Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Two Views of Shunning

I was sixteen that summer, when I got my first real taste of what shunning looks like.

A young boy in our church had passed away and the funeral was being held three days later. It was my first time being part of the cleaning crew that always descended upon the house where the deceased's family lived and got it scrubbed and polished from top to bottom in a single day.

The following day was spent with food preparations for the meal that would be served the next day after funeral services were over. I don't remember exactly what all it included because I was kept busy making pie the entire day after the head cook and planner discovered I was pretty good at it.

By evening everything was ready for the next day, including huge tables set up in their woodworking shop. All the youth girls were assigned a table to serve and care for. Since I was the youngest I was assigned to the least important table. The one where shunned people would eat. It was away from the tables in the shop. Not even in the same building. They decided this particular table belonged in the house. Not just anywhere in the house either, but in the dank dimly lit basement.

I felt horrible that anyone would be treated so badly, and vowed to give them the best service possible. I ran from the shop, down the hill across the yard, in through the house, and down into the basement carrying bowls of food for them, making sure they had the best food and the prettiest pie.

It all bothered me a lot and I vowed I would never do anything to experience being shunned like that.

Fast forward a number of years. LV and I had left the Amish and were now shunned. For the most part we stayed away from the Amish especially when it came to mealtimes or business dealings because it's just easier that way.

Then one day we got an invitation to an event. We felt we should probably attend. How bad could it be we wondered, because two of LV's siblings who had also left the Amish and their families would be there too. We could all kind of stick together, right? Wrong.

We arrived and all the women, including the sister-in-laws who were no longer Amish were helping make lunch. I asked if there was something I could do and one of them told me to go ahead and slice the tomatoes. I got started, but hadn't even finished the first one when I was interrupted by the lady of the house.

"You can't touch our food," she said and threw the contaminated tomato away. She told me to sit on a chair in the corner of the room away from everyone else who was working. So there I sat ... I decided rather than feel hurt I'm going to enjoy not having to work.

Then lunch was ready to serve. They didn't have room for everyone to sit around a table so lunch would be cafeteria style. Once again, even though LV's siblings who had left the Amish were permitted to go through the line themselves and fill their own plates, LV and I had to sit to the side on some chairs and have the lady of the house bring us our food. We were both more than a little disgruntled about that.

Shunning is annoying. The Amish say it will bring people back to them, but I've never seen it work that way. It certainly doesn't make me feel like spending time around them, or ever being Amish again.

~~~~
There's a wedding invitation on the desk waiting to be answered.
 Do I feel like going and being stuffed into corners and little out of the way tables?
No, I don't.
Should I?
I don't think it's necessary to willingly put myself through that again.
It would be uncomfortable for everyone. Me as the shunned person ... and those who have to do the shunning.
Instead of going I think I'll stay at home and write a blog post.

28 comments:

  1. I think that would be best.
    It is so sad that the Amish, whom I respect, should feel that something so damaging will bring people back.

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    1. It is sad, but we knew how it was going to be before we chose to leave, so I don't feel I can hold it against them. But I also don't think I need to put myself in situations where they have to practice it on me.

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  2. That makes me sad to read how people who are shunned are treated. What a painful experience to go through. Although the wedding is such a joyful occasion, how you describe being shunned would make for a very difficult day for you.

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    1. That's why I'm so very torn. On one hand I would very much like to attend the wedding. But on the other hand there is no way I want to suffer through an exceedingly uncomfortable day.

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  3. I am so sorry to read this. It really makes me wonder if the Amish realize what a loving God we have and how he would not rejoice is such treatment of others. An old custom that perhaps, is not so fitting in the 21st century. Yes, I would stay home also and rejoice in your chosen life. Sending hugs to you.

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    1. They would say they are pleasing God by shunning us.

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  4. I used to work with a lady who was a Jehovah's Witness. One day she mentioned that it was her brother's birthday (birthdays are among the very few holidays they celebrate). I asked if they were going out for dinner or anything special and she said no because he had left the faith and she hadn't seen him for many years, as they are required to shun people who leave the faith. I asked her how she could do something like that, and she said "If one of my children does something bad, I punish them to teach them how to do right. This is simply a way of punishing people to make them see the error of their ways." I thought then, as now, how ridiculous that was and how counter-productive. Why would you want to be among people who thought it was appropriate to throw someone out of the family simply because they worshiped differently? It made no sense to me then and it makes no sense to me now. I'm sorry that your family and the other Amish are this way toward you, and I probably wouldn't go to the wedding either.

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    1. Religion can be so hurtful, but Jesus is bigger than the hurt.

      I'm hoping one day the Amish will realize that their method of shunning doesn't really work. It might keep some people some people Amish for fear of being shunned, but it really doesn't bring the shunned ones back.

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    2. I asked her if she missed him, because obviously she still loved and thought about him or she would not have said anything about it being his birthday. She said yes, but "It's more important to me that he goes to heaven than that I see him on his birthday." I wanted to say "I thought Jesus was in charge of that, not us." but it seemed argumentative. Shunning is so hurtful.

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  5. I am assuming that for the Amish, shunning one person is really to keep the rest, especially children, in line. Having one come back to the flock is just the added bonus.
    I am glad you refuse to be used as an example on such a beautiful day as a wedding.
    By receiving an invitation though, you are wanted there. Perhaps going to the ceremony but not staying for the meal? Not that you would be trying to make a statement on that day, but it would show your love for the people, but your freedom from the practice of shunning.
    Blessings to you as you discern God's will in this.

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    1. Excellent insight on the shunning.

      If the ceremony were nearby, I would consider doing that. But traveling over 500 miles one way makes it less appealing as well.

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  6. I think Polly has the right idea. Go, wish the couple well, and then take your leave. We used to have a fellow in our congregation who had been a JW, and he was so hurt and annoyed by their shunning that he was still steaming. When he left, the church elders came to his parents and told them they had to chose their son or their faith, so they threw him out of the house.
    So much for Christian charity.

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  7. I have never understood the concept of shunning in light of what you and the commenters have written. It certainly wouldn't make me want to be part of that group any longer. I admire so much about the Amish, but this is difficult for me to understand. Sometimes, very, very, rarely, someone may be asked to leave the church fellowship where we attend because of a sinful lifestyle, (ie. adultery, theft, etc.), that they refuse to give up or repent of. But their family and other church members don't shun them from their lives completely. The greatest object is to have them repent and rejoin the church.

    I'm curious as well, as to why L.V.'s brothers and their families aren't treated the same as you are. It's all very sad.
    Blessings,
    Betsy

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  8. You are doing the right thing by staying home. There is no reason to put yourself or anyone else through that kind of manipulation. Send a card expressing your love and well wishes.

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  9. I guess I don't understand why you get an invitation at all. You are being shunned so why are they being nice. It's hurts I know, when part of your family no longer wants to deal with you -Amish or not it can happen to anyone. I've come to the decision I'll just pray for them and maybe I'll see them one day again. Forgiveness will be the key.

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    1. Shunning and forgiveness aren't really connected. It's not that they don't like us, but in order for them to not have to endure a period of being shunned themselves they have to obey the church rules and shun us.

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  10. Wow, thanks for sharing this. What a tough decision to make.

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    1. The decision to leave the Amish was not one we made lightly. We knew the cost.

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    2. Thank you for sharing. This must be a sensitive situation for your family, but you don't share it with bitterness or anger. Even in our situational sorrows, we can choose joy.

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  11. Were LV's brothers never members of the church or why are they not shunned?

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    1. They had been members, and excommunicated as were we.
      Just one of those things, I suppose.

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  12. seems a rather abstract concept this shunning. Do the Amish feel that by avoiding contact with you, albeit really just maintaining a distance, it will somehow influence your decision making ? If it were I, I would be talking your ear off trying to make you see the " error " of your ways and you would probably begin to " shun " me. LOL Well, God Bless send a nice card or letter perhaps a personal item.

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  13. It seems like quite a double-standard. We have family that are JW and one was "shunned" for having a baby out of wedlock. She left and has never gone back. It has never made sense to me.

    I think I would have just set the tomato you had sliced on a separate plate for you to eat. No sense in throwing away good food! :)

    Stay home, write the couple a lovely letter wishing them well and enjoy your day without sitting in the corner.

    Lea

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  14. This is so sad. Maybe it's the brother you said was getting married's wedding? I hate to see families pulled apart! But this is also why I read your blog. You are one of my heroes. There's that passage in the Bible about "unless you love Me more than father and mother", etc., and I've read so many inspiring stories of people of long ago who left family when they chose God. But to read your story... to see someone MY age (more or less!), living in MY country, in MY time in history... someone who loves her family as much as I love mine, meeting head on with the choice: God or family, and choosing God... And then counting the cost to be absolutely worth it... That is amazing. Your testimony brings me so much joy!

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  15. Did you ever find out why you were separate while others of your extended family were not?
    It doesn't matter however it is a curiosity to me

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Thank you so much for taking time to comment. I love hearing your thoughts.