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Being Excommunicated From Amish Society Is A Cold, Brutal, And Heartless Process

Updated September 20, 2018 89.6k views12 items

What happens when an Amish person leaves the community? Amish churches are notoriously secretive and often do not let in outsiders. When someone leaves the church, it's difficult and sometimes impossible to return. Amish shunning is a longstanding practice in which church members isolate, ignore, or otherwise punish someone for breaking community rules. Amish excommunication is a complicated process that occurs when someone does something that goes against the church's values. While not all shunning results in Amish full-on banishment, contact with friends and loved one is severely restricted for a shunned individual. 

Amish shunning stories are often tragic in nature. Shunned individuals are left isolated with loved ones, often including their parents. The practice has received considerable criticism from outsiders, but the Amish see it as a form of tough love. Amish people believe a person's soul is at risk if they violate the church's values. Whatever you think about Amish people, it's worth your time to familiarize yourself with some of the rules and rituals surrounding excommunication in the Amish church. 

  • The Amish Believe The Bible Encourages Shunning

    Shunning has biblical roots. Amish churches cite multiple biblical passages that they interpret as advocating shunning. In the Book of Matthew, for example, a passage advises privately correcting someone who has sinned. If they do not repent, they must be presented publicly before the church. If they still do not repent, the Bible states, “Let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” This is quite similar to the process in which someone is shunned in Amish church.

    Corinthians 5:11 can also be viewed as an endorsement of shunning. The passage reads:

    I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler - not even to eat with such a one.

  • Amish Churches Abide By Strict Rules Known As The Ordnung

    Amish churches abide by a regulations known as the Ordnung. Each church has their own specific Ordnung. These are sets of rules regarding behaviors, rituals, rules, and customs one must follow to remain in the Amish church.

    This includes things like bans on specific forms of technology and regulations regarding clothing. Congregations decide on the rules together. Twice a year, an Amish church will get together to debate and update the Ordnung. Violating the Ordnung is a major reason for shunning.

  • Amish See Shunning As A Form Of Tough Love

    The Amish genuinely worry for a person’s soul if they commit sins that are worthy of shunning. They want community members to remain in the church. Shunning is often seen as a form of tough love.

    The intense consequences that come with shunning are meant to guide the shunned individual back into the community. 

  • Many Behaviors Can Lead To Shunning

    There are many reasons a person may be shunned. All churches have their own rules that vary in intensity. Some common reasons for shunning may include owning automobiles or computers, failing to kneel during church services, or drinking alcohol.