amish are baptized, who are they kneeling to? The Amish bishop.

      1. Lance

        The Amish baptize by sprinkling, which is consistent with the concepts of Eze 36:25 and all New Testament verses dealing with baptism.

        The baptism is described in this post:

        The Bishop cups his hands over the person being baptized and while speaking the words in the post from above link, the deacon pours three small pours from a cup into the Bishop’s hands and after the third, he opens his hands, sprinkling the water over the head of the person.

        This subject is dealt with in depth in the book “1001 Q & A on the Christian Life” from Pathway Publishers, a Amish book pulbisher. Its available on the internet from a variety of sources, just search for it.

      2. Dirk

        Hi John, the Swiss Brethren of 1525 aka Anabaptist of whom the Amish descend from, believed in three baptisms.

        The first is a spiritual baptism of the Holy Spirit when one becomes a believer who has received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the steadfast conviction to follow Jesus.

        The second is a water baptism by the bishop when one publically declares one’s faith in Jesus. This is done by sprinkling water on the head to symbolize the baptism of the Holy Spirit, as when the dove descended upon the head of Jesus and the flames descended upon the head’s of the apostles at Pentecost. Immersion in water is the baptism of John, which the Anabaptists do not practice, preferring to practice the baptism of Jesus by fire and by spirit. Mat 3:11: Luke 3:16.

        Which brings us to our last baptism, the baptism of fire by the enemies of Christ. This is the baptism of the martyr when one dies for one’s faith at the hands of those who hate the light. A common baptism for Anabaptist’s in the past, but not so much today.

    19. Slightly-Handled-Order-Man

      Shunning and other generations

      I’m not going to comment on Rachel’s comments above, for or against her thoughts, but her family’s experience has raised a question in my mind.

      Hypothetically, suppose Rachel has children, and they are inspired by the walk their grandmother took in her life, and expressed interest in their Amish ancestry, would a person with grandparent ties be able to take Amish baptism and “return themselves” to the Amish life, or would there be concerns or a “rift” between them and the community lingering because of their grandfather’s choice.

      Does this ever happen?

      1. Dirk

        Theologically Christians, including the Amish, do not give birth to little Christians or to little Amish. The children of Christian parents are little heathens until they accept Christ as their Lord and Savior and announce this publically through the act of baptism.

        Thus the children of Amish parents, although raised Amish, are not officially accepted as Christians or under church discipline until they accept Jesus and are baptised. Therefore Rachel’s children or anyone else’s children, including Amish children, are on the same footing and all are welcome to join.
        The only advantage the Amish children have is that they were raised in the faith so it comes as no great challenge to them when they join.

        This freedom of religious choice to be baptised or not and not forced infant baptisms, is one of the founding cornerstones of the Anabaptist faith and cannot be denied to the faithful, irrespective of where or who raised them.

        1. Slightly-Handled-Order-Man

          Thank you for the well put and explained reply.

    20. Alice Mary

      I’m glad I am so late in viewing this posting. There are many strongly-held opinions & beliefs being stated here. I will reserve my judgement of the PBS PROGRAM (the original subject of this post) until after I’ve seen it. I have much higher regard for (and standards expected of) PBS than other TV networks which have aired programs like “Breaking Amish” and the one about the Amish Mafia…!

      As always, religions are products of man (the all-inclusive “mankind”), who FEEL they’ve been inspired by God (who are we to say if that is true or not?) I always remind my often outspoken Christian relatives and friends that Jesus was a good, practicing Jew, after all…one with differing ideas—which got him more than shunned…it got him killed.

      Alice Mary

    21. Sandra Kathleen

      Alice Mary, I agree. There may be “Much Ado About Nothing.”…unless someone has seen the whole episode??

      Rachel — it must be difficult to “take” a side as you can see both, so you have a unique perspective.

      My immediate heart response to the topic was to wonder if there is a place for those who are shunned to go — a halfway house, so to speak, where caring people can assist those individuals to get education/training and/or experience that will help shape their futures in a very different culture.

      1. Valerie

        Helping those that choose to leave

        Sandra Kathleen, there are ministries started by former Amish that do exactly that-help, there’s one in PA & this one in Ohio:
        http://www.mapministry.org/ is very instrumental at helping with those practical needs you mention, in transitioning, as well as spiritual guidance. This ministry has volunteers that take in and ‘adopt’ a young person who has left the Amish. This ministry is also building housing to accommodate more, as there is great need. The founder of this ministry & his wife have dedicated their lives to help them out-and mostly keep them from the harm of the world they just entered.

        Also, former Amish that have made the transition help others that leave, I know of a case now where a former Amish has dedicated a lot of time, effort, resources to help a young man that needed to get out of his hurtful environment and is transitioning so there are a lot of helping hands and hearts out there.

    22. Dave

      :-) Thank You Rachel For Sharing


      Thank you for sharing your situation. It helps us see how a strong rebuke can challenge families & children. Shunning was not fair to you, as I am sure the burden devote Jews bore after Solomon fell and God removed his favor. Daniel being marched to Babylon was not fair to him.

      For you this is real, for us a matter of culture, religion or ethics to ponder.

      < Peace

    23. Anne, the mom!

      take it easy...

      It’s not possible for any of us to actually know with certainty what happened in Rachel’s situation. When my son joined, he did so with the knowledge that there were many Amish churches he would NOT agree with. Just like the evangelical church in this country, there are many varieties. No one reading this blog knows enough about what happened in Rachel’s case and in the community her family was in, that caused this shunning. I’m sure Rachel doesn’t even know. All the points made here are interesting, they give us all insight into these communities. Thanks to all who contribute! But PLEASE! When we don’t know details, let’s be slow to judge… There is a time for judging but this is not it.

    24. Beth


      I understand that Rachel’s father tried to join this thread and that his comments were blocked. He shared them on Facebook and I could find no reason why they should have been blocked.

      1. Beth, I appreciate the different sides of this discussion and wish everyone could participate. If you’d like to know why that poster’s comments automatically went into moderation and are not appearing here, feel free to email me.

        1. E M Usner

          Virtual Shunning

          I’ve not felt the need to comment because it seems that compassionate and rational folks have voiced thoughtful positions of reason and moderation. (Rather than reactionary and possibly hurtful accusations that are too often found in online forums). Erik, perhaps there should be some kind of covenant statement for posters to use “I” statements and respect each other’s views and experiences?

          In any case, it strikes me that if this ostensibly public forum is no actually going to be public, (i.e. moderated or censored of certain voices), that participants deserve to know why and who is not being included (as well as how not to fall under censorship themselves); especially if voices of the very people effected by shunning are being excluded! So how about some transparency with the moderation?

          Indeed, this seems all the more ironic in a discussion of shunning, as, at least in some cases, shunning seems to occurs when individuals ask questions or voice opinions which are not deemed correct by established orthodoxy–be it Amish Ordnung, any religion’s authority, or those who hold power in any social group (or moderators). As long as individuals address each other respectfully, then all should be included.

          1. EM, the commenter was banned a long time ago for being habitually uncivil and also language. Multiple occurrences and requiring a lot of energy on my end. If you need more details than that, drop me an email.

            Obviously, it goes without saying people should remain civil and respectful. I’m not interested in banning people and rarely do so. All sides are welcome as long as it stays civil and no foul language. Generally commenters here are good about that, and I hope and expect that to remain the same.

    25. Kate

      I wonder how many of these comments come from a person of Amish faith or formerly of that faith. The issue here is related to “shunning” due to disobedience and lack of repentance. Seems to me people are making some big assumptions when not even part of the community. There are other ways of disobedience that are known and ignored unless blatantly put out there for the bishop to see. Things like telephones or cars–but not at the house. Or shades pulled all the way down to hide curtains that have been hung inside the house.

    26. Annette

      I knew an Amish man who was an alcoholic, and he began going to AA meetings. They were quite far from his community, and the bus was very inconvenient for his family and took him away from his home for long periods with its schedule.
      He got a car to get him to and from meetings and was excommunited and shunned.

    27. gerda santos

      Hi friends!
      Im brasilian,cristian and batist.
      I like my brothers amish!can i know more about your life?
      I have 45 years old.divorced and a teacher in Brasil.I leave alone in Curitiba -Parana
      Good plasure make friends amish!

      God blessing y

    28. Easy to say..

      It doesnt look like I’ll be able to record the show, so I’ll have to wait till it becomes available on the internet. Thanks to whomever mentioned it above.. Im looking forward to watching it. As with all things, I think its wise to watch with a grain of salt.. We all know that just because its on tv or the internet doesnt make it true.

      I think those of us who have never felt the pain of the Bann can truly speak to it other than theoretically.

      When a person “joins” a church, Im sure we all believe that we will be able to hold fast to the tenants of that church all of our days..because we believe in them with all our heart & soul at the time. However, human life is no static thing, changing always, taking us to places we had no way to foresee we would go when we were younger. Therein lies the rub with the Amish church and many others very similar.

      I used to be a member of a church that was very much like the Amish & Mennonite in some ways… Their way was the ONLY way, the bible was very literally applied to the church, no cutting hair, no makeup for women, dresses only, no swimming with men and only in clothes that fully covered the body, etc..

      At the time I joined, I joined with full knowledge of what I was getting into.. however over time, I became dissatisfied with some of church ways because they had nothing whatsoever to do with our spiritual soul and everything to do with following man, the preachers, good or bad, and feeling “shunned” if you dared to ask why or God forbid you told anyone you believed differently.

      I eventually left & Im glad I did.. It was painful, yes, and I was “put out” from among the brethern…I didnt start out in that church so it wasnt like every person or family member I knew was being cut off, but people I loved (and yes, some inlaws)”shunned” me and I moved on.
      Funny thing is.. 30 years later, many of those same folks now take a much different stance than they did then.. I think it was having many of the elders pass on and those left behind too had a very different idea of what is truly Christian love and what is not.. At the very least, they are in a different place than they were 30 years ago as well.

      I understand and admire the Amish in many ways, but I believe what Rachael was saying is, Amish are great in some respects, but dont blind yourself to cultural leanings that bring much harm to innocent children, which she herself attests to. That stands true to many different religions, practices, and cultures. The Amish dont have the Market-share on it.

    29. Original film "The Amish" air times

      For anyone interested in viewing the original “The Amish” film, the first hour is airing tomorrow evening (Tues Jan 28) from 8-9 pm EST on PBS.

      The second hour will be then shown just preceding the new film, on Tues Feb 4 from 8-9 pm (followed by The Amish: Shunned from 9-11 pm).

    30. Slightly-handled-Order-man

      Guess what I'm watching sometime soon!

      Woo! My item has arrived at the public library, now, on my way to work I am going to pick up Shunned. Yes. I know what I’m doing after the Office Christmas Party on Sunday!

      Mind you, I placed a hold on it like 3 or 4 weeks ago, I’m surprised I got it before Christmas 2014.