Dare to Ask: For Amish teens, a time for being
By Phillip Milano
The Florida Times-Union
Is it true that Amish teens do not have to follow Amish traditions, such as
not using electricity? -- J.K., Johnson City, Tenn.
I have heard that Amish teens get a year "off" to live in our world to see
which path they want to choose. Otherwise they use nothing electric. -- D., 53,
Pagan female, Texas
I think there is an Amish tradition that when they turn a certain age,
somewhere in their teens, they are allowed to experience a "normal" life with
electricity and shopping malls and all those other things that most people take
for granted, and then choose if they want that over their life as an Amish. --
Erika, 15, atheist, Allyn, Wash.
There is a time in which Amish teens go out into the world and experience
life how we do. It starts around the time of 16. But the vast majority of Amish
teens return to the church when this time is over. Also interesting about this:
Most of the boys wear "English" clothing, whereas the girls continue to wear
their regular clothes and hairstyles. -- Ann, 21, Catholic, Covington, Ky.
Guess what? The Amish can use electricity. (We shocked the world!)
But they differentiate between 12-volt batteries and 110-volt current from a
public grid. The former they can use; the latter they don't use because they are
averse to being too connected to the outside world.
They derive that sentiment from some biblical passages that urge one to not
be too close to worldly things, said Donald B. Kraybill, a senior fellow at
Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania who specializes in Amish studies.
"They desire to be separate from society ... from evils, war, cheating,
divorce and obsessions with sexuality, fads and fashions that glorify the
individual," said Kraybill, whose many books include "Amish Grace," about
forgiveness after the 2006 Amish schoolhouse killings in Lancaster County, Pa.
So, TVs, computers and cars are no-nos, but battery-operated tools, clocks,
cash registers and some farm equipment are OK. Meanwhile, a community phone and
a car driven by a hired driver can also be used for emergencies and to conduct
business affairs, he said.
As far as Amish teens, they do get a chance to explore the outside world --
from the time they're 16 until baptism in the church at ages 18 to 22 -- in a
practice called "Rumspringa."
"They are in limbo between the authority of their parents and that of the
church," Kraybill said. "They can do what they want on weekends. Some will get
cars, have parties, have a rock band, but many remain traditional."
Most return to the fold.
And when they're adults, are the Amish all dour like they show on TV?
"No, they have a sense of humor," Kraybill said. "They make jokes. I remember
one Amish guy who needed to give his contact information to someone. He said,
'You can reach me at kerosene.com.' "
ADD OR READ MORE COMMENTS
This is your column. You can help it grow! If you like "Dare to Ask,"
please call or e-mail your favorite newspaper or web site and urge them to start
running it. It's syndicated by
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers. Send general
column comments to email@example.com. You can also hear his
podcasts or watch his