If you’ve heard of the Amish, you’ve probably heard of rumspringa. Is what we know about it a myth, or is it reality? The picture that has been painted for us by the media is that rumspringa is a time when Amish youth are encouraged to go try out the “world”. Allowed by the church and their parents to party and drive cars, and see whether the Amish life is a good fit for them or not. Could this really be true?
My husband, Mose, never even heard the term rumspringa until he left the Amish. The community he came from didn’t use the term. Can you believe it? Rumspringa as the English know it, and as it is for the Amish are two different realities.
The Myth of Rumspringa
Beer, drugs and loud music have become synonymous with rumspringa, perhaps due to things like “The Devil’s Playground”. It is true some Amish youth like to party. Do their parents condone this kind of “wild” behavior? Most of us English parents couldn’t imagine encouraging our teenage children to experiment with practices we believe are dangerous. And Amish parents love their children just like we do.
Beyond the partying, the second aspect of rumspringa is that parents and the church support the youth trying out the world to decide if they want to stay Amish. Do Amish parents approve of a time of testing for their children?
Something helpful to consider is the Amish worldview. One of the most important goals in an Amish parent’s life is that their children stay with the church. Stay Amish. For to them, staying Amish is the only sure hope of eternal salvation that their children have.
It would be counter-intuitive for an Amish parent to encourage their children to try on the English life for size. The concept of honoring and obeying one’s parents, and thereby the traditions of the forefathers, is a cultural and spiritual foundation for them. With all this in mind, many English people have been sold a false reality by the media.
The Real Rumspringa
In Pennsylvania Dutch, rumspringa literally means “running around”. In some Amish communities, the term refers to a set period of time starting around age 16. The young people “run around” with the other youth and begin dating. They hitch up the family horse and buggy on Sunday nights, and go to singings. Or in the higher Amish churches, they play volleyball and other games during the weekend. Some youth also go to parties where alcohol is served and loud music played, but that is never condoned by the church or their parents.
How do Amish parents feel when their child actually does try on the “world” for size? Experimentation can be as minor as a battery operated radio, a prepaid cell phone, or a disposable camera. If an Amish parent discovers anything like this, you can be sure they will be having a serious talk with their teenager.
The ultimate test of what the world has to offer is when a young person leaves the Amish. This is a heart-wrenching experience for Amish parents, and one they would never encourage. This would be one of the choices the media’s version of rumspringa would allow.
Remember how much being Amish means to Amish parents, and how much they love their children. They want what they feel is best for their children, just like we do. There is a myth of rumspringa, and reality. The truth might surprise you, but it fits with the Amish view of life.
Had you heard of rumspringa before? Has the truth about rumspringa surprised you?
Please share in the comments below.