The dark side of Amish Pt. !
There is a dark side to the Amish faith, one that doesn’t correspond with the quant, peaceful reputation of the Amish themselves. And I shall explore that some here and in other posts I plan.
The thing that strikes me most about the Amish religion is how it is structured to give the church almost absolute control over the individual. It uses the same techniques that most cults use to control members but they go much, much further. The one major difference is that cults tend to be based on recruitment. The Amish don’t recruit they procreate -- often.
One of the most important control techniques of a cult is to alienate the individual from the world in general. Make them rely on the cult for everything. If they have no friends or support structure outside the cult they can be controlled.
The Amish go much further. If you are born into an Amish family the family and the church community surrounding you is almost all you know. Your education is intentionally stopped at 8th grade, sometimes sooner. Thus you have no education worth speaking of that limits your ability to leave the cult.
You are also unfamiliar with all modern conveniences. You most likely can’t drive. You don’t have computer skills nor are you familiar with any major technological advances except indirectly. This lack of education and skills makes you unfit for any decent job restricting you to farm life, which is the life of the Amish.
One reason for this restriction of technology is that technology is inherently individualistic and that doesn’t sit well with the church. They intentionally want people to have to rely on the community of fellow Amish in order to survive. By making life labor intensive they force individuals to kow-tow to the community as well as have large families to grow the church.
In addition the church actively works to alienate you from your neighbors and the world around you. You are intentionally dressed very differently from the rest of your peers. They know such actions causes some ridicule, especially among children. But then this serves the purpose of keeping the youths under control. Young people who might wish to challenge the authority of the church fear they would never be accepted outside the church. They feel no connection with their peers except those who are also under the same strict rules of dress and behavior.
In addition to this there is no life for the Amish outside the church. While there are two dozen Amish sects in the United States, with some variance in the rules, shunning is a common practice. Shunning can alienate an individual completely from every aspect of life as they know it.
If a member is shunned he is to be ignored by everyone in the community. Sometimes this is for short periods of time for non serious offenses, like rape! Sometimes it is for life. Individuals can be excommunicated and lose the entire existence they know.
With no farm equipment they need the community to help them. But the community refuses to do so. With excommunication they may find that their spouses and family leave them. Every aspect of life is strictly controlled by the church. There are explicit rules about what clothes one may wear, right down the width of the brim on the hat. Sex is regulated, or at least is supposed to be.
But given their extremist conservative views on morality there is a practice that many outsiders would find bizarre: bundling or “bed courtship”. Teens of the opposite sex are allowed, sometimes even encouraged, to spend the night together. Teenage boys are allowed to go to the room a girl and climb into bed with her. The rules say they are supposed to keep their clothes on but those are easily broken. And since the boys, in the strict sects, aren’t allowed to wear underwear the only thing they have to do is unbutton a couple of buttons. Now, why would the church seemingly have this “liberal” view of teenaged boys and girls spending the entire night together in the same bed (boys are only required to leave when it’s time to milk the cow)? One reason is that this encourages the youngsters to get married, or end up in a situation where they have to get married. The church found this makes it more likely that they will stay with the faith. It is another means of control. About 12% of all Amish first borns were conceived out of wedlock.
On one hand the Amish speak of the importance that each church member join of their own free will. But on the other hand their entire social system is built in such a way as to strip people of the ability to make any other choice.