Rumspringa

“It’s strange to see an Amish girl drunk. The pairing of a bonnet and a can of beer is awkward. If she were stumbling along with a jug of moonshine, it would at least match her long, dowdy dress. But right now she can’t worry about that. She is flat-out wasted. Welcome to rumspringa.” (Dug Down Deep p 1)

Rumspringa literally means “running around” in Pennsylvania Dutch.  It is the period of time starting at sixteen that the Amish teens get to go “sow their wild oats” before the vast majority (80-90%) choose to return to their family traditions rather than being cut off from their family and community by choosing to “become part of the world” through staying in the modern world.  When rumspringa comes the Amish kids go wild with alcohol, drugs, and sex.  The logic is that they will become sick of the world and choose the safe world of Amish life and religion. Rumspringa is blatantly unbiblical.  Even if we were to set that aside for a very brief moment, I must echo author Joshua Harris’ questions, “What are they really going back to? Are they choosing God or just a safe and simple way of life?” (p 4).

As easy as it may be to attack the practice of rumspringa in the Amish community, many of the youth who grow up in Christian homes have their own rumspringa. I have heard the line, “I have been told I shouldn’t do (fill in the blank) and know that I shouldn’t, but how can I really know unless I try it for myself” too many times.  The stupidity of the logic never seems to dawn on the speaker.  Just apply that logic to another area: “I hear that shooting myself in the head can kill me, but I won’t know if I try.”

If they were being honest they would give other reasons.  Maybe there is this desire in some youth to break free from their background, or play around with what they see their classmates are doing (while choosing to ignore the negative consequences that are also visible).  Some may even blame the church for choosing to not attend church (whether or not they dive into drugs, alcohol, or sex outside of marriage) or for entering their chosen debauchery.  Harris describes his entry into this period of his life in Dug Down Deep in the following way:

During my early twenties I went through a phase of blaming the church I had attended in high school for all my spiritual deficiencies. Evangelical mega-churches make good punching bags.

My reasoning went something like this: I was spiritually shallow because the pastors’ teaching had been shallow. I wasn’t fully engaged because they hadn’t done enough to grab my attention. I was a hypocrite because everyone else had been a hypocrite. I didn’t know God because they hadn’t provided enough programs. Or they hadn’t provided the right programs. Or maybe they’d had too many programs.

All I knew was that it was someone else’s fault (p 5).

It is easy to blame others and even the church for our shortcomings.  While there may have been things that could have been better, we are not without blame. When we sin, we must learn to take the blame because we chose to sin. When we choose to run from God and the church we must take responsibility because it is our choice.  I wonder how many non-Amish youth (and adults) could avoid going on a rumspringa if they would take responsibility not only for their sins but also for their spiritual growth (or lack thereof)?

One thought on “Rumspringa

  1. Now, there, Seth. Not all Amish kids go wild n crazy at rumspringa. For most, it’s just a time to start dating and making a decision about when to be baptized. Soem groups have wilder rumspringa than others – and there was alot of bad publicity a couple of decades back. Hey, let me tell you, some of us former Baptists got a little wild in our teens too, before baptism.

    As for the kapp and a bottle of beer – I’m a headcovering adult who enjoys the occasional Guiness. And I’m not dowdy in my long dress either!

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