The Amish way of life Sherri S. Archer-Taylor ANT101: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology Instructor Jason Gonzalez December 10, 2011 The Amish way of life I. The Amish way of life….
The Social Construction of the Amish Community
Sociology 1101 The Amish Community, an Example of Social Construction The Amish culture qualifies as an example of social construction because it is a belief that has important consequences for a large group of people. The people of the Amish community have specific rules they must follow. They believe that the outside culture has a morally polluting effect and that it promotes pride, greed, immorality and materialism. Some of the Amish beliefs include the concept that God will judge them on how well they have obeyed the church rules during their lifetime and that contact with the “outside world” makes it harder to obey their rules.
This is the reason for their extreme isolation. Even though the Amish culture believes that the “outside world” has a polluting effect on them and their children, there is a time within the Amish community that the parents throughout the community allow their children to participate in events and activities that they usually wouldn’t be allowed to participate in. This time is referred to as Rumspringa. Rumspringa is also referred to as “running around” This is the term used to describe the period of adolescence Amish experience starting at around the age of sixteen.
The parents of the children who choose to participate in this opportunity feel that their children cannot be shunned from the Amish community because they are not yet baptized and they are not yet under the authority of the church. Rumspringa helps the young adults to choose whether they want to join the church or not. The young adults can choose to join a youth group on the weekends usually. These different youth groups have different activities or events they participate in. There are two main groups; one considered the slower or plainer group and the other considered the faster group.
The slower groups participates in activities such as volleyball games, and singing groups and are even sometimes supervised by adults while the faster group participates in parties and other activities considered less conservative. Although most people seem to think that the youth who participate in these groups are participating in heavy partying, drug use, premarital sex or other extreme behaviors this is usually not the case although these are not unheard of throughout the faster youth groups. The Amish community serves as an example of social construction because the ideas of this culture are passed along by xplaining each aspect of the community through personal interactions and friendships, people begin to believe these strict aspects are what are to be expected because so many other people of the Amish community are believing them and practicing them. Then the strict aspects of the Amish culture are eventually accepted and passed down from generation to generation. “The Amish people are direct descendants of the Anabaptists of the sixteenth century Europe. Anabaptism is the religion that came about during the reformation era.
The term Anabaptist first started out as a nickname that meant re-baptizer, because this group rejected the idea of infant baptism, since an infant doesn’t yet have the knowledge of good and evil. The Anabaptists were seen as a threat to Europe’s religious and social institutions and were therefore persecuted. ” The idea of Rumspringa first begins because of this specific aspect of the Amish culture, the belief that their children cannot be shunned by the Amish community because they are not old enough to know the difference between good and evil.
This then allows the people of the Amish community to consider what the specific age of knowing good from evil is and then they present the specific idea of Rumspringa to the Amish culture. The Amish community passed through the three phases of Berger and Luckmann’s analysis by first; externalizing the ideas of the culture by putting an explanation of the ideas “out there” The Amish community first presented the idea of Rumspringa to the entire community when they felt that their young adults should have a choice whether or not they wanted to continue to practice the Amish believes and pass them down to their children.
Although it may seem that this act of Rumspringa is going completely against what the Amish community believes, the Amish parents do not encourage their youth to leave home and participate in sinful behaviors but they feel there must be at least some room for free choice in the decision to become Amish. Rumspringa was also explained as the time the Amish community allowed their young adult children to participate in youth groups that would lead them to finding a spouse and if this happened and the two young adults decided to get married their time of Rumspringa was over and they were now to be baptized.
The second phase they passed their belief through is objectivation. This is the most crucial phase of construction. The strict rules of the Amish community led the people of the Amish community to believe that being exposed to the outside world would pollute their minds. But, when the idea of Rumspringa was first put out there for people to consider, it showed that this would allow their children to participate in activities and groups that they were not usually allowing them too.
At first the people of the Amish community felt this idea was crazy, but after it was explained that their children would not be shunned from the community because they had not yet been baptized and were not yet under the authority of the church and that their young adult children needed free choice in whether or not to continue the practices of the Amish culture, people began to really consider this idea. Many Amish families decided this was a good idea and began to practice this new belief.
They felt this could actually help their family continue from generation to generation. The third phase of Berger and Luckmann is the phase of internalization. This newly introduced belief of the Amish community was spreading quickly and more and more people began practicing this belief. More people of the Amish community began to involve this belief into their everyday lives because they felt this could lead their children to marriage and then they would soon be baptized and be considered under the authority of the church.
People of the Amish community had children and has these children grew up they were introduced to the idea of Rumspringa and as these children grew into adults and had their own children they passed down the belief to their children and eventually the belief of Rumspringa throughout the Amish culture was now passed down from generation to generation religiously. Even though the idea of Rumspringa was doubted when it was first presented to the Amish community, the people of the Amish community began to actually consider the aspects of this new idea and realize this could help their children and even their families for generations.
This is how the beliefs of the Amish community passed through the third phase of Berger and Luckmanns reality of construction. I believe that the beliefs of the Amish community could either be effectively challenged or accepted depending on the person who is examining and judging the culture. The Amish culture thoroughly explains each aspect of their culture and why they participate in each aspect. They have specific background information on why they now accept the idea of Rumspringa.
I feel he Amish culture could also be effectively challenged because, even though the Amish culture presents their ideas of Rumspringa and explains that they feel this certain period of time in their children’s lives could effectively alter their lives for the better, this time doesn’t actually let their children move outside the community or even the home. The young adults of the Amish community don’t actually get to experience what it is like to live in a house where there is television or dress differently or even eat food they have never tried before.
I feel the period of Rumspringa should be widened completely. The young adults should be able to spend six months to year physically living and working in a whole different world and this would actually allow them to make a completely honest choice about whether to join the Amish community church without the heavy influence of their parents. I feel this would effectively allow the young adults experience Rumspringa.