The Amish believe that being an active member of a godly community is an essential part of individual salvation. As a result, each member in an Amish community holds a personal stake in the actions of his neighbors. Joining an Amish community is a serious commitment, so the Amish do not believe in infant of childhood baptism. Rather, Amish baptism is held off until children come of age and can make the decision on their own.
Growing Up Amish
Due to the favorable ruling the in the 1972 supreme court case, Wisconsin v. Yoder, Amish children are exempt from compulsory education mandates in the United States. As a result, Amish children often have a very different scholastic experience from that of their secular peers. Although Amish children sometimes attend public primary schools there are around 1,500 private Amish schools. Amish schools stress basic skills, such as reading, writing and practical math, in addition to religious studies. The Amish are generally only educated formally until the age 14. This prevents them from gaining too much exposure to secular world views during their formative years.
The Early Teen Years
Once Amish children complete the formal part of their education they are expected to learn practical skills. Amish boys apprentice to gain experience in fields such as farming, carpentry and animal husbandry, while Amish girls learn the basic skills involved in maintaining a household and raising children. Amish households conform strictly to traditional gender roles. The unique home-based education young Amish adults gain between the ages of 14 and 16 prepares them for the roles they are expected to assume should they chose to join the Amish community as full members once they come of age.
Late Teen Years
The Amish are Anabaptists, so they believe that baptism is an important decision that should be entered into by an adult, not thrust upon a child by her parents. Most Amish adults want their teens to experience the secular world before they choose to become baptized or not. This is accomplished by allowing older teens to participate in a tradition called Rumspringa. During the Rumspringa period Amish teens are expected to dabble in worldly activities such as going to see movies, wearing secular clothing and attending mixed-sex parties. The degree to which teens experiment with secular life varies from community to community and family to family.
A Lifelong Committment
By the time an Amish teen reaches adulthood he is expected to choose whether he wants to be baptized or not. If he chooses not to be baptized he is still encouraged to maintain friendly contact with the Amish community he grew up in. However, if a young Amish adult chooses to become baptized he is expected to make a lifelong commitment. If after becoming baptized an Amish youth chooses to leave the community and take up a secular life he will be formally sanctioned by the church. This sanctioning, called shunning, bars him from communicating with any members of their former Amish community, including his immediate relatives.
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